The high banks of Daytona International Speedway mark a visceral moment for any driver who has the opportunity to run at the storied facility. This, after all, is where not only legends are made, but where NASCAR itself boomed into the forefront.
Austin Dillon has been dominant in qualifying of late, winning his sixth pole in the last seven races today. The NASCAR Nationwide Series regular is also competing in the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash, where he could earn himself a nice raise in addition to a commanding points lead. He currently finds himself twenty points behind Regan Smith, who along with Chevy driver Brad Sweet, topped the time charts in practice.
What exactly does pole position mean at Daytona? Well, in the end it means absolutely nothing. Two car tandems have made qualifying only a security measure. As the field sorts itself out, teammates and alliances uniting to survive, drivers will charge from the back to the front, and vice versa.
One of the interesting keys to watch is not only who works with whom, but what manufacturer ties become broken, and how aggressive Sprint Cup Series drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch are with various amounts on the line.
Kenseth is running the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing with nothing to gain or lose. But Kenseth offers a surprising amount of consistency with nine top-10 finishes in 12 Nationwide Series races at Daytona.
Meanwhile Kyle Busch is running for his own team, and will more than likely attempt to propel his full-time series driver Parker Kligerman to his first career win, and right back into the championship hunt. Kligerman boasts an impressive 9.0 average finish in two Daytona races, but Busch’s six top-five results in 19 starts in The Nationwide Series at Daytona is something to marvel at.
The elder Busch will be running for the fledging Phoenix Racing where team orders are checkers or wreckers. But, expect Busch to be wary after causing a wreck which collected a lot of Nationwide Series regulars the last time he ran in the series. Despite only having three starts in a Nationwide Series car, he does have a victory under his belt in the same race last year.
In the end, consistency is absolutely impossible to find at the 2.5 mile track, with disaster lurking at every turn and a rush to the finish unlike anything else in motorsports. Expect tonight to provide another spectacular finish just like we have become accustomed to with the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Daytona.
For Austin Dillon, a conservative approach is a necessary one. Points are at a premium and he can gain where unpredictability can make the drivers ahead of him falter. If he works well with either teammate Brian Scott or brother Ty, Austin could easily find himself in victory lane by the end of the night.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486