Erik Jones Wins Chaotic Busch “Crash” Main Takeaways

18 cars entered, only a few went back to the garage at the Daytona International Speedway unscathed. The Busch Clash, or should I say Busch Crash, started slow but ended chaotic as literally all 18 cars that raced in the annual preseason all-star event on the 2.5-mile track was involved in some kind of crash at some point in this race.

That left a third overtime shootout between six cars, one of them being a lap down. In the end, it was the worst damaged car among the six still running who wound up celebrating in victory lane.

Erik Jones had drafting help from his teammate Denny Hamlin who himself had crash damage and was a lap down, as Hamlin pushed Jones’ No. 20 Toyota around the track on the final lap en route to his first career Clash victory.

Jones, finished fourth in his first start and last a year ago. Now, he gives JGR their fourth Clash win since 2013.

In a day where lap leader charts had some movement with Denny Hamlin moving into first all-time and Brad Keselowski third, it was Jones who led just one lap among the 88 and ended up winning. He becomes just the sixth different driver do accomplish that feat joining Rusty Wallace (1998), Neil Bonnet (1983-1984), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Dale Jarrett (2000, 2004) and Kevin Harvick (2009).

The Michigan native was involved in literally all three crashes on Sunday and even missed his pit on a green flag pit sequence but here he is celebrating in victory lane at the World Center of Speed.

The only problem now for him is, just six times in the 42 year history of this race has the driver that won the Clash gone on to win the Daytona 500 a week later too (Bobby Allison 1982, Bill Elliott 1987, Dale Jarrett 1996 and 2000, Jeff Gordon 1997 and Denny Hamlin 2016). Also, only seven drivers have won the Clash and the championship in the same season as well.

Austin Dillon had one of the few clean cars in the end but had to settle for second. Dillon, virtually had no drafting help in the end to help him win. It was Dillon’s fourth top eight finish in his last five Clash tries including three straight top six efforts.

Clint Bowyer finished third in his No. 14 Ford for his first top five in seven Clash starts while Kyle Larson and pole sitter Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

Busch Clash Should Go Back To 20 Laps, Big Changes Needed

The Busch Clash has had a retro theme lately. See, the race used to be run as a Sunday afternoon daytime event, but in 2003, it was first moved to an under the lights affair. It would remain that way for the next several years with the exception of the 2006 and 2017 editions when the show was rained out until the next day.

But, in 2018, NASCAR moved the Clash back to a daytime race on a Sunday, afternoon the way it used to be. Then, this year, Busch took over the naming rights for the event again — having the rebirth of the “Busch Clash” on the Sunday before the Daytona 500.

For 2021, I think this race should keep the nostalgic theme going and just shorten the race back to 20 laps again. The original concept for the Busch Clash was for a Sunday afternoon show a week before the Daytona 500 and to fit it all in during a half an hour TV window on CBS. Well, the race this year was 55 laps longer than the inaugural event in 1979, and like last year, was as boring as ever until a crap show at the end.

Due to the distance and only 18 cars racing, why put yourself in harms way by drafting early and often? With a guaranteed caution coming on Lap 25, you could ride around in a high speed parade and keep your car clean for the end.

That’s what happened last year and what happened this year too.

The first segment was full of 18 cars running in tow with one another. The second segment was run with cars trying to save fuel until the end, then having manufacturers pit together – first the Toyota’s on Lap 46, then the Ford’s on Lap 47.

From there, it was the usual crash fest in the end. We’d see a six car crash that was sparked by a block by Joey Logano with 10 laps left in regulation. Then, on the restart with three laps remaining in regulation, we saw a bizarre crash in the tri-oval between nine cars. From there, a crash on the first overtime restart when Denny Hamlin cut a tire while leading, took out 10 more cars which was followed by a three car crash on the next restart.

That left six cars on track for the third overtime, one of which being a lap down.

So, I ask, why race for 75 laps when 65+ of them are run single file and we get every car crashed in the end? Why not just shorten the race back to 20 laps and have a true sprint race and whoever is running at the end is there?

I mean when you show up with 18 cars for this race and all of them have damage, there’s a problem. Last year, 17 of the 20 cars crashed in one accident at the end before the rain fell too.

That’s 38 cars and 35 of them crashed in a two year span.

Still JGR/Penske Show

Over the last seven 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 four years with Joey Logano being victorious in 2017 and Brad Keselowski in 2018. JGR won with Denny Hamlin in 2014 and 2016, Matt Kenseth in 2015 and now Jones this year. Combined, this was their sixth win in the last seven years.

Starting Spot Still Doesn’t Matter

Starting up front hasn’t gone well lately for this race. While there’s no qualifying to set the field, as positions are instead being drawn, five of the last six winners of this race have now come from a starting spot of 12th or worse.

Furthermore, just once in the last eight 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, 13 of the last 18 Clashes have seen the winner come from 12th or worse. Throw in the three on the front row and that’s 16-for-18.

Eight of the first 12 Clashes saw the winner come from the top five, six of which from the top three.

Chevy’s/Logano’s Fuel Strategy Plan Doesn’t Work

The seven Chevrolet cars in the field got lucky on Sunday. They had a differing strategy than the 11 other combined Toyota’s and Ford’s and it failed miserably. Their only saving grace was the Lap 66 caution for a crash between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano in Turn 4.

The whole field with the exception of the seven Chevy’s and Ryan Newman stopped coming to the yellow flag to end the first segment on Lap 25. The Chevy’s then pit under that caution for tires and fuel. Logano, joined them on pit road to top off.

That set up the Chevy’s and Logano to try and stretch the fuel to the end while everyone else hit pit lane on Laps 46 (Toyota’s/Blaney) and 47 (Ford’s) respectively.

The 11 cars that pit those two laps were in one group and the Chevy’s + Logano would run 1-8 in the first group 20 seconds ahead. In just a handful of laps though, the second group caught the first group and with 14 laps remaining, we had a race for the win.

Luckily for the Chevy’s, the caution came out to allow them a saving grace, but if this race went green, not only did they get caught 14 laps before the end, they would have likely had to stop too.

For Logano, this was his worst finish since 2012. He entered Sunday’s race with seven straight top six finishes including six of which being in the top four. Since 2016, he finished no worse than third.

Keselowski Moves Up Lap Leaders Chart, Pissed At Teammate For Lap 65 Crash

Brad Keselowski entered Sunday’s Busch Clash sixth on the all-time lap leaders chart with 97 circuits led around the 2.5-mile track in seven previous tries. He leaves third. Keselowski, led a race-high 33 laps on Sunday afternoon which moves him past Tony Stewart (120), Jeff Gordon (108) and Dale Earnhardt (98) on the lap leaders chart. Those are some heavy hitters too.

Plus, Keselowski has done so in a lot less starts. Stewart has made 16 starts in this race, Gordon 22 and Earnhardt 12.

But, with Keselowski in position to win in the end, he was involved in what he calls a “dumb” move by his teammate Joey Logano.

On Lap 65, Logano went to block Kyle Busch for the lead. Busch, maneuvered away from the block, then Logano blocked again. The two made contact which sparked a six car crash in Turn 4. Keselowski, while running third, was collected and blamed Logano for starting that crash.

The Michigan native kept calling it “dumb” racing out there today. This was his third finish outside of the top 15 in his last six Clash starts.

Hamlin New All-Time Clash Lap Leader

Denny Hamlin had a great car on Sunday but he had a rear tire going down on the first restart of overtime. He tried to make it last and blocked to stay up front on the backstretch but his Goodyear tire finally went down in Turn 3. The problem was, he was leading. That created a big 10 car crash in the fourth turn ending Hamlin’s day before the checkered flag flew.

But, Hamlin led 12 laps in the race which makes him the new all-time lap leader in the Busch Clash. He entered the day eight laps shy of tying Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the most laps led ever in this race. By leading 12, he’s the sole leader up top.

The problem is, he had a great car to win today, the ending showed, it’s just that Lap 77 crash that hampered it.

Busch Clash Results

1. 20 Jones

2.  3 ADillon

3. 14 Bowyer

4. 42 Larson

5.  6 Newman

6. 11 Hamlin -1

7.  9 Elliott OUT

8. 12 Blaney OUT

9. 22 Logano OUT

10. 10 Almirola OUT

11. 48 Johnson OUT

12.  1 KuBusch OUT

13.  4 Harvick OUT

14. 24 Byron OUT

15. 88 Bowman OUT

16. 19 Truex Jr. OUT

17.  2 Keselowski OUT

18. 18 KyBusch OUT

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