The 2017 NASCAR season got off to a wild start in the preseason race on Sunday morning at Daytona International Speedway. The Clash, which is a non-points event, featured a 17-car field that put on quite the display of action and intensity.
Mother Nature reared her ugly head on Saturday night as rain forced the postponement of the event to Sunday morning. The race finally got underway around 11:30AM as Brad Keselowski led the field to the green flag.
As a result of the race being moved from night to day, handling quickly become an issue for many of the drivers throughout the field. Early on in the event before the end of the first segment, Jimmie Johnson got loose coming off Turn 4 and tagged the No.41 of Kurt Busch. Busch spun up and hit the outside wall hard before sliding to a stop in the infield grass.
“I was just minding my own business in the low groove and we got tagged in the right-rear,” said Busch after the wreck. “It’s kind of a shame. All of the hard work and the effort everybody puts into the off-season – Doug Yates and his engines and everybody from Ford and everybody at Stewart-Haas – all of the effort put towards building a car and we didn’t even make it to the first pit stop, so it’s kind of a bummer.”
That wasn’t the only time Johnson would get loose coming off Turn 4 however. Not long after the start of the second segment, the No.48 car once again broke sideways coming out of the turn. This time with no one to help him save it, Johnson slammed into the inside wall once again bringing out the caution.
“I don’t know. I guess last year there were a couple of issues there,” said Johnson after the incident. “It’s so bizarre because the car hasn’t been loose anywhere else. The first time I got loose I got into the No. 41 and crashed him and I feel terrible for that. And then that time, I didn’t think it was going to turn around. I was about half-throttle running along. I’m not sure if the car behind me got close and helped my cause, but it had been very loose off of Turn 4 from the moment I crashed Kurt on.”
As the race began to get down to the final last couple laps, the battle began to build up between the front-runners. The four Joe Gibbs Racing machines had a stranglehold on the field, and it was going to take a big run for someone to be able to get by them. That run soon came from Team Penske, who’s two drivers were able to hook up and mount a charge. Keselowski and Logano were able to break up the Toyota foursome, and with one lap to go only had one more driver left in their windshield – Denny Hamlin.
Keselowski got a big run on Hamlin heading into Turn 1 and faked him out, going up high and then diving back low. The No.11 tried to throw the block but but instead got turned sideways and slid through the turn. Keselowski lost his momentum and Logano was able to sneak by on the outside. NASCAR didn’t throw the caution and Logano got a big enough lead that nobody was able to catch him coming back to the checkered flag.
“Everything was going really fast,” said Logano after the race. “Everything was going on and I was just in the right place at the right time.”
It’s the first victory for the Middletown, CT native in the preseason event, and the third overall for Team Penske.
“It’s cool to win the Clash,” said Logano. “We came close last year and it’s really neat to be in Victory Lane and a good start to our day.”
Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Carl Edwards, Chris Buescher, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the rest of the top-10 finishers.