What To Expect Out Of The Duels, Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Depending on who you talk to, the Can Am Duels at Daytona on Thursday night and the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday could be very compelling and built with excitement. But, they could also be very boring and following the leader parade like action.

The reason?

The new restrictor plate rules.

There’s no ride height, so teams are trying out different set up packages. The only sample size we can base this off of at the moment, is how the Clash was raced last Sunday. The 75 Lap event was very exciting in the first 25 laps. There was tons of passing and action up front. Unfortunately, the final 40 or so laps was like a parade.

It was completely backwards from what restrictor plate racing has become.

The drivers in the field said it was all due to the new rules and how unstable their cars have become. When trying to make moves, stable car or not, if you were unable to get any drafting help, you were shuffled back and out of the draft all together. Multiple drivers lost the draft in the Clash due to unsuccessful moves.

That was strange to see.

Some said it was a byproduct of just seeing 17 cars in the race. Others say it was due to the uncertainty of the handling of the cars themselves.

Kevin Harvick cited that he really had a good car, but he lost the draft due to only having 16 cars in the race at the point of his unsuccessful move. On Sunday, there will be 39 other cars in the race he said.

But, the reason the race in the second half got tame was all due to the fact that these cars were so bad in the handling department that they couldn’t make any moves. In the early stages, the tires were fresh and everyone was feeling each other out. Once the race went on, the cars fell off and it was uncharacteristiclly difficult to step out of line and make a move.

What Does This Mean For The Daytona 500?

That could be a very real threat for Sunday’s Great American Race. The temperatures are forecasted to be in the 80s and sunny. The track will be hot and slick. How will anyone make any moves? Slick track, bad handling cars and unstableness in the draft could lead to some hair raising action.

Will anyone be able to make any moves? If they try to and it doesn’t work, will they lose the draft, or even worse, crash? Does that lead to some conservative racing instead?

Will we see early race action and single file racing after like the Clash? Will we see drivers try to make moves and crash causing carnage? Or, will we see the normal restrictor plate racing, where everyone can win and passing will be dominated by two, three and sometimes for wide action around the superspeedway?

That leads to a very uncertain ‘500. No one knows what to expect and may not until the green flag drops on Sunday.

Can Am Duels Forecast

What about Thursday night?

I would suspect we see very tame Duels to be honest. While the race will be at night and the track having more grip, there’s nothing to really race for. Yes, points are on the line for the top 10 finishers, but are they really enough to risk crashing?

There’s 40 drivers going for 40 spots. Everyone makes the race. The days of open cars or provisional drivers going for the last few spots in the Duels are gone. Everyone makes the race. Why put yourself in a position to crash and tear up your race car when you can finish in one piece and have your Daytona 500 car in tact?

Does 10 points for a Clash win really make the risk worth for losing your Daytona 500 car worth it?

Most drivers agree that the Duels will be like what we saw in the final 30 or so laps on Sunday, single file action throughout the field. The open cars with limited budgets won’t push too hard. Why would they? You’ll see the main players up front battling for the win and the rest just surviving.

This won’t be one of the best Duel days.

Gone are the days of 50 or 60+ cars showing up to Speedweeks and battling for 43 spots. Now, there’s 40 cars going for 40 spots without too much, or for some, anything to race for.

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