James Davison’s Indy performance will determine if he races Daytona

James Davison Indy NASCAR
James Black/IndyCar
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UPDATE: Rick Ware Racing tweeted Saturday afternoon that Davison was heading to Daytona

James Davison said it’s “a little bit of a TBD” on whether he will race in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at the Daytona International Speedway road course after qualifying Saturday for the Indy 500.

Davison is locked into the field of 33 cars that will race Aug. 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET, NBC, 2:30 p.m. green flag), but the Australian said the Saturday performance of his Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing entry will determine whether he hops a flight Saturday night to Florida after Indy 500 qualifying ends at 5 p.m. ET.

Though Davison, who is 22nd in the qualifying order, is highly unlikely to make the Fast Nine qualifying session Sunday, there also will be a 3:30-6 p.m. ET practice that will be critical in tuning up for the Indy 500.

INDY 500 QUALIFYING: Details for following today’s time trials

The Cup race will begin at 3 p.m. ET (NBC) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Because Davison shares a sponsor (Jacob Construction/Byrd) and car owner Ware across his IndyCar and NASCAR teams, the Indy 500 preparation can take precedence over NASCAR in the schedule conflict.

“We want to make sure there’s not too much opportunity cost by missing the practice here on Sunday with how challenging the cars have been to get to handle in race trim,” Davison told NBC Sports in an interview Friday at the Brickyard. “So with the same owners and sponsors involved in the Indy 500 and NASCAR program, we can make an executive decision to prioritize the Indy 500 over the Cup race when I’m going to be doing a number of more Cup races this year.

James Davison Indy NASCAR
James Davison at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

“I would like to do both, but we just need to look at the opportunity cost. Also the way the (weather) forecast will come into it.”

After qualifying Saturday toward the bottom of the chart through the first two dozen cars, Davison said he still was unsure if he’d race at Datyona.

“I want to. I really want to,” Davison told NBC Sports Gold pit reporter Kelli Stavast. “We’ve got a bit of a decision to make. I have no idea. Probably going to know in the next couple of hours.”

A Rick Ware Racing spokesperson told NBC Sports that Reed Sorenson will be on standby to race its No. 51 Ford at Daytona, but the team is optimistic about having Davison in the car.

Davison, 33, will be racing in his sixth Indy 500 (he qualified 15th and finished a career-best 12th for Coyne last year). He made his Cup debut with the Pocono Raceway doubleheader weekend June 27-28. He since has raced with Ware at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and last weekend’s races at Michigan International Speedway.

In every case, the first lap he took on the track was under green with NASCAR eliminating practice and qualifying for nearly all races since returning during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I’d never driven those cars on an oval and never driven at any of those tracks in my life,” Davison said. “It’s honestly like (Cup drivers) coming and doing an IndyCar race, and they’d never driven the car or track before, taking the green flag. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s not certainly something I’d choose over the norm, but it just is what it is, and I’ve gotten on with it.”

Though it won’t be the traditional “double” of running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, Davison still hopes to be able to qualify for the Indy 500 and race in the Cup Series on consecutive days “because it’s something I’ll look back on when I’m older and just say, ‘Look, I really gave life my best shot and got out of bed and challenged myself and jumped from one race car to the other in the two biggest sporting leagues in the U.S.’

“Something pretty amazing. I do hope I can do it because I love racing and love challenging myself.”

Davison’s No. 51 Dallara-Honda was 26th fastest Friday with a 229.766 mph lap. He is wearing a “Top Gun”-themed Maverick helmet at Indy.

“It’s been a solid run so far,” he said. “We’re running solid in the pack in race trim. We just need to get it to handle so we can stay in the gas for a longer percentage of the lap, and it’s a big challenge for everyone. And I feel the aeroscreen has made it even tougher with the added load on the right-front tire. I can feel it give up maybe 20 percent sooner.

“Based off last year, how we qualified 15th and knowing what a great job Dale Coyne Racing at Indy, even if there were 36 entries, I don’t think I’d be too stressed. Last year was a really great feeling and achievement for our third entry to qualify as high as we did. Not a whole lot has changed since then obviously. I think we’re in good shape to just be competitive at this stage. We’re nothing special, but we’re certainly not below average.”

James Davison Indy NASCAR
James Davison was 26th fastest Friday in Indy 500 practice (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
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Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
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Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2