The Daytona International Speedway has had a road course “roval” element since 1959, running endurance and sprint races for sports cars there ever since. NASCAR has not ever run the road course in an official capacity. Some NASCAR drivers have plugged into Daytona 24 sports car teams for the big race, but August 16th will be the first time we’ve seen the big stock cars running the infield and the bus-stop chicane. Only there’s one difference between this NASCAR road course and the Daytona 24 road course. An extra chicane.
Unlike an IMSA prototype, which can run 24 hours at a race course like this without much fatigue to the brakes, a NASCAR stock car is expected to have issues completing the 65 lap race next month. Not only will the NASCAR racers be hitting higher top speeds—touching 190 at least twice per lap—the cars are much heavier than the lightweight carbon fiber prototypes. Put that much kinetic energy into a brake rotor, it’s bound to melt or explode.
“NASCAR and its OEMs ran several simulations to determine the course layout and engine/aero package for the inaugural NASCAR race on the Daytona International Speedway road course,” said John Probst, senior vice president of racing innovation. “Due to the predicted high speeds and loads on the braking system, NASCAR will add a chicane off oval Turn 4 at Daytona and move to a high downforce 750 hp aero/engine package for the NASCAR Cup Series race on Aug. 16. We believe this will combine vehicle performance and safety to provide the best possible road course race for our fans.”
As a result, NASCAR opted, for safety reasons, to place a second chicane at the exit of what would traditionally be NASCAR Turn 4. Instead of carrying all of that speed through the tri-oval and braking heavily down into the incredibly tight turn 1 onto the infield, racers will instead have to turn left down onto the apron, brake heavy into the chicane, and accelerate out again. Instead of one big long braking zone, this breaks the braking up into two different brake zones.
The chicane, pictured above, shows some pretty aggressive curbs placed at the apex. These mountainous curbs are expected to cause some pretty serious suspension damage if drivers wail into them at high speed. Giving consideration to how often these stock car boys bash into each other, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these big blue blocks used as weapons during the Daytona race, particularly on the final lap as racers jockey for position in the final run to the line.
NASCAR is also allowing the Daytona road course event, a one-off for the extremely odd 2020 season, to run to a different set of engine and aero standards than the more traditional races. This is the only race this year which will combine the 750 horsepower short track engine package, as well as the high-downforce aero package. This should make for an extremely interesting event.
In fact, I’d consider it must-see-TV.