Eric Jones Pushed to Victory with Only Six Drivers Left in the Clash
The Clash is an annual invitation-only NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race held at Daytona International Speedway the weekend before the Daytona 500. Like the All-Star Race held at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, the race does not award championship points to drivers or teams. Instead, the format offers a large cash purse that encourages racers to compete in an all-out driving spectacular that is not practical during the regular NASCAR schedule. Moreover, for the drivers who are Clash eligible, it gives the teams an opportunity to see how their setups are working in traffic at competitive race speeds. In 2020, the original event sponsor Busch Beer returned to assume naming rights for the Busch Clash.
This was one of those races where the drivers were either going to victory lane or would be hauling a beat-up racecar back to their home garage. Going into the Clash, Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 Toyota Camry driven by the defending champion of the Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin, was a good pick for the team to beat. But, no one really knew what to expect with a whole lot of rear wing added to this year's body, the cars should be less anxious and easier to drive. With a NASCAR mandated yellow flag at lap 25, teams opted for differing strategies. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Fords and Toyotas hit pit lane a lap early, leaving a large group of Chevrolets along with Ryan Newman racing the next segment in separate packs. Once the packs were back together, impatience and the fact that this year's bumpers don't lineup perfectly made for a lot of bumpin' and banging'.
With Kyle Busch charging hard with a run on the outside, Joey Logano tried to block up then block down but the end result was a big crash. that eliminated Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski and several other top contenders. Ryan Newman and others had major tire spin on the restart causing damage to most of the remaining cars in the field. With 75 laps completed, the race went to overtime with a series of late race incidences adding 13 laps making this the longest Clash in Daytona Speedway history. When Erik Jones in the most damaged car in the field lined up next to only undamaged car of Austin Dillion, odds seemed to favor a two-lap run to the finish for the No. 3 car. After all, only six drivers remained on track. But, in typical Clash-style, Denny Hamlin who was running one-lap down gave his Joe Gibbs teammate a giant push for Gibbs ninth win in the Clash. Jones and Hamlin are both qualified for Thursday's Twin Shootouts to set the lineup for Sunday's Daytona 500.
Photo by: Walter G. Arce of Action Sports Photography