The Advance Auto Parts Clash (run in segments of 25 and 50 laps), a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series non-points, invitation-only battle, is always a highlight of Speedweeks. The 17-driver field featured 2017 pole winners, former Clash champions, former DAYTONA 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2017 and drivers who qualified for the 2017 Monster Energy Series playoffs.
Keselowski, in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, was followed by his Team Penske teammate and 2015 DAYTONA 500 champion Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford), with last year’s DAYTONA 500 champion Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford) finishing third. The top three escaped from a last-lap, Turn 3 incident that involved several cars.
Keselowski – a former Monster Energy Series champion – led 41 laps in securing only his second victory at Daytona International Speedway and his first during a Speedweeks. His only previous DIS victory came in the 2016 Coca-Cola 400.
Last year, Keselowski started first in the Clash via the annual blind draw format, but finished sixth. “This year we got last [in the draw] so we said this will be the year we win it and sure enough, here we are,” he said. “It’s a great way to start the season.
“I hope I can repeat this in seven days in the DAYTONA 500.”
Sunday marked the return of an old-school Speedweeks scheduling tradition, as DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger and the Advance Auto Parts Clash combined for an afternoon doubleheader. Prior to the Clash, Alex Bowman won the pole for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 set for Sunday, Feb. 18, with a lap of 195.644 mph in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro on the famed DIS 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Bowman is in his first fulltime year with Hendrick Motorsports in the car formerly driven by the newly retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. Previously, Bowman drove the No. 88 in 2016 as a substitute for Earnhardt, who was injured that season.
Sunday, Bowman topped the leaderboard after both of the two qualifying rounds; the first round pared 40 drivers down to 12 for the second and final round. Bowman posted his fastest speed in the second round, edging out 2016 DAYTONA 500 champion Denny Hamlin by 0.130 seconds for the pole. Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry at 195.092 mph. Two-time DAYTONA 500 champion Jimmie Johnson – he’s also the seven-time Monster Energy Series champion – was third in the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro at 194.734.
The qualifying session “locked in” Bowman and Hamlin for the front row of the DAYTONA 500 and also established the grids for Thursday’s Can-Am Duel, a pair of 150-mile races that determine the DAYTONA 500 grid after the front row. Bowman has the pole for the first Duel event, with Hamlin on the pole for the second Duel race.
Bowman gave Hendrick Motorsports its 20th DAYTONA 500 pole – and its fourth consecutive. That allowed team owner Rick Hendrick to tie the record for most consecutive poles also held by Harry Rainer (1979-82, with drivers Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons).
“I think this is still a little surreal,” Bowman said. “Driving for Hendrick Motorsports ... and to get to drive what I think is the best race car in the business.
“I'm just lucky enough to be able to hold the steering wheel in one of Mr. H's (Rick Hendrick) race cars. Very thankful for that opportunity.”
Bowman extended a recent trend of excellence by the No. 88 team at Daytona International Speedway and 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, the huge, high-banked tracks where NASCAR mandates restrictor plates. Last year, Earnhardt qualified second for the DAYTONA 500 and had the pole for the Coca-Cola 400 held in July at DIS. Then, in October, Earnhardt took the Talladega pole.
“The car has been fast since we unloaded,” Bowman said. “I’m just really happy for the whole race team, from the engine shop to the aero group to the chassis shop. Everybody worked so hard this winter. I just got to hold the steering wheel.”
Danica Patrick, the 2013 DAYTONA 500 pole winner making her final start in the DAYTONA 500 this year, qualified 28th Sunday, at 191.160 in the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet. She’ll start 14th in the second Can-Am Duel race.
Tickets for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.