There was a calm before the storm, just never any storm. Brad Keselowski won the non-points Clash at Daytona International Speedway Sunday the first race of the 2018 Monster Energy Cup season.
Keselowski took the lead just after a mandatory caution period on lap 25 of the 75 lap affair with his only issue being a large piece of plastic on the front grill of his Ford in the closing laps.
“I was worried about the run but the car was way overheating there at the end,” Keselowski said. “I was more worried about it blowing up than anything else. Doug Yates and his guys did a good job giving me something real durable to take all that and keep digging.”
On the final lap a crash erupted behind him when Kyle Larson got into Jimmie Johnson entering turn 3. Still there was no real challenge for the lead as Keselowski was able to score his first win during Daytona Speedweeks.
His Team Penske teammate Joey Logano was second with Kurt Busch third, and the new third car at Penske, Ryan Blaney fourth. Austin Dillon who had led early was fifth.
“It is fun when you are up there running and you don’t know what is going to happen,” Logano said. “The suspense keeps building as you are running single-file. Three to go, two to go, here comes the white flag. When do you make the move? Do you make a move? Sometimes you make and it is never the right thing. Everything has to time out just right.”
Chase Elliott took the lead from pole sitter Dillon on lap 10, and Elliott was in control until all but five of the 17 car field pitted one lap prior to the scheduled caution flag.
Keselowski, who had started last, had the lead after the pit stops, and had the race well in hand through a restart after the race’s only other incident on lap 34 when Jamie McMurray spun exiting turn 4 after slight contact with Kurt Busch. Despite a trip through the infield grass, McMurray was able to continue; he made only a few laps however before his engine expired and he was forced to the garage.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was penalized for passing below the yellow line and given a pass through penalty and finished 16th, three laps down.
Elliott, who looked to have the car to beat early on, finished 13th.
“We had a good car, just the circumstances, the way the top kind of formed up there it just happened to be we were on the bottom at the time,” Elliott said. “I thought our car was as good as anybody’s. I mean I don’t really know what I would have done a whole lot different to change the circumstance, but happens and luckily next week is the important one.”