NASCAR weekly: Elliott makes history – Larson set for comeback?

NASCAR weekly: Elliott makes history – Larson set for comeback?
Credits: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Last weekend the NASCAR Series raced for the first time on the modern road course at Daytona International Speedway – Chase Elliott won the Cup race at the “World Center of Racing” – Is Kyle Larson about to return to NASCAR?

NASCAR Cup Series

Last Sunday, NASCAR history was made at Daytona International Speedway. For the first time, a Cup race was held on the modern road course of the motorsport complex in Florida. For the NASCAR race, the Daytona 24 Hours layout was modified with a chicane after turn 4 of the oval.

Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) was the first driver to enter the list of winners. The Hendrick driver won the first stage – in the second segment Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing) won – and finally also the race ahead of Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. (Joe Gibbs Racing), Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) and Chris Buescher (Roush Fenway Racing).

Meanwhile Kyle Larson seems to be preparing for his NASCAR return. The Californian, who was released after the racism scandal, wants to formally request a lifting of his suspension. He already meets all the requirements for this and has already attended the awareness seminar.  

But which team could be Kyle Larson’s new home? ‘Forbes’ reports that Richard Petty Motorsports would be interested in the 28-year-old if Bubba Wallace leaves the team. However, Chevrolet would then have to accept Larson in its ranks, as the manufacturer had distanced itself from Larson immediately after the scandal.

Credits: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Furthermore, Stewart-Haas Racing seems to be interested in Larson and Ford Motorsport Director Mark Rushbrook could also agree to sign the fast Californian. But then who has to leave Stewart-Haas Racing? Kevin Harvick brings home strong results and has a contract for several years. Aric Almirola has a potent sponsor with Smithfield and Cole Custer’s father Joe Custer is the COO of Gene Haas’ Formula One team.

Only Clint Bowyer remains, who at 41 years of age is one of the older drivers in the NASCAR circus. If Bowyer does not get a new contract, Larson could get the #14 cockpit of the team. Tony Stewart is an avowed fan of Larson, who has been extremely successful in the World of Outlaws in sprint cars since he was thrown out of NASCAR.

But what will happen to Chase Briscoe, who is competing for the title in the NASCAR Xfinity Series? The 25-year-old cuts a fine figure in the Ford and certainly has ambitions to advance to the NASCAR Cup Series after the 2020 season. In short: Stewart-Haas Racing has a luxury problem that won’t be easy to solve.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the introduction of the new Next Gen car was postponed until the 2022 season and many test drives were cancelled. Custer will resume test operations in Dover and put the new vehicle through its paces. On Monday and Tuesday after the race, the Stewart-Haas driver will take over the wheel of the new NASCAR car.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Credits: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Austin Cindric (Team Penske) has won the first Xfinity race on the Daytona road course. He won five of the last six races and extended his lead to Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing). Brandon Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing) was third ahead of Noah Gragson (JR Motorsports), A.J. Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing) and guest entrant and road course specialist Andy Lally (Our Motorsports).

Cindric is fighting for the title with Briscoe and Gragson, who is traded as Johnson’s successor at Hendrick Motorsports. But where will Cindric be heading after the 2020 season? Currently, the 21-year-old Cindric is driving for Team Penske, but there is no place in the Cup team for the 2021 season. With the extension of the contract with Brad Keselowski, the racing team has actually given away all the cockpits for the next Cup season.

Cindric is very closely connected with Roger Penske, because his father Tim Cindric is the president of the racing team. Despite this relationship, Austin Cindric has already announced that he will also be looking for a Cup ride outside of the Penske umbrella. He told ‘‘ that he is loyal, but that he could also imagine being involved with other teams in the NASCAR Cup Series.

In the Xfinity race on the Daytona road course, many eyes were on former Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, who was trying his hand at stock car racing for Richard Childress. The Porsche works driver, who has already celebrated many successes in GT racing, kept up at the top for a long time until he became a victim of the “killer curbs” in the Bus-Stop-Chicane. Bamber is a NASCAR fan and has always wanted to race in a stock car.

NASCAR Gander & RV Outdoors Truck Series

Credits: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Sheldon Creed (GMS Racing) won the NASCAR Gander & RV Outdoors Truck Series race at the Daytona road course and was therefore allowed to join Elliott and Cindric in the list of winners. He kept Brett Moffitt (GMS Racing), Austin Hill (Hattori Racing Enterprises), Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) and Raphael Lessard (Kyle Busch Motorsports) behind him.

It was Creed’s second win of the season after Kentucky, so he already has a place in the playoffs. However, Hill continues to lead the overall standings ahead of Moffitt, who has not yet claimed a win. Besides Creed and Hill, rookie Zane Smith (GMS Racing), Crafton and Daytona winner Grant Enfinger (ThorSport Racing) are sure to make it to the playoffs.

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Canada

Even though there will be no official champion in the Canadian NASCAR Pinty’s Series due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortened schedule in the 2020 season, a few races will be held in front of empty grandstands. The season kicked off with a double header at the Sunset Speedway and the races were won by the veterans LP Dumoulin and Jason Hathaway.

The next races will also be held on an oval in Ontario. At the Flamboro Speedway, two 125-lap races without spectators at the track are planned for August 29th.

André Wiegold