The 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season got underway on Sunday afternoon with the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway. The race, which is a non-points race, was scheduled for Saturday night but was postponed to Sunday due to rain.
Joey Logano, driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford took home the win on a last-lap pass off a spinning Denny Hamlin, who had dominated the race up to that point.
Keselowski starts on pole, challenged by Hamlin
Brad Keselowski, driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Ford started on the pole, and he was able to pull in front of Hamlin to lead the first lap of the race. By Lap five, the drivers were already racing three-wide on the steep banking of Daytona International Speedway. Hamlin ran behind Keselowski until Lap eight, when he pulled out of line and made an attempt at passing Keselowski for the lead.
They proceeded to race side-by-side for the next few laps until Lap 11 when Keselowski was able to pull away and maintain his lead over the field. By Lap 13, Hamlin had fallen to third place, with Logano having made the pass for the second position.
Busch brings out the first caution of race
Keselowski was leading on Lap 17 when Kurt Busch took a wild spin into the outside wall, bringing out the first caution of the race. Busch had been running in the 11th position at the time of the crash. It started when Jimmie Johnson got very loose, and ended up clipping Busch, sending him into the wall.
Keselowski took advantage of the caution to make a pit stop, but made a mistake, as he drove through too many pit boxes, resulting in a penalty from NASCAR that required him to restart from the back of the field.
Kyle Busch, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota restarted in the lead, and was able to hold it until Lap 25, when he was one of a handful of drivers who pulled off the track to make a pit stop before the competition caution flew at the completion of the lap to signify the end of the first segment. That allowed Logano to take the lead at the end of the segment.
Under the caution, the majority of the field made pit stops, with the only ones who stayed out being the ones who pitted just before the caution flew. The overwhelming majority of drivers took fuel only, choosing to forego getting fresh tires on their cars.
Hamlin leads until Johnson brings out caution
The race went back to green on Lap 30, with Hamlin leading the field and Matt Kenseth in the second position. Hamin pulled out in front of the field thanks to a push from rookie Daniel Suarez, who restarted in third place.
While Hamlin and Suarez pulled away from the field, the rest of the drivers battled three-wide for position. By Lap 43, the field fell back into single-file, with Hamlin leading them around the track. That was the running order on Lap 49 when Johnson took a wild spin to the entrance of pit road, bringing out the third caution of the race.
Nine cars took advantage of the caution to make pit stops, with Logano leading the field down pit road. The majority of them took four tires, as well as refilling their gas tanks, allowing them to make it to the end on fuel. Hamlin led the field to the green flag on Lap 53.
He had help from Suarez, who restarted second but quickly found his way to Hamlin’s bumper, giving him a constant push around the track. By Lap 58, the field had gone back to single-file, with the top four cars all being Joe Gibbs Racing cars.
They were leading on Lap 60 when multiple cars spun out, including Martin Truex Jr., who hit the wall coming out of turn four. Chris Buescher also was involved, as Truex clipped him as he drove by.
Only three cars came down pit road, led by Kevin Harvick, who took just fuel. Kyle Larson also came down, so he could repair some damage he sustained when Truex spun out after making contact with him. Once again, Hamlin led the field to the green flag, this time on with 11 laps to go.
Suarez, who restarted second, again quickly fell down and lined up right behind Hamlin, while the top five went back to single-file racing.
Hamlin spins on last lap; Logano takes home the win
Hamlin was in the lead when the field took the white flag, but coming out of turn two, he and Logano made contact, and Hamlin spun out. NASCAR did not throw the caution, and Logano took advantage and cruised to the finish line to take the win.
Busch finished second, while rookie Alex Bowman finished in third place. Hamlin ended up finishing in 13th place. Danica Patrick finished fourth, her best finish in the race for her career.
It was Logano’s first Clash win, and the third for car owner Roger Penske.
The drivers will next be on track later Sunday afternoon when they try and qualify on the pole for next week’s Daytona 500. After that, the next races will be the Gatorade Duels on Thursday night, which serve as the qualifying races for the 500.