Season-opening exhibition renamed ‘The Clash’; Daytona seeking title sponsor

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In a nod to the event’s origins, the season-opening exhibition race in NASCAR’s premier series has been renamed “The Clash at Daytona International Speedway.”

The event was known as the Busch Clash from 1979-97 before Anheuser-Busch rebranded it as the Bud Shootout from 1998-2012. Sprint held the title sponsorship for the exhibition (which was renamed “the Sprint Unlimited”) for the past four seasons.

Track spokesman Andrew Booth said the race’s sponsorship entitlement is available, and Daytona is having “a number of discussions with potential sponsors.”

The Clash rebranding drew a positive response from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has lobbied for the return of the name for years.

The Clash will remain a 75-lap event split into two segments by a designated caution after the 25th lap.

NASCAR announced a slight tweak to the eligibility list that will limit the field to 20 drivers – 2016 pole-sitters, former Clash winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time last season and 2016 Chase drivers. There had been a minimum 25-driver requirement the past two seasons.

Here are the eligible drivers for the 2017 event, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 17:

–2016 pole-sitters (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 winners (2): Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart.

–Former Daytona 500 pole-sitters (1): Danica Patrick.

–2016 Chase drivers (3): Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray.

Among the notable drivers who won’t be in the event: AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon.