Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Up to Speed: Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

It’s that time of the year again. After a long offseason, NASCAR is back in action for the 2017 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 an 8:00 pm ET start on Saturday night, 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.

The race has also had different criteria for drivers to become eligible to participate in the race, but for the 2017 edition, there would no longer be a predetermined amount of drivers that would compete. Instead, the drivers that would make up the field for the Clash would have to meet one of four criteria to become eligible.

The criteria for this year’s event would be drivers that were 2016 Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016, and drivers who qualified for the 2016 Chase.

With those criteria in mind, there would be 17 drivers to make up the field for the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona: Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., and Alex Bowman.

Suarez earned his entry after Carl Edwards, who drove the No. 19 Toyota to six poles last season, elected to step away from the driver’s seat last month and Suarez was promoted up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Bowman scored a pole for the No. 88 team last season while driving in relief of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and although Earnhardt is back for 2017, Bowman was given the opportunity to run in the Clash on Saturday.

From the Driver’s Seat

“I think anytime we ever go down to Daytona, whether it’s with a new car or whether it’s with a different rules package or what have you, we always look at the Clash, as they call it now, as a race to watch to see exactly what’s going to happen and what characteristics you have in your racecar and things. It’s a learning experience for everybody, whether you’re in the race or whether you’re out of the race and not in it. For us, we’re curious to see how the car is going to race and how it’s going to handle and what it’s going to react like. Things aren’t too drastically different with speedway racing this year, so there will be less to get used to,” said Kyle Busch.

Who to Watch

The Clash has been the playground for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas in recent memory, with the organization winning four of the last five races and Denny Hamlin winning two of the last three.

Ford has not won the Clash since 2004 with Dale Jarrett, but will have one of their best lineups in years with the Stewart-Haas Racing cars joining the Blue Oval brigade, along with the stout Team Penske duo of Keselowski and Logano.

The drivers eligible for Saturday night’s exhibition race had the chance to take to the track for two practice sessions on Friday evening, with Keselowski and the Ford contingent taking four of the top five fastest times in the first session, while the second session went to Hamlin and his three JGR teammates as they swept the top-four spots.

Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona Starting Lineup (Random Draw)

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Jamie McMurray
  4. Austin Dillon
  5. Martin Truex, Jr.
  6. Jimmie Johnson
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Alex Bowman
  9. Joey Logano
  10. Kurt Busch
  11. Kyle Larson
  12. Danica Patrick
  13. Kyle Busch
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Matt Kenseth
  16. Daniel Suarez
  17. Chris Buescher

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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