|Daytona International Speedway. |
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The NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup Series roll into Daytona International Speedway, and all the drivers have two things on their minds: wining and survival. Both are difficult to achieve, yet the greatest drivers manage to do both.
Which drivers will conquer that feat on Friday and Saturday?
In addition to pondering that question, I discuss David Ragan, bad fights, and more in this week’s edition of Five Questions.
Was Townley vs. Gallagher a terrible moment for the sport? The Camping World Truck Series rarely disappoints – and last week was no exception. In addition to the thrilling racing, tempers rose between John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher – and peaked with a fight. The video of the scuffle went viral, and the cries of “This makes the sport look bad!” quickly followed. If it does make the sport look bad, it’s because the fight sucked. This sport was built on passion, passion that still thrives today. I’m happy they got angry; it shows that they actually care. It accentuated what makes NASCAR great, so I’m all for it. Maybe get them some boxing lessons, though.
Ragan in the No. 18: threat or flop? Matt Tifft was slated to return to Xfinity action this weekend after dealing with his disc issues. Unfortunately, he won’t be in a racecar for a while; Tifft will undergo surgery to remove a low-grade brain tumor. David Ragan will wheel the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing instead. First of all, I’m sending a continuous flood of positive thoughts to Tifft and his family. This is something that needs to be dealt with immediately, and I’m so happy with JGR’s response and understanding with the situation. When focus shifts to the racecar, there’s good news to counteract the bad. Having Ragan in the car increases their chance of a victory. He nearly won the 2011 Daytona 500, and he went to Victory Lane during the July Sprint Cup race a few years back. Ragan flourishes at restrictor plate tracks, and that’s bad for the Xfinity regulars. He’s one to watch – and a win would probably put a smile on Tifft’s face
Is another restrictor plate win in the cards for Sadler? The last time the second-tier series raced at a restrictor plate track, JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler captured the checkered flag. If he does it again, let’s hope the finish isn’t surrounded by controversy. Sadler is one of three series regulars with a win, putting him in good position once the Chase begins. However, trophies are like potato chips – you simply can’t have just one. Overall, Sadler’s season has been up and down with no signs of stabilization. Another win could balance him and his No. 1 team out while adding some momentum. He should be a threat this weekend, that’s for sure, but can he come out on top? With the stacked field and unpredictability, it’s hard to say. If he’s there at the end, Sadler has a shot.
Will top rookies rebound at Daytona? Road course racing wasn’t too kind to Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, who finished 21st and 23rd, respectively. Despite their finishes at Sonoma Raceway, their freshman seasons are off to great starts. Both are consistently fast and have the ability to rebound from their California missteps. Is Daytona the place to do it? It definitely is, considering the two youngsters do well there. Elliott won the Xfinity race at Daytona in February and led the Sprint Cup field to the green. Blaney’s in a car that won the 500 in 2011 and has lots of Cup experience. They are more seasoned than many believe. If I have to guess who does better than the other, I’m leaning toward Elliott; Hendrick Motorsports power outruns the Wood Brothers Racing engines, and that’s a huge factor in who can survive at these tracks. Both will have great runs, but the No. 24 will finish ahead of the No. 21.
Can Stewart knock out two in a row? Tony Stewart won in the most Tony Stewart way ever – by running away with it, getting the lead taken away, and then putting the other driver in the wall. It was a win that meant more than (almost) punching a Chase ticket. After everything Stewart has been through, this was a healing moment. Can he conjure up another one of those this weekend? A weight was lifted off his shoulders on Sunday; it unhinged all the anger and doubt that collected over the past three years. With all that gone, the next win will come quick. The Daytona July race has always been Stewart’s race. Despite the fact he hasn’t won a Daytona 500, this restrictor plate track is good to him during the summer. The new momentum will do wonders for his performance. That No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will contend for the victory Saturday night, and his invigorating victory at Sonoma will cause that resurgence. Stewart will take off and perform well the rest of the regular season. He deserves that. After all he’s been through, in his final season, he deserves that.