By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
It’s that time of the year again, folks.
After a long offseason, NASCAR is back in action for the 2018 season with the running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona, an annual exhibition race that kicks off two weekends of racing activity at the World Center of Racing.
The Advance Auto Parts Clash, which is scheduled for a 3:00 pm ET start on Sunday afternoon immediately after Daytona 500 qualifying, has held various names over the years, from starting as the Busch Clash beginning in 1979 through 1998, when it was renamed as the Bud Shootout, a name that held until 2013. At that point, it was called the Sprint Unlimited through the 2016 season.
After running at night for the past several years, rain pushed last season’s race to a Sunday afternoon and it was such a hit that the race was moved to Sunday for this year and will stay there for the foreseeable future.
The race has also had different criteria for drivers to become eligible to participate in the race, but for the 2018 edition, there is no longer a predetermined amount of drivers that will compete. Instead, the drivers that will make up the field for the Clash will have to meet one of four criteria to become eligible.
The criteria for this year’s event would be drivers that were 2017 Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2017, and drivers who qualified for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
With those criteria in mind, there are 20 drivers eligible for the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona: Ryan Blaney. Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, and Ryan Newman.
However, three of the eligible drivers (Earnhardt, Kenseth, and Patrick) will not be running Sunday’s race, bringing the field down to 17 drivers for the event.
By the Numbers
What: Advance Auto Parts Clash, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Exhibition Race
Where: Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, Florida (Opened: 1959)
TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 3:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 2.5 mile tri-oval
Banking: 31 degrees in turns, 18 degrees in tri-oval, 6 degrees on straightaways
Race Length: 75 laps, 187.5 miles (Two segments: 25 laps, 50 laps)
2017 Race Winner: Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford (Started ninth, four laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Bill Elliott (42.783 seconds, 210.364 mph – 02/15/1987)
From the Driver’s Seat
“The Clash is a nice way to kick off the season,” said 2017 Cup Series champion, Martin Truex Jr. “It’s mostly just a fun race to knock the rust off and learn a little bit about the competition and who will be strong. We’ll be racing against all the fast guys in the Clash and that’s a good measuring stick for Speedweeks. Both the Clash and pole qualifying will give us a feel for our race package and to see where we stand against the competition.”
Last Year’s Results
Even though it’s just an exhibition race, drivers still want to win just as much as any other race an in last year’s running of the Clash that was evident.
Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski found themselves as the top-two cars on the final lap, with Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano in third.
Heading through Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap, Hamlin and Keselowski made contact, sending Hamlin spinning and Keselowski dropping back through the field. That was Logano’s opportunity to strike.
Powering around the outside of Hamlin and Keselowski, Logano took over the lead an set his sights on the checkered flag with a half a lap to go. Logano pulled away from Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman, who were battling side by side behind him to easily take the win by a margin of more than a second.
Busch barely beat Bowman back to the line in a photo finish, with Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top-five.
“It’s cool to win the Clash,” said Logano. “We came close last year and it’s really neat to be in Victory Lane and a good start to our day.
“Today, you definitely had to change your strategy up as the race went. Normally, we start the Clash and start this race and, yes, we want to go out there and win, but it’s also a nice advantage to be out there as a race team to knock the rust off. Five laps into the race I made three mistakes already. I was definitely a little rusty from the last time I went superspeedway racing, and Tab and myself, my spotter, we were able to kind of clean up our mistakes for later on in the race, which was good. Our pit crew had some really good pit stops, so we got some really good reps in for them as well, and I also think this race being in the daytime is a huge advantage for everyone that was in it with the 500 being in the day as well. This track definitely changes a lot when the sun comes out and the draft really works completely different.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, February 10
- MENCS Clash Practice (10: 35 am to 11:55 am – FOX Sports 1)
- MENCS Practice (1:05 pm to 1:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
- MENCS Final Practice (3:05 pm to 3:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
Sunday, February 11
- MENCS Daytona 500 Qualifying (12:15 pm – FOX)
- MENCS Advance Auto Parts Clash (3:00 pm – 75 laps, 187.5 miles – FOX Sports 1)