The Clash

Kevin Harvick calls for eliminating Clash, combining with All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick believes Sunday’s crash-marred, rain-plagued Clash should be the last edition of the exhibition race that kicks off the Cup season at Daytona International Speedway.

During his weekly “Happy Hours” program Monday on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s NASCAR Channel, the 2014 series champion laid out his vision how NASCAR could change the event.

“The Clash is one of those things that I think we could probably eliminate as we go forward and look at the new schedule,” the driver of the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing said. “The reason I say that is you’re trying to bring a lot of guys into the race.

“Originally when The Clash was brought about, it was about the pole winners and past winners of that particular race. They had a lot of guys that weren’t pole winners. And you have guys in the playoffs that were in the race.”

The inaugural Clash in 1979 featured a nine-driver field. As eligibility was expanded beyond pole winners and previous winner of the event, the field grew. There were 20 cars in the 2019 Clash, which peaked at 28 entries for the 2009 race (which was based on manufacturers).

Harvick suggested taking the two drivers with the most poles and giving them spots in the All-Star Race.

“To me, it would be good to combine with the All-Star Race,” he said. “Maybe you take two positions in the All-Star Race because you’re always on the edge of, ‘Is that enough cars? Is that not enough cars?’ But take The Clash away. Make it a points race. Or make it one of the weekends we take off the schedule.”

NASCAR is in the midst of a reported overhaul of the 2020 schedule.

Harvick also cited another advantage for dumping the Clash, which resulted in nearly two dozen cars being wrecked over practice and the race the past two days.

“As we talk about money and saving team owners money, Joe Gibbs wrecked five cars,” said Harvick, who crashed in practice and the race. “Three hundred thousand dollars a car adds up pretty quick.”

Clash of opinions between Dale Earnhardt Jr., wife Amy?

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CHARLOTTE – Dale Earnhardt Jr. has qualified to run The Clash next season, but his wife appears to have the final say on his eligibility.

NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver, who is retiring from full-time driving after the 2017 season, has hinted at racing in The Clash since winning the pole position at Daytona International Speedway three weeks ago (and earning a spot in next year’s season-opening exhibition). He has said he would lobby team owner Rick Hendrick if he won a pole, but he might need to campaign harder at home.

“Amy doesn’t want me to run it,” Earnhardt said Tuesday after unveiling his Southern 500 car at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I’ve got a pole and kind of want to run it. But we’ll see if she warms up to it.”

In a tweet Tuesday night, Amy Earnhardt indicated she probably wouldn’t budge.

On a recent podcast, Earnhardt Jr. alluded to his wife’s reservations, which Amy said had prompted an argument.

He missed the final 18 races of the 2016 season while recovering from a concussion. He returned this season but declined to participate in The Clash (despite being eligible as a former winner of the event, which he won in 2003 and ’08).

“I skipped this year because I really had no reason to run it,” Earnhardt said Tuesday.

The backstory of why Alex Bowman was in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car Saturday night

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – During his December test at Darlington Raceway that cleared his return to NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gathered his No. 88 team in the hauler and broke some news.

He wouldn’t be running The Clash, turning over the wheel of his Chevrolet to Alex Bowman as a reward for filling in for him last season.

Unless his team said otherwise.

“I said, ‘They could put (Bowman) in the 5 (the car of Kasey Kahne, who wasn’t eligible Saturday), and if the guys really want me to run (the No. 88), I’ll run it,” Earnhardt said Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. “But otherwise I’d just assume let Alex run it. They said, ‘Yeah, I think Alex earned his shot, and he should be able to work with guys that he knows.’ Nothing against the 5 guys, but he hadn’t worked with them any.”

Bowman and Earnhardt both were eligible to run in The Clash – the former by virtue of winning the pole position at Phoenix International Raceway, the latter as a former winner of the event.

But Earnhardt, a NASCAR historian, didn’t feel worthy of him being in the race because he has “such strong feelings about The Clash being strictly for pole winners, and I didn’t feel good about how I was eligible.

“I don’t feel deserving of the opportunity to be in the race, because I think it should be strictly pole winners. So when Alex got it, I’m like, he’s trumped me in how to get into the race to begin with.”

Earnhardt planted the seed for putting Bowman in The Clash minutes after that Phoenix pole.

Earnhardt, who missed the final 18 races of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion symptoms, was at Phoenix standing with Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt and No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives.

“Your initial emotion is, ‘Man, he deserves it,’ ” Earnhardt said. “We’ve been on this mission to get Alex going and get his career where he wants it to be, and we had some real momentum last year with him getting an opportunity to drive that car. So when he got that pole, I looked at Doug and Greg and was like, ‘Man, you’ve got to put Alex in the car for The Clash,’ and I was kinda judging their reaction. It got a little closer, and they had made the decision that Alex would do it.

“I like the fact he’s in our car with our guys. Anything to give him an opportunity to showcase what he can do and learn is good.”

Bowman drove in 10 races for Earnhardt last season, posting a best finish of sixth at Phoenix (where he led a race-high 194 of 324 laps).

He also learned during the Darlington test that he would be making his Clash debut.

“We joked about it a lot, but it never even crossed my mind that I would be driving the No. 88,” he said. “Greg Ives was talking about Greg Ives Racing bringing a car, or something crazy like that. I just kind of let it go quiet. I didn’t want step on any toes, or ask anybody and have it seem like I was begging for something. I wasn’t really asking.

“Mr. Duchardt said I was going to drive the 88 in the Clash. I said ‘OK, cool.’ So, I am very thankful for the opportunity. Dale’s been so great to me. I wouldn’t be here without him. He is the one that pointed me out when he wasn’t feeling good. I feel like I owe a lot to him, and I am very thankful for him to put me in the car for this race.”

Earnhardt was in the Fox Sports booth Saturday night, and he was in the NBC Sports booth when Bowman raced at Talladega Superspeedway last October.

“(Daytona) and Talladega, more than anywhere else, that adds a lot of pressure,” Bowman said. “He is such a good superspeedway racer. I feel like I do a good job, but I don’t have the experience he has by any means.

“So just trying to do my best and really lean on him for advice when I can.T.J. (Majors) is so good at spotting these races, and these race cars that Hendrick Motorsports brings to these races are so good, I feel like we can be up front all night. But it definitely adds some pressure to have probably the best speedway racer of our time in the booth calling the race.”

Watching Friday’s Clash practice at his house in North Carolina, Earnhardt said he was slightly antsy to “be out there learning something” but added he wouldn’t want to race with another crew chief besides Ives.

“There’s plenty of opportunities to run this week, and I’ll get enough laps,” he said. “I’m not going to be short of laps, but I’m not that upset to not be running the race.

“If there’s a race going on, it feels weird when I don’t run the Xfinity race here. It feels weird, you can’t help but not have some kind of a little part of you wanting to be out there and seeing the guys out there running and maybe your cars are out there running and (thinking), ‘Man, I would have done something different right there.’ It’s hard not to feel that way a little bit.”

Alex Bowman to run The Clash for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88

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While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition, Alex Bowman will run the No. 88 in the first on-track event of 2017.

Bowman will compete in the non-points exhibition race, The Clash, on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway. Open to pole winners from the previous season, Bowman is eligible to compete in the event after earning his first career pole at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

Earnhardt is also eligible for The Clash as a past winner but Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that he would not be competing in the event.

When Earnhardt was sidelined for the final 18 races of the season, Bowman and Jeff Gordon split time in the No. 88 with Bowman piloting the car in 10 races and Gordon in eight.

“Alex did such a great job in the car this year, and I felt like he deserved another opportunity,” Earnhardt said in a team release. “When I spoke with Rick (Hendrick, owner) and the team about him driving The Clash, everyone agreed that he more than earned it, and Nationwide was 100 percent on board. I’m really grateful to him and Jeff for what they did for our team, and I’m glad Alex is getting another run with us.”

In addition to earning the No. 88 team its lone pole of the season, Bowman also earned a career-best sixth-place finish at Phoenix.

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.