Chase Elliott, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes to start NASCAR Daytona RC from poles

A week removed from the season-opening Daytona 500, the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series prepare to hit the infield road course for the second year. After qualifying was conducted for the oval, the starting lineup for the three RC races will be set using a formula introduced during the 2020 season.

The formula, which was created as a means to bypass physical qualifying as part of condensed race weekends in the wake of COVID-19, is calculated based on a driver’s finish in the previous race (weighted 25 percent), the car’s finish in said race (25 percent), 2021 owners’ points (35 percent), and the fastest lap in the race (15 percent). For the Xfinity and Truck races, both of their fields were increased from thirty-six and thirty-two drivers to forty, and this will continue to be the case for all races without qualifying. Nevertheless, controversy has pervaded the lineup as numerous smaller teams within the lower series find themselves locked out after being unable to run last week’s races.

After running the numbers, Ben Rhodes will lead the field to green in Friday’s BrakeBest Select 153, while Brett Moffitt does so in Saturday’s Super Start Batteries 188 and Chase Elliott in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 325.

Cup: Elliott starts on pole for O’Reilly Auto Parts 325

If it’s a road course race, you have to put money on Elliott to make some noise. The reigning Cup champion enters the Daytona RC looking for his second straight win on the layout and fifth consecutive on a road course.

Michael McDowell, the Daytona 500 winner, will start second. Although a longtime underdog who went 357 Cup races without a win (the second most in series history), he has proven to be a more-than-capable road racer as a former open-wheel and sports car driver; in 2016, he won the Xfinity race at Road America in a one-off, while he finished tenth in last year’s Daytona RC event. The front-row start will be the best of McDowell’s Cup career, topping his third at Charlotte’s Thursday night race last spring (courtesy of a field invert). It is also the first time that McDowell started inside the top ten on a road course, with his previous best being eleventh at Watkins Glen on three occasions (2012, 2016, 2019).

As the formula accounts for finish in the previous race and the Daytona 500 took out numerous drivers due to wrecks, the rest of the field includes unconventional names starting in different spots than one may expect. For example, Corey LaJoie finished ninth in the 500 for Spire Motorsports—a team whose lone top ten prior to 2021 was a rain-shortened win with Justin Haley—and will start seventh, a nine-spot improvement over his previous high, coincidentally at said 500. Haley will serve as LaJoie’s team-mate as he replaces the one-off Jamie McMurray in the #77; while McMurray finished eighth in the 500, the driver change knocks the #77 down to twenty-second as the formula counts a driver’s finish in addition to the car (Haley did not run the 500, giving him no priority in the math).

Other driver changes include A.J. Allmendinger taking over the #16 of Kaulig Racing from Kaz Grala and starting his first Cup race since 2018 in thirty-fourth, James Davison replacing newly-retired Derrike Cope in Rick Ware Racing‘s #15 (starting thirty-ninth), and Garrett Smithley in RWR’s #53 over Joey Gase. Scott Heckert will make his Cup début in the #78 for Live Fast Motorsports in place of owner/driver B.J. McLeod (who has often tasked Heckert with road starts for his Xfinity team), though the team will likely announce the move later in the week. Some names at the back are teams that failed to qualify for the 500 such as Ty Dillon for Gaunt Brothers Racing (thirty-eighth) and Timmy Hill for MBM Motorsports (fortieth).

Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer
1 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford
3 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
4 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
5 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
6 37 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
7 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
8 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
9 42 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
10 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota
11 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
12 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
13 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
14 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
15 2 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
16 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
17 1 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
18 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
19 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
20 77 Justin Haley* Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
21 51 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
22 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
23 52 Josh Bilicki Rick Ware Racing Ford
24 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
25 53 Garrett Smithley* Rick Ware Racing Ford
26 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
27 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford
28 78 Scott Heckert Live Fast Motorsports Ford
29 00 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet
30 17 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford
31 38 Anthony Alfredo Front Row Motorsports Ford
32 21 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford
33 6 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford
34 16 A.J. Allmendinger* Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
35 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet
36 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
37 43 Erik Jones Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet
38 96 Ty Dillon* Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota
39 15 James Davison Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
40 66 Timmy Hill* MBM Motorsports Ford
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
Credit: Our Motorsports

Xfinity: Moffitt gets super starting spot for Super Start Batteries 188, debate surrounds DNQs

While Moffitt is racing for the Truck championship, he is also running the full Xfinity schedule for Our Motorsports. After finishing second to Austin Cindric in the opener, the two will flip places for the road course event; Cindric won the 2020 RC race.

Rookie Ryan Vargas, who acquired sponsorship from New Orleans running back-turned-NASCAR fan Alvin Kamara‘s Big Squeezy juice chain, will start a career-best twelfth; he is not the only NFL RB-backed driver as Joe Graf Jr. is supported by Buffalo Bills’ Antonio Williams, who issued a friendly challenge to Kamara in which whoever finishes behind the other donates to a charity of the winner’s choice. Ty Gibbs takes over the #54 of Joe Gibbs Racing from Ty Dillon and will start fifteenth in his maiden Xfinity race, while Kris Wright starts nineteenth in his own series début for Sam Hunt Racing, replacing Brandon Gdovic in their #26. Miguel Paludo will start thirty-fifth in his first NASCAR race since 2013 for JR Motorsports, driving the #8 piloted by Josh Berry in the opener. Natalie Decker is scheduled to make her Xfinity début for RSS Racing in the #23 (driven by Jason White last week, no relation to the Truck driver).

Forty-four drivers were on the initial entry list, but the lack of qualifying prompted four teams to withdraw: the #03 of Andy Lally (Our), the #31 of Jordan Anderson (Jordan Anderson Racing), the #77 of Ronnie Bassett Jr. (Bassett Racing), and the #91 of Preston Pardus (DGM Racing). The four cars are new for the 2021 season and had missed the previous week’s race because they had no 2020 owners’ points to lock them in when the field was set by points due to a rained-out qualifying. Although the #48 of Big Machine Racing, which sports car veteran Jade Buford will drive after Danny Bohn did so on Saturday, is also a new team, they acquired points from the #93 of RSS; Buford will start twenty-eighth, incidentally alongside RSS driver Ryan Sieg.

As they could not compete in the opener to accumulate 2021 points, it is also unlikely that the quartet, all of whom had full-time plans, will be able to race in the immediate future unless entry list sizes decrease. The next race with qualifying is not until Circuit of the Americas in May, effectively prohibiting them from joining the grid regardless of their equipment and driver capabilities.

“With the qualifying rainout in Daytona and no chance to race on Saturday, our new team is essentially blocked from racing in the Xfinity Series until the next event that allows qualifying in late May,” Anderson wrote in a statement on Sunday“We needed to be in the race Saturday to earn points to be able to race in the events with no qualifying going forward, as those fields are set by points.

“We are only made stronger when we weather the storms and persevere to keep fighting. This is just another chapter in our journey to learn from and be thankful for.”

On a preseason episode of his podcast The Drivers MeetingTommy Joe Martins, who rolls off the grid in twentieth, went into detail about the owner points and how the Xfinity lineup is set for the Daytona RC and next week’s Homestead race.

“Only thirty-six cars get into Daytona (oval). We’re not qualifying at the Daytona road course, so forty cars get in there,” Martins said. “Well, that’s kind of strange, how are we going to set the other four cars that get in the Daytona road course, AND get in the following race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

“Here’s how we’re going to do it: the top thirty in the points from last year are still going to be guaranteed that same ticket into those next two races. […] But for everybody thirty-first and back in the points: tough, hate it for you. Because what they’re going to do is revert to the current season points starting at the second race of the year.

“Those cars that get in at Daytona are then basically guaranteed entry into the next two because they’re going to have points over everybody else. But what about those four open spots? That still doesn’t get us the four open spots, that gets us thirty-six cars but that doesn’t give us the extra four. They’re going to base it off of your qualifying time at Daytona International Speedway. […]

“So your qualifying time wasn’t good enough to get you into the race at Daytona, but it actually WAS good enough to get you in at the Daytona Road Course and at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of those four open spots, which is […] you’re not getting the full paycheck here, but you are getting entry into the race and a chance to earn points. Some people might turn that down, they might just go, ‘You know what? We’re not getting paid enough to even go down there,’ and if they do, then it would kind of move back to the next person that would.

“[…] In a way, not making it still gets you into the next two races, and it’s kind of crazy. In NASCAR’s defense here, I don’t really see how they do it any other way. What’s the other fair way of doing it?”

Despite the situation dooming the #03 and #91, Lally and Pardus will still get their opportunities to race in locked-in cars. Lally moves to B.J. McLeod Motorsports‘ #99 car, which was driven by Stefan Parsons in the opener but did not have a driver listed on the preliminary entry list, while Pardus replaces Caesar Bacarella in DGM’s #90. The two will start next to each other in Row #12.

With the withdrawals, all forty drivers will make the race.

Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer
1 02 Brett Moffitt* Our Motorsports Chevrolet
2 22 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford
3 10 Jeb Burton Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
4 20 Harrison Burton Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
5 18 Daniel Hemric Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
6 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
7 68 Brandon Brown Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet
8 2 Myatt Snider Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
9 07 Joe Graf Jr. SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet
10 5 Matt Mills B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet
11 47 Kyle Weatherman Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet
12 6 Ryan Vargas JD Motorsports Chevrolet
13 78 Jesse Little B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet
14 4 Landon Cassill JD Motorsports Chevrolet
15 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
16 98 Riley Herbst Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
17 66 Timmy Hill MBM Motorsports Ford
18 51 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet
19 26 Kris Wright* Sam Hunt Racing Toyota
20 44 Tommy Joe Martins Martins Motorsports Chevrolet
21 23 TBA RSS Racing Chevrolet
22 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet
23 90 Preston Pardus DGM Racing Chevrolet
24 99 Andy Lally B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet
25 7 Justin Allgaier JR Motorsports Chevrolet
26 9 Noah Gragson JR Motorsports Chevrolet
27 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Chevrolet
28 48 Jade Buford Big Machine Racing Chevrolet
29 11 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet
30 52 Gray Gaulding Jimmy Means Racing Chevrolet
31 74 Bayley Currey Mike Harmon Racing Chevrolet
32 15 Colby Howard JD Motorsports Chevrolet
33 1 Michael Annett JR Motorsports Chevrolet
34 61 Stephen Leicht MBM Motorsports Toyota
35 8 Miguel Paludo JR Motorsports Chevrolet
36 36 Alex Labbé DGM Racing Chevrolet
37 0 Jeffrey Earnhardt JD Motorsports Chevrolet
38 17 Cody Ware* SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet
39 19 Brandon Jones Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
40 13 TBA MBM Motorsports Ford
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Truck: Rhodes receives best selection for BrakeBest Select 159

Last Friday, Rhodes edged out Anderson and Cory Roper to win the Truck race on the oval. Unlike the parent series, the Truck race winner will start on the pole for the road race. Niece MotorsportsRyan Truex and Carson Hocevar will start second and third, respectively, while Roper’s sixth is his second-best career starting position.

Various teams made changes to their driver lineup for the race, including bringing in ringers and other one-off names. For example, Anderson’s #3 will be piloted by Trans-Am Series driver Bobby Reuse; his brother Roger was initially entered in the #49 of CMI Motorsports before withdrawing, as did CMI’s #83 for Tim Viens. Bobby was previously Jordan Anderson Racing’s ringer in 2019. Wright has been replaced by Grala in the #02 Young’s Motorsports truck as the former prepares for the Xfinity race instead.

Three teenage drivers—Jett Noland, Parker Chase, and Lawless Alan—are making their series débuts. Last year’s Trans-Am TA2 Rookie of the Year, Noland’s 2020 plans with Niece Motorsports were aborted due to COVID-19 and pushed to 2021, and he will finally get his shot when he starts thirty-fifth in their #44 that he takes over from James Buescher. Chase, an IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge driver with experience on the Daytona RC in both his series and the Rolex 24 Hours, will start twenty-second in a #51 owned by his 2020 Rolex team-mate Kyle Busch. Alan, an ARCA Menards Series West driver and holder of one of the coolest names in racing, will run Reaume Brothers Racing‘s #34 in Jesse Iwuji‘s place and start last.

Riley Herbst, new to the Ford camp, will drive the #17 for David Gilliland Racing as a means to gain more track time on the road course ahead of the Xfinity race; he finished seventh in last year’s Xfinity event on the layout as a Toyota driver. It will be his first Truck race since the Daytona oval opener in 2020 and his first career road race in the series. Gilliland piloted the #17 to a fourteenth-place run last Friday. Interestingly, the move means DGR will have two Monster Energy-endorsed drivers in their lineup for the race as rookie Hailie Deegan will be Herbst’s team-mate, though Factory Canopies will sponsor the latter’s truck.

Sam Mayer will run his first race in Henderson Motorsports‘ #75, which has been driven by Parker Kligerman on a part-time basis since 2016. Kligerman missed last Friday’s race.

Starting in thirty-seventh is Camden Murphy for NEMCO Motorsports. A Monster Jam driver who has sporadically competed in the Truck and Xfinity Series since 2014, Murphy finished nineteenth at Bristol in his lone 2020 Truck race with NEMCO. NEMCO owner Joe Nemechek failed to qualify the #8 in the previous week’s race.

Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer
1 99 Ben Rhodes ThorSport Racing Toyota
2 40 Ryan Truex Niece Motorsports Chevrolet
3 42 Carson Hocevar Niece Motorsports Chevrolet
4 4 John Hunter Nemechek Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
5 2 Sheldon Creed GMS Racing Chevrolet
6 04 Cory Roper Roper Racing Ford
7 9 Codie Rohrbaugh CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet
8 18 Chandler Smith Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
9 88 Matt Crafton ThorSport Racing Toyota
10 20 Spencer Boyd Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet
11 21 Zane Smith GMS Racing Chevrolet
12 24 Raphaël Lessard GMS Racing Chevrolet
13 3 Bobby Reuse Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet
14 22 Austin Wayne Self AM Racing Chevrolet
15 30 Danny Bohn On Point Motorsports Toyota
16 98 Christian Eckes ThorSport Racing Toyota
17 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet
18 33 Jason White Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet
19 13 Johnny Sauter ThorSport Racing Toyota
20 16 Austin Hill Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota
21 45 Brett Moffitt Niece Motorsports Chevrolet
22 51 Parker Chase Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
23 1 Hailie Deegan David Gilliland Racing Ford
24 02 Kaz Grala* Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet
25 17 Riley Herbst David Gilliland Racing Ford
26 26 Tyler Ankrum GMS Racing Chevrolet
27 25 Timothy Peters Rackley WAR Chevrolet
28 12 Tate Fogleman Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet
29 23 Chase Purdy GMS Racing Chevrolet
30 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota
31 19 Derek Kraus McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota
32 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford
33 15 Tanner Gray David Gilliland Racing Ford
34 56 Timmy Hill* Hill Motorsports Chevrolet
35 44 Jett Noland Niece Motorsports Chevrolet
36 75 Sam Mayer Henderson Motorsports Chevrolet
37 8 Camden Murphy NEMCO Motorsports Ford
38 41 Dawson Cram Cram Racing Enterprises Chevrolet
39 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Racing Chevrolet
40 34 Lawless Alan Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Truck points

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