DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hot times, hot temps and hot tempers are certain to be on the docket when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series roll into the World Center of Speed this weekend.
Temps are forecasted to have 90 as the high both days with race time temps “dropping” all the way down to 87. Toss in the humidity, working on blazing asphalt and you can probably expect some bad attitudes from drivers and crews alike.
And, that’s before the anticipated Big Ones with multi-car wrecks take place.
Cup Runs Saturday
MENCS will be on the Big Peacock of NBC TV for their race at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. For the first time since 1988, the Cup cars will be running tapered spacers on their motors.
The reigning winner is Erik Jones, who surprised a lot of people by pulling into Victory Lane last year in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
He rolls into the 2.5-mile tri-oval with three top-five finishes in the last four starts, five in the last seven. He comes to Daytona ranked 17th in the championship hunt, only 15 points behind 16th place Clint Bowyer in the Playoff cutoff position.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Daytona,’’ Jones said. “It’s always cool coming back to a track where you are the defending race winner. Looking forward to the race and defending our win from last year.
“It’s always fun to get down there on the 4th of July. It’s usually a great crowd, a great turnout and great atmosphere for the race. Looking forward to getting out there and hopefully we’ll be able to get another win to lock ourselves in the Playoffs and have a lot fun at the same time.”
The last driver to win at Daytona was Denny Hamlin capturing the Great American Race victory in February. He and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team have led the most laps (437) at DIS of all active drivers.
“We had a great race earlier this year in Daytona, but this weekend will be entirely different,’’ Hamlin said. “Just like all the other teams, we have learned a lot about ourselves in the weeks since the Daytona 500 and we will be fighting for a repeat win, but we are ready and preparing for the challenge that is coming our way.’’
Ryan Blaney finished second in the 2017 Daytona 500, has won a Duel qualifier and has three-consecutive top-10 finishes coming into this race. He has been keeping an eye on his Team Penske Ford teammates, Lagono and Brad Keselowski, who have both made their way to Victory Lane a few times this year.
He’s hoping this will be his weekend to join them in the Playoffs with a win of his own.
“Obviously, they are different kind of race tracks a little bit in their own ways and I think teams will go to Daytona with a little different mindset of what they had at Talladega,’’ Blaney said. “Just trying to figure it out. I think it will be a good race.
“I thought Talladega was a pretty good race and I think it will get better as teams start to understand the package. It’s a race I look forward to every year.”
Logano currently leads the series in points.
Xfinity has Friday Night Under the Lights
The most recent winner at DIS is Michael Annett from JR Motorsports. He captured the February win, the first of his career, and locked himself in the Playoffs. JR Motorsports has won six of the last 11 NXS races at Daytona, he’ll have his eye on a repeat.
Ryan Sieg and the No. 39 Chevrolet team have been good at DIS earning three top-fives in the last 11 starts. He runs well at DIS and Dega, so we might have another first-time winner on our hands.
Hattori Racing, defending Truck Series champions, will venture into the NXS with Austin Hill making his series debut. He won at DIS in February for the season-opening Truck race.
AJ Allmendinger will make his first NASCAR start of the year. The driver-turned-broadcaster will be in one of three Kaulig Racing entries.
Race time on Friday is 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN and MRN Radio.