NASCAR announced on Wednesday some major changes to the Daytona Speedweeks for next season. Starting in 2021, Speedweeks becomes Speedweek. Normally, the first weekend of racing at the Daytona International Speedway consists of the ARCA Race, Busch Clash and Daytona 500 qualifying.
Now, we get everything moved back a couple of days.
The Busch Clash in 2021 will be moved to a Tuesday night and be run on the DIS road course. They will also use the current 2020 car in that All-Star race instead of the new Next Gen that’s scheduled to debut next year too.
By virtue of that, the ARCA race moves back a week to a doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series on the Saturday before the Daytona 500. In turn, Daytona 500 qualifying moves to Wednesday, the day before the Duels. The Duels, Truck race and NXS race all remain unchanged.
“The famed road course at Daytona has a long and storied history with sports cars and motorcycles, and now we can write a new chapter on it with stock cars,” NASCAR Vice President of Racing Development Ben Kennedy said. “Fans coming to the track will get to see six consecutive days of exciting NASCAR action, with no two days being the same.”
In contrast to the tightly packed competition on the speedway’s famed 2.5-mile high-back-tri-oval, the reimagined Busch Clash will utilize approximately three-quarters of the tri-oval along with the challenging infield portion of the road course. That translates into 12 turns instead of the usual four.
“Having driven on the road course at Daytona in the Rolex 24, I know how difficult the circuit can be,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer and current FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon. “It will present a real challenge to the drivers and teams, and I’m looking forward to calling what I believe will be a lot of action from the booth.”
That challenge entails the high-speed entrance into Turn 1, as drivers dive left off the front straight to begin the twists and turns the infield offers, including the east and west Horseshoe turns and the trick negotiation of the back stretch chicane prior to a climb back atop the bank in Turn 3.
“NASCAR fans have asked for more road-course competition and the industry is listening,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “With the talent level the Busch Clash brings to the table, the race will now clearly have its own look and feel during DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth in 2021 and beyond.
“The new placement on the Speedweeks schedule also adds to the anticipation. That switch will make for a fuller Speedweeks calendar. Fans also will have the opportunity to engage in a festive infield atmosphere, similar to the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, with many prime viewing opportunities.”
So, many may be asking now, why make this move?
First off, lets address the elephant in the room – the Super Bowl. The 2021 Super Bowl for the NFL is Sunday, February 7. If nothing changed, the Clash and Daytona 500 pole qualifying would be the same day as the Super Bowl. Not very smart if you ask me. Plus, the Super Bowl is being played across I-4 in Tampa. Again, not very smart to go against one of the largest sporting events in the world on the same day that’s also being played in the same state just a few hours away.
Secondly, the attendance of the first weekend has died off. They needed a spark. Thirdly, Speedweeks has been diminishing more and more. It makes no sense to have teams race the Clash on Sunday while also practicing and qualifying for the Daytona 500 on Saturday/Sunday then sit idle for four days before the Duels (Thursday).
The drivers and teams get out of town for a few days. It’s not like the old days of practice all week and drivers hanging around. Once the checkered flag flies for the Clash, the drivers all get out of Daytona Beach.
So, why not shorten the gap?
Then, why the Clash changes? Well, the racing has been terrible the last couple of years for it. When they’re not running single file, they’re crashing.
In 2019, we saw 17 of the 20 starters involved in one wreck. Last month, literally all 18 starters were collected in at least one incident throughout the race. A wrecked race car was pushed by another wrecked race car to beat only four other cars running.
So, running on the road course will minimize crash damage and doing so at night will bring a new look in hopes of reinvigorating the race.
Also, the reason they’re running the 2020 models, why run the 2021 car and risk crashing it? This is a new car coming out and you can’t afford too many crash damaged parts. In 2013, the last time we saw a new car come out, we saw a bunch of crashes in the Clash that year only to follow a bunch of single file racing the rest of the way in fear of crashing again and only having limited parts to fix.