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Raring to Go Racing: A Glimpse Inside the 2021 DAYTONA 500

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Top left to right: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace will race in this year's DAYTONA 500 for 23Xi Racing, co-owned by Michael Jordan (center) and reigning two-time DAYTONA 500 champion Denny Hamlin. Bottom: Award-winning artist Pitbull joins Trackhouse Racing as co-owner and will have Daniel Suarez driving in this year's Great American Race. Images via NASCAR.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – As NASCAR gets ready for the Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile is focused on making this a safe race for the fans.

Wile said his team has had a lot of practice dealing with all the COVID-19 precautions and they will have help from IMC across the street to enforce mask requirements both at the venue and the infield. He also noted that most fans are compliant with the mask requirements. In a recent virtual interview, Wile said that it feels like a privilege to be able to have fans in the stands and that it’s sad they can’t have a sold-out race, but that’s just how it is.

When asked about any problems with fans and Confederate flags, Wile said that a few fans have worn shirts with Confederate flags on them and they were asked to change clothes. Most were good with that request. On a few occasions, he and his team even gave fans t-shirts to put on because they did not have another shirt with them.

Wile also said that the pre-race festivities will be different because the drivers will stay within the “bubble” and Luke Combs will be playing to the venue instead of the ball field. He also said that he has been sending out gifts and hand-written notes to displaced fans to say “thank you” for their continued support. Some of the drivers have even held special events for those displaced fans as well.

This year will debut two new racing teams:

  • Trackhouse Racing, co-owned by Pitbull and Justin Marks, has been two years in the making. Their driver Daniel Suárez will be driving the #99 Chevy Camaro. The team hopes to bring more Latino fans to NASCAR. Pitbull has been a fan of NASCAR since watching Days of Thunder and he said, “We are here for one reason and one reason only. It’s to create awareness, clearly for NASCAR, clearly for Trackhouse, but more than anything, to show that this brings people together. And if there is anything, we need in these times right now something that unites people, not divides people.”

 

  • 23XI Racing, co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, will feature Bubba Wallace in the #23 Toyota Camry. When asked about the race being on Valentine’s Day and during Black History Month, Wallace said that it would be a fairytale ending if he won the race after everything that has gone on this past year. He also said he is “looking forward to running in the top 10 each and every week.”

In a recent virtual interview, Kurt Busch, who drives the #1 Chevy Camaro, talked about how the track at Daytona “can humble you.” He said that in the years before his win at Daytona, “there’s a humility within you that says the track is still in control. Then when I won in 2017 it was an experience beyond any other. But then when you come back and the race doesn’t go well, you are again humbled by the track.”

This past year, Ryan Newman, who drives the #6 Ford Mustang, has been consulting with NASCAR on safety but he doesn’t consider himself a “consultant.” He says that the communication with NASCAR has not been any different when it comes to discussions on safety. With the 20th Anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr’s fatal crash, Ryan reflected on how similar his crash last year was to Earnhardt’s and said the progress made in safety is apparent in the simple fact that he walked away from his crash. When asked about this year’s race, Ryan said it would be amazing if he could be in the same position towards the end of the race as he was last year.

Even though there will not be as many fans at the Speedway as in previous years, NASCAR fans are ready for the green flag, and with the new teams and the changes to other teams, this year promises to be one to remember.

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Lynn DeJarnette is a sports, politics and lifestyle reporter for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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Monster Jam World Finals® Returns to Orlando This Weekend, Celebrates Monster Jam’s 30th Anniversary

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Monster Jam World Finals is premiering a first-ever figure-eight over-under track that allows trucks to simultaneously jump over each other while racing. Image: Feld Entertainment.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The prestigious Monster Jam World Finals® returns to Orlando May 21 and 22, 2022. This two-day championship is the biggest event of the season and showcases the best trucks and drivers in Racing, Freestyle, High Jump and Skills competitions. This year’s World Finals XXI celebrates Monster Jam’s 30th Anniversary and Grave Digger’s 40th Anniversary. It offers the largest Pit Party of the year, where fans can meet the drivers, see the trucks up close and enjoy many other family-friendly activities–all included in the ticket price. Fans can purchase tickets for both days through Ticketmaster.com.

Fans get to watch jaw-dropping stunts from the drivers’ 1,500 horsepower, 12-feet tall, 12,000-pound monster trucks, including 12-time world champion Tom Meents, driver of the Max-D truck. World record holder Bari Musawwir, driver of the Zombie truck, also returns to compete in the Skills Competition.

In just in 7.5 days, Camping World Stadium’s gridiron field transformed into the World Finals dirt track with 7,500 yards and 22.5 million pounds of dirt. This year’s track includes a first-ever figure-eight over-under track that allows trucks to simultaneously jump over each other while racing. Fans not only get to enjoy over-the-top stunts, and thrilling fireworks, but they’ll be the very ones choosing the winner.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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PHOTOS: Rookie Austin Cindric Gets First NASCAR Cup Series Victory in Thrilling DAYTONA 500

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Austin Cindric and his crew celebrate in the Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway after winning the 64th DAYTONA 500 Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: NASCAR // On the 85th birthday of his car owner, Roger Penske, 23-year-old NASCAR Cup Series rookie Austin Cindric beat Bubba Wallace to the finish line by .036 seconds in overtime to win Sunday’s 64th running of the DAYTONA 500.

Bubba Wallace (McDonald's car) raced closely alongside Austin Cindric (Discount Tires, #2) in the final laps of the race, missing victory by a hair-thin .036 seconds. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Bubba Wallace (McDonald’s car) raced closely alongside Austin Cindric (Discount Tires, #2) in the final laps of the race, missing victory by a hair-thin .036 seconds. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

In a thrilling run to the finish in NASCAR’s new Next Gen race car at Daytona International Speedway, Cindric held off Wallace and Chase Briscoe (.091 seconds behind) to notch his first Cup victory in his eighth start in the series.

 

Cindric, who was +2500 to win the DAYTONA 500 on Draftkings, got the win in chamber-of-commerce weather with a sold-out crowd jamming the grandstands.

“Oh, my God—do you know what makes this even better? A packed house,” Cindric exulted after climbing from his car. “A packed house at the DAYTONA 500. “Oh, my God, I’ve got so many people to thank. First and foremost, Roger Penske. Happy Birthday!

 

“Everyone has worked so hard on this Next Gen car and through the whole process. I am so excited. This makes up for losing a championship in the last race I was in (2021 Xfinity Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway).

 

“I’m surrounded by great people, that’s all there is to it. I know there’s going to be highs and lows, being a rookie. I’m just grateful for the opportunity and excited to climb the mountain ahead of us on the No. 2 team. We’re in the Playoffs—that’s one box checked. My gosh, what an awesome group of fans; what an awesome race car. I’m just really thankful.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#47)'s late crash changed the race's outcome for Austin Cindric in the 64th DAYTONA 500. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#47)’s late crash changed the race’s outcome for Austin Cindric in the 64th DAYTONA 500. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

A three-car wreck in Turn 4 on Lap 195 of a scheduled 200 wiped out the No. 47 Chevrolet of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was leading for a restart on that same lap but was turned by a push from Brad Keselowski. The incident forced the race to overtime, requiring one extra lap for Cindric to claim victory.

 

An earlier six-car accident on Lap 190 had eliminated reigning series champion Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Todd Gilliland, Erik Jones and Noah Gragson, who was making his first start in NASCAR’s top division.

 

Cindric was the leader when the race restarted on Lap 200, and at the end of a wild two-lap scramble—after blocking a strong run from Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney—he arrived at the finish line roughly three feet ahead of Wallace, who was runner-up in the Great American Race for the second time.

 

“I thought our Toyota teammates did good work until they got picked off 1, 2, 3 throughout the race, so we just had to survive,” said Wallace, who finished .260 seconds behind race winner Austin Dillon in the 2018 Daytona 500.

 

“Great Speedweeks, though. We’ll come home second. I’m going to be pissed off about this one for a while. I was happy on the first second place we got a couple years ago. This one sucks when you’re that close, but all-in-all, happy for our team, happy for our partners, and on to California.”

 

Blaney came home fourth, followed by Aric Almirola, who will leave full-time racing at the end of the season. Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Keselowski and Chase Elliott completed the top 10.

 

Less than three laps from the end of the first stage, a push from Keselowski turned the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford of Harrison Burton sideways at the head of the outside lane. Burton’s Mustang nosed down the track into the No. 24 Chevrolet of William Byron, whose car slammed nose-first into the inside wall on the backstretch.

 

Kyle Busch spun sideways during the ensuing eight-car wreck. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota sustained terminal suspension damage, eliminating the field’s only multiple winner of the DAYTONA 500. The No. 1 Chevrolet of Ross Chastain was also knocked out of the race.

 

After the impact with Byron’s car and a jolt from the Toyota of Christopher Bell, Burton’s Ford turned upside down and landed on top of the Chevrolet of Alex Bowman, who had started the race on the outside of the front row. The impact righted Burton’s car, which a wrecker towed to the garage. Bowman lost four laps as his crew tried to return the No. 48 Camaro to raceable condition.

Alex Bowman (#48) pulls into Pit Road after a crash during the DAYTONA 500 at the Daytona International Speedway Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Alex Bowman (#48) pulls into Pit Road after a crash during the DAYTONA 500 at the Daytona International Speedway Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

“I’m fine—I’ve hit a lot harder before, that’s for sure,” Burton said after a trip to the infield care center. “It’s just unfortunate. I hate it for the Wood Brothers group. They brought a really fast Ford Mustang down here and ended up on our lid, so that’s never good…

Harrison Burton speaks with the press at the AdventHealth Infield Care Center at the Daytona International Speedway after his car flipped and crashed in Stage 1 during the 64th DAYTONA 500 Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Harrison Burton speaks with the press at the AdventHealth Infield Care Center at the Daytona International Speedway after his car flipped and crashed in Stage 1 during the 64th DAYTONA 500 Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

“I don’t know, I just got pushed and didn’t take it the right way—the car didn’t take it the right way or got pushed in the wrong spot. I’m not sure. I couldn’t really tell. I was looking out front to see what I had to do next to side draft the next guy that was on me, so just a bummer. I don’t really know what we could have done different, but we’ll move on and get better from it.”

 

From Hamlin’s standpoint, it was clear what happened.

Denny Hamlin speaks with the press at the AdventHealth Infield Care Center at the Daytona International Speedway after getting caught up in the Stage 1 crash during the 64th DAYTONA 500 Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

Denny Hamlin speaks with the press at the AdventHealth Infield Care Center at the Daytona International Speedway after getting caught up in the Stage 1 crash during the 64th DAYTONA 500 Sunday, February 20, 2022. Photo: J Willie David III / Florida National News.

“The 6 (Keselowski) was pushing the 21 (Burton) and you could see the 21 was kind of getting out of control there,” said Hamlin, who failed to finish a DAYTONA 500 for the first time in 17 starts and lost his chance for a fourth visit to Victory Lane. “So you know the mind-set was that you’ve got to back off, but I think the 6 was just insistent on pushing him at all costs and eventually turned the 21 around.

 

“Tough, you know, considering it was just for the stage. We were kind of boxed in there where I noticed that something was going to happen, but I was boxed in, I was behind a teammate (Kyle Busch), and I wanted to try to help. Again, just too aggressive pushing right there when they weren’t lined up and in control.”

 

Truex won the first stage under caution and then claimed victory in the second stage, which ran under green-flag conditions from the restart on Lap 72 to the conclusion on Lap 130. Truex came from third to first on the final lap to grab the stage win.

 

Keselowski, however, was first off pit road under caution for the stage break and led the field to green for a restart on Lap 138. Keselowski held the top spot until Tyler Reddick’s Chevrolet broke loose in Turn 4 on Lap 151 and started a wreck that damaged the contending cars of Truex, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch.

 

The 65th Annual DAYTONA 500 is scheduled for February 19, 2023 (subject to change). For more information on the 2023 Great American Race, visit www.DAYTONA500.com.

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PHOTOS: Country Music Superstar Chris Lane Electrifies Crowd for Coke Zero Sugar 400

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Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Multi-platinum country artist Chris Lane performed for fans prior to the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway Saturday.

With the Coke Zero Sugar 400 being the season finale race, NASCAR Cup Series racers are battling for the final playoff berth. Drivers and fans alike were on edge, ready to give it their all. Lane gave his, performing his best hits and braving the heat as if it didn’t faze him or his band.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Chris Lane's drummer hammers away in the heat during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Pre-Race Concert at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Chris Lane’s drummer hammers away in the heat during the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Pre-Race Concert at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

At one point in the concert, he brought an adorable young girl onstage to briefly join him in his performance. To also please his fans, he switched from his ball cap to the traditional cowboy hat, eventually tossing it into the audience for a lucky fan to catch.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Multiplatinum country music star Chris Lane performs for racing fans before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco//Florida National News.

Fans, wearing their favorite racers on their shirts, cheer during Chris Lane's Coke Zero Sugar 400 pre-race concert at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Fans, wearing their favorite racers on their shirts, cheer during Chris Lane’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 Pre-Race Concert at Daytona International Speedway. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Fans watched replays of the Wawa 250 on the big screen as they await the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday, August 28, 2021. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Fans watched replays of the Wawa 250 on the big screen as they await the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway Saturday, August 28, 2021. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Fans, wearing shirts with the names of their favorite racers, jumped, cheered, screamed and sang along with Lane as they await the intense competition to follow.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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