Sammy Smith Adds to New Smyrna Trophy Stash with ARCA Win
Feb 16, 2022
The Duel at Daytona has the potential to be amongst the most uneventful races in the recent history of Daytona International Speedway or the most consequential.
The first superspeedway race in the Next Gen era comes at a time where most entrants don’t have a backup car on-site and absolutely can’t afford to crash the primary -- not only for the sake of the Daytona 500 but also the first couple of races using this new platform.
The supply chain shortage means most teams have a backup car at their shop in North Carolina, which is potentially their primary for the next race at Fontana and not in the hauler at Daytona. The parts shortage is that backed-up this early in the season.
"I think right now, it’s a problem for everyone," said Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. "Everybody is probably planning on trying to make it through the Duels with this car that we showed up with."
In other words, a massive crash on Thursday night in the qualifying races could create a significant setback and might require teams to borrow a car from a fellow manufacturer affiliated organization"
"We’re in a little better shape than we were about a week ago," Truex said. "I think we have another car or two this week. James (Small, crew chief) thinks we are in a really good spot. If we can just make it through the Duels with this car, we will be in good shape for a while. It’s getting better, just going to take a little bit of time."
On the other hand, these cars are more easily repairable in the case of a less significant crash, but no one wants to test their inventory this early.
"I hope it's going to be calm and quiet," Byron told Racing America on Monday at New Smyrna. "I don't have a backup car, so the Super Late Model races this week was all the racing I really want to do until Sunday."
That might not be the most compelling show for fans tuning in on Thursday, but 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott says putting himself in the best position to win the Daytona 500 trumps entertaining the fans with a bunch of crashed Next Gens.
"I hate to be that way; but at the end of the day, we’re going to do what we feel like is going to give us the best shot to win at the end of the day on Sunday," Elliott said during Media Day on Wednesday. "What that looks like sometimes might not be what people want to see all the time, but that’s just the way it unfolds.
"Would I love to mix it up for 500 miles? Absolutely I would love to put on the most exciting thing ever for four hours. But I also want to win; I want to win worse than I want to just make sure it’s super entertaining."
Elliott says it’s a matter of sporting integrity and it’s something fans should appreciate even if it doesn’t make for spectacular highlight reels leading up to Sunday.
"As long as we have integrity in what we do and we all want to win, then I think the fans and the people are going to appreciate it," Elliott said. "I think that’s an important piece; just keeping the integrity in what we have going on and making sure everybody still wants to win and make all of those right decisions to put themselves in the right position to win."
On the other hand, 2018 Cup Series champion Joey Logano says he’s going to treat the Duel like he would any other superspeedway race, regardless of the potential consequences. With this brand-new platform, he wants to learn as much of what he can and can’t do on Thursday before taking the green flag on Sunday.
"I am planning to go race," Logano said. "I think as soon as you get scared of crashing and those type of things you are never going to win. So, I am going to go race and if we crash, so be it, we will figure it out. I feel like going out there to race to win and try to get those points. There are still points out there to try to get."
To his point, the winner of each Duel gets 10 championship points and points are paid 10-1 throughout the top-10. Logano also acknowledged that the round bumpers on the new car, and unfamiliarity with how to push using them, could create a potential hazard on Thursday.
"The Duels are typically a little more tame and it is usually not that crazy, but there have been crashes in them before and I think with the new car and the round bumper, it could cause more crashes," Logano added. "At the same time, you probably have some teams telling their drivers to chill out because we don’t have a lot of inventory.
"I don’t really know exactly how the Duels are going to look. All I can control is what I am going to do."
The potential wild cards in this dynamic are the drivers who will be attempting to race their way into the Daytona 500. They are Jacques Villeneuve, Greg Biffle, Kaz Grala, JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson and Timmy Hill. Beard Racing with Gragson, NY Racing with Biffle and The Money Team Racing with Grala are all Richard Childress Racing affiliates.
Would the locked-in Childress drivers, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick, be willing to drop back deeper into the field to help push their partners towards the front?
"Absolutely, but at what cost to ourselves?" Reddick said. "That is where it gets challenging. We’d love for every car that has an ECR engine under the hood to make it, but again, it becomes a very difficult situation. Do we want to risk tearing our car up in going back there and helping or they may not be battling at the back, they may be one of the cars up near the front. So, it’s just a risk reward situation, but anything we can do to get more of our engines in the field is going to be a great thing for us.
"But again, helping get someone in and wrecking one of our own cars does us no good. So, just got to manage it."
Erik Jones of Petty-GMS is a Childress affiliated driver, and one that is guaranteed to make the race via an ownership charter, but he’s already indicated he can’t wad up his No. 43.
"Unfortunately, we’re in a spot where we cannot wreck this car before the 500," Jones said. "We have to get it into the race and start it. As much as it would be nice to help those guys out and get some more help in the 500 from those guys – because obviously they would be on our side – I don’t think we’re going to be able to do much for them."
All told, most drivers do expect long green flag runs without a lot of mixing and dicing, simply because they can’t afford the consequences. Truex believes there is the great potential for 60 green flag laps without a caution.
"There is going to be a fast pack and a slower pack," Truex said. "We are going to be separated. Hopefully, we are in the front where we are going to be safe and get through the race and get a good starting spot."
How much longer will this last, and could it affect practice for the April superspeedway race at Talladega as well? Roush Fenway Keselowski team owner Brad Keselowski sees the parts shortage lasting through at least the summer.
"I suspect that we will get out of this by mid to late summer and get to a new normalcy and that will work itself out."