So this weekend we head back to Daytona — back to the beach, as we always call it every July — for another restrictor-plate race. A lot of fans believe that racing at Daytona International Speedway is the same as racing at Talladega Superspeedway, the other restrictor-plate track on the circuit.
That simply isn’t the case. The racetrack itself is tricky. You can sometimes get yourself out of position when you are trying to make your way through the draft. That can become quite a challenge. Another dynamic we can’t lose sight of is that the drivers are running a superspeedway race under the lights on a Saturday night. I think some drivers find themselves better racing at night than others, especially at the speeds we are running at.
Some drivers have finesse for running at Daytona. Unlike Talladega, Daytona is a much narrower track. Some drivers struggle with that. There are a lot of big names in our sport, both current and in the past, who never won at Daytona. I think that lends itself as evidence as to why winning at Daytona is such a huge accomplishment in the stock car world.
Daytona just isn’t suited for all drivers. It’s a thinking man’s racetrack. At the same time it is also a driving man’s racetrack. For that reason, I just think some drivers know how to attack it better than others. They are also able to give the necessary feedback to their crew chief and crews to make their cars just that little bit better.
NASCAR has narrowed the tune-ability on these cars so much when it comes to restrictor-plate racing that you have to get that component just right, while at the same time you have to drive it just right. If you can hit on both of those, then you can take full advantage of it while others are struggling.
That’s why a Daytona victory is one of those jewels that every stock-car driver worth his or her salt wants to have in their crown and trophy case when their career is over. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’ve really done something special.