Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 8, 2018, 12:09 p.m.
At least the Advance Auto Parts Clash has an appropriate title.
It’s entirely possible that auto parts will indeed clash in the tumult of a Daytona International Speedway draft. Back when it was Busch, the clash was more likely to be in the grandstands. Fans probably tweeted angrily during the Sprint Unlimited years and will continue to do so, auto parts be damned.
Drivers and teams have worked extensively trying to get better during the offseason. Though the Clash is an unofficial race, it’s the first test of what has been achieved.
Everyone in Daytona Beach is rearin’ to go. (The term comes from a horse rearing on its hind legs, champing at the proverbial bit, anxious to take off. “Rarin’ to go” is a misnomer so widely used that explanation is in order.)
Here in the once NASCAR-mad hinterland, it isn’t really an afterthought. It’s a before-thought.
I was out and about on Tuesday. Folks around here know I used to circle the NASCAR orbit. They often ask me what I think about it. It’s kind of the standard greeting from people who don’t have anything else to say. Like “hiya doin’?”
It’s unusual for a contest of cars equipped with deafening engines to be greeted by the sound of silence.
About the best I could get was, “Isn’t it about time for racing to start?” I couldn’t even draw a “who do you think is going to win the Clash?” Not even an “is there still such a thing as the Clash?” or a “whatever happened to the Clash?”
Personally, I’m excited. I’m ready for a race, any race. I just realized this morning that it’s Sunday afternoon on Fox Sports 1, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. Front-row qualifying is before it (noon) on Fox. They’re excited in Daytona Beach, but unscientific polling suggests that word has not yet spread far and wide. What many people seem to be discussing is a private space launch held a couple days ago south of Daytona Beach.
Twenty drivers are eligible, but only 17 will compete because Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick retired. The field is thus Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Martin Truex Jr.
Eligibility is limited to 2017 pole winners, former Clash winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners still competing full-time and drivers who made the playoffs last year.
A year ago, the race was run on Sunday for the first time since 2006, but that was because of rain on Saturday night. This year it’s scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Perhaps that’s wise. The Clash can only look exciting in comparison to qualifying.
A look at DirecTV’s crystal ball lists the chance of rain at 30 percent. The next five days are all between 20 and 40 percent. Unless a hurricane is approaching, Florida is a fairly simple call.
Joey Logano won it last year. He won later in the spring at Richmond, but the win was “encumbered,” a term so absurd that I read the other day NASCAR has eliminated it from the official vocabulary. NASCAR officials plan to come up with another affront to the language the next time a winning car is not on the up-and-up.
“Bogus” and “tainted” are long shots on the tote board.
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