Daytona 500 Resumption Preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — For just the second time ever, the Daytona 500 will resume on a Monday. Rain washed out Sunday’s action after just 20 of 200 laps (50 Miles) as the race was delayed by 62-minutes at the start and saw two rain storms after delay the race until 4 p.m. ET (FOX/MRN) for the first time since 2012.

Here’s what to look for on Monday.

“Big 3” The Favorites?

This seems like an annual topic of conversation but the “Big 3” in NASCAR are typically the ones to beat during Daytona Speedweeks. Since 2005, they’ve won 45 times in NASCAR Cup Series action alone. That’s a 73-percent success rate.

That’s huge, especially for a superspeedway track. Furthermore, they’ve won 26 of the last 29 Daytona Speedweeks races overall.

But, now that the 2020 Speedweeks edition is about to end, can the “Big 3” dominate once again?

They’re 3-for-3 this year with Erik Jones (JGR) winning the Clash and Joey Logano (Penske) and William Byron (Hendrick) winning both Duels on Thursday.

In 2018, Team Penske won the Clash (Brad Keselowski) and a Duel (Ryan Blaney). Hendrick Motorsports won a Duel (Chase Elliott) too. It happened in 2017 as well. Penske won the Clash (Joey Logano) while HMS (Chase Elliott) and Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin) own the Duels.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) won the Clash. Joey Logano (Team Penske) won the second Duel too.

The only problem is, despite all of this, they’ve won just one Daytona 500 over the last three years. Overall, they’re the ones to beat now. Will it remain that way this Speedweeks?

That’s the big storyline. Can anyone beat them? So far, they remain as the favorites as Logano, Byron and Hamlin seem like the ones to beat.

Can RCR Or SHR Steal Another Win

While talk of the “Big 3” is evident during Speedweeks, don’t overlook the next duo that could challenge Gibbs, Penske or Hendrick for supremacy on Sunday. Out of the eight races that they haven’t won since 2013, Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing has won five of them.

Last year, Kevin Harvick gave SHR their first Duels win in the last seven years. It was also just their third career Speedweeks victory overall as Tony Stewart won his Duel in 2012 and Kurt Busch winning the Daytona 500 in 2017 too.

SHR only has five total DIS victories anyways with the other two coming by Stewart in the annual Coke Zero Sugar 400.

But, for them to have won twice in the last three years at Daytona when the “Big 3” have been hogging victory lane is noticeable. Plus, they have four cars in their fleet to challenge for a win this weekend.

You also can’t count out RCR. They’ve won three times at DIS since 2013 as well. Two of those three victories though were by Harvick (2013 Clash, 2013, Duel). He’s since gone onto SHR.

But, Austin Dillon’s 2018 Daytona 500 gives them hope. So does the fact that they’re recharged and refreshed for 2020. Team owner Richard Childress expect bigger and better things out of his two-car team this season. What a better start than to see either Dillon or rookie Tyler Reddick win the ‘500.

Dillon, led over 40 laps in last year’s ‘400 and looked really good in his Duel on Thursday.

Other than that, the only other three organizations to have won a race in NASCAR’s premiere series at Daytona since 2013 was Richard Petty Motorsports (Aric Almirola) in the 2014 ‘400, Roush/Fenway Racing (Ricky Stenhouse Jr) in the 2017 ‘400 and Spire Motorsports (Justin Haley) in the rain shortened ‘400 last July.

Unlikely Winner?

The top cars don’t always win the Daytona 500. In fact, the top cars lately end up on a tow truck. Winning at Daytona has been more about survival to the end rather than all out speed. In order to win, you have to have more luck avoiding the crashes than having the best car.

This year, will we see another upset?

All three winners on the new tapered spacer package for superspeedway racing last year notched their first career points paying victories at either Daytona/Talladega too. Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney won the two Dega races and Justin Haley stole the win at Daytona last July.

Will we see another first timer on Sunday? If so, then either Alex Bowman, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Ty Dillon, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemcheck, Daniel Suarez, Brendan Gaughan, Corey LaJoie, Quin Houff, BJ McLeod or Darrell Wallace Jr. will be victorious.

Last Lap Pass/Carnage?

Three of the last four Daytona 500’s have seen a last lap pass for the win. Denny Hamlin stormed through the pack and passed his teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead in Turn 4 of the final lap in 2016 and held off a hard charging Martin Truex Jr. for the victory.

In 2017, Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson in Turn 2 on the final lap.

In 2018, Austin Dillon crashed Aric Almirola on the backstretch going for the win.

Will we see another last lap pass for the win on Sunday? Trends say, yes. So does the recent history of the end of these superspeedway races.

The new package will likely promote a last lap crash as the second place car will have to make a daring move to win. We’ve seen that more times than not.

Turn 3

That’s been the turn that caused so much carnage lately. That 28 car pile up in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in 2018, occurred entering Turn 3. The Lap 66 accident that year? Same turn.

The Lap 60 and 97 crashes in the 2018 Daytona 500?

Turn 3.

The last lap crash with Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon in the 2018 ‘500?

You guessed it, entering Turn 3.

Last year’s Clash? 17 of the 20 cars crashed in Turn 3.

Last year’s ‘500? 21 car pileup in Turn 3 with 10 laps-to-go.

Heck, even the 2017 Daytona 500 saw a five car crash on Lap 105 in Turn 3, a 14 car pileup in Turn 3 and an 11 car crash in the same turn.

The Clash last Sunday saw all the crashes minus the bizarre one of the restart occur in Turn 3.

For some reason, Turn 3 has been the problem turn at Daytona lately. Will it be that way on Monday again?

Will Chaos Ensue?

The last three years of Cup races at Daytona have been complete mayhem. In the 2017 Daytona 500, 34 of the 40 cars that started were involved in some kind of wreck throughout the afternoon. The 2018 Daytona 500 saw 31 of 40 cars crash. The July race that year had 34 of 40. The Clash last year saw 17 of the 20 cars leave with damage while this year’s Clash run last Sunday saw all 18 starters collect some sort of damage during the all-star event. Last year’s ‘500 saw 36 of 40 cars involved in a crash at some point of the day too.

Will Monday produce as much carnage?

I think so.

These drivers are tired of sitting around. I do think they’ll line up single file again for a while, but the end of stages and most importantly, the end of the race, will be chaotic.

Tandem Drafting The Winning Move?

We saw how well it worked at the end of last Sunday’s Busch Clash. A wrecked race car of Denny Hamlin, who was a lap down by the way, pushed his teammate, Erik Jones, who had another badly damaged race car to the win on the final lap. Two crashed race cars faster than a couple of other clean cars.

Tandem drafting worked.

At one point, tandem drafting was the quick way around Daytona and Talladega. It was dangerous, but you’d see cars separate from big packs and pair up to make runs on everyone. It was two cars working as one. It almost looked borderline ridiculous.

So, NASCAR came in and made changes to the cars that wouldn’t allow for tandem drafts anymore which set up a move back to the traditional packs.

Now, tandem drafting isn’t outlawed in the Cup Series as drivers can pair up if they so choose, but the way that these cars are designed, they can’t tandem for too long or they’ll overheat.

So, you’ll see this move made sporadically throughout the race when teammates are trying to get by cars and then they’ll separate. With this being the quickest way around the track, wouldn’t it be used for a last lap pass for the win?

Well, it certainly could, but think about the damage that it could cause too. To tandem draft, it’s an art. The second car is blind to the front. All he can see if the bumper and spoiler of the car in front of him. If the car in front of him moves, he has to move with it. A slight bobble or mistake and not staying locked on a move would cause the car in front to spin.

So, tandem drafting can cause a big crash if the car leading the charge moves to the high or low lane and the car behind doesn’t move quick enough to stay locked. It can also cause carnage if the group or groups of cars in front move to block. The lead car has to counter the block and if the guy behind doesn’t follow suit, the lead car gets spun. If he does follow suit and the cars in front keep blocking, then they’ll get run over and cause a big crash too.

Tandem drafting and blocking is what causes 95-percent of the crashes at Daytona these days. That’s why we see so many cars wadded up.

I expect Monday to be like this again.

Manufacturer Alliances

Toyota started it in 2016, Ford perfected it there after and Chevrolet brought it to a head in last year’s Daytona 500. What “it” is, is manufacturer alliances on superspeedway’s.

For the 2016 Daytona 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have strength in numbers compared to their car count vs. the Ford’s/Chevy’s, so they teamed up only with each other. It panned out for a 1-2 finish in the Daytona 500 that year.

After that race, Ford took notice and had their powerplant line up together and draft with one another during the four combined annual stops at Daytona and Talladega. Ford, already had good motors for these tracks, but throw in teamwork and you get domination in the form of 13 of the last 19 races won when using the restrictor plates.

They were in everyone’s head. So, for last year’s Daytona 500, the Toyota’s knew that they didn’t have the numbers to contend for the win. Hendrick Motorsports, a Chevrolet team, knew that the other Chevy cars weren’t good enough to hang with them to challenge the Ford’s. So, we saw an unlikely tandem for the ‘500 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota’s and their alliance car at Leavine Family Racing and the Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevy’s.

Combined, that’s nine very good race cars that with even the smallest bit of help from any other Chevy team, could work together and break up the Ford party up front.

See, Ford’s knew that if they lined up in tow, go up to the high line and pull each other around the 2.5-mile track, it didn’t matter how many Chevy’s or Toyota’s lineup, no one could stop them.

So, HMS and the Toyota’s teamed up and ran up there with them, then would use the draft to take air off the Ford’s and break them apart.

It worked.

Toyota finished 1-2-3 in the ‘500, Ford’s grew frustrated with one another and the Chevy teams were pissed that HMS sought out a late hour deal with a rival manufacturer.

In turn, Chevy had a closed door meeting afterwards and made sure that this didn’t happen again. Chevy teams could only work and draft with other Chevy teams. No more helping the competition.

Ford teams would still try and do the same. The Toyota’s? Well they were hung out to dry.

Chevy was the biggest beneficiary of this. HMS would finish 1-2 in the first race with the tapered spacer last April in Talladega including Chevy going 1-2-3 overall and taking five of the top six finishing positions.

In the July race at Daytona, Chevy went 1-2-3-4 this time.

But, in the second stop to Talladega last October, the Ford’s found a way to get back to prominence. They’d lead 125 of the 188 laps run and take a 1-2 finish and four of the top five. Chevy, took spots 6-8-10.

How will Monday play out? Is manufacturer teamwork still as strong? Is it stronger? So far, I’d say it’s going to be Ford drivers vs. Toyota drivers vs. Chevy drivers and no help inbetween. Ford has five of the top six drivers in the running order right now and Toyota’s all dropped to the back.

The Toyota’s had just one car in the top 18 at Talladega in April and three in the top 10 in October. In the July Daytona race, they had just two cars in the top 21 overall too. They will need some help this weekend.

They only have five cars in this year’s race and they have all five found each other already. They’re hoping to stay out of trouble and led the Chevy’s/Ford’s take each other out then have equal numbers in the end.

Leading The Most Laps Doesn’t Equate To Victory

The driver who has led the most laps in the Daytona 500 has only won two of the last six races (Denny Hamlin in 2016 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014). Twice in that time, a driver has led only the last lap for victory – Austin Dillon in 2018 and Kurt Busch in 2017.

Yes, two of the last three years the winner only led one lap – the last one.

Ryan Blaney’s 118 laps led in 2018 was the most prolific time out front in the race since Davey Allison led 127 laps en route to the 1992 winner’s trophy. Since then, Blaney is the only driver to lead 100 laps or more since Tony Stewart led 107 laps in 2005. Both Blaney and Stewart finished seventh in those races.

In between those 100-lap efforts, the Busch brothers led 80 or more laps and did not win a race. Kyle Busch led 88 laps in 2009 and 86 laps in 2008. His older brother Kurt led 95 laps in 2007.

In fact, since 1993 a driver has led 100 or more laps only six times. Only twice did that result in a Daytona 500 win. Dale Earnhardt led 107 laps en route to his historic 1998 victory and Sterling Marlin led 105 laps en route to his 1995 win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has led the first 20 laps thus far.

Bad Luck For Front Row Starters

This doesn’t bode well for the point above, but the last time a pole winner won the Daytona 500, William Byron was two years old (2000). Furthermore, the last time the pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott). In fact, 15 of the last 18 races have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10. That’s not good news for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

What about the outside front row starting spot. The last win came in 1993 (Dale Jarrett). They have only finished in the top 10 just four times since 2006. Not good news either for Alex Bowman.

Clash Winner Doesn’t Mean Daytona 500 Win

This doesn’t bode well for the last few points either. Erik Jones (+2000) won the Clash but only six times has the Clash winner won the Daytona 500. The last time was Denny Hamlin in 2016. Before him, it hasn’t happened since 1998.

Repeat Winner Not Likely

Denny Hamlin (+1000) is hoping to become just the fourth driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500’s. Richard Petty did it in 1973 and 1974. Cale Yarborough did it in 1983 and 1984. Sterling Marlin was the last to do so in 1994 and again in 1995. The odds don’t look favorable for Hamlin to repeat on Monday despite scoring five top four finishes in his last six Daytona 500 starts.

Busch Has Great Stats Recently At Daytona But Recent Champions Haven’t Had Much Daytona 500 Success

Kyle Busch (+1100) won his second career Cup Series championship last November. That mixed with him having two top three finishes including a runner-up in last year’s Daytona 500 itself, bodes well for his confidence level on Monday. But, what if I told you that only five times has the reigning series champion won the Daytona 500 the next year and the last time that it actually happened was in the year 2000. Its only happened twice since 1978 overall.

That doesn’t sound very favorable for a win this weekend after all for Busch.

Busch, is 0-for-14 in the Great American Race. While he finished runner-up last year and third in 2016, the rest of his results haven’t been all that great. 10 of his 14 Daytona 500 starts have seen him finish 14th or worse. Seven of those 10 were 23rd or worse including five of his last seven seeing him finish 19th or worse.

Busch, badly wanted to win multiple championships. He’s finally done so. Now, he so badly wants to etch his name in NASCAR lore with a Daytona 500 triumph too.

If he doesn’t ever get a chance to win this race, he will join a list of some very accomplished racers to have never done so either. Terry Labonte was 0-for-32, Mark Martin was 0-for-29, Rusty Wallace was 0-for-23, Tony Stewart 0-for-17, Martin Truex Jr. 0-for-15, Carl Edwards 0-for-12, Ned Jarrett 0-for-7 and so on.

But, Busch doesn’t want to end his career on this list and wants to put his No. 18 Toyota into victory lane for the second straight race (Homestead 2019) and become the first defending champion to win the Daytona 500 the next year in 20 years.

Favorites Not Very Favorable

Out of the top seven favorites listed, five of them aren’t very favorable.

Brad Keselowski (+1000) is tied for the best odds, but four times in the last five years he’s  finished 27th or worse at Daytona. In fact, since July 2014, the Penske driver has 10 finishes of 17th or worse in his last 12 Daytona tries.

Chase Elliott (+1000) has finished 30th or worse in five of his eight Daytona starts and 14th, 17th and 22nd in his other three. Elliott’s Daytona 500 finishes are – 37th, 14th, 33rd and 17th respectively.

Kevin Harvick (+1100) has finished eight of his last 11 Daytona starts 19th or worse. He’s also crashed out of four of his last five Daytona starts overall. Five of his last seven Daytona 500 starts have seen him finish outside the top 10 including his last three being — 22nd, 31st and 26th respectively.

Kyle Busch (+1100) Prior to last year, he had finished 20th or worse in his last four Daytona starts. Busch, has just three top 10 finishes on the 2.5-mile track since 2014. A reigning series champion like Busch hasn’t won the Daytona 500 the next year since 2000 (Dale Jarrett) and has only happened twice since 1978.

Martin Truex Jr. (+1300) – Has just four top five finishes in 59 career superspeedway starts, only two of them occurred at Daytona. Truex, has six finishes of 18th or worse in his last nine overall Daytona starts.

Clint Bowyer (+2000) has just one top five finish at Daytona since 2014.

Kyle Larson (+2000) – Has never scored a top five in 24 career superspeedway starts. Larson, has six finishes of 29th or worse in them. While he was seventh in last year’s ‘500, his other four of his other five finishes were 12th or worse in the big race.

Favorites?

Joey Logano (+1000) – No brainer here. Logano, is so good on superspeedway tracks as he has won four times already on them. The Penske driver has six top four finishes in his last 14 tries. At the Daytona 500, Logano has five straight top six finishes (1st, 6th, 6th, 4th, 4th).

Denny Hamlin (+1000) – History isn’t on his side as no repeat winner has won this race since 1995, but Hamlin has five top four finishes in his last six Daytona 500 tries including two wins.

Ryan Blaney (+1400) – He won the last superspeedway race last Fall in Talladega. Blaney, may have four finishes of 26th or worse in his last five Daytona starts, but he does have three top seven’s in his last seven Daytona starts overall.

Kurt Busch (+1800) – Since July 2014, Busch has five top 10 finishes at Daytona including a win in the 2017 Daytona 500.

William Byron (+1800) – He finished second last July, won his Duel on Thursday night and looks like he has a very good race car during Speedweeks. 

Sleepers

Alex Bowman (+1800) – He was quick last year on superspeedways including a runner-up finish in the spring Talladega race. Bowman, has two top 11 finishes in his last three Daytona starts.

Matt DiBenedetto (+2000) – Led the most laps in last year’s race. He’s driving for a Wood Brothers team that is always good at Daytona too. DiBenedetto, has two top eight finishes in his last three Daytona starts, all with underfunded teams.

Jimmie Johnson (+2000) – Johnson has five superspeedway wins to his credit. He also has five top 10 finishes in his last seven starts on them including a Clash win last year, an eighth in his Duel a few days later, a ninth in the Daytona 500 and third in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. With this being Johnson’s likely final Daytona 500 try, it would be a storybook ending for him to win.

Ryan Newman (+3500) – A former Daytona 500 winner (2008) was strong last year too. Newman, has four top eight finishes in his last five Daytona starts.

Chris Buescher (+4000) – He has three top 10 finishes, two of which being fifth place runs, in his last five Daytona starts. Plus, he’s taking over a strong car at RFR that Stenhouse Jr. won the July race in a few years ago.

Austin Dillon (+4000) – Another former Daytona 500 winner (2018) with seven top 10 finishes in his last 12 Daytona tries.

Tyler Reddick (+4000) – He may be a rookie but driving for a good superspeedway team at RCR. Reddick, won the February NXS race at Daytona in 2018 and the Talladega race last Spring.

Ty Dillon (+6600) – The younger brother of Austin has three straight top six finishes in Daytona including a sixth place run in last year’s Daytona 500.

Michael McDowell (+6600) – He was fifth in last year’s Daytona 500 and ninth the year prior. Furthermore, since July 2014, the Arizona native has five top 10 finishes in his last 10 Daytona starts and with teams like Leavine Family Racing and Front Row Motorsports at that.

Ryan Preece (+6600) – This car was previously driven by Chris Buescher and had some great success at Daytona. Preece, finished eighth in last year’s Daytona 500 too.

David Ragan (+8000) – He’s always a superspeedway threat. Ragan, has two career Cup victory and each came on one.

Setups? Daytona 450?

These cars were all mostly set up for a majority of the Daytona 500 to be run during the day time conditions. While it was certain the race would have ended under the lights on Sunday night, it paid more to get to that point, than to crash before.

Well, now that we’ve only run 20 laps and starting at 4 p.m. ET and sunset is a little after 6 p.m. ET, the race will for sure end under the lights on Monday too.

How well can teams adapt to their cars as the race goes on?

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