Without having turned a single lap at the Daytona Road Course prior to the first lap on Sunday, the four veterans at the front of the field were determined to not look foolish upon taking the green flag and approaching Turn 1.
Like every Cup Series race after the industry returned from the coronavirus shutdown, the schedule for the Go Bowling 235 did not include any practice time whatsoever.
However, this weekend was different because there had never been a stock car race held on the Rolex 24 circuit until Friday night, and Cup drivers weren’t permitted to enter any companion races.
So, the veterans improvised.
“Kevin [Harvick] came up to me on the grid right before the anthem, and I think Kyle [Busch] and Martin [Truex Jr.] were talking at Martin’s car, and they saw Harvick and me talking, so they walked over and said, ‘How are we going to do this?'” Denny Hamlin said during Sunday’s post-race video conference. “It was orchestrated well, and obviously it made us look like professionals instead of some of the other restarts that we’ve seen this weekend.
“I’ve been talking about the first corner obviously in my tweets yesterday. Like I said, my braking points were not exact, so enter at your own risk.”
ARCA, Gander Trucks and Xfinity Series also raced at Daytona throughout the weekend and each of those contests featured early chaotic starts or restarts – something Harvick, Hamlin, Busch and Truex did not want to repeat.
“That kind of taught us a lesson,” Harvick said. “It was good … me, Harvick, Truex and Busch, all talked right before the race, and we said, ‘Okay, when we take off we’re going to start braking right there. We’re not going to have any secrets, let’s make sure we don’t look like a bunch of dummies there in Turn 1.’
“We made sure we kept it clean to start, and then you can get your bearings about you after you run a few laps.”
The start was clean, and in fact, no one looked like a dummy at the start of the race. In fact, the entire race only featured one natural caution that was not for a stage break or a weather delay.
“We just wanted to figure out how we were all going to approach Turn 1 so we didn’t crash each other and look like idiots,” Truex said. “So really it was just about what kind of marker were we going to use for braking, so we didn’t run each other over, and obviously it went fine from there.”
Hamlin and Truex went on to finish second and third to race winner Chase Elliott, while Harvick finished 17th following late contact from behind by Christopher Bell while racing for second. Busch suffered a variety of brake related mechanical failure and crashed out of the race with five laps to go.