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Daytona to get makeover

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

Daytona International Speedway will hold its last race this Saturday before undertaking a massive makeover that will take more than two years to totally complete. The work will be done in stages, and is expected to be completed for the beginning of the 2016 Speedweeks.

When completed, there will no longer be any seats on the backstretch and the total seating capacity will be reduced to around 101,000. All of the seats presently on the front stretch will be replaced with wider seats along with all new restrooms and concessions.

All of the present facilities located in front of the speedway will also be replaced with five new redesigned fan entrances that will feature elevators and escalators that will take you to one of the three levels of new seating. Each level will also have a fan friendly area that will be the size of a football field and will be open to the track so fans can watch the action while going to the concessions and restrooms.

The kind of racing that we see this Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 will be the kind of racing that we will always see at Daytona as the track’s makeover does not include any changes to the track. The use of the restrictor plate that is mandated at Daytona makes the racing at the track unique to the rest of the tracks on the schedule with the exception of its sister track at Talladega. The plate keeps the cars closer together and gives more drivers a chance of winning than at any other stop on the schedule.

Beginning with Daytona, there will be only nine races remaining until the Chase for the Championship field will be set to face the final 10 races that will determine this year’s title holder. Last week’s road course race at Sonoma once again raised the question of whether or not there should be a road course track included in the Chase.

The Chase now consists of Chicagoland, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas and Homestead-Miami, are all a mile and a half in length. Joining those five tracks are New Hampshire, Dover and Phoenix that are all one-mile tracks. That leaves only two tracks that are really one-of-a-kind tracks making up the Chase schedule.

Martinsville represents the short tracks in the Chase as its flat half-mile track is always a “wild card” type of race as a driver can easily be caught up in another driver’s mistake. Talladega is the other “wild card” race in the Chase as the track is known for producing big wrecks that can take out a large portion of the field.

Missing from this lineup of races is a road course race and since there are two that makes up the 36-race Cup schedule, the debate is always ongoing that there should be one included in the Chase. Sonoma last week and Watkins Glen in August are the two races and would be the logical choice to be moved to the Chase portion of the schedule.

NASCAR has no plans to add any races to the present schedule and has said that if it does add a race, another track will have to give up a date. Sonoma is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., which also owns the Chase tracks of Charlotte and Texas. SMI could request a swap in its track’s date but it is unlikely that NASCAR would want to move a race to the West Coast during the Chase.

Watkins Glen also would not be a good fit for moving into the Chase because of its location in New York. Moving the race later in the fall section of the schedule would mean cold weather that could hurt the attendance. That may leave the only option for a road course to make it into the Chase schedule is to add a road course track that presently is not on the Sprint Cup schedule. There are several out there including one in Texas, but before that could ever happen another track would have to give up a date and that just isn’t going to happen.

Race Preview
Event: Coke Zero 400
Track: Daytona International
Speedway (2.5 mile tri-oval with
31 degrees of banking in the turns)
Date: July 6, 7:30 p.m.
Radio: MRN
Defending Champion: Tony

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