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NASCAR 2021 prediction: Who will win on the Daytona Road Course?

Chase Elliott crosses the finish line on the Daytona Road Course. Photo/Getty Images
Chase Elliott crosses the finish line on the Daytona Road Course. Photo/Getty Images
Jeff Owens
ANALYST
Modified 19 Feb 2021
Feature
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Predictions for the Daytona Road Course, or any NASCAR road course, for that matter, start with one name these days: Chase Elliott.

Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, is the new Jeff Gordon of road racing. Gordon won a record nine road course races, including six in a row from 1997-2000.

Elliott, 25, has his own impressive four-race streak going at road courses and hopes to extend it Sunday on the Daytona Road Course. His five career road course wins have come in just five Cup seasons, putting Gordon’s record squarely within his sights.

Also Read: NASCAR's best road course drivers

Elliott, the new star at Hendrick Motorsports, credits Gordon with helping mentor him, and is already drawing comparisons to the four-time champion. Gordon was more aggressive, but Elliott is smoother. He’s so smooth in the winding turns that crew chief Alan Gustafson calls him “flowy.”

Gustafson has worked with some of the best road course drivers in the sport, including Gordon and Mark Martin. He says Elliott is as good as any of them.

“It’s all slowed down for them,” Gustafson said. “There’s so much going on road courses, between shifting, braking, turning, corners and handling in the corners. When you work with guys that are really good and successful, the level of detail they can describe and how they know what’s going on with the car and how it all just slows down for them. You see that from Chase, for sure, and I certainly saw that from Jeff. Jimmie (Johnson), Mark … you just realize that with those guys, things just happen at a much slower pace and it’s easier for them to process and handle all that information and everything that they’ve got to do in the car.”

Elliott won the last two road races at the famed Watkins Glen International. When The Glen had to opt out of the 2020 season, it was replaced by the Daytona Road Course, and Elliott won that too. He almost won on the Daytona Road Course again last weekend in the non-points Busch Clash, wrecking in the final turn of the final lap.

Elliott is such a heavy favorite to win again on the Daytona Road Course, he’s going off at 2-1 odds in Vegas. It will take another wreck or some other type of misfortune to stop him.

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Also See: Daytona Road Course odds, lineup

Daytona Road Course Challengers

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch were NASCAR’s road racing aces before Elliott came along. Each have four wins on the winding layouts and adapted quickly to the Daytona Road Course. Truex finished third last August, while Busch won the Busch Clash when Elliott and Ryan Blaney wrecked.

Blaney, who has one road course win, ran down Elliott and passed him for the lead with two laps to go in the Busch Clash. He was headed for the checkered flag when Elliott wrecked him. He’ll be looking to avenge the loss and should be in the hunt again.

Daytona Road Course: Fantasy picks

Who else will contend on the Daytona Road Course?

Denny Hamlin finished second to Elliott last year and led 24 laps in the Busch Clash. He could be a factor, as could veterans Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, who have both won on road courses.

Denny Hamlin leads Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick at Daytona. Photo/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin leads Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick at Daytona. Photo/Getty Images

Also Read: Road courses bring new excitement to NASCAR schedule

Who is the wild card pick for winning at the Daytona Road Course?

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A.J. Allmendinger’s lone NASCAR Cup Series win came on the road course at Watkins Glen. The former CART/IndyCar driver has won five NASCAR road races, including four in the Xfinity Series.

The former Cup driver is now racing full-time in the Xfinity Series, but he picked up a Cup ride with Kaulig Racing for the Daytona Road Course. If the upstart team can put a good car under him, Allmendinger can contend for the win.

Who are the dark horses on the Daytona Road Course?

Could Michael McDowell shock the world again? Yes, he could.

McDowell’s stunning win in the Daytona 500 set him up nicely for the Daytona Road Course, where he will start second based on his Daytona 500 performance. And he’s a solid driver on road courses.

McDowell’s lone Xfinity Series win came at Road America, and he had two other top-six road-course finishes in the series. He’s been solid in the Cup Series as well, finishing 10th on the Daytona Road Course last year. With his Front Row Motorsports team riding high, McDowell could stay up front again.

It would be a surprise to see a rookie win on the Daytona Road Course — it took even Chase Elliott three years to score his first. But keep an eye on Chase Briscoe.

The rookie driver had two road course wins in the Xfinity Series and proved to be an exceptional road racer. He should have a good car with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Daytona Road Course Predictions

Winner

Chase Elliott

Top 5

  1. Elliott
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Martin Truex Jr.
  4. Denny Hamlin
  5. Kyle Busch
Published 19 Feb 2021, 22:48 IST
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