Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — February 9, 2020
The Busch Clash today at Daytona International Speedway may have provided a glimpse of what we will see next Sunday in the Daytona 500. If the cars are lined up single file, don’t get out of line. If you do it’s likely you will be headed for the back of the pack. It takes multiple cars in a line to run side-by-side. If you find your drafting partners have all abandoned you, it’s likely you will be headed for the back of the pack.
It will be interesting to see if the same holds true during the qualifying races Thursday evening. What you can expect is that team orders are in place for coordinated pit stops and drafting partners. Starting positions for the annual exhibition race at the start of Speedweeks were determined by a blind draw. Ryan Newman(6) started from the pole with Brad Keselowski(2) on the outside.
Also, expect to see late-race crashes and at least one overtime. Just the kind of action that puts fans in the grandstands.
Newman was able to hold the lead for a couple of laps until Aric Almirola(10) lined up behind Keselowski and the two Ford Mustangs drove to the front. The high side or outside line seemed to have the most momentum. Newman faded quickly on the bottom, Denny Hamlin(11) gave it a try only to go to the rear as cars lined single file.
Martin Truex Jr.(19) also spent some time at the front early in the race. A caution flag was scheduled for lap 25. The Fords and Toyotas pitted in mass at Lap 24, the Chevrolets waited until the yellow displayed and came for service under the caution. Then pitted again just before the restart to pump as much fuel into the tank as possible.
The Toyotas pitted at Lap 46 for a splash of fuel, enough to get them to the end. The strategy backfired on Erik Jones(20) as he missed his pit, had to back up, and ultimately lost a lap to the leaders with the lengthly stop. Most of the Fords pitted on Lap 47 so the field was reorganized into two packs.
The Chevrolets in the lead and saving fuel, the Fords and Toyotas a half lap down with no worries of running out of gas. Which call will be the correct one? The Fords are making up time, but will there be enough of the 75 total laps left to catch the leaders? Of course, should a caution flag waves, throw everything out the window.
Laps Winding Down
With 16 laps to go the interval was 10 seconds, with 15 to go it shrunk to seven seconds. With 14 to go, it was four seconds and the two groups combined with 13 laps left in the race.
With 10 laps to go, Joey Logano(22), who did not make an extra stop, led while the rest of the field raced three-wide behind him. In turn four, Kyle Busch(18) had a run on the outside and Logano moved up to block him. As they exited the turn Kyle Busch dropped below to pass and made contact with Logano’s left rear quarter panel. The wreck that followed put Busch and Keselowski out of the race. Logano was able to continue but with some damage, Denny Hamlin(11) also scrapped the wall and damaged the right side of his car. The wreck was good news for Jones, who was able to get back to the lead lap courtesy of the lucky dog rule.
The race resumed with three laps to go, Hamlin led and Almirola ran second. Hamlin opted for the top line on the restart. Truex lined up third behind Aric and Newman sat behind Denny.
As they crossed the start/finish line the front of the field accordioned up. Kevin Harvick(4) ran into William Byron(24), who tapped the rear of Newman all on the outside line. When they lost traction and began to spin, half of the field was caught up in the mess.
This time they line up for the restart with Hamlin, Almirola, Chase Elliott(9), and Ryan Blaney(12) in the top four spots. Across the line, into turns 1 & 2 and down the superstretch behind Lake Lloyd everything is good. Hamlin’s car turns sideways going into Turn 3, his damaged fender cut down a rear tire. Spinning is never good, but when it happens at the front of the field it generally leaves a trail of junk cars scattered on the track.
Six cars made it through the melee and continued to turn laps. Elliott leads but has a flat right rear tire after brushing the wall in the incident. He is running on the inner liner when NASCAR displays the red flag and stops the field at the exit of Turn 2. Austin Dillon(3) sits second, Kyle Larson(42), Newman, and Clint Bowyer(14) are the lead lap cars. Logano and Hamlin sit on pit road, both two laps down. Everyone else is in the garage.
When the yellow comes back out, Elliott and Bowyer come to pit road for service. The restart will be Dillon, Larson, Newman, Jones, Elliott, and Bowyer. Any of those drivers could pull off the win. Again in Turn 3, Elliott is pushing Larson to the lead when he dives low to make a pass for the lead. Larson runs him to the bottom of the track and they wreck again. This accident sends Elliott behind the wall.
Five left on the lead lap, Hamlin gets a lap back but is still 1 down. He needs another caution to get back on the lead lap. The top 5 are Dillon, Newman, Bowyer, Jones, and Larson.
One more time the green flag waves. They make it to the white flag with Newman in front, but the lead changes every quarter mile. Hamlin gets hooked up with Jones and pushes him to the front. The car with the most damage of those still running gets an escort across the finish line from his teammate. The hood is flapping and about to fly off when the checkered flag falls on that “Jones Boy” from Byron, MI.
It took 88 laps to complete the Busch Clash, the longest race in its 42-year history. Erik Jones was a lap down and fought his way back to the lead lap. Jones led one lap of the race, the most important one.
Results of the 2020 Busch Clash
|16||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-16||72|
Daytona Pole Qualifying
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) driving for a new race team in 2020 won the pole for next Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Behind the wheel for JTG Daugherty Racing, Stenhouse posted a lap of 194.582 to lead the Great American Race to the green flag.
Alex Bowman(88) sits beside him on the front row 5/100s of a second off the pace.
Aric Almirola was the fastest Ford, posting a speed of 192.588, seventh fastest. The Bluegreen Vacation Duels on Thursday evening will determine the starting lineup for the 500.
The Lasco Press will be LIVE all week at Daytona to bring you all the race action and latest Cup Series News.