ANDERS: Daytime 'Clash' will make for better show
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, February 11, 2018
It may not be Christmas, but I dare anyone to try and fight me on whether it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Speedweeks at Daytona kicks off today with qualifying for next Sunday's Daytona 500 and the running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash, which is good because it falls right about the time my racing withdrawals were starting to hit critical levels.
Last year, I wrote about how excited I was to see NASCAR return its annual exhibition to the "Clash" moniker for the first time since 1997. It's not a super important change and obviously has no bearing on the race itself, but for a sport that has been savaged by fans for changing from the way it used to be, returning to a name that has a nostalgic feel to it was almost universally well-received.
For 2018, there's another change in the air that is a bit of a flashback, one that will actually have an effect on the track.
Last year's Clash was stifled before it even got going, the victim of a Saturday night downpour in Daytona that pushed the race back to Sunday morning to be run as a prelude to Daytona 500 qualifying.
Having the event during the daytime, when the sunshine and warm temperatures make the track slicker, led to one of the most entertaining Clashes in recent memory. Sure, there's plenty of pageantry comes with racing under the lights on Saturday night, but, more often than not, the action on the track is inferior to racing during the day.
NASCAR deciding to move the event to Sunday this year and pair it with qualifying for the 500 means the 17 cars entered will get rolling around 3 p.m. today, when the track surface has been sitting in the sun for hours. That will make the race much more unpredictable and should lend itself to a fun shootout for no points and a ton of money.
The shift from a Saturday night timeslot, which began in 2003, is another move by NASCAR in the last couple of years that has had a flashback feel to it. The “throwback” promotion at Darlington, complete with retro paint schemes, has been wildly popular for the last three years, and this move is a logical step for this race after going back to the “Clash” name a season ago.
Qualifying will kick off a week of discussions and storylines pertaining to the Daytona 500, but the Clash will be the first taste of actual Cup racing this season. Seeing it back under the sun is a welcome sight and sets the right tone for what should be a thrilling Speedweeks.
Joey Logano won this race last season, and he was second in a line of four Ford drivers who were fastest in Saturday’s final practice. I’m taking someone else out of that group, a guy who was in position to win last year before late contact with Denny Hamlin. PICK: Brad Keselowski.
Contact Jordan Anders at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.