A week removed from the season-opening Daytona 500, the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series prepare to hit the infield road course for the second year. After qualifying was conducted for the oval, the starting lineup for the three RC races will be set using a formula introduced during the 2020 season.
The formula, which was created as a means to bypass physical qualifying as part of condensed race weekends in the wake of COVID-19, is calculated based on a driver’s finish in the previous race (weighted 25 percent), the car’s finish in said race (25 percent), 2021 owners’ points (35 percent), and the fastest lap in the race (15 percent). For the Xfinity and Truck races, both of their fields were increased from thirty-six and thirty-two drivers to forty, and this will continue to be the case for all races without qualifying. Nevertheless, controversy has pervaded the lineup as numerous smaller teams within the lower series find themselves locked out after being unable to run last week’s races.
After running the numbers, Ben Rhodes will lead the field to green in Friday’s BrakeBest Select 153, while Brett Moffitt does so in Saturday’s Super Start Batteries 188 and Chase Elliott in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 325.
Cup: Elliott starts on pole for O’Reilly Auto Parts 325
If it’s a road course race, you have to put money on Elliott to make some noise. The reigning Cup champion enters the Daytona RC looking for his second straight win on the layout and fifth consecutive on a road course.
Michael McDowell, the Daytona 500 winner, will start second. Although a longtime underdog who went 357 Cup races without a win (the second most in series history), he has proven to be a more-than-capable road racer as a former open-wheel and sports car driver; in 2016, he won the Xfinity race at Road America in a one-off, while he finished tenth in last year’s Daytona RC event. The front-row start will be the best of McDowell’s Cup career, topping his third at Charlotte’s Thursday night race last spring (courtesy of a field invert). It is also the first time that McDowell started inside the top ten on a road course, with his previous best being eleventh at Watkins Glen on three occasions (2012, 2016, 2019).
As the formula accounts for finish in the previous race and the Daytona 500 took out numerous drivers due to wrecks, the rest of the field includes unconventional names starting in different spots than one may expect. For example, Corey LaJoie finished ninth in the 500 for Spire Motorsports—a team whose lone top ten prior to 2021 was a rain-shortened win with Justin Haley—and will start seventh, a nine-spot improvement over his previous high, coincidentally at said 500. Haley will serve as LaJoie’s team-mate as he replaces the one-off Jamie McMurray in the #77; while McMurray finished eighth in the 500, the driver change knocks the #77 down to twenty-second as the formula counts a driver’s finish in addition to the car (Haley did not run the 500, giving him no priority in the math).
Other driver changes include A.J. Allmendinger taking over the #16 of Kaulig Racing from Kaz Grala and starting his first Cup race since 2018 in thirty-fourth, James Davison replacing newly-retired Derrike Cope in Rick Ware Racing‘s #15 (starting thirty-ninth), and Garrett Smithley in RWR’s #53 over Joey Gase. Scott Heckert will make his Cup début in the #78 for Live Fast Motorsports in place of owner/driver B.J. McLeod (who has often tasked Heckert with road starts for his Xfinity team), though the team will likely announce the move later in the week. Some names at the back are teams that failed to qualify for the 500 such as Ty Dillon for Gaunt Brothers Racing (thirty-eighth) and Timmy Hill for MBM Motorsports (fortieth).
|1||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|2||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|3||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|4||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|5||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|6||37||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet|
|7||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|8||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|9||42||Ross Chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet|
|10||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota|
|11||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford|
|12||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|13||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|14||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|15||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford|
|16||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet|
|17||1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet|
|18||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|19||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|20||77||Justin Haley*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|21||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet|
|22||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|23||52||Josh Bilicki||Rick Ware Racing||Ford|
|24||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|25||53||Garrett Smithley*||Rick Ware Racing||Ford|
|26||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|27||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford|
|28||78||Scott Heckert||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford|
|29||00||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet|
|30||17||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford|
|31||38||Anthony Alfredo||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|32||21||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford|
|33||6||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford|
|34||16||A.J. Allmendinger*||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|35||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet|
|36||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|37||43||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|38||96||Ty Dillon*||Gaunt Brothers Racing||Toyota|
|39||15||James Davison||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet|
|40||66||Timmy Hill*||MBM Motorsports||Ford|
* – Ineligible for Cup points
Xfinity: Moffitt gets super starting spot for Super Start Batteries 188, debate surrounds DNQs
While Moffitt is racing for the Truck championship, he is also running the full Xfinity schedule for Our Motorsports. After finishing second to Austin Cindric in the opener, the two will flip places for the road course event; Cindric won the 2020 RC race.
Rookie Ryan Vargas, who acquired sponsorship from New Orleans running back-turned-NASCAR fan Alvin Kamara‘s Big Squeezy juice chain, will start a career-best twelfth; he is not the only NFL RB-backed driver as Joe Graf Jr. is supported by Buffalo Bills’ Antonio Williams, who issued a friendly challenge to Kamara in which whoever finishes behind the other donates to a charity of the winner’s choice. Ty Gibbs takes over the #54 of Joe Gibbs Racing from Ty Dillon and will start fifteenth in his maiden Xfinity race, while Kris Wright starts nineteenth in his own series début for Sam Hunt Racing, replacing Brandon Gdovic in their #26. Miguel Paludo will start thirty-fifth in his first NASCAR race since 2013 for JR Motorsports, driving the #8 piloted by Josh Berry in the opener. Natalie Decker is scheduled to make her Xfinity début for RSS Racing in the #23 (driven by Jason White last week, no relation to the Truck driver).
Forty-four drivers were on the initial entry list, but the lack of qualifying prompted four teams to withdraw: the #03 of Andy Lally (Our), the #31 of Jordan Anderson (Jordan Anderson Racing), the #77 of Ronnie Bassett Jr. (Bassett Racing), and the #91 of Preston Pardus (DGM Racing). The four cars are new for the 2021 season and had missed the previous week’s race because they had no 2020 owners’ points to lock them in when the field was set by points due to a rained-out qualifying. Although the #48 of Big Machine Racing, which sports car veteran Jade Buford will drive after Danny Bohn did so on Saturday, is also a new team, they acquired points from the #93 of RSS; Buford will start twenty-eighth, incidentally alongside RSS driver Ryan Sieg.
As they could not compete in the opener to accumulate 2021 points, it is also unlikely that the quartet, all of whom had full-time plans, will be able to race in the immediate future unless entry list sizes decrease. The next race with qualifying is not until Circuit of the Americas in May, effectively prohibiting them from joining the grid regardless of their equipment and driver capabilities.
“With the qualifying rainout in Daytona and no chance to race on Saturday, our new team is essentially blocked from racing in the Xfinity Series until the next event that allows qualifying in late May,” Anderson wrote in a statement on Sunday. “We needed to be in the race Saturday to earn points to be able to race in the events with no qualifying going forward, as those fields are set by points.
“We are only made stronger when we weather the storms and persevere to keep fighting. This is just another chapter in our journey to learn from and be thankful for.”
On a preseason episode of his podcast The Drivers Meeting, Tommy Joe Martins, who rolls off the grid in twentieth, went into detail about the owner points and how the Xfinity lineup is set for the Daytona RC and next week’s Homestead race.
“Only thirty-six cars get into Daytona (oval). We’re not qualifying at the Daytona road course, so forty cars get in there,” Martins said. “Well, that’s kind of strange, how are we going to set the other four cars that get in the Daytona road course, AND get in the following race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
“Here’s how we’re going to do it: the top thirty in the points from last year are still going to be guaranteed that same ticket into those next two races. […] But for everybody thirty-first and back in the points: tough, hate it for you. Because what they’re going to do is revert to the current season points starting at the second race of the year.
“Those cars that get in at Daytona are then basically guaranteed entry into the next two because they’re going to have points over everybody else. But what about those four open spots? That still doesn’t get us the four open spots, that gets us thirty-six cars but that doesn’t give us the extra four. They’re going to base it off of your qualifying time at Daytona International Speedway. […]
“So your qualifying time wasn’t good enough to get you into the race at Daytona, but it actually WAS good enough to get you in at the Daytona Road Course and at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of those four open spots, which is […] you’re not getting the full paycheck here, but you are getting entry into the race and a chance to earn points. Some people might turn that down, they might just go, ‘You know what? We’re not getting paid enough to even go down there,’ and if they do, then it would kind of move back to the next person that would.
“[…] In a way, not making it still gets you into the next two races, and it’s kind of crazy. In NASCAR’s defense here, I don’t really see how they do it any other way. What’s the other fair way of doing it?”
Despite the situation dooming the #03 and #91, Lally and Pardus will still get their opportunities to race in locked-in cars. Lally moves to B.J. McLeod Motorsports‘ #99 car, which was driven by Stefan Parsons in the opener but did not have a driver listed on the preliminary entry list, while Pardus replaces Caesar Bacarella in DGM’s #90. The two will start next to each other in Row #12.
With the withdrawals, all forty drivers will make the race.
|1||02||Brett Moffitt*||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|2||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford|
|3||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|4||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|5||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|6||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|7||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|8||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|9||07||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet|
|10||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|11||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet|
|12||6||Ryan Vargas||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|13||78||Jesse Little||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|14||4||Landon Cassill||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|15||54||Ty Gibbs||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|16||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|17||66||Timmy Hill||MBM Motorsports||Ford|
|18||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet|
|19||26||Kris Wright*||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota|
|20||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|22||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet|
|23||90||Preston Pardus||DGM Racing||Chevrolet|
|24||99||Andy Lally||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|25||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|26||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|27||39||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Chevrolet|
|28||48||Jade Buford||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet|
|29||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|30||52||Gray Gaulding||Jimmy Means Racing||Chevrolet|
|31||74||Bayley Currey||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet|
|32||15||Colby Howard||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|33||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|34||61||Stephen Leicht||MBM Motorsports||Toyota|
|35||8||Miguel Paludo||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|36||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet|
|37||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|38||17||Cody Ware*||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet|
|39||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points
Truck: Rhodes receives best selection for BrakeBest Select 159
Last Friday, Rhodes edged out Anderson and Cory Roper to win the Truck race on the oval. Unlike the parent series, the Truck race winner will start on the pole for the road race. Niece Motorsports‘ Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar will start second and third, respectively, while Roper’s sixth is his second-best career starting position.
Various teams made changes to their driver lineup for the race, including bringing in ringers and other one-off names. For example, Anderson’s #3 will be piloted by Trans-Am Series driver Bobby Reuse; his brother Roger was initially entered in the #49 of CMI Motorsports before withdrawing, as did CMI’s #83 for Tim Viens. Bobby was previously Jordan Anderson Racing’s ringer in 2019. Wright has been replaced by Grala in the #02 Young’s Motorsports truck as the former prepares for the Xfinity race instead.
Three teenage drivers—Jett Noland, Parker Chase, and Lawless Alan—are making their series débuts. Last year’s Trans-Am TA2 Rookie of the Year, Noland’s 2020 plans with Niece Motorsports were aborted due to COVID-19 and pushed to 2021, and he will finally get his shot when he starts thirty-fifth in their #44 that he takes over from James Buescher. Chase, an IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge driver with experience on the Daytona RC in both his series and the Rolex 24 Hours, will start twenty-second in a #51 owned by his 2020 Rolex team-mate Kyle Busch. Alan, an ARCA Menards Series West driver and holder of one of the coolest names in racing, will run Reaume Brothers Racing‘s #34 in Jesse Iwuji‘s place and start last.
Riley Herbst, new to the Ford camp, will drive the #17 for David Gilliland Racing as a means to gain more track time on the road course ahead of the Xfinity race; he finished seventh in last year’s Xfinity event on the layout as a Toyota driver. It will be his first Truck race since the Daytona oval opener in 2020 and his first career road race in the series. Gilliland piloted the #17 to a fourteenth-place run last Friday. Interestingly, the move means DGR will have two Monster Energy-endorsed drivers in their lineup for the race as rookie Hailie Deegan will be Herbst’s team-mate, though Factory Canopies will sponsor the latter’s truck.
Sam Mayer will run his first race in Henderson Motorsports‘ #75, which has been driven by Parker Kligerman on a part-time basis since 2016. Kligerman missed last Friday’s race.
Starting in thirty-seventh is Camden Murphy for NEMCO Motorsports. A Monster Jam driver who has sporadically competed in the Truck and Xfinity Series since 2014, Murphy finished nineteenth at Bristol in his lone 2020 Truck race with NEMCO. NEMCO owner Joe Nemechek failed to qualify the #8 in the previous week’s race.
|1||99||Ben Rhodes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota|
|2||40||Ryan Truex||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|3||42||Carson Hocevar||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|4||4||John Hunter Nemechek||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota|
|5||2||Sheldon Creed||GMS Racing||Chevrolet|
|6||04||Cory Roper||Roper Racing||Ford|
|7||9||Codie Rohrbaugh||CR7 Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|8||18||Chandler Smith||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota|
|9||88||Matt Crafton||ThorSport Racing||Toyota|
|10||20||Spencer Boyd||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|11||21||Zane Smith||GMS Racing||Chevrolet|
|12||24||Raphaël Lessard||GMS Racing||Chevrolet|
|13||3||Bobby Reuse||Jordan Anderson Racing||Chevrolet|
|14||22||Austin Wayne Self||AM Racing||Chevrolet|
|15||30||Danny Bohn||On Point Motorsports||Toyota|
|16||98||Christian Eckes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota|
|17||10||Jennifer Jo Cobb||Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing||Chevrolet|
|18||33||Jason White||Reaume Brothers Racing||Chevrolet|
|19||13||Johnny Sauter||ThorSport Racing||Toyota|
|20||16||Austin Hill||Hattori Racing Enterprises||Toyota|
|21||45||Brett Moffitt||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|22||51||Parker Chase||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota|
|23||1||Hailie Deegan||David Gilliland Racing||Ford|
|24||02||Kaz Grala*||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|25||17||Riley Herbst||David Gilliland Racing||Ford|
|26||26||Tyler Ankrum||GMS Racing||Chevrolet|
|27||25||Timothy Peters||Rackley WAR||Chevrolet|
|28||12||Tate Fogleman||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|29||23||Chase Purdy||GMS Racing||Chevrolet|
|30||52||Stewart Friesen||Halmar Friesen Racing||Toyota|
|31||19||Derek Kraus||McAnally-Hilgemann Racing||Toyota|
|32||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|33||15||Tanner Gray||David Gilliland Racing||Ford|
|34||56||Timmy Hill*||Hill Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|35||44||Jett Noland||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|36||75||Sam Mayer||Henderson Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|37||8||Camden Murphy||NEMCO Motorsports||Ford|
|38||41||Dawson Cram||Cram Racing Enterprises||Chevrolet|
|39||6||Norm Benning||Norm Benning Racing||Chevrolet|
|40||34||Lawless Alan||Reaume Brothers Racing||Toyota|
* – Ineligible for Truck points