James Davison will have to wait a bit longer to make his NASCAR Cup Series début. Just two days after announcing he would run Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Davison revealed Thursday that NASCAR has not approved him for superspeedway races due to his lack of experience on such a track. B.J. McLeod will instead drive Spire Motorsports‘ #77 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE at Talladega, while Davison will run the following week’s race weekend at Pocono Raceway.
“I have been contacted by NASCAR and informed that although I was previously approved to race, they had to reconsider their position on Superspeedways, given there won’t be practice or qualifying prior to Sunday’s race at Talladega,” Davison said in a team release. “I was pumped about the opportunity to take the green flag, but I fully understand and appreciate NASCAR’s position. I’m approved to race next weekend at Pocono and equally thrilled to make my series debut there.”
Although Davison has made starts on oval tracks, all have come in open-wheel disciplines like the NTT IndyCar Series; IndyCar and its Road to Indy ladder do not race at Talladega for rather obvious safety reasons. Davison, who has raced in the Indianapolis 500 five times including a twelfth-place run in 2019, has four starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, though they have come on the road courses Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America.
COVID-19 also played a role in NASCAR’s reluctance to permit Davison’s participation as it has forced the sanctioning body to create condensed schedules with no practice and qualifying. Talladega, the fastest and largest oval on the Cup Series calendar, is infamous for its major wrecks, and the likelihood of an inexperienced racer with no preparation being caught up in chaos is high. Davison had also noted on Tuesday that his plan for the race was to “drive and survive”.
With Davison’s Cup debut delayed, McLeod will take over the #77 for the second time in 2020; he finished thirty-fifth in his first race with Spire last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. McLeod, whose B.J. McLeod Motorsports operation began Cup racing when the season resumed in May, is one of five drivers who have made a start in the #77 this year. The car sits thirty-third in the owner’s standings.
McLeod had initially planned to run his #78 in Sunday’s GEICO 500. Shortly after Spire’s announcement, BJMM revealed Garrett Smithley will pilot the #78 for the race, making him their first driver besides the team owner to race for their Cup stable. Incidentally, Smithley has made two starts in 2020 for Spire.