Race cars rolling at Daytona

We covered all the dirt track events at East Bay Raceway in the last column and there’s still some dirt tracking to be done in Georgia and Florida and we will fill in the blanks in the next few columns.

This past Friday the ARCA and NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series rolled into the garages at the World Center of Speed, Daytona International Speedway. I’ll just get into the coverage.

The ARCA cars took to the track for practice and qualifying for the Lucas Oil 200. There were a huge number of rookie drivers entered. Natalie Decker set her Venturini Motorsports car on the pole.

Saturday the race rolled off and for over two thirds of the event it was the calm before the storm. Cautions and crashes became the norm and one by one many of the favorites fell victim. The final lap took over an hour to run because of back to back major crashes.

When it was all said and done Michael Self took his Sinclair Oil sponsored car to victory lane. It has been years since I’ve seen a Sinclair Gas station but I remember the dinosaur from my childhood. I always wanted Dad to buy gas at the Dino place.

I talked to Michael on his FB page and told him to give old Dino a ride to victory lane! He was able to keep from getting serious damage and won the race. In victory lane he leaned over and petted the Dino decal on the hood and gave a big smile and thumbs up!

Another newcomer, Willie Mullins, finished second. Sheldon Creed finished third. Veteran ARCA driver Tom Hessert finished fourth. Pole setter Natalie Decker fought back with body damage and grabbed a top five.

Pole day qualifying rolled off on Sunday at lunch time and teams were challenged by some different rules to work with. NASCAR actually reduced the restrictions and allowed the crew chiefs to decide what rear springs and shocks they wanted to use. This created a look to the cars that reminded you of the moonshiner roots of racing.

The back bumpers of the cars were sagging low. This was done to get the rear spoiler down out of the air flow and thus increase speeds.

Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing exchanged the top six positions, with Alex Bowman in the number 88 Nationwide Insurance sponsored Camaro ZL-1 for Hendrick Motorsports running a lap in excess of 195 MPH without the benefit of the draft. This captured the pole position. Denny Hamlin grabbed second in his JGR Fed-Ex sponsored Toyota Camry. The front row is locked in for the 500. Qualifying sets the starting field for the Can-Am Duels to be run on Thursday evening. There are only 40 entries this year so everyone will make the race but starting positions can put you in a better spot for the 500. Each 150 mile qualifying race will decide starting positions for the inside and outside lanes of the race.

Lineups for the Duels which will air at 7 p.m. on FS1 are as follows; Race one: Row one Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, Row two, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Row three, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Joey Logano, Row Four, Aric Almorola, Ryan Blaney, Row five, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Row six, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Row seven, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr, Ty Dillon, Row eight, Chris Buescher, Brendan Gaughan, Row nine, Justin Marks, Jeffery Earnhardt, Row 10, David Gilliland, David Ragan.

This race will have 11 Chevrolets, eight Fords and one Toyota.

Race two: Row one will be Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Row two, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Row three, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Row four, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Row five, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne, Row six, Kyle Larson, Michael Mc Dowell, Row seven, Martin Truex Jr, Danica Patrick, Row eight, A J Almendinger, Matt DiBenedetto, Row nine, D J Kennington, Mark Thomson, Row 10, Corey LaJoie, and Grey Gaulding.

This race has seven Chevrolets, seven Fords and six Toyotas. It should very interesting to see how these new cars and rules work under full race conditions.

On Sunday afternoon the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona let us see how these cars drafted and there were a few accidents from aggressive bump drafting. Brad Keselowski started 17th shotgun on the field and was able to work his way to the front and held of the challenges from his Penske racing teammate Joey Logano for the victory.

Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney made it a four Ford sweep of the top five. Austin Dillon finished fifth in his RCR Camaro ZL-1. Sixth through tenth were Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones in Toyotas and then Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson rounding out the cars running at the end.

This week the Duels at Daytona run on Thursday. The Camping World Truck series will run 200 miles on Friday. The Xfinity series will run a 300 mile event on Saturday and the ‘Great American Race,’ the Daytona 500 runs on Sunday. There will be a lot of action for sure! All the preliminary races will be televised on FS1 and the 500 will be on the Fox Channel. Remember, at the end of that long super straightaway, there will be another left turn.