NASCAR short-trackers set to return to Daytona in February

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After a successful debut last season, multiple NASCAR minor leagues will once again race at Daytona International Speedway in February of 2014.

The UNOH “Battle at the Beach” is set for Feb. 18, 2014 and will see the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (pictured), as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tours, compete on a 4/10-mile oval on Daytona’s backstretch.

The K&N East race will count toward its championship as its second event of 2014, while both Modified divisions will come together for a non-points event; each will run for 150 laps.

“Fans around the world look forward to Speedweeks to kick off the NASCAR season, and we are proud to be able to present a week of short-track action leading up to the 56th running of the Daytona 500,” NASCAR vice president of touring and weekly series George Silbermann said in a statement.

“The anticipation for last yearโ€™s first UNOH Battle at the Beach was surpassed only by the number of people talking about the electrifying finishes.”

Indeed, last year’s short-track gathering at the “World Center of Speed” was a memorable one as all three events were decided by last-lap contact.

Kyle Larson, now preparing for his inaugural Sprint Cup season with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, had multiple run-ins with C.E. Falk III in the final stages of the Whelen All-American Series race before pushing him aside on the final corner to take the win.

In the Whelen Modified race, former Sprint Cup driver Steve Park spun out Mike Stefanik in Turn 2 on the last lap and went on to the checkered flag – leaving an angry Stefanik to declare the contact “bull—-” afterwards on national television.

Then in the K&N Series race, Cameron Hayley and Gray Goulding knocked fenders together coming to the finish before Hayley won out by a narrow margin.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).