2021 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Daytona Road Course

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway only a week after a chaotic Daytona 500 that saw multiple pileups and a rain delay that lasted over five hours. In the end, Michael McDowell picked up his first career win in the Cup Series as the caution flag came out after a huge crash involving Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano occurred on the final lap. McDowell ran just ahead of Chase Elliott, giving him the victory in the “Great American Race”.

All the drivers stayed in Daytona another week with the second rendition of the road course this Sunday, similar to the preseason Busch Clash. In the Clash, Kyle Busch picked up the victory after Elliott and Ryan Blaney crashed on the final lap while battling for the win, allowing the third-place Busch to pass them. The Daytona Road Course made its debut last season with the Go Bowling 235 and Elliott picked up the victory, winning his third-straight race on road courses. Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 will mark the first of seven road courses on the 2021 Cup Series schedule.

Elliott starts on the pole for Sunday’s race as he looks to extend his road course winning streak to five races. The last time Elliott lost a road course race that counted for points was the 2019 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway where he retired from the race on lap 60 due to engine issues. McDowell will start second a week after his monumental win last week at the Daytona 500.

Austin Dillon has started 2021 strong, finishing third in the Daytona 500 after winning the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona.

Denny Hamlin, who finished second last year at the Daytona Road Course, led 98 of the 200 laps in the Daytona 500, finishing fourth after a quick pit stop saw him break away from the rest of his Toyota teammates. Dillon and Hamlin will start third and fourth.

Kevin Harvick will start fifth after finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Harvick has only won twice in 43 career starts on road courses in the Cup Series (2017 Sonoma and 2006 Watkins Glen). Ryan Preece will start sixth beside Harvick after a sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

Two drivers with new teams this season, Corey LaJoie (Spire Motorsports) and Kyle Larson (Hendrick Motorsports), will start seventh and eighth after picking up top-10 finishes at the Daytona 500, running ninth and 10th when the caution flag was thrown.

Ross Chastain finished seventh in the Daytona 500 in his debut for Chip Ganassi Racing and will start Sunday’s race ninth. Last season, Chastain suffered major damage in the Xfinity Series race at the Daytona Road Course, finishing 36th.

Despite getting caught up in the crash on the final lap, Bubba Wallace will start 10th in his first road course race for 23XI Racing.

Martin Truex Jr., who won the last road course race that Elliott did not win, will start 19th after suffering damage on the crash on lap 15 at the Daytona 500. Truex finished third last year at the Daytona Road Course.

Coverage for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 will begin at 3:00 p.m. EST. The three stages end on laps 16, 34 and 70. You can catch the race on FOX and the Motor Racing Network.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/02/16/goodyear-fast-facts-daytona-road-course-2/

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