Sports car drivers can’t wait to see stock cars on Daytona’s road course

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DAYTONA BEACH – Nobody knows the Daytona International Speedway road course better than Hurley Haywood. As one of the most-accomplished sports car endurance drivers of all time, he has logged more than 100,000 miles on the twisting course that uses a portion of the infield and most of the superspeedway’s high-banking.

That’s why he’s excited to watch stock-car drivers wrestle with aggression and finesse in Sunday’s GoBowling 235 on the 14-turn circuit.

“They’re going to find out it’s not like any other road course,” Haywood said from his St. Augustine home. “It’s fast. I think it will be exciting.”

NASCAR added a second chicane coming off the fourth turn to extend the track to 3.57 miles.

And as he’s done for every one of his 24-hour races between 1969 and 2012, Haywood said the key is being smart and careful early in the race.

“Daytona is pretty straight forward on the road course,” Haywood said. “There are a lot of braking zones. Braking isn’t a strong point with a NASCAR car. If these guys are really aggressive at the start, they’ll fade to the back.”

Haywood is tied with Scott Pruett with five 24-hour wins at Daytona. Haywood also has three victories at the iconic 24 Hours of LeMans and two at the 12-Hours of Sebring.
Jordan Taylor, who joined his father at Wayne Taylor Racing to win two of the last three Rolex 24 at Daytona races, agrees.

“It’s all about survival,” he said. “It’s a track that offers a lot of aggressive brake zones. There will be a lot of banging around.”

And like Haywood, Taylor said he’s eager to watch the race.

“I was really excited when I heard about the race,” he said. “I always thought the road course would make for good [NASCAR] racing. There are a lot of passing zones. It should be a lot of fun.”

Haywood and Taylor did their work in sports cars that were 1,200 pounds lighter, electronic rack-and-pinion steering and braking systems made of carbon-ceramics that cost as much as $32,000.

A Cup Series stock car weighs a bulky 3,300 pounds, and has traditional power steering and cast-iron brake rotors.

“It’s all about survival,” Taylor said.

There’s also a big difference in their diving styles.

“I think me leading everybody into Turn 1 at Daytona could be interesting because I have no freaking clue where I'm going as we go down there,” Kevin Harvick said. “Most everybody in the field is the same way. We'll prepare the best that we can and hope that we can make it around the first lap with all the wheels still headed in the right direction.”

Haywood said unlike road courses at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma, California, there is a greater emphasis to staying on the track at Daytona.

“They really have to stay on the racetrack,” Haywood said. “If you run on the curbs, it’s not going to work. You can do that at Watkins Glen and [Sonoma]. Not Daytona.”

Chase Elliott’s won three of the last four road-course races on the Cup Series schedule. And yet, he’s apprehensive about this weekend’s race.

“This is going to be a big-time challenge for everybody,” he said. “I’ve never entered a race where you have no idea what to expect. I have no idea where to stop in Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3 … all the way around the track.”

Two of Elliott’s road course victories came at Watkins Glen. NASCAR replaced Watkins Glen with Daytona last month in an effort to rebuild a schedule that was affected by COVID-19.

To make it more interesting, there will be no practice or qualifying. For most, the first time they’ve been on the course will be on the warm-up lap.

The ARCA Series will be the first to test the road course with a 29-lap race on Friday night at 5. The Xfinity Series will be on track for 51 laps on Saturday at 3 p.m., and the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will take the green flag for 43 laps at noon on Sunday, followed at 3 p.m. by the 65-lap Cup Series main event.

The track will be closed to fans on Friday and Saturday, but tickets are available for infield spots and the main grandstands.

A handful of NASCAR drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer – have participated in the 24-hour race.

Everyone else will rely on the iRacing game, simulators and advice for sports car regulars.

“We've got a lot of work this week to prepare, try to figure it out,” Martin Truex Jr. said. “I know iRacing has the track, so get on there, get familiarized, hopefully be able to learn a little bit from that.”

Ty Dillon likes the opportunity to compete on a new circuit – and the opportunity to attract new fans.

“If we have to continue to grow, you have to reach young people,” he said. “You have to do new things. You have to adapt.”

Dillon said he plans to reach out to IMSA drivers for pointers. So does Elliott.

“We have to exploit our relationship with Chevrolet and Cadillac’s [sports car] programs,” he said. “You can only learn so much on iRacing and simulators.”

Wayne Taylor Racing features Cadillac DPi-V.R. prototypes with engines built by Earnhardt Childress Racing – the same company that supplies engines to Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Germain Racing and StarCom Racing stock car teams.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Dillon said.

And Hurley Haywood and Jordan Taylor can’t wait to watch it.

Following a quick two-day, two-race stop at the Dover International Speedway, NASCAR will return to Daytona’s 2.5-mile tri-oval Aug. 28-29 for the Coke Zero 400.

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