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Daytona Speed Weeks

Anthony Ballantoni

The 2.5-mile Daytona Int'l Speedway (DIS) hosted all three NASCAR’s top series season-openers during this past weekend. DIS, as part of it's annual "Speed Weeks", also featured the Busch Clash, the non-points, "bragging rights" event on Sun Feb. 9th. The scheduled 75 lap race was extended to 88 laps after several wrecks reduced the starting field of 18 cars to only 6 remaining for the final 2-lap restart. Even with a crunched nose, flapping hood and plenty of tape on his #20 Toyota Camry, Erik Jones crossed the finish line as the winner of the Clash. The season-openers were held at DIS on Feb. 14-17. On Friday night, the Truck Series ran an action-filled race that had three multi-truck wrecks (9 or more vehicles involved) including a 14-truck crash with 2 laps remaining of the 100 scheduled. This set up a 6-lap overtime to finish the event. The XFINITY Series had several multi-car incidents but was able to complete the full race in the scheduled 120 laps on Saturday afternoon. Sunday, the main event.. the Daytona 500.. got started late due to the arrival of President Trump. His motorcade took a "parade lap" ahead of the pace-car to start the CUP season. The green flag was then delayed as a passing shower broke out during the warm-up laps. After track drying, the field completed 20 laps before heavy rain took over the track. Completion of Sunday's race was postponed to late Monday afternoon. Monday had its share of big wrecks which resulted in 2 Red Flag conditions and an addition of 9 overtime laps to finish the race. The latest results and upcoming scheduled events for NASCAR feeder series are also included below as well as details on all tracks mentioned in this column.

                                             NASCAR Cup Series (CUP)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 16-17 - Daytona 500 at Daytona Int'l Speedway (DIS) - 200 laps
- Qualifying for the Daytona 500, and only the Daytona 500, is unique. At the end of the Feb. 9th qualifying session only the top two qualifiers were locked into starting positions for the Feb. 16th event. The rest of the field's results on the 9th set the starting positions in the two qualifying Bluegreen Vacations Duels on Thu, Feb. 13th. The Duels, in turn, set the rest of the line-up for the Daytona 500. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#47 Chevrolet Camaro) won the Pole Award for the 500 with a lap of 194.582 mph. This is his 3rd pole in 257 CUP races and 1st in 16 races at DIS. Alex Bowman, 2nd fastest qualifier, started on the front row for his 3rd consecutive Daytona 500. After the Duels, the rest of the top 10 in the line-up: Joey Logano (#22 Ford), William Byron (#24 Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (#10 Ford), Jimmie Johnson (#48 Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (#6 Ford), Kyle Larson (#42 Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (#2 Ford) and Kevin Harvick (#4 Ford), respectively. Based on their finishes in Duels the 3 drivers who did not not qualify for the 40-car Daytona 500 field were #49 Chad Finchum, #54 JJ Yeley and #96 Daniel Suarez.

- Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota Camry) scored his 38th victory in 508 CUP races. It is his 3rd Daytona 500 win and 10th top-10 finish in 30 Daytona races. He is tied with Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon for 3rd-most Daytona 500 wins all time. He is also only the 4th driver to win back-to-back victories in this event: Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84), Sterling Marlin (1994-95) and Hamlin (2019-20). Ryan Blaney (2nd) posted his 3rd top-10 finish in 11 Daytona races. Chris Buescher (3rd) earned his 4th top-10 finish in ten races at DIS. John Hunter Nemechek (11th) was the highest Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender (ROTY). Pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led 24 laps and finished the 209-lap race 3 laps down in 20th place. Denny Hamlin leads the point standings by 7 points over Ryan Blaney. Next on the CUP schedule: Sun, Feb. 23 - Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

TOP 16 - CUP Playoff Contenders:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Chris Buescher
5. Ryan Newman
6. Kyle Larson
7. Chase Elliott
8. David Ragan
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Aric Almirola
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Austin Dillon
13. Joey Logano
14. Corey LaJoie
15. Bubba Wallace
16. John Hunter Nemechek

                                               NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS)

Sat, Feb. 15 - NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona Int'l Speedway (DIS) - 120 laps
- Myatt Snider (#21 Chevrolet Camaro) won the Pole Award with a lap of 188.430 mph. Snider, who is making his NXS debut, has three previous starts at Daytona in the Truck series (best start of 10th). Michael Annett (2nd) posted his 5th top-10 start in 17 races at DIS. Justin Haley (3rd) scored his 3rd top-10 DIS start. Joe Graf Jr. (5th) was the fastest qualifying ROTY. Since more than 36 cars entered, #26 Colin Garrett, #44 Tommy Joe Martins, #10 Ross Chastain and #16 AJ Allmendinger did not qualify for the race. Jeff Green, who did qualify, stepped out of the #38 to allow Ross Chastain to drive his entry.

-Noah Gragson (#9 Chevrolet Camaro) scored his 1st victory in 37 NXS races. It is his 1st first top-10 in 3 Daytona NXS races. Harrison Burton (2nd), the highest finishing ROTY, posted his 1st top-10 finish at Daytona in this series. He had one previous start at the track in the ARCA Menards Series; he started 5th and won the event. Timmy Hill (3rd) earned his 4th top-10 finish in 9 DIS races. JR Motorsports has won 7 times at Daytona in the NXS - second-most all-time at DIS in the series. Pole-sitter Myatt Snider led 22 laps, was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 59 and was credited with a 33rd place DNF in the 120-lap race. Noah Gragson leads the point standings by 3 points over Justin Haley (finished 6th in the race). Next on the NXS schedule: Sat, Feb. 22 - Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

TOP 12 - NXS Playoff Contenders:
 1. Noah Gragson
 2. Justin Haley
 3. Harrison Burton
 4. Brandon Jones
 5. Brandon Brown
 6. Ryan Sieg
 7. Michael Annett
 8. Chase Briscoe
 9. Jeb Burton
10. Ray Black Jr.
11. Alex Labbe
12. JJ Yeley

                               NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (GOTS)

Fri, Feb. 14 - NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona Int'l Speedway - 100 laps
- Riley Herbst (#51 Toyota Tundra) won the Cometic Gaskets Pole Award with a lap of 181.657 mph. This is his 1st pole in 8 GOTS races. Brett Moffitt (2nd) posted his 3rd top-10 start in 4 races at Daytona. Christian Eckes (3rd), the fast qualifying ROTY, posted his 2nd top-10 Daytona start. Since more than 32 trucks entered, #87 Joe Nemechek, #10 Jennifer Jo Cobb, #8 John Hunter Nemechek, #68 Clay Greenfield, #49 Ray Ciccarelli, #96 Todd Peck and #6 Norm Benning did not qualify for the race.
- Grant Enfinger (#98 Ford F-150) scored his 3rd victory in 84 GOTS races. It is his 1st win and 3rd top-10 finish in 6 races at Daytona. Jordan Anderson (2nd) posted his 2nd top-10 finish in 4 Daytona races. Codie Rohrbaugh (3rd) earned his 1st top-10 finish in his first start at DIS. Pole-sitter Riley Herbst led 21 laps and finished the 106-lap race in 12th place. Derek Kraus (4th) was the highest finishing ROTY. Natalie Decker (5th) becomes the highest finishing female in GOTS history. Previous record was held by Jennifer Jo Cobb (6th) at Daytona in 2011. Grant Enfinger leads the point standings by 11 points over Austin Hill (finished 6th in the race). Next up for the GOTS: Fri, Feb. 21 - Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

TOP 10 - GOT Playoff Contenders:
1. Grant Enfinger
2. Austin Hill
3. Johnny Sauter
4. Jordan Anderson
5. Codie Rohrbaugh
6. Derek Kraus
7. Natalie Decker
8. Brett Moffitt
9. Sheldon Creed
10. Jason White

                                         NASCAR Feeder Series

ARCA Menards Series: Sat, Feb. 8 - Lucas Oil 200 - Daytona Int'l Speedway
Winner: Michael Self - Pole: Michael Self - Points Leader: Michael Self
Next: Fri, Mar. 6 - Phoenix Raceway

ARCA Menards East: Mon, Feb. 10 - Skips Western Outfitters 175 - New Smyrna (FL) Speedway
Winner: Sam Mayer - Pole: Derek Griffith - Points Leader: Sam Mayer
Next: Sat, Mar. 14 - Five Flags Speedway

ARCA Menards West:
2020 Season Opener: Feb. 21-23 weekend - The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Whelen Modified Tour:
2020 Season Opener: Sat, Mar. 21 - South Boston Speedway

Pinty's Series:
2020 Season Opener: Sun, May 17 - Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Peak Mexico Series:
2020 Season Opener: Sun, Mar. 29 - Autódromo del Ecocentro de la Unión Ganadera

                                                 Track Details

Autódromo del Ecocentro de la Unión Ganadera - 0.79-mile oval in Querétaro, Mexico
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park  - 2.459-mile road course near Bowmanville, Ontario
Daytona Int’l Speedway - 2.5-mile tri-oval in Daytona Beach, Florida
Five Flags Speedway - 0.5-mile oval in Pensacola, Florida
Las Vegas Motor Speedway - 1.5-mile tri-oval in Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (The Bullring) - 3/8-mile paved oval in Las Vegas, Nevada
Lucas Oil Raceway - 0.686-mile oval in Brownsburg, Indiana
New Smyrna Speedway - 0.5-mile oval in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Phoenix Raceway - 1-mile tri-oval in Avondale, Arizona -"The Jewel of the Desert"
South Boston Speedway - 0.4-mile oval in South Boston, Virginia