Even before the Daytona 500 takes the green flag to open the 2021 season, 10 drivers and teams have already found trouble and will drop to the rear of the field in backup cars for the start of the Great American Race.
Among the 10 drivers forced to go to backup cars is William Byron, who qualified on the front row for the Daytona 500 but was involved in a crash in the second of the Daytona Duels Thursday. Byron led 34 laps in the race before getting swept into a multicar crash that destroyed his car. Byron will have to drop to the rear of the field in a backup car for the start of the Daytona 500.
Also dropping to the rear in backup cars will be Brad Keselowski, Cole Custer, Ross Chastain, Anthony Alfredo, Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala, who was already scheduled to start 40th. Martin Truex Jr. will also have to drop to the rear of the Daytona 500 after changing an oil cooler in his car, while Erik Jones will start at the rear after an engine change.
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UPDATE: Late Sunday morning, Bubba Wallace's car failed rear alignment inspection twice and will also have to start at the rear of the field. Wallace's car chief was also ejected from the race.
Wallace did not seem concerned.
William Byron still expects to be fast in Daytona 500
Byron will still have a fast car. He will be driving the car he won with on the Daytona oval last August and finished in the top-five with at Talladega.
“Even though we didn’t get to make a timed lap in practice today, I’m still confident in the backup car the guys brought us," he said after practice on Saturday. "It’s been fast every time it’s been on track, and I think it will be again when we get to the race tomorrow. ... We’ll definitely be good to go.”
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One driver who avoided switching to a backup car or changing an engine is Daytona 500 pole sitter Alex Bowman. The Hendrick Motorsports driver struggled with a vibration in his car during the first of the Daytona Duels. Bowman lost four laps while his team tried to diagnose the problem, which wound up being a chassis vibration. Bowman's team was able to sort out the problem during practice on Satuday and Bowman will still lead the Daytona 500 field to the green flag.
"In the 150s, we had a vibration issue that we had to investigate," crew chief Greg Ives said on Saturday. "We initially thought it was an engine issue, but fortunately it wasn’t. The team was able to diagnose and fix it. We didn’t get a whole lot of practice today, but Alex felt everything was fine. We can’t wait for the Ally Camaro to lead the field to green in tomorrow’s Daytona 500.”
The Daytona 500 is expected to go green around 3 p.m. but the start could be delayed by rain.