The 2021 edition of Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth at Daytona International Speedway has a different look than in previous years. First of all, the annual lead up to the Daytona 500 in singular with racing taking place in just a six day period rather than stretched out over two weekends.
There’s the addition of the Daytona road course to the proceedings, not used for stock cars until when Watkins Glen was cancelled due to COVID-19 from last year’s schedule and NASCAR made the circuit a replacement. Now for the first time the Busch Clash will be contested under the lights on Tuesday, Feb. 9 to both kick-off the week and usher in a new era for the long-time non-points race.
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Daytona 500 qualifying that both sets the front row for "The Great American Race" and divides the field into the two starting lineups for Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races also moves into primetime on Wednesday night.
The Thursday night doubleheader then leads to three more days of racing with the Camping World Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series, Xfinity Series and finally the NASCAR Cup Series crown jewel Daytona 500 capping off the busy schedule.
Here’s a look at who might be celebrating during the busy six days with a coveted trip to Daytona’s Gatorade Victory Lane:
Chase Elliott is the well-recognized NASCAR "King of the Road" these days and the reigning Cup Series champion will be among the list of favorites in the record seven road races scheduled this season. The Busch Clash warm-up will give a number of drivers a shot to again run the Daytona road course a week before returning for a points race the second week of the season. Elliott won the first time the Cup cars raced on the circuit last August so stay with the hot hand in the Clash. Winner: Chase Elliott
Daytona 500 Qualifying
One lap in hopes of putting a driver’s name in the record book as a Daytona 500 pole winner. Only the top two starting spots in the 500 will secured in this year’s session held for the first time in a midweek, prime time slot. A Chevrolet has been number one since 2013 and the streak continues this year with another driver from the Bowtie Brigade, who happens to be the 2018 pole winner. Pole winner: Alex Bowman
Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona
These two races have a great deal of meaning for a number of drivers and teams. There are more entries for this year’s Daytona 500 than there are available spots so the pair of 150-mile races will send some into Sunday’s race and others home. The finishing spots also set the starting lineup behind the front row of the 500 so there’s much on the line in this Thursday prime time affair. Since we don’t know who will be in either race as those spots are determined after Wednesday’s qualifying session this prediction is a little more of a guess. Winners: Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick
NextEra Energy 250
The 2021 Camping World Truck Series (and Xfinity) fields will be 36 vehicles when qualifying is held and if qualifying is not scheduled or is canceled the field will expand to 40 maximum. A number of drivers will be in the championship hunt all year long. But this race has created a lot of drama and first-time winners in recent years. This time around it will be a driver claiming his seventh career win in his return full-time to the series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Winner: John Hunter Nemechek
Lucas Oil 200
The ARCA Menards Series traditional season opener at Daytona is the first half of a Saturday doubleheader. A big group of young drivers will all be trying to make their mark with a win to kick off the busy day. Winner: Drew Dollar
Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300
The NASCAR Xfinity Series enters the new season stacked with talented drivers and race teams. Many around the sport believe this could be one of the most competitive years in recent series history, which is saying a lot. JR Motorsports has been the team to beat in this race of late but that run ends this year when a two-time series champion gives Our Motorsports a breakthrough win. Winner: Tyler Reddick
No other sport begins its season with the biggest event of the year except NASCAR. The legacy of the Daytona 500 speaks for itself and the 2021 version will again set the table for the new year. There are eight former winners of the 500 in this year’s field. One of those will get another Harley J. Earle Trophy. Winner: Joey Logano