Podium Preview: Go Bowling 235 at Daytona

Certainly, William Byron, even in iRacing form, looks forward to today's Go Bowling 235 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Evan Posocco)

Certainly, William Byron, even in iRacing form, looks forward to today’s Go Bowling 235 at Daytona. (Photo Credit: Evan Posocco)

By all means, today’s Go Bowling 235 will be a wild scrap and wild card for the NASCAR Cup Series.

Undoubtedly, with four regular-season races remaining, the focus at Daytona International Speedway’s road course will be about survival. All things considered, the past two days’ races for ARCA and the NASCAR XFINITY Series proved quite treacherous at times.

Given the circumstances, drivers and teams will vie for a win at “The World Center of Racing,” rain or shine. Furthermore, today’s race should excite the road course oriented regulars ready to take on the largest track of the season and circuit.

Each week, The Podium Finish’s panelists, Ashley HobbsChrissi LuttrellCody ShoppeIsabelle Beecy, Kobe LambethMatteo MarcheschiMichelle RaynorStephen Conley, Terra Jones, and yours truly will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.

First, we consider another “show up and race” weekend for Daytona and the battle between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin!

Podium Preview: Go Bowling 235 at Daytona International Speedway
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Question 1
With those trick turtles in the final corners at Daytona, did NASCAR get it right with another "show up and race" weekend?

With those trick turtles in the final corners at Daytona, did NASCAR get it right with another “show up and race” weekend?

With the first NASCAR race on the famed Daytona Road Course, if you were in charge, how would you have handled this particular event? Would you have made an exception to the no practice rule for 2020?

Sisoler :  I would have absolutely made an exception. Not much of one, still no qualifying mind you. But I would have allowed teams about 15-30 minutes to get out there and get a good feel for the Daytona Road Course with the NASCAR chicane off the oval Turn 4. Training on iRacing/with a simulator can help, but there’s nothing like real laps on the track. It just feels like a recipe for a wreckfest, to be frank, to give the teams zero practice. 

Hobbs :  I 100% would have given practice to the teams. The Xfinity Series got to practice for a course they never were on (at Indianapolis’ road course). So, why should this be an exception? I think it’s silly to unleash the drivers on a course they’ve never been on before. You can train in a simulator but nothing compares to the actual feel of the car on the track. I just foresee a very strange first few laps while they figure out their cars and the course.

Lambeth : For each series, I think it would have been acceptable if they had a short practice session to learn the new track. While they can learn all they want on iRacing, there is nothing like doing the real thing. Last month, the NASCAR Xfinity cars were allowed to practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which was brand new to the series.

I truly understand the need to save money and limit in-person traffic. But, I strongly believe that NASCAR should have made a special exception to the no practice rule. Heading into the race without any practice, my eyes will surely be wide open during the first couple of laps!

Tiongson :  Practice was absolutely needed for this weekend. Sim racing is helpful but drivers have often pointed out how it doesn’t provide an actual feel for the track. I don’t think Turn 1 will be a “clusterbuck” like we’ve seen on social media, but this is a completely unknown track for the field in these cars. I cannot wait for the return of the regular weekend schedules when we get past this pandemic.

Shoppe :  If it were up to me, I would have scheduled a short practice. No more than an hour or so for drivers to get some kind of idea what this circuit is all about. There would be one important stipulation however, there are still no backup cars! If you crash it in this practice, you’re done.

I like the money-saving and personal limiting practice of only having one car to prepare for a race as we move forward in a COVID world. So, I don’t see a problem with allowing this practice with the understanding that you need to preserve the car for the event to follow. 

Luttrell :  Yes and no. I believe practice would be helpful for those who have never been on the course (which, let’s be honest, is most of them). However, the lack of practice is sure to bring some exciting and wild racing for fans. Entertainment value? No practice.

As far as from a team owner and car owner’s perspective? I’m sure they would appreciate practice so the cars don’t end up as torn up as I’m guessing they will be. Either way, I am excited to be able to witness this inaugural Daytona “Roval” race in person on Sunday and can’t wait to see what happens! 

Question 2
Without a doubt, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are head of the class.

Without a doubt, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are head of the class.

With the successes of both Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick in 2020, can either look at their season as a disappointment if they don’t finish it with a title? Which driver would feel more disappointed without a championship in 2020?

Jones :  With as dominating as both drivers have been, I feel both will be disappointed to finish without a championship trophy (which means, at least one will leave Phoenix defeated). That said, I believe Denny would be more disappointed in not winning the 2020 championship, given the fact he has yet to notch that title in his belt throughout the span of his career. 

Marcheschi :  I think either can and probably should. Both have had seasons where they should have won the title but missed out. Hamlin won eight races in 2010, five in 2012, and six just last year, but missed out on the title each time. Harvick has seen similar near misses, with five wins in 2006 and eight wins in 2018. I’d say Hamlin, still lacking a title, would certainly be more disappointed in losing. But both have been so dominant so far that a title loss would be understandably devastating.

Conley :  I don’t think either driver could say it was a successful season without the title, even if Denny has won back-to-back Daytona 500 races. 

Harvick would say this isn’t his best season, but one of them. With an average of 5.9 through 22 races and having completed nearly every lap this season, he needs that second title to say it was a complete season. 

Beecy :  I think both would be disappointed if they didn’t get the title. They both have some solid accomplishments in their careers, but a championship is sort of the cherry on top. However, I do think Denny would be the most disappointed since he hasn’t won it yet. I have a feeling winning the championship would be on his NASCAR career bucket list and he came so close last year.

Raynor : I feel like if Denny ends up not winning the Championship he will be the most disappointed. He has been chasing that first Championship for a while now and has always come up short. Losing last year was pretty hard on him. I feel like neither one would say it’s been an unsuccessful year because what they have accomplished with COVID-19 has been pretty great.

Somehow, we’ve survived two laps around this long, tricky road course at Daytona. Next, we rewind back to last weekend’s Michigan doubleheader with the race and points reports from Rounds 21 and 22!
The machine and Maine man won with Harvick.

The machine and Maine man won with Harvick.

Certainly, our machine was pleased.

Certainly, our machine was pleased.

However, it got too familial for the win.

However, it got too familial for the win.

And without a doubt, the machine keeps winning.

And without a doubt, the machine keeps winning.

Now, Ashley Hobbs punches the calculator quite hard with today’s Go Bowling 235 at Daytona’s road course! For this race, Hobbs’ stats consider prior races at Sonoma, Watkins Glen, and the Charlotte ROVAL.
First, here's how your favorite team fares in past road course races.

First, here’s how your favorite team fares in past road course races.

Next, here's how your favorite team fares in prior road course races.

Next, here’s how your favorite team fares in prior road course races.

Since 2013, road course winners have an average starting spot of 8.1, led an average of 33.6 laps, started within the top-five 37.5 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

Since 2013, road course winners have an average starting spot of 8.1, led an average of 33.6 laps, started within the top-five 37.5 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

Notably, MTJ slightly outperforms Rowdy in prior road course races.

Notably, MTJ slightly outperforms Rowdy in prior road course races.

Now, here's the trends in the past 10 road course races.

Now, here’s the trends in the past 10 road course races.

Next, here's the trends in the past five road course races.

Next, here’s the trends in the past five road course races.

Actually, we're quite surprised.

Actually, we’re quite surprised.

Ultimately, here’s our race picks for today’s Go Bowling 235 at Daytona.
Can any of these past road course winners triumph in today's Go Bowling 235 at Daytona?

Can any of these past road course winners triumph in today’s Go Bowling 235 at Daytona?

Beecy :  Kyle Busch has experience on the Daytona road course (granted, it was in a different series, but here we are), so he’s got a bit of an advantage here.

Conley :  If experience will mean anything at this venue, Kyle is one up on the field with having run the Rolex 24 in the GT class. That will be the closest thing to the Cup cars.

Lambeth :  After competing in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with the AIM Vasser Sullivan GTD squad, I fully expect Kyle Busch’s most recent experience on a slightly different layout to come into play. Look for Rowdy to conquer the Daytona Road Course!

Hobbs :  How do you choose a winner for a race where none of these drivers have been? I thought Talladega and Daytona were wildcards, but this race is going to be the wildest card. And only Clint Bowyer, the wildest driver, could conquer this.

TPF Stats :  Coming up with a formula for a track that has no history and is special is difficult. But I put my math hat on and modeled this race using road course and ROVAL statistics. The result may surprise you with Clint Bowyer.

Shoppe :  Martin Truex Jr is one of the top road course racers today in NASCAR. With not a lot to go off of at this new event, I’m going with MTJ to best navigate the unknowns of the Daytona road race and win!

Sisoler :  This one is a tricky one. Only a few drivers have driven on this course. Even less of that number has driven some sort of stock car on this course before. That said, I’m going with NASCAR’s Road Course Master from the past few years, MTJ, to grab the inaugural checkered flag at the Daytona Road Course!

Jones :  Having proven himself on previous road courses/Rovals, I think the stars will align for Chase Elliott to win the inaugural Cup Series race.

Marcheschi :  With Jimmie Johnson struggling in his final NASCAR season, a new challenge will light that fire once again. Johnson has never been stellar at the road courses, but remember the first race at the Charlotte Roval? Johnson was incredibly close to taking that victory. And he’ll “rAlly” to take his new white Chevy Camaro to Victory Lane in the inaugural Daytona road course event!

Tiongson :  Oh, why not? Let’s go with Kevin Harvick for the win!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Go Bowling 235 at Daytona International Speedway!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this weekend’s race? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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