As Speedweeks at Daytona gets under way, it is the season of change for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series with new drivers, new car manufacturers, new rules…and the return of the sport’s favourite driver.
After being away from behind the wheel for seven months, Dale Earnhardt Jr returns to the track.
Stewart-Haas Racing changes from Chevrolet to Ford cars.
Daniel Suarez takes over the number 19 car formerly driven by Carl Edwards. Suarez won the Xfinity Series championship last season.
Clint Bowyer takes over for retired driver Tony Stewart.
It’s the first race of the 2017 NASCAR racing season when 17 Monster Energy Series drivers take to the Tri-Oval of Daytona International Speedway.
The driver’s crew chiefs drew for the starting lineup.
The starting lineup for The Clash:
Martin Truex Jr
Drivers who earned a pole position in the previous year, all former Daytona 500 pole winners, “Race for the Chase” drivers, and former The Clash winners are all eligible to run in the 75 lap The Clash.
Due to run on Saturday night, The Clash was postponed to Sunday morning after rain storm moved through the area.
The Clash has been divided into two segments with segment one running 25 laps and segment two running 50 laps.
And at 11:23am on Sunday February 19, the drivers received the command to start their engines…the 2017 NASCAR racing season is underway!
And they’re off with the green flag waving at 11:36am with Brad Keselowski leading the field.
It’s only lap two but he drivers are already three wide and looking to move through the field.
Lap six and Brad Keselowski continues to lead by only a tenth of a second.
Denny Hamlin has been challenging Keselowski and taken the lead a few times only to lose it to Keselowski. Hamlin has been credited with leading a lap.
Lap 13 Brad Keselowski continues to lead the race; leading all but one lap so far.
Lap 17 Brad Keselowski continues to lead the field with a less than a tenth lead over second place driver Joey Logano.
The first caution flag of the race comes out on lap 17 when Kurt Busch hits the wall after getting clipped by seven time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson also sustained damage to his car during the incident.
Under new NASCAR rules, Busch has only five minutes to make any repairs on pit road. Garage repairs are no longer allowed. Kurt Busch takes his car to the garge and is out of the race.
Also new rules beginning this season, drivers must go to the infield care center and get checked out under the new concussion protocol after a wreck.
Brad Keselowski was caught driving through too many pit boxes and has to serve a penalty.
Alex Bowman was caught speeding on pit road.
Kyle Busch brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 23 The drivers have only two laps before the segment caution flag will fly.
At the end of lap 25 the segment caution is thrown. Several drivers dive down pit road before the caution is thrown including leader Kyle Busch, giving the lead over to Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch was caught speeding coming down pit road and will have to serve a penalty.
Drivers are not required to make a stop during the caution, they all make a stop.
Taking fuel only Jamie McMurray leads the race off of pit road.
Denny Hamlin leads the field to the green flag to start segment two.
Not only starting in his first Clash, Xfinty racing champion Daniel Suarez is driving in his first Monster Energy race and has moved into second place just over a tenth behind leader Denny Hamlin on lap 32.
Lap 37 Denny Hamlin continues to lead the race by less than a tenth of a second. Kyle Busch has moved up to ninth place.
Lap 43 defending Clash champion Denny Hamlin is still out in front of the field with rookie driver Daniel Suarez just over a tenth of a second behind.
The fuel window for Daytona is 44 to 46 laps. Can they make it to the end without making a pit stop or have the drivers saved enough fuel to stretch out to the end of the race.
On lap 46 the pack is separated by less than two seconds; Denny Hamlin is still out front.
Jimmie Johnson brings out the third caution flag of the race when he spins out and hits the wall on lap 49. Both racing cautions were brought out as a result of incidents involving Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson joins Kurt Busch in the garage and out of the race.
Nine of the 15 drivers still in the race come down pit road for fresh tires.
Denny Hamlin brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 53 but is immediately challenged by Daniel Suarez. Suarez takes the lead briefly but Hamlin retakes the lead of the race.
Nineteen laps to go and Kyle Busch has moved into fourth place after starting segment two at the back of the field.
Lap 58 Denny Hamlin has a lead of just over a tenth of a second on teammate Daniel Suarez.
Toyota holds the first four spots with Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr brings out the fourth caution flag of the race when he spins out on lap 61. He clips Chris Buescher during the spin. Truex becomes the third driver with a DNF for The Clash.
Denny Hamlin brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 64 and holds on to the lead.
With eight to go the top four remain Hamlin, Suarez, Kenseth, and Kyle Busch. Kyle Larson takes his car to the garage with crash damage and is out of the race.
Five to go, Hamlin leads by just over a tenth of a seocnd.
Three laps remaining with Hamlin out front and Daniel Suarez a tenth of a second behind.
White flag and the race is one for the win with Denny Hamlin holding on to the lead but Brad Keselowski has moved into second place.
Brad Keselowski makes contact with Denny Hamlin trying to pass for the lead for a an exciting finish that gave Joey Logano his first Clash win.
Martin Truex Jr
photos courtesy of By ImperialAssassin – Me, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46940488
By Nascarking – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38582240
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