NASCAR’s short off-season comes to an end this Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway when the track’s Speedweeks activities kick off with the running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash. It’s not one of the 36 point races that make up the Monster Energy Cup Series, but it does feature some of the biggest names in the series and has a very unique format that should produce plenty of close racing after an almost three-month off-season.
The event first began in 1979 when it was known as the Busch Clash and since that time it has undergone several sponsor changes as well as many different formats, but the one constant is the great racing that we have witnessed down through the years. The year’s edition should continue the tradition as features an all-star lineup of drivers that earned their way into the event by being a 2016 Pole Award winner, former Clash race winner, former Daytona 500 pole winner who competed full-time in 2016, and drivers who qualified for the 2016 Chase.
Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Case Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. all won Pole Awards last season and will be in the starting field. Alex Bowman won a pole last season while filling in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. and will run #88 in the event. Carl Edwards also won a Pole Award last season but retired during the off-season and he will be replaced in the #19 by Daniel Suarez. Greg Biffle was one of the Pole Award winners last season but he will not be in the Clash as he left Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of the 2017 season and does not have a ride for the upcoming season.
Danica Patrick will be on the starting grid, thanks to being the only Daytona 500 Pole Award winner not already in the field. Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray will take the green flag Saturday night as they all were in the Chase field last season.
Both Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were eligible to be in the field as former Clash winners, but both will be sitting out the race as Stewart has retired and Dale Jr. has opted not to run so Bowman can be in his #88. The rules allow for Bowman to be in the starting lineup in another car, but Earnhardt Jr. is skipping the race and will be in the FOX television booth as a guest driver analyst during FS1’s live coverage.
The 17 drivers that will start the race will compete in a very unusual format as the 75-lap/187.5-mile race will be split into two segments, separated by a mandatory caution period at lap 25. The winner receives no points toward the 2017 Monster Energy Cup title but will begin Daytona’s Speedweeks with some added momentum.
PIT NOTES: NASCAR continues to make changes for the upcoming Monster Energy Cup season in addition to the changes in the point system and the dividing up of the races into three segments. The latest changes involve what can be done to a damaged car during a race. Teams will no longer be allowed to replace damaged body parts that are the result of accidents or contact. Teams will still be allowed to fix damaged sheet metal, but they will only be given five minutes to fix the damage once they enter pit road. If the repairs take longer than the allotted five minutes, the car will not be permitted to return to the race. If the damage requires the car to go behind the wall to the garage area, it will not be allowed to return to the race. Teams will still be permitted to correct mechanical or electrical failures that aren’t the result of an accident or contact without any time limit or penalty.