There Were Good Crowds at Daytona International Speedway

The first races of the year for all three of the NASCAR touring series is in the record books at Daytona International Speedway. Here are some observations and thoughts about the events of the long weekend.

Much has been said about reduced attendance at NASCAR races but this weekend’s races at Daytona appeared to have changed that trend. NASCAR and the tracks no longer post attendance figures but from my vantage point the races on all four days were well attended. The Daytona 500 was about as close to a sell out as they could get since the speedway is still under construction.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

In the picture the stands that appear grey are under construction and do not actually have any seats installed. It will be interesting next year to see how the attendance is when all the new grandstands are done.

Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway

The Daytona Rising project is far from complete but it is a great success. I can attest that it was very nice to take an escalator up to my seats. The wide open concourse area was also well appreciated when  walking to and from the food vendors and restrooms.

Women will love the new Rest Rooms. It appears that Daytona installed twice as many facilities for women as men.

The new seats are much wider with cup holders and were a welcome change from the seats that were there and definitely better than the bleacher seats at other tracks.

The Daytona Rising project is a success even though it isn’t complete. The part that is complete provided race fans with just enough to entice them to come back and see it when it is finished. The Daytona International Speedway will be a First Class facility when it is complete.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

 Feature Photo Credit:  Brian M. Berg Jr.

 

Knock Out Qualifying at Daytona is Exciting but Doesn’t Work

NASCAR Coors Light Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway utilized the knock out qualifying format that was instituted last year. It was exciting but was confusing and convoluted. Much like Talladega last year, it should never be done again.

It seems like it might be exciting. Have the teams run all together, drafting to see who is fastest in order to make the race. It is except when those same drivers use the rules to gain an advantage. During the first session drivers sat on pit road waiting for the last possible time that they would need to get up to speed and post a great lap. The idea was that one wanted to be the car catching the pack and getting the most out of the draft. Then it goes wrong.

There is a big wreck at the tail end of the draft which doesn’t allow the bulk of the field to put up a maximum up to speed lap. Suddenly, what looked exciting messes up a whole bunch of drivers qualifying effort. Suddenly, those who happened to get the draw for the second group have a huge advantage to make the second round.

It wasn’t supposed to be but it ended up looking like simply a timed qualifying race. Why would one have a qualifying race for a qualifying race? Why would one’s qualifying effort be left to the hands of others in the event of a huge wreck?

Well I must say it is more exciting than single car qualifying although I miss the information about each team while they take their 2 minutes or so to make a lap on the big oval. The question then becomes “How do we make it better?”

Well if it looks like a duck then let’s make it a duck. It takes about one minute to make a lap at Daytona. It takes about 2.5 laps to make it up to speed. Line them up by some random draw, bring out a pace car and drop the rag. Then it’s every man or team for themselves, you have five minutes. No boring waiting around pit row gaming the system. Since everyone is out there at the same time everyone will have a chance to get some time in. Some might get seven laps in some maybe only six but at least we have a track full of cars.

It did make for a Story Book ending. Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award. His teammate Jimmie Johnson will start outside.

NASCAR either make it what it timed qualifying races or go back to single car qualifying runs.

Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo Credit: 304938 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

If you cannot make it to Daytona International Speedway for the Budweiser Dual 150’s they will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 Thursday February 19th starting at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 304946 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Sprint Unlimited has Been Dominated by Big Team Drivers

This year the NASCAR Offseason seems to be longer than ever. It probably has to do with the fact that there was no preseason thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway. Don’t worry the season is upon us. The NASCAR season begins with the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.

This year’s race will consist of two segments, 25 and 50 laps, with a competition caution coming after Lap 25.

As for the race itself, there seems to be several different agendas by drivers and teams in this race. Some use it for extra practice to see how they stack up against the competition. Others seem to race but not take any chances if their car isn’t quite right. Regardless of the strategy, the big teams seem to have this race covered and generally win.

This race has been won by only eight different drivers since 2001. #14-Tony Stewart (07, 02, 01), #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. (08, 03), Dale Jarrett (04), #48-Jimme Johnson (05), #11-Denny Hamlin (14, 06), #4-Kevin Harvick (13, 10, 09), #41-Kurt Busch (11), and #18-Kyle Busch (12).

The Sprint Unlimited consists of those drivers who have won a Coors Light Pole Award the previous season plus former Daytona 500 pole winners. Drivers who entered at least one race last year and have also won a previous Sprint Unlimited can also enter this race.

In December NASCAR expanded the field to 25 drivers adding in all sixteen 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders. If there is still not a full 25 car field then those highest in driver points from 2014 that are not otherwise eligible for the race can enter. Here is the entry list of eligible drivers.

2014 Pole Winners:
Austin Dillon (Daytona)
Brad Keselowski (Phoenix)
Joey Logano (Las Vegas)
Denny Hamlin (Bristol)
Matt Kenseth (Auto Club)
Kyle Busch (Martinsville)
Tony Stewart (Texas)
Kevin Harvick (Darlington)
Brian Scott (Talladega)
Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte)
Jamie McMurray (Sonoma)
David Gilliland (Daytona)
Kyle Larson (Pocono)
Jeff Gordon (Watkins Glen)
Brian Vickers (Talladega)

Former Daytona 500 Pole Winners:
Danica Patrick (’13)
Carl Edwards (’12)
Martin Truex Jr. (’09)
Greg Biffle (’04)

Former Sprint Unlimited Winners:
Kurt Busch (2011)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (’03, ’08)

2014 Chase Contenders (Not Already Qualified for the Race)
AJ Allmendinger
Aric Almirola
Kasey Kahne
Ryan Newman

Pole winner Brian Scott is not entering the race and Brian Vickers is out due to health concerns. AJ Allmendinger and David Gilliland will also miss the race due to lack of sponsorship. This has opened up the field to four more drivers based on points from last season, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears. Marcos Ambrose is no longer racing in NASCAR leaving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the last driver to enter the field.

If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the Sprint Unlimited it will be broadcast live on Fox, Saturday February 14th starting at 8 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 294756 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

24 Hours of Daytona, NASCAR Style

In years past there used to be preseason thunder, NASCAR testing at Daytona International Speedway, to take the lid off of the off-season. This year that distinction is left to the 24 hours of Daytona, the ROLEX 24 at Daytona to be exact.

In years past there were many NASCAR stars entered in the race. This year from my tally only Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger are entered in the race.

The No. 02 Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will be piloted throughout the 24 hours by an all-star driving team of Scott Dixon Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson, and Jamie McMurray.

Jamie McMurray drove the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates last year with Scott Pruett, Memo Rolas and Sage Karam but they blew an engine and failed to finish.

Kyle Larson drove the No. 02 last year with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Marino Franchitti but they had problems and did not finish the race. In spite of that they did come in 43rd overall even though they had a great car. Such is the nature of this endurance race.

AJ Allmendinger will be a part of the No. 60 Ligier JS PS2 Honda HPD fielded by Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb/Agajanian team with fellow drivers John Pew, Oswaldo Negri Jr, and Matt McMurry .

Allmendinger and his team last year finished the race 47th. They finished the race but were not very fast throughout.

Both teams are driving what is called a Daytona Prototype cars, a very high tech race car specifically built for this style of racing.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is a very interesting race in that several different classes of race cars race at the same time. Imagine if NASCAR held a very long race in which there were Sprint Cup Cars, Xfinity Series Cars and Camping World Truck Series trucks on the track at the same time. It makes for some interesting racing watching those cars that are out classed get passed by those that obviously have a large advantage.

When you consider the strategy that can be played by those drivers who are not too tired by setting up passing those slower cars and the interest level gets raised a bar or two. Then those drivers who are not fresh try a similar move and disaster strikes. That in a small nut shell is what this 24 hour race is all about. I recommend watching as much as you can.

For a more enhanced entry list to the Rolex 24 at Daytona visit http://www.imsa.com/sites/default/files/races/entry_lists/2015%20TUDOR%20Championship%20ROLEX%20Pre-Event%20Entry%20List_v2.pdf?invalidate-cache=1405248398

If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway it will be televised on a combination of the TV and the Internet. It will be broadcast on FOX Saturday January 24th 2015 from 2-4 PM ET then on Fox Sports 2 from 4-8 PM. It will move to Fox Sports 1 from 8-10 PM. At 10 PM the race moves to the internet streaming live at imsa.com until 7 AM Sunday. The race will finish on Fox Sports 1 from 7 AM until 2:30 PM ET. This race is a timed event so it will finish promptly prior to 2:30 regardless of the laps run plan accordingly to see the finish.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 293368 Chris Trotman/Getty Images

 

2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Schedule

NASCARSCLogo

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has some changes over previous year. This year the Southern 500 moves back to its traditional date on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. The race at Atlanta moves back to March pushing the first Bristol race into April.  There is a new TV Contract with Fox and NBC sharing the season.

2015 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES SCHEDULE
Date Site Network
2/14 Daytona International Speedway (Sprint Unlimited) FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
2/15 Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 500 Qualifying) FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
2/19 Daytona International Speedway (Duel) FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
2/22 Daytona 500 FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
3/1 Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX, PRN, SiriusXM
3/8 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FOX, PRN, SiriusXM
3/15 Phoenix International Raceway FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
3/22 Auto Club Speedway FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
3/29 Martinsville Speedway FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
4/11 Texas Motor Speedway FOX, PRN, SiriusXM
4/19 Bristol Motor Speedway FOX, PRN, SiriusXM
4/25 Richmond International Raceway FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
5/3 Talladega Superspeedway FOX, MRN, SiriusXM
5/9 Kansas Speedway FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
5/16 Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race) FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
5/24 Charlotte Motor Speedway FOX, PRN, SiriusXM
5/31 Dover International Speedway FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
6/7 Pocono Raceway FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
6/14 Michigan International Speedway FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM
6/28 Sonoma Raceway FOX Sports 1, PRN, SiriusXM
7/5 Daytona International Speedway NBC, MRN, SiriusXM
7/11 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM
7/19 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM
7/26 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM
8/2 Pocono Raceway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
8/9 Watkins Glen International NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
8/16 Michigan International Speedway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
8/22 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM
9/6 Darlington Raceway NBC, MRN, SiriusXM
9/12 Richmond International Raceway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
9/20 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
9/27 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM
10/4 Dover International Speedway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
10/10 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBC, PRN, SiriusXM
10/18 Kansas Speedway NBC, MRN, SiriusXM
10/25 Talladega Superspeedway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
11/1 Martinsville Speedway NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM
11/8 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, PRN, SiriusXM
11/15 Phoenix International Raceway NBC, MRN, SiriusXM
11/22 Homestead-Miami Speedway NBC, MRN, SiriusXM
SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

 

News and Commentary from Pit Row

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