CONCORD, N.C. -- The entire NASCAR field will head to Daytona International Speedway this weekend to tackle the DAYTONA Road Course for the first time. Chase Elliott, like many of the drivers, will be taking his first laps around the track during warmups right before the race.
The driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE said there are going to be a lot of unknowns heading to a circuit where the majority of the field has no experience.
“I think this weekend is going to be a big-time challenge for everyone,” Elliott said. “I’ve never entered a race like that where you literally just have no idea what to expect. Road racing, in my opinion, is a lot about brake markers and a lot about visual aids and these nuances around the track that you can see with your eyes to help with your hands and your feet do the right things at the right times.”
Unless a driver competed in the Rolex 24 event, the road course at Daytona is new territory. Elliott said that will serve as an advantage to the drivers who have signed up for the 24 Hours of Daytona in the past.
“I think if we all knew that we were going to be doing this road course, you probably would have seen all of us trying to get in that 24-hour race this year to go and do it,” Elliott said. “But you never know with things like that.”
Despite Elliott’s uncertainty, he has proved his prowess on road courses. He won back-to-back races at Watkins Glen in 2018 and 2019 and rallied to cross the finish line first at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval” in September 2019. In 11 career Cup Series road races, Elliott has garnered four top-five finishes, six top-10s and a total of 179 laps led.
The DAYTONA Road Course was added to the schedule after the event at Watkins Glen in New York was scrapped for the season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Originally, the road course was supposed to be debuted next February as the new venue for the Clash.
Drivers now will know what to expect for the Speedweeks event next season. However, this weekend will be a guessing game for many of the them, especially since there are no practice and qualifying sessions.
Elliott said he plans on getting advice from other stock car drivers who have run the Rolex 24 and other events at the Daytona course. Even though drivers can practice driving virtually through iRacing, Elliott said it won’t give them the full visual scope they need to be successful at the venue.
“It’s going to be one of those things where you have to creep up on it and it’s a hard guess,” he said. “The only way to get that is (with) laps around the racetrack, and 65 laps is not really a ton of time to figure those things out. (We have to) learn and learn fast and try not to make any big-time mistakes.”
The inaugural Cup Series race at the DAYTONA Road Course will kick off Sunday, Aug. 16 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.