2021 Daytona 500 To Be Run In Front Of ‘Limited’ Number Of Fans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2020

The Daytona 500 will not feature a full house next year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Chris Owens)

The impending rollout of several COVID-19 vaccines will not have an immediate effect on fans planning to attend the NASCAR Cup Series 2021 season-opening Daytona 500.

NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway officials have confirmed the 63rd annual Daytona 500 will be run before a yet-to-be determined “limited number of fans” on Sunday, Feb. 14. DIS lists its seating capacity at 101,500, making it the seventh-largest fan venue on the NASCAR circuit. 

There currently is no FDA-approved or authorized vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in the United States. Clinical trials by the CDC are being conducted simultaneously with large-scale manufacturing, with first doses expected before the end of 2020. Doses for the general public, however, are not expected to be available until early summer 2021.

The reduced venue capacity will cover all events during Daytona Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth (Feb. 9-14) in accordance with enhanced safety protocols and procedures designed to provide a safe environment for guests, NASCAR competitors, employees and the local Daytona Beach, Fla., community.

As a result of the seating capacity limitations, the Speedway will work to accommodate guests who have already purchased tickets to the 2021 version of “The Great American Race.” To ensure social distancing between groups, many fans will be re-seated in new locations. The re-seating process is expected to be completed by early January.

“While we won’t be able to have a capacity crowd here in February, we are excited that we can host the Daytona 500 with those in attendance, as well as for the millions who will tune-in live on FOX,” DIS President Chip Wile said in a statement.

All guests will be screened before entering the facility and be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six-feet social distancing throughout. Detailed fan information, including all ticket options and safety protocols, can be found at www.DAYTONA500.com/updates or calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

Tickets for Speedweeks events, and a limited number of premium and extended-stay camping packages, remain available. The complete schedule:

_ Tuesday, Feb. 9: 43rd annual Busch Clash at Daytona (DIS Road-Course under the lights)

_ Wednesday, Feb. 10: Daytona 500 Qualifying Presented by Kroger

_ Thursday, Feb. 11: Duel at Daytona qualifying races

_ Friday, Feb. 12: NextEra Energy 250 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener)

_ Saturday, Feb. 13: NASCAR Racing Experience 300 (NASCAR Xfinity Series opener) and Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire (ARCA Menards Series) doubleheader

_ Sunday, Feb. 14: 63rd annual Daytona 500 (NASCAR Cup Series opener)


Cole Custer’s 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor came gift-wrapped with extra NASCAR Cup Series bragging rights. Custer’s victory at Kentucky Speedway clinched a spot in NASCAR’s Playoffs during a season impacted by a series of unique on-track protocols prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Definitely a lot of ups-and-downs,” said Custer, driver of the No. 41 Ford Mustang fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing. “I think with any rookie year it’s like that, but this year was probably to the extreme by not having practice, not having testing, not having qualifying.  It definitely wasn’t an easy year to be a rookie, but I think we all made the best out of it and I think we all made a lot of progression throughout the year.”

Custer racked up 2,202 points to easily outdistance Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing (780 points). The Class of 2020 also included Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Brennan Poole and Quin Houff.

“I think from our standpoint to have a race win, to make the Playoffs, I think we can call it a success,” said Custer, whose stats included two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. “You’re supposed to always want more. So even though we won a race and had some good things happen _ we won Rookie of the Year _ we want more.  We want to run better. That’s just part of being a competitor, in my opinion. But at the same time you have to kind of look back through the year and say like where we started look at it and then look at the very end to how far you came and how much more you know now.

“I wish the season started honestly next week so we’d get back going again, because there were a lot of things that I think we could get better the second year.”


With his 2020 Cup Series championship, Chase Elliott has matched his Hall of Fame father for driver titles in NASCAR’s premier touring series. Bill Elliott won the 1988 Cup championship working with brother Ernie and their family-owned No. 9 Ford Thunderbird team based in Dawsonville, Ga. That small-town America combination propelled “Awesome Bill” to 16 NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver awards.

Chase Elliott was voted Cup’s Most Popular Driver for the third consecutive year in 2020, when he scored five wins in the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Hendrick Motorsports. Included were back-to-back Playoff wins at Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway to clinch the championship.

I want to say ‘thanks’ to the fans throughout this year,” Elliott said during NASCAR’s recent virtual 2020 Awards program. “It’s been amazing. I know it hasn’t been the most normal thing ever but you guys are awesome and I hope you enjoyed what the season had to offer. Just been trying to take it all in and what a welcome home…Dawsonville is awesome.

“It’s been an honor _ this whole situation and experience is something else. Very proud.”

Justin Allgaier of JR Motorsports earned Most Popular Driver honors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, while Zane Smith of GMS Racing earned the award in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.


AJ Allmendinger has landed a fulltime ride with Kaulig Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Allmendinger, who retired from fulltime competition in 2018, joined Kaulig Racing’s NXS lineup in 2019. “The Dinger” made five starts, topped by a win on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, and added two top-five finishes. In 2020, Allmendinger wheeled the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro for 11 races and recorded two wins _ his first on an oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway _ as well as a repeat win on the CMS ROVAL.

“As a part-time driver for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity series, I’ve really enjoyed working with all the women and men in the organization these past two years,” Allmendinger said in a statement. “The love of showing up to NASCAR races has returned for me, and I truly have enjoyed myself on and off the racetrack. It starts with Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice. I can’t thank them enough for giving me a call at the start of 2019 and offering me races that continued into 2020.

“More than anything, I have really loved being part of the team and watching the growth of the organization, and because of that, the opportunity to come back fulltime in 2021 was something I just could not pass up.”

Allmendinger will compete for the 2021 NXS title alongside Kaulig Racing 2020 Championship 4 contender Justin Haley and recent addition Jeb Burton.

Allmendinger’s tenure in the NASCAR Cup Series (2007-2018) includes 371 starts with one win and 11 top-five finishes. Before joining Kaulig Racing, the California native made 11 NXS starts and recorded two wins and three top-fives. In 16 starts with Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger has three wins and eight top-fives.

“Having AJ race fulltime for Kaulig Racing will only elevate our program to another level,” said Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing. “I truly believe his veteran experience has helped us in every race he has ever run with us, and that’s evident in his finishes.”

The 2021 NXS season will begin at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 13.


Brett Moffitt has signed-up for NASCAR Double Duty in 2021. Moffitt confirmed this week he will compete fulltime in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Niece Motorsports in the No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado. Moffitt previously announced he would run fulltime in the Xfinity Series for Our Motorsports.

Meanwhile, Niece Motorsports also announced that Ryan Truex will drive the No. 40 Marquis Spas Silverado for the full 2021 Truck Series schedule.

“I’m so thankful to Al Niece, Cody Efaw and everyone at Niece Motorsports for this opportunity,” Moffitt said in a statement from Mooresville, N.C.  “To be able to compete fulltime in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series is a challenge I look forward to. Chris Our, Our Motorsports and Chevrolet were a big part of helping this all come together, so a big thank you to them as well.”

Moffitt _ the 2018 Truck Series Champion and 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year _ has 12 wins, three poles and 39 top-five finishes in 82 career NCWTS starts. In addition, the Iowa-native has 46 top-10 finishes and has led 1,190 laps in three seasons of fulltime NCWTS competition. Moffitt also has 45 Cup Series starts and 32 Xfinity Series starts on his resume.

Truex competed in nine Truck Series races with Niece Motorsports in 2020 with a best finish of 12th coming at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Truex, who ran fulltime in the NCWTS in 2017, has two poles, 10 top-five and 19 top-10s in 51 series starts.  In addition to his Truck Series experience, Truex has 78 starts in the Xfinity Series and 26 starts in Cup.

“Last season was really a learning year for me with this team,” said Truex, a native of Mayetta, N.J.  “I feel like we learned a ton every week.  We adjusted to working with no track time prior to racing, and I feel like we made our equipment better throughout the course of the year.  I’m excited about the continuity we will be able to build, competing week-in and week-out.”

The 2021 NCWTS season will begin at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Feb. 12.


John Hunter Nemechek has opted to recalibrate his NASCAR career via a fulltime ride in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2021. The son of former NASCAR Cup Series regular “Front Row” Joe Nemechek, John Hunter will drive KBM’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra.

Nemechek recently vacated his fulltime Cup Series ride with Front Row Motorsports and its No. 38 Ford Mustang.

Nemechek is a six-time Truck Series winner, scoring at least one race victory each season from 2015 to 2018 for his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports. Driving for NEMCO, John Hunter qualified for the Truck Series Playoffs in each of his two fulltime seasons, finishing eighth in the championship standings in both 2016 and 2017. He also was voted the series Most Popular Driver in 2015.

Nemechek produced three top-10 finishes and an average result of 22.4 while competing for Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 2020. He recorded a career-best eighth-place finish twice, both at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award four times and finished 23rd in the championship standings.

Nemechek has one Xfinity Series win, at Kansas Speedway, in October 2018. In 2019 he qualified for the NXS Playoffs and finished seventh in the standings during his lone fulltime season after positing six top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.

“I began my Xfinity Series career with NEMCO and I’ve had a long-running relationship with Joe and the Nemechek family,” Busch said in a statement. “So it’s cool to see things come full-circle with being able to sign John Hunter to race at KBM.

“John Hunter is a proven winner in the Camping World Truck Series, as well as the Xfinity Series, and someone who we are confident will be able to put the No. 4 Tundra up -front on a consistent basis and compete for victories each and every race. Despite only being 23-years-old, he has a lot of experience across all three series. With next year’s Truck Series schedule including a lot of events where it’s just show up and race, having an experienced driver in one of our fulltime Tundras is going to be beneficial to our whole organization.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2020
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