Nod to history as The Clash comes back to Daytona
RELATED: Official news release NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway jointly announced Wednesday that the annual exhibition race to kick off 2017 Speedweeks will have a familiar format, a smaller field and a nostalgic name -- The Clash. The season-opening non-points event -- scheduled Saturday, Feb. 18 (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- will take a page from its earliest roots, when it began as the Busch Clash in 1979. The race, which has frequently served as an invitational for the previous season's pole winners, has also been known as the Bud Shootout and Sprint Unlimited in its history at the 2.5-mile track. "We're bringing back The Clash at Daytona ," Daytona International Speedway president Chip Wile said in the news release. "The Clash was a race name that has always been popular among both the competitors and race fans. We're looking forward to bringing it back and building on the rich history of this thrilling and always unpredictable event that kicks off the NASCAR season." NASCAR and the speedway indicated that the race format would remain unchanged from last year -- 75 laps with a competition caution period scheduled for Lap 25. The method for assembling eligible drivers, however, carries some slight tweaks from 2016's edition. Drivers invited include last year's Coors Light Pole Award winners in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition (14 total), former Clash winners (2), former Daytona 500 pole winners who raced full-time last year (1) and drivers not otherwise eligible who qualified for the Chase postseason (3). Last season, the field reached its 25-car limit by inviting the remaining highest-finishing drivers in the previous year's standings to fill the starting grid. That criteria has been dropped for 2017, leaving 20 drivers eligible to compete. One of those positions is held by three-time champion Tony Stewart , who announced that he would end his full-time driving career last season. Stewart indicated in an appearance Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he is far from retired, planning to compete in sprint cars and even entertaining an offer to drive sports cars at Le Mans. Another starting berth is also held by Greg Biffle , who parted ways with his longtime team at Roush Fenway Racing last week and has no announced plans in place for 2017. Biffle won the Coors Light Pole at Daytona in July to secure a starting spot. The list of eligible drivers: 2016 Coors Light Pole Awards winners: Greg Biffle , Alex Bowman , Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . Former Clash Race Winners: Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award winners: Danica Patrick Remaining 2016 Chase drivers: Chris Buescher , Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray The race's length and field size have grown steadily from its first running in 1979, which was exclusively reserved for the previous year's pole winners. In an era with far less parity, it meant a nine-car field vying for a $50,000 payday in a 20-lap (50-mile) shootout. Buddy Baker was the inaugural winner, leading 18 of the 20 laps in Harry Ranier's "Gray Ghost" No. 28 Oldsmobile. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who helped bring the "Gray Ghost" scheme back to life, threw his support behind The Clash. This is a great move to restore the identity of a historic event. Pole award winners and @NASCAR fans can rejoice! #TheClashIsBack https://t.co/hb5mYiU8Gj — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 30, 2016
Field, format set for 'The Clash' at Daytona
RELATED: Buy Tickets DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Recently crowned seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Jimmie Johnson will join a star-studded elite field as NASCAR kicks off its 2017 season with The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. The annual season-opening event will be broadcast live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The 75-lap race again will be split into two segments with a competition caution at Lap 25 separating the segments. "What better way to kick off the 2017 season than the sport's brightest stars under the lights at Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "Coming off a thrilling season finale at Homestead-Miami, we're looking forward to continuing that momentum into Daytona . With bragging rights and no points on the line, The Clash will set the tone for what should be a season full of great racing and tough competition." "We're bringing back The Clash at Daytona ," said Chip Wile, Daytona International Speedway president. "The Clash was a race name that has always been popular among both the competitors and race fans. We're looking forward to bringing it back and building on the rich history of this thrilling and always unpredictable event that kicks off the NASCAR season." The eligible drivers include 2016 Coors Light Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016. All 16 drivers from the 2016 Chase are also eligible. Eligible drivers are: 2016 Coors Light Pole Awards winners (14) · Greg Biffle , Alex Bowman , Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . Former Clash Race Winners (2) · Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart Former DAYTONA 500 Coors Light Pole Award winners (1) · Danica Patrick 2016 Chase drivers (3) · Chris Buescher , Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray Tickets for The Clash at Daytona are available online at DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
'The Clash' returns to Daytona in 2017
NASCAR announced that the kickoff race in 2017 at Daytona International Speedway will once again be named 'The Clash' and will have new guidelines for eligibility.
Rick Hendrick: Dale Jr. 'on track' for Daytona 500
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Rick Hendrick shed light Friday on Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s timetable to return to NASCAR competition, saying he anticipated his driver to be on pace to compete in time for the 2017 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Jr., 42, has been sidelined from the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet since July after two severe crashes left him with concussion-like symptoms. He was ruled out for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season in September. "I think sometime in December the doctor's going to give him the final clearance and then we'll get him in a car," Hendrick said Friday after a news conference with the Sprint Cup Championship 4 car owners at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "He feels great. Everything's on track. I mean, every step that we supposedly need to go through, we've gone through, and I don't see anything holding us back." Earnhardt, who has been working on rehabilitation of his neurological conditions since this summer, reiterated that intention last month at Martinsville Speedway , saying in a pre-race interview that "we're booking things as normal" ahead of the 2017 season. That included sponsorship plans, photo shoots and other logistical agreements in preparation for next year. But Earnhardt Jr. also indicated he was eager to return to NASCAR's premier series, something Hendrick reaffirmed Friday. "He sent me a text the other day that he was excited and waiting for Daytona ," Hendrick said. "I think we've just got a couple more hurdles to clear." Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have split time in Earnhardt's No. 88 this season, with Gordon filling in for eight races and Bowman set to make his 10th start of the year in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Gordon has indicated that he's likely to resume his retirement from racing next season unless called upon by Hendrick. As for Bowman, the 23-year-old racer who competes part-time in the XFINITY Series has said he's still uncertain what his driving responsibilities -- beyond simulator work for Hendrick's team -- will be in 2017. Friday, Hendrick was uncertain as well. "Alex is a good guy. He's helped us in a lot of ways," Hendrick said. "We're just kind of taking that one a day at a time. He's done testing for us, he's done simulation for us and he's really done a good job. We're just kind of taking it a day at a time. We don't really have any certain plan." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Stewart starts on front row at Daytona , in rookie season
Tony Stewart qualified his No. 20 on the front row for his first Daytona 500 in 1999 at Daytona International Speedway.
Logano: New Hampshire win bigger than Daytona 500
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a first-person account from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano about his childhood memories attending New Hampshire Motor Speedway , as well as his successful career at his home race track. New Hampshire will host Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, the Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). I remember the first time I went to New Hampshire was in 1997, when I was seven years old. My family camped out by Turn 2, back there behind all the midway activities for the weekend. We were there for the weekend and watched the modified race, the Busch North race -- at the time that's what the K&N Pro Series East was called -- and the Sprint Cup race. My family actually still has a photo album of the trip. I got pictures of the cars when they came out and practiced. Looking back on it, I guess that really was my first memory of NASCAR racing. It's cool that I remember it, but I think everyone remembers the time you go to your first NASCAR race. One thing I remember is when I got to meet Jeff Gordon that weekend, which was awesome because I grew up a huge Jeff Gordon fan. He was leaving an appearance and I was one of those people that kind of sat there on the side, waiting for him to come out. There he was and I got a picture with him. It's funny -- I still have the picture. We talked about it and showed it on a couple of NASCAR shows last year when Jeff was doing his farewell tour. My Mom's thumb got over the lens of the camera, so it's one of those pictures with a thumb in it. My Mom got Jeff to sign the photo a couple of years back and she framed it for me with another photo of Jeff and I sitting on the pit wall before driver intros. It's a pretty cool memento and something that links one of my first memories with where I am today. To me, New Hampshire is something special. Really special. Every driver out there has their favorite track and a place that means more to them than others, even if they don’t always tell you. New Hampshire is that place for me. I guess it started when I was just a fan and I went to that race and met Jeff Gordon . Then, when I moved into driving, things still just happened there. I started my first Sprint Cup race there in the No. 96 car back in 2008. Then I won my first Sprint Cup race there the next year in the No. 20. But the most memorable moment to me was when we won there a couple of years ago in the fall race of 2014. That win was hands down the coolest win of my career. The Daytona 500 was neat. I mean who doesn't grow up wanting to be a racecar driver and not want to win the Daytona 500 ? But the New Hampshire win beats it in my opinion. I think you can start to see why. For one, it's my home track. Any win any driver gets at their home track is special. That is why my teammate Brad Keselowski wants to win at Michigan so bad. It's on every driver’s bucket list. On top of that, it was the most challenging, most difficult track I went to as a driver. I sucked there. I literally did not know how to go fast. I remember one time we unloaded there and I started complaining about how bad the car was. Then, I look up and we were P1 on the board. I said, "I don't know how to do this then. I don't know what to tell you, because to me, it drives awful and we’re fast." So over time, I started figuring out that I need this and I need that, and got the car kind of feeling the way it's supposed to. I had a lot of conversations with my crew chief Todd Gordon and we've worked together to make it better. Eventually, we conquered the hardest track for me -- and my home track -- so it's all just worked out and it showed on the track. That win in 2014 was just awesome for me personally. I don't ever get out of the car at the start finish line (after a win). I just want to get to Victory Lane and celebrate with the team. But that was one of those moments where I thought: "I'm getting out of the car, I'm standing on top of it, I'm going to enjoy this moment. It's going to be hard to have a win that’s larger than that." Something else that I love about New Hampshire is the fans. They love NASCAR racing and racing in general in the Northeast. It's what got me to be a fan of the sport. I hope they grab some tickets and come out for an amazing weekend of racing when we go back up there this weekend. You go to Loudon as a New England guy and those are your people. So we try to take advantage of every situation when we're up there to look for ways to help, especially with the "Chasing Second Chances" initiative through the Joey Logano Foundation. We did our golf tournament in Connecticut with the spring race, and a lot of people were able to come to it. To me, all of this racing stuff is great and all, but it's a platform to change people's lives. I feel like it's my calling. I'm supposed to use that. It's a privilege to have that opportunity to do what you're supposed to do in this world. So, yeah, I want to win races and I want to win championships, but I want to do something more with the platform that God’s given me. So through the Joey Logano Foundation and through the Chasing Second Chances program, we're trying to give people another shot at life in the New England area who were the victims of something out of their control or just made a bad decision and are working to make their life better. In all honesty, the whole Chasing Second Chances throughout the next nine weeks (of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ) is a big deal. A lot of cool things for the next nine weeks. For more on Chasing Second Chances, click here . As told to the NASCAR Wire Service's Reid Spencer.
Myers Brothers Awards recognize NASCAR's best, remember Betty Jane France
RELATED: NASCAR, Monster Energy announce entitlement deal LAS VEGAS -- On what turned into a remarkable day on all accords, NASCAR introduced Monster Energy as the new premier series entitlement sponsor, celebrated Jimmie Johnson 's historic seventh championship and honored the late Betty Jane France with the prestigious NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Award for her decades of philanthropic work Thursday afternoon. Approximately 500 people attended the traditional Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Wynn Las Vegas resort -- an afternoon later capped off with the big entitlement announcement before the industry's drivers, teams and corporate stalwarts. Fittingly one of NASCAR's ascending stars, Chase Elliott started the day off accepting the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, thanked his parents -- including father NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott -- his team and many people important in his high-accelerating career and life. He also made a point to recognize Jeff Gordon ’s six-year old son Leo for an important high-five just before the season-opening Daytona 500 -- a race Elliott started from the pole position. "That was a neat moment and it put everything in perspective," Elliott said, smiling. "I can say I truthfully feel at home now, and I think that says a lot."
Gordon: SHR reached out before Daytona 500
RELATED: Full schedule for Indianapolis " Gordon through the years SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon 's "un-retirement" from competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began in earnest Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is filling in for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono Raceway while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Almost as surprising as Gordon's return to the driver's seat -- he retired from full-time competition after the 2015 season -- was his disclosure that he had been approached about filling in for the injured Tony Stewart in this year's Daytona 500 . Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet and co-owner of the four-car organization, missed the first eight races after suffering a broken back in an off-road driving incident prior to the start of the 2016 season. Gordon's role as a FOX NASCAR analyst (the network provides coverage of the season's first 16 points races) prohibited him from returning to competition. "The crazy thing about all of this (is) I was asked to drive Tony Stewart 's car in Daytona to start the season," Gordon said Friday. "I wasn't able to do it because of my commitments to FOX. Now Rick (Hendrick, team owner) has some amazing ways to convince people into things that the average person might not be able to. I don't know, maybe he could have called Eric Shanks or something, but no, I don't think so." Shanks is President, COO and Executive Producer of FOX Sports. Stewart is competing in his final season as a driver. Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard will be his final appearance at the famed 2.5-mile track, where he has earned two of his 49 career victories. That Gordon was asked about filling in earlier this season was news to Stewart. "I wasn't (aware)," Stewart said, "but that would have been awesome. That probably would have been one of the coolest things to happen this season. If that happened, I would have been all for it. … "I wasn't aware of that, but that would have been a really cool deal for us." MORE: Dale Jr. out, Gordon in No. 88 at Indianapolis, Pocono
Hamlin returns to site of Daytona 500 win, eyes sweep
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Since Denny Hamlin first arrived in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time in 2006 he had an immediate positive relationship with Daytona International Speedway winning his first-ever Budweiser Shootout as a rookie in the days leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500 . Since then, Hamlin has won that event two more times including this February -- just 8 days before he pulled off an amazing last lap pass to claim his maiden Daytona 500 victory in the closest finish in the race's great 58-year history. A win in Saturday's Coke Zero 400 would give Hamlin another unique claim to Daytona fame -- a season sweep of the Sprint Cup events plus a win in the Shootout giving him three victories (including both points races) at the track in a single season. Only Bobby Allison (1982) and Fireball Roberts (1962) have swept both Daytona premier series races and won an exhibition event too. Jimmie Johnson (2013), Cale Yarborough (1968) and LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969) are the other drivers to win both Sprint Cup races in a year. "It was about five years ago that something happened on the restrictor plate race tracks where I just -- it clicked and I got it," Hamlin said Thursday. "I can name a few instances it's really helped me, but I don't want to necessarily say that, but I just feel comfortable. I feel like I know what I'm doing and the results have showed it." The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota hasn't finished worse than sixth in his last five Daytona starts, including a runner-up in the 2014 Daytona 500 and a third place showing in last year's Coke Zero 400 -- a streak of success even better than one of the track's true superstars, Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt has a pair of Cup race wins during that same five-race span -- including the 2014 Daytona 500 and this race last year -- but finished 36th in this year's Daytona 500 and 14th in this race in 2014. Despite the impressive numbers, Hamlin is well aware that his current success streak is a rare outcome at a restrictor plate track. "Eventually, we're going to get in a wreck," Hamlin allowed with a slight smile. "I think we did at -- yeah, we did at Talladega, but I've just been very fortunate on superspeedways and the bad finishes that I've had it's not because something I feel like I did. It was something that I could caught up in, so I've been fortunate. "It's been a great battle with the 88 ( Dale Earnhardt Jr .) probably the last four years with me and him. There's been a lot of one-two finishes with us and hopefully I'd love to complete the sweep winning the Unlimited, the 500 and the July race. I feel like I gift basket-ed him that dual win on Thursday this year, so I'd like to get him back here in July." A win this weekend would be key not just in Daytona historical context. Other than a fantastic runner-up finish to Tony Stewart on the Sonoma Raceway road course last week, Hamlin hasn't posted the kind of consistently good showings he might have liked. Especially with the way the season began. In the last seven races, Hamlin has three top-10s and three finishes of 30th or worse -- two of those sub-par finishes, a result of crashes. But just looking at Hamlin's face and his demeanor, it's easy to tell he brings an unmistakable confidence to Daytona Beach. And he's earned it honestly. He'll start ninth in the Coke Zero 400 -- surrounded by all his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who qualified second ( Carl Edwards ), third ( Kyle Busch ) and seventh ( Matt Kenseth ). Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr ., who Hamlin edged for the Daytona win in February, will start 15th. "Anytime we can work together, I try for sure," Hamlin said of his Toyota teammates. "I don't know that it was a plot to take out one car by any means. I thought we showed a lot of speed with just our cars in practice looking at lap times with what we would run as a group of five. Simple math says what the pack was going to run and I knew that if we could stay in a line and commit to each other, it would be tough for others to pass us. It worked out well. "Legitimately there were five Toyotas out to win on the final lap and that's really all we could have asked for. It was something that was in the works for a long time and it was executed perfectly by our whole organization and it worked out. Obviously any time you are successful like that you try to repeat it, but the competitors have a lot of say in that, so there are others who are going to have issue with what our plan is." "Really this track has been very good to me throughout my career," Hamlin said. "We hope to complete the sweep this weekend."
Junior celebrates 'Jeansboro Day,' says he expects to race '17 Daytona
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . may not be competing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series as the 2016 season begins to wind down, but the series' most popular driver still has plenty to keep him busy. "Going to the races, doing all my (sponsor) appearances, doing everything I was doing before, just not driving," Earnhardt said Wednesday during a stop at the corporate headquarters of Wrangler. "Take the driving part out of it and everything else I'm still doing." Earnhardt was joined by team owner Richard Childress to help kick off the second annual "Jeansboro Day" celebration and reminisce about the long relationship Wranger has enjoyed with Childress and Earnhardt. Earnhardt has been sidelined since midseason after suffering concussion-like symptoms following a pair of crashes. In his absence, drivers Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman have handled the driving duties in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. MORE: See: Bowman in the No. 88 car After missing two races in 2012, this marks the second time in his premier series career that Earnhardt has missed races due to a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. Although he won't be back behind the wheel this season, Earnhardt told the crowd that he plans to be back in the car when the 2017 season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway . "It's coming along pretty good," Earnhardt said when asked about his recovery. "We got dinged up, had a lot of wrecks this year, got dinged up pretty good. … "(I'm) starting to feel real good, starting to be able to get out and do things, enjoy myself. "I miss being in the car but we have every expectation of being in the car come February for the Daytona 500 ." The Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It is the final race of the Round of 12 in this year's Chase, with only the top eight advancing to the next round. Earnhardt, who has six career victories on the 2.66-mile track, said he plans to be at Talladega "all three days." But just watching. Not driving, yet. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;