What’s old is new again: The “Clash” returns to Daytona

(NASCAR)
(NASCAR)
(NASCAR)

The season opening non-points exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway will be called “The Clash” starting in 2017 NASCAR announced Wednesday. The invitation only race began in 1979 as the Busch Clash, then the Bud Shootout from 1998-2000, the Budweiser Shootout from 2001-2012, and finally the Sprint Unlimited from 2013-2016.

With sponsor Sprint leaving the sport at the end of 2016, NASCAR now kick off its 2017 season with The Clash at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.

The event will be broadcast live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 8 p.m. ET. 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.”

Unlike previous years, the starting field for the 2017 Clash at Daytona will not be a predetermined number of cars; rather, the field is limited to drivers who meet more exclusive criteria. Only drivers who were 2016 Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016, and drivers who qualified for the 2016 Chase are eligible.  Currently that gives the field 20 spots.

Eligible drivers are:

2016 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 Pole Award winners (1)
•          Danica Patrick

2016 Chase drivers (3)
•          Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray

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