The road course at Daytona made its debut as the NASCAR Monster Energy Series took to the asphalt on Sunday. As has been customary over the 2020 NASCAR season, there was no practice or qualifying. With the Xfinity and Gander Truck Series tackling the track earlier in the weekend, this would be the first on-track action for NASCAR’s top series. The Go Bowling 235 began as the great unknown as NASCAR’s top-tiered drivers got their first taste of Daytona’s road course.
Shortly after 12:15 pm PST, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag. Hamlin and Harvick raced side-by-side through the first set of turns with Hamlin taking the lead and Kyle Busch moving to second place. Kyle Busch was able to get by Hamlin took first place. Kyle Busch flat-spotted the tires coming to the line with Hamlin taking the lead back. Coming to complete Lap Four, Kyle Busch came down to the pits for tires and fuel.
With the laps winding down in Stage One, Martin Truex Jr. charged ahead and passed Hamlin for the lead. Pit strategy began to play out as leaders made their way onto the pit road before the stage end. Chase Elliott cycled through as the leader and took the green-and-white checkered flag. After pit stops commenced during the caution period, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano led the field.
With Logano and Hamlin leading the way, Hamlin held the lead with Logano falling behind Harvick to third. With nine laps left in the stage, Truex Jr. got to Hamlin’s inside and took over as the leader. The leaders began to make pit stops before the stage end, shuffling the running order. As Truex Jr. exited the pits, he drew a penalty for exiting too fast. By not pitting, Hamlin took the Stage Two victory, capturing the green-and-white checkered flag. The drivers who did not pit before the stage end came down to the pits with Clint Bowyer exiting first.
Stage 3 began with Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick on the front row, rain in the forecast, and Truex Jr. starting in the back due to his pit penalty. Hamlin maintained the lead as Christopher Bell spun Harvick. Harvick was able to avoid damage but ended up falling to the back of the leaders. After running a lap, Harvick came down pit road to change the tires due to flat-spotting them during the spin. Chase Elliott was able to resume his position as the leader as Hamlin began to fall back.
With 29 laps left in the race, the caution came out as there were reports of lightning strikes near the track. The race came to a halt under a red-flag condition to wait for the lightning to pass. After the lengthy delay, the drivers returned to their cars, and the race resumed with Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch on the front row.
Chase Elliott easily maintained the lead with Kurt Busch following in second and Jimmie Johnson in third. As the race wound down, green flag pit stops began with less than 20 to go. During the pit stops, Kyle Busch looked to suffer a brake failure, relegating him to pull the car to the garage.
With ten laps remaining in the race, Chase Elliott maintained the lead over Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. As the race five laps remaining, the caution flag flew as Kyle Busch blew a tire and crashed on the backstretch. Elliott and Hamlin led the field back to green with three laps left in the race.
Elliott made the most of the restart and held the lead as Hamlin fell in line at second. Hamlin would not let Elliott escape and kept pace through the twists and turns of the Daytona Road Course. Try as he might, it was not enough as Elliott held off Hamlin and won his third consecutive road course race.
Overall, the race was not as chaotic as expected, but that does not mean the racing was substandard. Dawsonville’s favorite son took the checkered flag and provided those who tuned in a highly-entertaining race and what would is to be expected whenever the stars of NASCAR visit a road course. What were your thoughts on today’s race?
Next week, we have another double-header weekend as NASCAR visits the Monster Mile in Dover.