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).