DAYTONA - The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season gets started this weekend with The Clash at Daytona on Sunday afternoon. This non-points event features pole-winners from the 2018 season, along with former Clash winners, former Daytona 500 race and pole-winners who competed full-time last year, and playoff qualifiers from a season ago. This event has been run in one form or another since 1979.
THE BIG DEBUT
The wait is almost over for Ford fans as the highly anticipated debut of the NASCAR Mustang takes place this weekend in Daytona. Nine Mustang's will take to the track for the first time during Daytona Clash practice Saturday morning while the entire stable will debut Sunday afternoon for Daytona 500 qualifying and then make their competition debut with the Clash race later the same day.
There are 20 drivers entered in Sunday afternoon’s Clash and nine of those will be driving the new Ford Mustang for the first time in competition. Four Ford organizations will be represented, including all of the drivers that make up Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing. Defending series champion Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Blaney (Team Penske) will join Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez (SHR) in the field. Rounding out the Ford contingent is Ryan Newman, who will be making his return to Ford and debut with Roush Fenway Racing, and Paul Menard, who won the pole for Wood Brothers Racing last year at Chicagoland Speedway.
KESELOWSKI LOOKING TO DEFEND
In a foreshadowing of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Brad Keselowski took Ford to Victory Lane in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Keselowski led a Ford sweep of the top four finishing positions as he took the lead on lap 39 of the 75-lap feature and never looked back, holding off Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney, respectively. It marked the second straight Clash win for Ford and served as a springboard that saw the Blue Oval lead the series with 19 points wins and capture the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
LOGANO BREAKS CLASH DROUGHT
Joey Logano snapped a 13-year Ford winless drought when he won The Clash in 2017, making him the manufacturer’s first victor since Dale Jarrett in 2004. Logano found himself in the right place at the right time, taking the lead after Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski made contact on the final lap. Keselowski had a run and was trying to pass Hamlin, whose attempt at blocking came too late and resulted in both cars colliding. That enabled Logano to get through and win the Clash for the first time in his career. Four Ford drivers finished in the top six spots as Danica Patrick was fourth, Kevin Harvick fifth and Keselowski sixth.
ELLIOTT CLAIMS FORD’S FIRST CLASH VICTORY AT DAYTONA
Bill Elliott became the first Ford driver to win a non-points event in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Feb. 8, 1987 in what was then known as the Busch Clash. The format that year was a single 20-lap run (50 miles) with no pit stop required. Elliott, who started on the pole in his No. 9 Coors Thunderbird after a blind draw, fell back to sixth on the start after Terry Labonte and Ricky Rudd were involved in an accident on the first lap. On the ensuing restart, Elliott steadily reeled in leader Darrell Waltrip and passed him on lap eight. Elliott led the final 13 laps and won with an average speed of 197.802 mph, a record that still stands for the event. A week later, Elliott won his second Daytona 500.
TAURUS WINS DEBUT AS RUSTY WINS INAUGURAL BUD SHOOTOUT
Taurus made NASCAR history as the first four-door sedan and it wasted no time in opening eyes as Rusty Wallace drove it to victory in its debut race – the 1998 Bud Shootout. The win was Wallace’s first at Daytona International Speedway and it came with a little help from his younger brother, Kenny, who pushed him across the finish line on the final lap. Bill Elliott and Jimmy Spencer finished third and fourth, respectively, to give Ford a sweep of the top four positions.
DJ HOLDS OFF JR FOR SHOOTOUT TRIUMPH
Dale Jarrett won his third Budweiser Shootout on Feb. 7, 2004 in his No. 88 UPS Taurus. The race was broken up into two segments – an initial 20-lap run followed by a 50-lapper to the finish – and marked the beginning of Nextel as series sponsor. Jarrett and Kevin Harvick were side-by-side at the white flag, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Jarrett the push he needed to complete the pass on the outside going through turn one. Even though Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray got into an accident on the backstretch, the race finished under green with Jarrett holding off Earnhardt Jr. for the win.
FORD GOING FOR THREE STRAIGHT
Ford has won The Clash at Daytona nine times by seven different drivers, including the last two by Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. The best stretch for Ford in the event undoubtedly came during a three-year winning streak in which Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett all reached victory lane from 1998-2000. Jarrett owns three of Ford’s eight victories (1996, 2000, 2004) in the event and on two of those occasions (1996 and 2000) he went on to win the Daytona 500. As noted above, Bill Elliott was Ford’s first winner in the event while Geoffrey Bodine was next in 1992.
FORD’S CLASH AT DAYTONA WINNERS
1987 – Bill Elliott
1992 – Geoffrey Bodine
1996 – Dale Jarrett
1998 – Rusty Wallace
1999 – Mark Martin
2000 – Dale Jarrett
2004 – Dale Jarrett
2017 – Joey Logano
2018 – Brad Keselowski