NASCAR Cup SeriesNASCAR Xfinity Series

Rain disrupts Daytona 500 and Xfinity final sessions, Austin Cindric placed on pole for Beef 300

6 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It wouldn’t be a proper NASCAR weekend without some type of weather delay. Rain forced the Cup Series‘ practice on Saturday morning to be cut short after just three minutes, while its final practice scheduled for later in the day and the Xfinity Series‘ qualifying were cancelled altogether. As a result of the latter, the grid for the afternoon’s Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 was set by 2020 owners’ points, which placed reigning champion Austin Cindric on the pole.

The morning Cup practice was the second of three scheduled in the buildup to the Daytona 500 (the first took place on Wednesday). With the session being called off three minutes in, only twenty-seven drivers were able to set a time, and Josh Bilicki was the lone one to get more than a single lap in. Brad Keselowski, who starts the 500 in twenty-fourth, was the fastest at 196.395 mph with a lap time of 45.826, the only driver to break the 45-second and 196-mph marks.

Keselowski’s Team Penske team-mate Cindric, who squeezed into the 500 via Bluegreen Vacations Duel result, was twentieth. David Ragan set the quickest non-chartered time as seventh overall, while Wednesday practice leader Bubba Wallace was third. Pole winner Alex Bowman and his Hendrick Motorsports team-mates did not set a time. Bowman’s starting position for Sunday’s race was in doubt after his engine failed during his Duel, but his team believes a misfire caused the breakdown and it will not need to be changed, allowing him to stay on the front row.

At the Xfinity level, the rainout means Cindric and Justin Allgaier, who finished first and second in the title battle, will lead the field to green. With no qualifying taking place, NASCAR expanded the field from thirty-six to forty cars; while this gives four more drivers a spot in the race, five others will still go home as they do not have the 2020 owner points needed to qualify: Chris Cockrum, Ronnie Bassett Jr., Mario Gosselin, Tyler Reddick, and Jordan Anderson.

Cockrum and his ACG Motorsports team usually exclusively attempt the superspeedways, with their last race not on such tracks coming in 2017 at Chicagoland; the team only ran the Daytona opener in 2020. Bassett (Bassett Racing), Gosselin (DGM Racing), Reddick (Our Motorsports), and Anderson (Jordan Anderson Racing) are all in brand-new cars with no owner points whatsoever. Bassett, Gosselin, and Anderson are owner/drivers, with Gosselin already having three other entries in the field with Alex Labbé (#36, nineteenth), Josh Williams (#92, starting seventeenth), and Caesar Bacarella (#90, thirty-eighth). Bassett and his brother Dillon set up a family team for the full 2021 schedule. For Anderson, who is racing full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2021, it is a disappointing way to end his weekend after coming close to winning the previous night’s Camping World Truck Series race. Reddick, a two-time series champion who currently races in the Cup Series, was supposed to début Our’s new full-time #03 as a partner to the #02 driven by Brett Moffitt; Moffitt will start fifteenth.

The DNQs also comes as a blow for these teams in the next weeks as qualifying will not be held for much of the upcoming events; barring any late rules changes, the next date with it will not be until late May at Circuit of the Americas. Due to COVID-19, NASCAR introduced a formula during the 2020 season in which the starting grid is set based on variables like finish in the previous race and owners’ points position. Should more than forty teams appear for qualifying-less races, those too low will once again be excluded from the lineup.

“Daytona qualifying is the determining factor for the next two races after Daytona,” explained Xfinity driver Tommy Joe Martins on the 3 February episode of his podcast The Drivers Meeting. Martins will start twenty-second for his family organisation Martins Motorsports. “The way this always worked traditionally in the Xfinity Series was that the first three races were run off the previous season’s owner points, which is why you heard of team’s buying and selling points. They were essentially buying a guaranteed ticket in owner points into those first few races run. That has kind of gone out the window.

“Esentially all the owner points are good for right now is positions for Provisionals at Daytona because we’re going to qualify. So they’re going to take the first thirty-one on speed: they’re locked in, doesn’t matter what their points position is. And then the next five are going to get in based on whoever’s not in that’s highest in the owner points that has all the attempts. That last part is very important. So even though the #54 car won a race last year, doesn’t matter. Technically, Carl Long‘s #66 car would be in the race ahead of that, so that is a very important wrinkle to this.

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The #54 car in question is Joe Gibbs Racing‘s “all-star” car for their Cup drivers; in 2020, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin drove five and one race apiece, with the former winning a race at Charlotte. However, with only six total races run in the previous year, the #54 will start at the back in thirty-second for the Beef 300 with Ty Dillon despite leading practice on Friday. The MBM Motorsports #66 finished thirty-ninth in the 2020 owner points with multiple drivers behind the wheel, but ran all thirty-three races.

“But here’s the catch: only thirty-six cars get into Daytona,” Martins continued. “We’re not qualifying at the Daytona road course, so forty cars get in there. 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. So if you’re in the top thirty in points which, thank god, Martins Motorsports is—we’re twenty-second in the owners standings—so we’ve got a guaranteed ticket for at least those two other races. We’ve got to qualify in at Daytona, but we’re guaranteed into the other two.

“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. So basically 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 qualifying, even though you may have not made the race for Daytona, that’s the crazier part about this right? 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.

“So a lot on the line, not just for (Daytona) and that’s the crazier part about this […]. Everything on the line and not just for the people that make it in, or don’t make it. 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?”

Second Cup practice results

PositionNumberDriverTeamManufacturerBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Laps
12Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord45.826196.3951
218Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota46.051195.4351
323Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota46.080195.3131
411Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota46.081195.3081
519Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota46.083195.3001
677Jamie McMurraySpire MotorsportsChevrolet46.276194.4851
736David RaganFront Row MotorsportsFord46.301194.3801
810Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord46.328194.2671
947Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet46.487193.6031
1022Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord46.853192.0901
1199Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet46.993191.5181
127Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet46.994191.5141
1320Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota47.226190.5731
1400Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet47.275190.3751
1537Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet47.295190.2951
1612Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord47.315190.2151
1717Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord47.321190.1901
1821Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord47.341190.1101
1934Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord47.350190.0741
2033Austin Cindric*Team PenskeFord47.370189.9941
2114Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord47.384189.9381
226Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord47.417189.8051
234Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord47.690188.7191
2453Joey GaseRick Ware RacingFord47.712188.6321
2515Derrike CopeRick Ware RacingChevrolet47.715188.6201
2641Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord49.434182.0611
2752Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord50.349178.7522
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points

Xfinity starting lineup

StartNumberDriverTeamManufacturer
122Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord
27Justin AllgaierJR MotorsportsChevrolet
311Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet
498Riley HerbstStewart-Haas RacingFord
59Noah GragsonJR MotorsportsChevrolet
619Brandon JonesJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
710Jeb BurtonKaulig RacingChevrolet
820Harrison BurtonJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
98Josh BerryJR MotorsportsChevrolet
101Michael AnnettJR MotorsportsChevrolet
112Myatt SniderRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
1218Daniel HemricJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
1339Ryan SiegRSS RacingFord
1468Brandon BrownBrandonbilt MotorsportsChevrolet
1502Brett Moffitt*Our MotorsportsChevrolet
1651Jeremy ClementsJeremy Clements RacingChevrolet
1792Josh WilliamsDGM RacingChevrolet
1807Joe Graf Jr.SS-Green Light RacingChevrolet
1936Alex LabbéDGM RacingChevrolet
2015Colby HowardJD MotorsportsChevrolet
216Ryan VargasJD MotorsportsChevrolet
2244Tommy Joe MartinsMartins MotorsportsChevrolet
2361Robby LyonsMBM MotorsportsToyota
2478Jesse LittleB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet
250Jeffrey EarnhardtJD MotorsportsChevrolet
2613Chad FinchumMBM MotorsportsFord
275Matt MillsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet
2848Danny Bohn*Big Machine RacingChevrolet
2917Cody Ware*SS-Green Light RacingChevrolet
3074Bayley Currey*Mike Harmon RacingChevrolet
3116A.J. AllmendingerKaulig RacingChevrolet
3254Ty DillonJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
334Landon CassillJD MotorsportsChevrolet
3447Kyle WeathermanMike Harmon RacingChevrolet
3552Gray GauldingJimmy Means RacingChevrolet
3699Stefan ParsonsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet
3766Timmy HillMBM MotorsportsFord
3890Caesar BacarellaDGM RacingChevrolet
3926Brandon GdovicSam Hunt RacingToyota
4023Jason WhiteRSS RacingFord
DNQ25Chris CockrumACG MotorsportsChevrolet
DNQ77Ronnie Bassett Jr.Bassett RacingChevrolet
DNQ91Mario GosselinDGM RacingChevrolet
DNQ03Tyler Reddick*Our MotorsportsChevrolet
DNQ31Jordan AndersonJordan Anderson RacingChevrolet
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points
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