James Davison Indy NASCAR
James Black/IndyCar

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

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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).

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).