Twists and Turns: Road Course Preparation Will Play a Big Role in 2021

Ron Lemasters | 2/18/2021

News XFINITY Series

With the 2021 season featuring seven road-course races, JRM had to put a bigger emphasis on getting the road-course cars ready during the offseason.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2021) – Prior to this weekend’s event on the 3.61-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway, JR Motorsports has made 129 starts on road courses since 2005.

By the time the season ends, that number will have increased by 22 percent to 157. In previous seasons, where there were just three road courses on the schedule, it would only be 141.

Numbers aside, that’s a big change from year to year. In past seasons, a four-car team would make 12 starts among its entries; in 2021, it will be 28.

Why is this important?

For one, it means that road-course cars are now a bigger constituency than superspeedway cars. JRM will make 16 starts at Daytona and Talladega versus 28 on road courses. In years past, the road courses were clustered into August, for the most part, and teams could prep the cars all at once for three races in four or five weeks. Now, with Daytona the second race of the season thanks to the pandemic-related swap with Auto Club Speedway, the process becomes much choppier.

There won’t be another road-course event after this weekend until May 22, when the series tackled the 20-turn Circuit of the Americas for the first time. Two weeks later, it’s off to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 5), followed by a three-race break until Road America (July 3).

A doubleheader of Watkins Glen (Aug. 7) and Indianapolis (Aug. 14), sets the stage for the final venture to the road courses: the Oct. 9 event at the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That one, as it was last year, is the cutoff race for the first round of the playoffs.

The schedule for 2021 was released early in December, which gave teams time to plan. Shop foreman Donnie Tarantino was right on the mark in terms of timing. In years past, the winter was all about getting the Daytona cars built, followed by intermediate cars and short-track cars.

“It just moved up the preparation,” Tarantino said. “Where we used to sit back and wait on it a little bit and then think about getting them (road-course cars) ready, this year, we had to move up the prep. This year, we took all winter to make sure we had speedway, road-course and intermediate cars ready to go.”

While most of the chassis used in the NASCAR Xfinity Series stay relatively the same, the choke point can come in terms of getting the right parts and pieces to make them suited to one kind of track or another.

“With more road-course races, it changes your thoughts on parts and pieces,” Tarantino said. “You have to have more. In the past, we ran three road courses a year and you could have one or two sets of something. Now, it’s just as much as a short-track car or anything else. We have less chance of destroying four cars at a road course; you go to a speedway like Daytona and you could bring all four home in a bad way.”

Getting the word early was a good thing for Tarantino and his team.

“Once they announced they were going to do seven of these, you knew you had to do them early,” he said. “You’re looking at getting the parts earlier. You used to concentrate on making sure you had all your speedway cars done and get the intermediates ready to go. After you got through the first four or five weeks of the season, after the West Coast swing, you could turn your head and say, ‘yeah, I can go do the road-course stuff now.’ You’d make sure you had all the parts and pieces, the chassis, and so on.

“When they announced the schedule back in December, you knew you had to get all the road-course cars done, because Circuit of the Americas is in May. When we did the switch with Auto Club because of the COVID-19 deal, it put a little more of a step into it. We were already on the way to getting stuff ordered, but we had to step it up a little.”

When the transporters leave tomorrow for Daytona, they will be filled with road-race cars for Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson and Miguel Paludo. Those cars will be set aside until the run-up to COTA, and then get ready for a stretch of five races in 12 weeks in the summer.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • March 6 04:30 PM ET
    Alsco Uniforms 300Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  • March 13 05:30 PM ET
    Call 811 Before You Dig 200Phoenix Raceway
  • March 20 05:00 PM ET
    EchoPark 250Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • April 9 08:00 PM ET
    Martinsville Speedway
  • April 24 04:00 PM ET
    Talladega Superspeedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Contender Boats 250

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 2/27/2021
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Austin Cindric1470
2Myatt Snider118-29
3Daniel Hemric117-30
4Jeb Burton106-41
5Brandon Jones93-54
6Justin Haley90-57
7Harrison Burton89-58
17Michael Annett49-98
22Josh Berry #41-106
26Justin Allgaier37-110
27Noah Gragson35-112