NASCAR news roundup (1/19/21): Multiple Daytona 500 drivers announced, tentative Speedweek schedule

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 24: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2020 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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Multiple Daytona 500 drivers announced

On Tuesday, multiple drivers announced that they would be returning to the cockpit to attempt the Daytona 500 in February. Former Daytona 500 winners Jamie McMurray and Derrike Cope will return for one-offs, while Ty Dillion will race with a new team, hoping to receive deals for more races.

McMurray will drive the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports in a car prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing. The 44-year-old last raced in the 2019 Daytona 500 after retiring from full-time racing in 2018.

Cope will race the No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing in a car built by Starcom. At 62-years-old, Cope will be the second oldest driver to compete in the Great American Race. Cope last raced in the Cup Series in 2018, and his last full-time season was in 1998.

Both McMurray and Cope are racing in chartered vehicles, meaning they are guaranteed spots in the Daytona 500.

On the other hand, Dillon will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 as his ride doesn’t have a charter. He’ll attempt to race the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing. Dillon will have Black Rifle Coffee and Bass Pro Shops on board for sponsorship.

As of right now, the Daytona 500 will be the only Cup Series event that Dillon will attempt with Gaunt Brothers Racing. The team plans to compete in Cup Series restrictor-plate races and road course races but is unsure if it’ll be with Dillion driving. Dillon continues to face a lot of uncertainty about where most of his 2021 racing will be but isn’t ruling out returning to the Camping World Truck Series or Xfinity Series.

However, rumors have indicated that Dillon may run the Busch Clash during Speedweek with 23XI Racing. Dillon is eligible for the race as he won a stage at the ROVAL in the 2020 season. A deal with 23XI Racing isn’t official.

Tentative Speedweek schedule released

According to Bob Pockrass, NASCAR released a tentative plan for practice and qualifying for Speedweek at Daytona. The Cup Series will not have practice for the Busch Clash event taking place on Tuesday, February 9th, but will have their first Daytona 500 practice on Wednesday, February 10th. Cup Series qualifying will follow that evening.

The next day will see the Daytona Duel races to set the Daytona 500 starting grid and see which unchartered cars go home. Friday will feature no Cup Series on-track events, but Saturday will have two Daytona 500 practices.

The Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series will have one practice session and a qualifying session for their races. The Truck Series will practice Thursday before the Daytona Duel races, and the Xfinity Series will practice Friday before the truck race. Qualifying days haven’t been announced for the lower two NASCAR Series.

All qualifying sessions will be single-car runs, and all practice sessions will be 50 minutes in length.

Josh Bilicki to drive full-time in 2021

Rick Ware Racing announced that Josh Bilicki would drive the No. 52 car full-time in 2021.

Bilicki made 22 Cup Series starts in 2020, splitting races between Rick Ware Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. His best finish was 25th in the summer Kansas race.

Bilicki also made seven starts in the Xfinity Series last season, with his best finish being 12th at the Daytona Road Course.

Nashville Cup Series race has a sponsor

The NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on June 20th has a sponsor and a name: The Ally 400. Ally has a multi-year deal to sponsor the race, which has a four year deal with NASCAR. With the track 1.33 miles in length, the race will be around 300 laps.

All three of NASCAR’s premier series are expected to run races at Nashville with full attendance. However, track and health officials will make decisions to cut capacity dependent on the COVID-19 situation. With temporary grandstands, the track can seat up to 40,000 people.

Two drivers announce part-time sponsorship

Cole Custer and Quinn Houff have announced part-time sponsorship for 2021.

Dixie Vodka, sponsor of the Homestead Cup Series race in February, will sponsor Custer at the Daytona Road Course and Nashville Superspeedway.

Body product company Mane ‘n Tail will sponsor Houff at the Daytona 500 and multiple other undecided races.

ARCA driver fined over video

ARCA driver Taylor Gray was fined $1,000 by the series and placed on probation for the 2021 season after recording and posting a video of him driving a car at Daytona International Superspeedway on Friday.

The 15-year-old tested a car at the ARCA open testing this past weekend in Daytona, where he filmed a cell phone video from inside the car on the track. He’s too young to race at Daytona but is old enough to test cars.

The video of the incident is attached below: