Brave New World: Daytona Road Course Offers New Challenge...and No Practice

Ron Lemasters | 8/13/2020

Brandt Daniel Hemric Daytona Justin Allgaier Michael Annett News Noah Gragson Road Course

Another week, another new road course inside a famed racing venue known the world over. That’s the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season in a pandemic nutshell.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 13, 2020) – Another week, another new road course inside a famed racing venue known the world over. That’s the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season in a pandemic nutshell.

This weekend, Justin Allgaier and JR Motorsports will tackle the 3.61-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway, the same one (with the exception of a new Turn 4 chicane) that annually hosts the Rolex 24 sports-car endurance race as the kickoff to Speedweeks.

With no practice or qualifying to get an idea what the team’s Chevrolets might need setup-wise, it’s going to come down to who guesses right on Saturday afternoon.

Earlier this season, the teams went to the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time, and NASCAR allowed several hours of practice before the green flag waved. That won’t be the case this weekend.

“I think Indy and Daytona, the big difference to me is, we’re going to be starting the race with no practice,” Allgaier said. “At Indy, we had three or four hours of practice to familiarize ourselves with what was going on. At Daytona, our familiarization is going to be Turn 1, lap 1. That’s very unique for all series. Nobody has had laps on the current configuration, even the car (series driver Alex Labbe) that went down there and tested didn’t have the Turn 4 chicane.”

That’s not to say that Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Michael Annett and Noah Gragson will go to Daytona completely in the dark on what to expect. Both the Chevrolet simulator and iRacing have the course maps, so there’s at least some baseline information available.

“With iRacing putting the course on their platform, that’s huge,” Allgaier said. “That will be super-important for me to get laps on the track. From a setup standpoint, we’ve been lucky enough to try this on the simulator. Do I think we have it perfected? No, not at all.”

Since the field will go into Turn 1 with no previous real-time experience on the course, Allgaier will be watching the ARCA Menards Series event that goes off before the NXS event with an eagle eye. “The ARCA race is before ours,” he said, “so I’m curious to watch it to see what happens, see if there’s any craziness that ensues.”

Allgaier is the winningest driver in JRM history on road courses, having won twice for the team (at Mid-Ohio and Road America in 2018) and also owns a victory in a wild affair at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal back in 2010, so he has a lot of experience on the road circuits. One thing that bugs him about the road course in Daytona is the iconic banking there, and the possibility of wet weather.

“I think it’s going to be a fun race,” Allgaier said. “I’m a little bit leery of the weather; it is Florida in August and there’s a good chance of rain. One of the biggest issues we have in NASCAR is not being able to race in the rain on ovals. Since the road course uses the majority of the oval, what does that look like in the wet? There are a lot of unknowns, and I think that’s good for the fans, it’s good for TV, but from a team standpoint with the playoffs right around the corner and all the things we’re kind of up against already, it definitely makes you a little bit nervous.”

One mitigating factor in the first race on the Daytona road course is, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has already done something like this: at the inaugural race on the Charlotte Roval.

“We saw, when we went to the Charlotte Roval for the first time, people had a really good idea what to expect when they got there,” Allgaier said. “They unloaded, ran their first laps and it was about 50-50. Fifty percent of the cars went completely in the wrong direction and had to hurry up and come up with some new ideas for making their cars faster. Some other teams guessed in the right direction and they were immediately fast. And they stayed fast.

“The only advantage for us going to Daytona now is that we have run the Roval; even though it is a different road course and a different style of racing, just running on the banking at the Roval and the style of road course that it is, it matches a lot to what the Daytona road course will be. It’s just bigger, the Roval on steroids. It’s going to be interesting to see what we did at the Roval that worked well; does that help us or benefit us at all when we go to Daytona or are we going to be in left field? We don’t really know at this point.”

One of the most critical items, Allgaier said, will be getting his BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet off pit road under green-flag conditions. Unlike the courses at Road America and Watkins Glen, fueling will take place on the usual left side of the car, so that’s a plus, but getting back onto the track surface will be much harder.

“The pit stops will be fairly normal, but the pit road for the road course at Daytona is one of the most difficult to leave of anywhere that we go in the entire country,” Allgaier said. “You make the left at the end of pit road and it’s literally the narrowest pit road we’ll go down all year. It’s a 90-degree bend and very narrow. It’s going to be tricky pit road to get off of, but the guys that do it well will benefit greatly from it.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200*

Phoenix Raceway | 11/7/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Austin Cindric (P)40400
2Justin Allgaier (P)4032-8
3Justin Haley (P)4029-11
4Chase Briscoe (P)4028-12
5Noah Gragson2306-1734
6Brandon Jones2273-1767
7Ross Chastain2270-1770
8Harrison Burton #2248-1792
9Michael Annett2202-1838