DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – There’s a reason the Coke Zero Sugar 400 didn’t start at 1 p.m. ET in any year of it’s 60 year history. That is….until Sunday.
By virtue of Saturday’s 61st edition being rained out, the makeup date/time for the 18th race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 7.
A pack practices on Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway
It will mark the first time since 2014 that the July race will be run during the day. Even that race was rain shortened on the makeup date by 48 laps before more afternoon rain settled in.
See, when this race first started, it was ran at either 10 a.m. ET or later 11 a.m. ET. That was to get the race run in cooler morning temperatures so the fans, drivers and teams could get back to the beach by mid afternoon. Plus, it was also to get the race run to completion before the daily chances of afternoon thunderstorms ramp up in Florida.
On Sunday, we’ll try to tempt fate and get the race started at 1 p.m. ET where there a 50% chance of rain during and run all 160 Laps. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the rain chances are 50%. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. they drop to 40%. From 7 p.m. on, it’s a 0% chance – as of now.
If the weather does indeed cooperate, then this race could throw a big wrench into things. See, the cars are dialed in for a night time setup. That means they may have less downforce in them due to the increased grip that was expected for a race under the lights. Now that it’s scheduled for a daytime event with a green flag shortly after 1 p.m. locally, temperatures will be 85 degrees.
85 and humid in Florida will be tough on not just the fans, but the drivers too. While they may have more horsepower as well as more downforce on this new package in 2019, it will still be slick. Mix in rain chances at any time and you’ll get an intense race from the drop of the green flag.
The Daytona 500 which run during the day in February is already treacherous. We see a ton of crashes due to drivers just losing it. Now, imagine it being hotter and more humid.
They’re racing to Lap 100 not Lap 80 as the stages are 50 laps instead of 40. While Lap 80 is officially halfway, we race to the end of the second stage, not halfway anymore. So, with a threat of rain at any time, you want to be up front. You can’t afford to fall back and have to try to make up ground to come back through the field.
But, someone has to be back there.
So, those drivers you know will have the intensity levels turned up to the max all race. That will lead to 3-4 wide action around the World Center of Racing all race. With a hot and slick track with cars barely hanging on while having multiple cars running inches away from them while running at speeds in the draft in excess of 200 mph and pulling more g-forces in the banking on the corners than previous races and you get….
You get the picture.