NASCAR Hot Topics Daytona

NASCAR Hot Topics Daytona on Fan4Racing Blog and Radio

Editor’s Note: Fan4Racing writer Andy Laskey is the co-host for NASCAR Hot Topics Sound Off on Fan4Racing Radio every Monday and Thursday night at 10 pm ET. He’ll now offer a weekly blog of NASCAR Hot Topics to elaborate on subjects that – due to time constraints – we miss or short-change on the radio show. Please share your perspective of these hot topics in the comments section below.

Hot Topics 1 – Daniel Suarez Fails to Make Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Arguably one of the biggest disappointments to start the 2020 NASCAR season has to be Daniel Saurez missing the season-opening Daytona 500. The driver of the Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota was involved in a crash in the Duel 1 race that sent him to an early exit from the race and subsequent DNQ from the 500.

Daytona 500 Run Eludes a Frustrated Daniel Suarez

This is incredibly disappointing for a team trying to gain traction and establish themselves in the NASCAR Cup Series. The deal between Saurez and Gaunt Brothers Racing came together fairly late in the off-season, which put the team in a position of hiring personnel and building cars barely in time for Daytona Speedweeks. Making the Daytona 500 would have helped this up and coming team in a major way, especially in terms of financial benefits by starting the event, with a good performance and showing the potential to win.

What ‘could have been’ was the chance to gain exposure and sponsorship for the team. Missing the biggest race of the season automatically puts this team in a deficit and it will be interesting to see how they can overcome this set-back in the coming weeks.

Hot Topics 2 – No Sophomore Slump for Gragson

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 15: Noah Gragson, driver of the #9 Bass Pro Shops/BRCC Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A feel-good story to start the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has to be Daytona winner Noah Gragson. Entering his sophomore season in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, Gragson finds himself in a situation of opportunity to step up and establish himself as a title favorite and help secure his long term future in the sport.

Noah Gragson gets First NASCAR Xfinity Win

There’s no better way to do that than start the season off by winning the biggest race of the year. Granted, winning a superspeedway race doesn’t guarantee success for the whole season but it certainly gives this team a lot of confidence moving forward. To start the weekend, Gragson exhibited a lot of confidence and optimism for the 2020 season, as do all teams this time of year. But you just get the feeling that this has the potential to be a big year for Gragson and certainly his win at Daytona helps establish himself as one of the favorites.

With last year’s Big Three drivers in Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Tyler Reddick moving to the Cup Series, it remains to be seen exactly who will fill that void, however, this weekend Noah Gragson certainly made his case that he’ll be a season-long contender.  

Daytona 500 Run Eludes a Frustrated Daniel Suarez

The No. 96 of Daniel Suarez will not compete in the 2020 Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 13: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, crashes in the infield grass during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Looking simultaneously frustrated and disappointed, Daniel Suarez emerged from the Daytona International Speedway’s Infield Care Center Thursday night miffed at his early exit from the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 qualifying race – a fateful outcome that has cost him a position on Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) starting grid.

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Daniel Suarez must fight for his spot in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Daniel Suarez is living proof that the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry.

After losing his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing, Suarez signed on with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the 2020 season. The Mexican driver opted to forego the spot he had earned in Sunday’s Busch Clash at Daytona to concentrate on his Daytona 500 effort.

The strategy didn’t work. Suarez was 36th among 43 drivers and failed to secure one of two spots available to non-chartered cars on speed. Those positions went to Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan who were 31st and 33rd fastest, respectively.

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Kevin Harvick Punches Championship 4 Ticket with Texas-Sized Victory

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer/Ducks Unlimited Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 03, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, Tex. – For Kevin Harvick, Texas is the new Phoenix.

Overcoming a pit road penalty for a tire placed in his pit box too early, Harvick took control of the AAA Texas 500 as the sun set on Texas Motor Speedway and won his third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at the 1.5-mile track in Cowtown.

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Martin Truex Jr. Fights His Way into Victory Lane for the Playoff Opener

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 15: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 15, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the site for the first race in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. There are ten races in the playoffs, but it is a tough road to make it to Homestead-Miami as a contender for the championship title. Sunday night’s first race was a prime example of how competitive it is throughout the playoffs.

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NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Field is Set after Kevin Harvick Wins at the Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 08: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, crosses the finish line to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 08, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Big Machine Vodka 400 on Sunday afternoon was high pressure for the bubble drivers around the cutoff line trying to race their way into the playoffs with a win.

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Jimmie Johnson Maintains Optimism Despite Missing NASCAR’s Playoffs

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 08: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 08, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson emerged from a required check-up in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s infield care center fine physically but obviously disappointed to have his amazing run of NASCAR Playoff contention end with an accident on lap 105 of Sunday’s 160-lap Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard – the regular-season finale and his last shot at championship eligibility.

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Kevin Harvick Dominates Indianapolis as Jimmie Johnson Misses Playoff

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 08: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 08, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – It was a dominating victory for Kevin Harvick and a statement of superiority for his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads toward its ten-race Playoff.

It was an ignominious end to Jimmie Johnson’s unique and unprecedented streak of qualifying for every Cup Series postseason.

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Daniel Suárez is Back in the Playoff Mix

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – AUGUST 17: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Ford, is introduced prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17, 2019, in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – He’s back.

While much of the NASCAR community has been crunching numbers, making predictions and reviewing the statistical background of veterans Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson in effort to figure out which two would earn the final two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff positions, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suárez has quietly and efficiently added his name to the mix.

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Kyle Larson is Optimistic about his Playoff Chances

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 19: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 McDonald’s Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 19, 2019, in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Even factoring in his laidback Californian-cool personality, listening to Kyle Larson this week, it’s obvious that he is both optimistic and confident about his chances to qualify for the 2019 edition of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

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