DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Most of Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona was as tame as it could be for a restrictor plate race. Other than the first two laps, most of the rain marred event saw all 20 cars run the high line around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway lap after lap.
It took until drivers saw rain on their windshields in the closing stages to turn the intensity up a few notches.
Paul Menard dominated the day from the pole as he led a race high 52 of the 59 laps. He was in control until Jimmie Johnson turned him on the backstretch on Lap 55 sparking a 17 car melee.
Unfortunately, rain began to fall harder while under caution which prompted NASCAR to red flag the event for a third time. While under the red, a downpour ensued which resulted in NASCAR calling the race 16 laps early.
By virtue of being the leader under the red flag, Johnson was scored as the 2019 winner. It was Johnson’s second Clash win (2005) and seventh Daytona win overall. The three laps he led, all under caution, were his first laps led in the All-Star race since 2012 as heading into Sunday, he led 10 laps since 2007. In fact, heading into this weekend, he had crashed out in six of his last seven Clash events.
Now, Johnson heads into the Duels on Thursday night a winner in Speedweeks.
That crash involved 17 of the 20 cars that started Sunday’s race as only Johnson, second place finisher Kurt Busch, third place finisher Joey Logano and fourth place finisher Ryan Blaney escaped the carnage.
For Busch, he crashed out in five of the last seven Clashes entering on Sunday but earned his second straight top three finish. He brought his No. 1 Chevrolet home runner-up.
Logano, earned his fourth straight top three finish as his last four finishes in the Clash are – 2nd, 1st, 2nd and now 3rd. Overall, Logano has seven straight top six finishes in the annual February race.
This was Blaney’s second career start in the Clash as he finished fourth for a second straight year too in his No. 12 Ford.
Alex Bowman rounded out the top five in his No. 88 Chevrolet. He finished third in his other Clash start in 2017.
As eluded above, this race was tame. When they started racing hard, there was a 17 car crash. Timing and Scoring was off all day. We saw a jet dryer leak fuel under caution. 95-percent of the race was run single file and when they weren’t single file, they were on pit road for rain.
The race was stopped three times for rain, the first two for a combined 29 minutes and 36 seconds.
Outside Lane The Preferred Line
Usually the low line is the quick line around a race track. Daytona is typically the same. On Sunday, the high line was the fast lane. All day drivers rode up top as anytime anyone went low, they stalled out. Because of that, everyone rode up top single file.
On the final restart, despite having no drafting help, Paul Menard restarted up high. It worked.
Will the same kind of race happen next Sunday?
Starting Position Still Doesn’t Matter
Menard might have led all but seven laps on Sunday but the pole sitter was crashed out. Johnson, became the fifth straight winner to reach victory lane by not starting in the top four rows. Johnson, started 13th on Sunday, being the fifth double digit starting position driver to win since 2013.
Just once in the past 30 years now has the pole winner won the Clash.
Johnson Isn’t Necessarily The Favorite To Win The ‘500
In the 39 year history of the race, just six times has the Clash winner gone on to win the Daytona 500. Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996/2000), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Denny Hamlin (2016) are the ones to do so.
As you can see, Hamlin is the only one who has done it in the last 21 years.
Johnson’s Isn’t The Favorite To Win The Championship Now Either
Just seven times has the Clash winner gone on to win the season championship in the same season. But, none have done so since 2002 (Tony Stewart). In fact, other than four of them being from Dale Earnhardt, it’s a hard feat to accomplish.
Keselowski And Hamlin’s Lap Leading Streaks Come To An End
Denny Hamlin needed to lead only eight laps on Sunday to become the all-time Clash lap leader. That was doable, especially since he’s led eight or more laps in four of his last five Clash starts. In fact, since 2014, Hamlin led 27+ laps in three races.
Also, Brad Keselowski had led in his last five Clash starts. He led 26 laps in 2016, 18 in 2017 and 43 in his win a year ago.
On Sunday, neither driver led a single lap as both were caught up in that final crash.
Penske and JGR’s Clash Dominance Comes To An End
Heading into Sunday, Penske and JGR had won five in-a-row and seven of the last eight. That streak comes to an end as for the first time since 2008 a Hendrick driver won.
Ford Still Looks Good
Over the past five years, Ford has won 13 of the last 18 points paying restrictor plate races. This year, they bring out a new car in the Mustang. Would that change their dominance?
So far, no.
Menard led 52 laps as Ford looked like the far superior manufacturer on Sunday. Granted, it’s a very small sample size but it’s worth noting.
Chevy Has Much Better Showing
The final box score shows five Chevy’s in the top seven. They only led three laps on Sunday though, all in the end by Johnson. Does this bode well for the rest of Speedweeks?
This was Chevy’s record extending 21st Clash win but their first since 2013.
Knaus Wins Pole With Byron, Johnson Wins Clash
Sunday was a weird fate of a day. Chad Knaus won the pole with his new driver William Byron while Jimmie Johnson won the Clash with his new crew chief Kevin Meendering. While both say there’s no rivalry there, especially since they’re all still teammates, this is an interesting story to watch.
Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona Results
40 McMurray -1
4 Harvick -1
21 Menard OUT
18 KyBusch OUT
19 Truex Jr. OUT
14 Bowyer OUT
11 Hamlin OUT
2 Keselowski OUT
42 Larson OUT
20 Jones OUT