This weekend will mark the unofficial start to the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The official start gets underway next weekend for the 60th annual Daytona 500, but this weekend, is the soft opening. 17 drivers will take part in the annual all-star event at the Daytona International Speedway with Sunday being the 40th straight year that the Cup drivers will take to the 2.5-mile banks of Daytona for the Clash.
This year, is a bit different though. For the first time in years, the race is scheduled to run during the day. Last year, they did run the race prior to Daytona 500 qualifying on a Sunday, but it was only because the race was rained out on the night before. See, from the events inception in 1979 and up until 2002, the race was always a daytime event. In 2003 though, they switched it to night time. But, after rave reviews from the fans last year, the race was put back to a daytime event and for the second straight year, the name “Clash” is back.
Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (3 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will feature 17 hungry drivers that will be vying to start the 2018 edition of Speedweeks on the right footing. For 14 of them, they’re going to be aiming at stopping the beast in this race, Joe Gibbs Racing.
Since Kyle Busch’s win in the Clash in 2012, only two drivers have won the race that weren’t a part of the JGR camp (Kevin Harvick – 2013, Joey Logano – 2017). This year, they will hope that either Busch, Denny Hamlin (2016 winner) or Erik Jones will put their Toyota’s into victory lane for the fifth time in the last seven years.
If trends hold true, it will be Jones and his No. 20 Toyota going to victory lane. Over the previous six races in the Clash, JGR has had a different driver win each time. Busch won in 2012, Matt Kenseth in 2015, Hamlin in 2016 and now Jones would be next up.
So, if you’re looking for a favorite in a race that it’s notoriously difficult to predict one in, look no further than the JGR camp.