DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it’s officially race week in the NASCAR land. On Saturday, the NASCAR Cup Series stars hit the high banks of Daytona for Daytona 500 qualifying practice. Also though, 18 of the drivers will take part in Clash practice as Sunday’s Busch Clash at Daytona (3 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the opening race of the year.
While the 75 Lap event is treated like an All-Star race, it’s still nice to see cars on the race track in race conditions.
It begins at noon on Sunday with Busch Pole Award Qualifying for the 61st running of the DAYTONA 500 (12 p.m. ET/FOX, MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The preseason race is a 75-lap exhibition spanning 187.5-miles. There’s an opening 25-lap segment, followed by a second and final 50-lap segment.
Starting Position Won’t Matter, Best Odds Are To Start Outside Top 10 In Face
That’s obvious for superspeedway races, but for the Clash too, starting up front hasn’t gone well lately. While there’s no qualifying to set the field, as positions are instead being drawn, four of the last five winners of this race have come from a starting spot of 13th or worse.
Furthermore, just once in the last seven years has the winning driver actually came from the top four rows (Denny Hamlin in 2014 was on the pole). Really, unless you’re starting on the front row, you may want to draw a position out outside of the top 12.
Since 2003, we’ve had three winners come from the top five, both on the front row (Hamlin -2014, Kyle Busch 2012, Kevin Harvick 2010). Other than that, 12 of the last 17 Clashes have seen the winner come from 13th or worse. Throw in the three on the front row and that’s 15-for-17.
Eight of the first 12 Clashes saw the winner come from the top five, six of which from the top three. The best odds to win the race from? 15th (14.6%).
The average starting spot for the race winner now is 9.9. The average starting spot for the runner up? 9.775.
Penske And JGR Show
Over the last six Clashes, Jimmie Johnson in his No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports is the only one to reach victory lane outside of the Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing camps in the Clash. Penske has won two of the last three years with Joey Logano being victorious in 2017 and Brad Keselowski in 2018. JGR won with Denny Hamlin in 2014 and 2016 and Matt Kenseth in 2015. Can Penske make it 3-for-4? Can JGR earn their fourth win in seven years?
They won half of the points paying superspeedway races last year.
Hamlin and Keselowski Looking To Rise Up Record Books
No one has been better in this race lately than Hamlin. He’s finished in the top six in three of his last six starts. In fact, Hamlin is only eight laps away from passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the all time laps led chart for the Clash. He’s led 142 circuits around the high banked 2.5-mile track in 13 career starts in this race. The next best on the active list is Brad Keselowski with 97. He’s two laps away from passing Dale Earnhardt and 12 from getting by Jeff Gordon.
Neither remarkably led a lap last year but are hungry for more this Sunday.
Hamlin, has led at least 27 laps in three of the last six Clashes though including leading 39 laps in 2016 and 48 in 2017.
Keselowski, has led at least one lap in five of his last six starts. He led 43 laps in his win a in 2018.
Not Johnson’s Best Race….Until Last Year
Heading into 2019, the Busch Clash had not been kind to Jimmie Johnson. After having seven top 10 finishes in his first nine tries, including a win in 2005 and five top fives from 2005 through 2011, he’s crashed out in six of the last seven races after.
Johnson’s last seven finishes prior in this race prior to last season’s Clash were — 14th, 14th, 17th, 22nd, 22nd, 16th and 12th respectively. He didn’t lead a lap since 2012, a race he led just one lap in and in fact has led just 10 total laps in this race since 2007.
Then came last year.
Johnson, started 13th and had a good car most of the way. With rain coming, he made a wild move to get by Paul Menard for the lead. Unfortunately, the two made contact which sent Menard crashing in front of the field. 17 of the 20 starters that day were collected – Johnson wasn’t one of them.
He would take over the lead, then rain fell as Johnson, despite leading only four laps, all under yellow, would win the Clash for the second time of his career. Now, he’s hoping to be the first driver since Kevin Harvick in 2009 and 2010 to win this race two years-in-a-row.
Only Neil Bonnett (1983-1984) and Ken Schrader (1989-1990) are the only other drivers to win this race two straight years. Can Johnson become the fourth? A third win would put Johnson in a tie with Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett, Harvick and Denny Hamlin for second most wins in the Busch Clash all-time. Only Dale Earnhardt’s six trips to victory lane is more.
Don’t Expect Clash Winner To Win Daytona 500 Or Other Daytona Events
Only six times in the 39-year history of the race has the winner gone on to win the Daytona 500. It’s only happened once in the last 20 years too.
Bobby Allison (1982)
Bill Elliott (1987)
Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000)
Jeff Gordon (1997)
Denny Hamlin (2016)
Two drivers have swept the Clash at Daytona, Daytona 500 pole and Daytona 500 from 1979 on. Dale Jarrett (2000) and Bill Elliott (1987)
One driver has swept the Clash at Daytona, Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 in the same year – Bobby Allison (1982).
Seven drivers have won the Clash at Daytona (1979-2018) and the championship in the same season. Dale Earnhardt is the only one to have accomplished it multiple times (four).
Tony Stewart (2002)
Jeff Gordon (1997)
Dale Earnhardt (1993, 1991, 1986 and 1980)
Darrell Waltrip (1981)
Who To Bet On?
Denny Hamlin (+800)
He’s a two time winner of this race and has led 95 laps over the last four years. In fact, he’s only eight laps led away from becoming the all-time lap leader in the Clash. Hamlin’s won twice since 2014 and was sixth in 2018. He won the Daytona 500 last year, so why not a Clash this one?
Joey Logano (+800)
He’s tied with Denny Hamlin for the favorite with good reason. Logano, is coming off of another solid season and hoping to get his No. 22 Ford back into victory lane for the first time since last June.
Logano, won this race in 2017. That was sandwiched by a pair of runner-ups in 2016 and 2018. He was also third last year to give him four consecutive top three finishes in the Clash.
If you go back to 2013, he hasn’t finished worse than sixth in this race.
Brad Keselowski (+900)
He’s among the odds on favorites according to Vegas and how do you not pick him? While Keselowski has just one Daytona Speedweeks win to his credit, it happened in this very race two years ago. The Penske driver is arguably the top superspeedway racer in the game today and always shows up with a fast car.
In 2018, Penske finished 1-2-4 in the Clash. Last year, it was 3-4.
Keselowski, has five top 10 finishes in seven Clash tries. He led eight laps in 2014, two in 2015, 26 in 2016, 18 in 2017 and 43 in 2018.
He’s the favorite for a reason.
Ryan Blaney (+1100)
Blaney has now taken part in two Busch Clashes. He’s finished fourth in each. Penske is the top team on superspeedway’s and Blaney’s No. 12 Ford will be among the ones to beat. His Penske teammates won this race the last two of the last three years, so he’s up next.
He’s a good value pick. He won the last superspeedway race last October in Talladega.
Kurt Busch (+1300)
Worth a look here. Busch, is a past winner (2011) and has three top seven finishes in his last four Clash starts including a third place run in 2018 and runner-up last year. Trends say, he will win on Sunday afternoon.
Sleeper Value Bets
Alex Bowman (+1700)
While he’s only got one Cup victory to his credit, how about an all-star victory to start 2020 off with? Bowman, was third in this race in 2017 and fifth in his second career start last year.
Erik Jones (+2000)
This is another value pick. His first ever Cup win came at Daytona in a Coke Zero Sugar 400 triumph in 2018. Jones, may have been credited with a last place finish last year after being a part of that 17 car crash on Lap 55, but he also finished eighth in this very race a in 2018 and this car won in 2015.
Austin Dillon (+2500)
A former Daytona 500 champion, was the pole sitter in this race in 2018, albeit that was by a draw. Dillon, has three top eight finishes in his last four Clash starts including a fifth place run in 2018 and sixth last year.