From Friday to Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series and its support series visited Daytona International Speedway for a special type of racing weekend: road course racing on the famed superspeedway infield. For the first time, the Cup, Xfinity, Gander RV & Outdoors, and ARCA Menards Series tackled the fourteen-turn road course. As the premier series contested the Go Bowling 235, Michael Self, Austin Cindric, and Sheldon Creed kicked back and enjoyed their Sunday with their trophies from the weekend.
ARCA: Self sweeps the Speedway in 2020
The weekend began in rather to-be-expected fashion for 2020 NASCAR when Friday afternoon’s General Tire 100 ARCA event was delayed by three hours due to lightning. NASCAR has struggled with rain delays for much of the season, so it is perhaps poetic that their efforts to finally be able to race in the rain are marred by another weather-related circumstance.
Self, the 2019 ARCA championship runner-up, started second alongside Chandler Smith as the race began in rather clean fashion. Despite skepticism about the series on such a formidable layout in the rain, the 100 ultimately ran caution-free with the exception of a midway break. Nevertheless, various drivers including Smith, Max McLaughlin, and Thad Moffitt found themselves involved in spins or other related incidents.
At the front, Self battled with Ty Gibbs for much of the event. During the caution on lap 14, Sam Mayer was substituted out for IMSA regular and former NASCAR driver Colin Braun as the former was nursing a broken wrist sustained in the previous week’s Trans-Am Series race at Road America. Braun, who finished fifth in the 2009 Truck points and won the 2020 Rolex 24 LMP2 class in January, would end the race in third.
Gibbs, the grandson of the Joe Gibbs Racing owner, led a race-high 25 laps but lost the lead to Self with six laps remaining. Self would go on to score his second win of the 2020 ARCA season and complete a sweep of Daytona wins on the year after winning on the oval in February.
“Probably the best actual racing I’ve been a part of in a while,” Self tweeted in response to a congratulatory message from Gibbs. “Side-by-side in the wet. Tons of respect for how Ty raced me last night! That’s what road racing is all about!”
Xfinity: Cindric continues domination at Daytona
Saturday’s lone action was the Xfinity Series’ UNOH 188, an event that attracted a variety of road course ringers like IMSA’s Earl Bamber, Andy Lally, and Jade Buford. Two of the three, along with some other names, had run the previous week’s Road America or July’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course races. The trio would enjoy strong runs throughout the day, including finishing in the top ten at the end of Stage #1.
However, it was a pair of series championship contenders in Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe that ran the show. Cindric, who had won four of the last five races and finished second in the non-victory, won the first stage; Briscoe took the Stage #2 win after a wild battle with Cindric. The two title rivals would also trade barbs between Stages #2 and 3, with Cindric tossing a water bottle into Briscoe’s car.
The first stage was marked by errors as multiple drivers struggled across the final chicane entering the tri-oval, a feature that was introduced for NASCAR to reduce speeds entering turn one; if a driver misses it, they would be required to complete a stop-and-go penalty by halting on the apron before rejoining the race. The high volume of such mistakes during the opening stage, which claimed victims like Noah Gragson and Kaulig Racing‘s Justin Haley and Ross Chastain, effectively turned the penalties into a pseudo-Joker Lap.
Kaulig Racing’s woes would reach its nadir on lap thirteen when Chastain’s transmission broke and Haley went airbourne after his nose hit the grass on the Bus Stop chicane. Third driver A.J. Allmendinger‘s race took a turn for the worse when he was penalised for his gas can getting stuck to his car as he prepared to leave his pit box; although he stopped the car to allow his crew to remove it, he was slapped with an equipment removal penalty.
While the Kaulig fiasco was the lone incident of the opening stage, the second was marked by chaos from the start when Riley Herbst was turned by Bamber, leader Gragson spun into a tyre barrier, and Jeffrey Earnhardt lost power. More sideways cars included Josh Williams, who fittingly spun through the grass and destroyed Go Bowling signage on the backstretch; rather than a bowling trophy, he received a debris caution.
Stage #3 began with an unusual front row as the Mike Harmon Racing tandem of Bayley Currey and Kyle Weatherman opted to stay out; it was only Currey’s third lap led in a national series race in his career, and MHR’s first since the team owner led one under caution at Talladega Superspeedway in 2018. The decision ultimately ended in turmoil when multiple drivers including Weatherman missed turn one, resulting in seven to eight cars running side-by-side exiting the corner.
Briscoe, Preston Pardus, and Herbst eventually spun for the caution. The damage was terminal for Briscoe, snapping a 35-race finish streak that dated back to the 2019 summer Daytona oval race as he finished twenty-ninth; Cindric’s eventual victory would widen the points gap between the two from 11 to 48 points. Bamber’s day came to an end with nine laps remaining when he caught the backstretch chicane grass similar to Haley’s incident, nearly causing him to flip. The Kiwi concluded his NASCAR début with a thirty-third-place finish.
With Briscoe out of the picture and second-placed Brandon Jones too far back, Cindric dominated the rest of the race en route to his fifth win of the season. He is the first Xfinity driver to win five times in a six-race stretch, which included a weekend sweep at Kentucky Speedway in July to claim his first oval wins and a victory at Texas Motor Speedway after Kyle Busch‘s disqualification, since Sam Ard accomplished the feat to wrap up the 1983 campaign.
“Pretty special to be talked about among the likes of Sam Ard,” Cindric tweeted. “Very proud and motivated by this effort. Takes a great team.”
Allmendinger rebounded to finish fourth, while Lally took fifth. Other ringer finishes included Buford in sixteenth, Scott Heckert in nineteenth, Mike Wallace in twenty-fifth, Brando Gdovic in twenty-eighth, Bobby Reuse in thirtieth, Pardus in thirty-first, and NASCAR newcomer Harold Crooms in thirty-fifth.
After the race, Allmendinger was confronted by Justin Allgaier regarding late-race contact that turned the latter.
“Obviously I have not seen the replay but it’s pretty easy to tell what happened,” Allgaier said in a post-race interview with NBCSN. “I don’t know if we could have held him off at the end of the race there, but he just drove in there and cleaned me out.”
Truck: Creed claims overtime win
Prior to the Cup Series’ Go Bowling 235, the Trucks hit the track for their first and only road course race of the season. Among the ringers were IMSA champion Kris Wright in his maiden NASCAR start, Road America Trans-Am TA2 winner Mike Skeen, Canada’s Alex Tagliani, and dirt track star Mark Smith.
A pair of rookies in Zane Smith and Christian Eckes led the field to the green, though the former—who won his maiden Truck race the previous week at Michigan—overshot turn one and dropped out of the top ten. Smith’s GMS Racing team-mates Brett Moffitt and Creed would enjoy success in the opening stage: the former, who started third, took the lead and held it to the green-checkered flag; the latter, who raced with Smith in last Saturday’s Stadium Super Trucks rounds at Road America, climbed from a fourteenth-place starting spot to finish second.
Eckes led to begin Stage #2 but lost the position to Matt Crafton. The stage proved to be tumultuous for Crafton and his ThorSport Racing stable as Grant Enfinger pitted to address electrical issues between stages while Johnny Sauter missed the Bus Stop chicane and served a stop-and-go. Crafton kept Creed and Raphaël Lessard at bay until he committed the same error as Sauter’s, cutting through the grass as Creed took the lead; unlike Sauter, he did not receive a penalty.
On the final lap, Creed dramatically slowed down as he thought the stage had already ended, which Austin Hill capitalised on to close the gap until Creed recovered from his mistake to hold him off. Comparisons were immediately made to Mark Martin and Cup driver Tyler Reddick, the latter of whom also slowed after taking the white flag during June’s Homestead-Miami Speedway race for assuming it had ended but was able to finish fourth upon realising his gaffe.
After Creed pitted, the Canadian duo of Lessard and Tagliani occupied the front row to start Stage #3. Contrary to their country’s stereotypes, there was no kindness as the Kyle Busch Motorsports team-mates scrambled to take the lead entering turn one, with Lessard winning out as Tagliani was pushed back. On lap 28, Lessard missed the final chicane and surrendered the lead to Crafton. Moffitt would take the spot a lap later.
A caution came out on lap 32 for Josh Reaume‘s stalled truck; Reaume had replaced Bobby Kennedy in the #00 early in the event when the ringer reported he was not feeling well. The restart took place with ten laps remaining as Crafton and Creed stayed out to take over the top spots, with numerous drivers going wide or off course including Parker Kligerman, who went through the grass prior to entering the International Horseshoe. Creed claimed first during the lap.
As the laps counted down in the single digits, Creed’s lead over Crafton gradually increased to over four seconds; the margin continued to grow as Crafton fought with Moffitt for second. That advantage disappeared with five laps to go for Derek Kraus‘ stopped truck.
The next restart took place with three laps left as GMS drivers Creed, Moffitt, and Tyler Ankrum held three of the top four positions. Creed led early as Niece Motorsports‘ Natalie Dcker and Carson Hocevar went around, but the leader wheel-hopped in turn six and Moffitt slimmed the gap. Ben Rhodes, Tagliani, and Kligerman spun into the Bus Stop’s grass for the caution to set up overtime.
Creed cleared Moffitt in the International Horseshoe and led the penultimate lap. After taking the white flag, Moffitt remained on Creed’s rear bumper until the leader distanced himself on the backstretch. Moffitt could not catch Creed as he stormed off to his second career Truck victory, a battle that Creed described in his FS1 post-race interview as “nerve wracking.”
Jett Noland, who raced against Creed in SST at Road America, remarked on Twitter, “Just something about trucks on a racetrack…”
“Brett’s really good at road courses and he’s helped me so much in the Chevy simulator,” Creed said. “It’s all about just not making a mistake there. He tried to cross me up a few times in (turns) three and five and I would have stopped in the grass or stopped mid-corner so he couldn’t make his run.”
With the win, Creed claims $50,000 as part of the Triple Truck Challenge. However, he might be using it to pay for an FCC fine in the future.
“I’m just trying to make a name for myself,” he added. “I tear up a lot of shit and I had to give my all every time I’m in the truck.”
Among the ringers, Scott Lagasse Jr. finished ninth, followed by Bryan Collyer in eighteenth in his NASCAR début. Other ringer finishes included Tagliani in twenty-second, Skeen in twenty-third, Wright in twenty-fifth, Smith in thirty-sixth, Kennedy/Reaume in thirty-seventh, and Roger Reuse in thirty-eighth.