Kyle Busch only led less than 1/4-lap, but it was the best 1/4 lap to lead in The Clash at Daytona.
Run on the Daytona road course for the first time, and on a Tuesday night for the first time, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott went into the front straight chicane side-by-side on the final lap and only one car was coming out. ‘
Elliott stuffed leader Blaney into the wall and Kyle Busch, running right behind the two leaders in third, saw the hole he needed, dove to the inside and took the lead in his #18 Toyota.
It then was a drag race to the finish with Busch getting there 0.765s before Elliott to take the checkered flag and the win to kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Busch led only the last of 35 laps in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, winning the Clash for the second time.
Defending Cup Series champion Elliott placed second, driving away from contact with Blaney in the final chicane. Joey Logano finished third with Tyler Reddick and William Byron rounding out the top five in order.
Elliott had dropped to the rear for the start because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He prevailed in the series’ only other appearance on the 3.61-mile Daytona circuit, winning a points-paying race at the track last August as part of his current four-win streak on road courses.
Elliott was strong again, leading five laps and hounding Blaney for the victory during the final circuit. But the two cars made contact, and Blaney took the worst of the damage in the outside retaining wall.
The race was not segmented into stages, but a competition caution after the 15th lap split the race into two portions. Kevin Harvick spun twice in that opening part, first looping his No. 4 Ford in the bus-stop chicane after a measure of dirt had been kicked up on the racing surface. His second off-course excursion came after a jumbled restart, complicated by Blaney’s attempt to rejoin the racing line after overshooting Turn 1.
Martin Truex Jr. led on two occasions but found trouble each time, shortly after going to the front. He was the leader at the competition-caution break, but he skipped the track’s final chicane during the caution period while looking for the pace car to pick up the field. His No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota restarted the race at the rear of the pack after the penalty. “I don’t know why I did that,” Truex said. “Terrible job, sorry.”
He was apologetic again after crashing into the outside retaining wall, spinning while exiting the other chicane and sustaining heavy damage. He finished 20th in the 21-car field.
Winner KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Quotes
What did you think when you saw what happened on the last corner there?
“I knew to keep my head down and keep focus ahead and see if I could keep hitting my marks to get close enough to have a shot like that – if something like that were to materialize. Fortunately, it did for us. I can’t say enough about Ben Beshore (crew chief) and this whole M&M’s team – this new M&M’s team. I appreciate what they do for me, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, TRD. It’s awesome to start off the year with a win a non-points win, but I would love nothing more than to be right here this Sunday.”
First race with Ben Beshore as your Cup crew chief. It seems like a pretty good start there.
“Not too bad. I’ve been through a couple crew chiefs, and it always seems to go well for a little while and then it kind of fizzles out. It is what it is in the sport of racing, but we had a great car here tonight. We worked a lot of time over the wintertime focusing on what we could do for this race to know we needed to get better for race number two in two weeks.”
How would you describe the last set of turns?
“I didn’t know how it was going to play out or what was going to happen there, but I saw those guys go in there two-wide, and I was like, I don’t know if they’re going to come out two-wide. Certainly, it was a tough battle between those two. They were really good. The 9 (Chase Elliott) was fast, I don’t know if he was the class of the field, but the 12 (Ryan Blaney) was definitely just fast and made aggressive moves and was doing a good job all night getting himself back up to the front each time. Those two coulda, shoulda, woulda been the two to race it out for the win and maybe the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.). Just interesting how that plays out sometimes and what dynamic will push you into victory lane. Here we are with our M&M’s Toyota. Thanks to TRD, Interstate Batteries and Rowdy Energy Drink and everybody that gets us here. Appreciate Ben Beshore (crew chief) and all my new 18 guys for this year.”
How important is it to get to victory lane and get a good start to the season with a new team?
“It’s nice to have good runs. Obviously, winning cures all. I’m not sure that we’re mature enough or we’re ready enough in order to win as a group, but I feel like this is a good start anyways. Obviously, winning never hurts anything, but there is some stuff for us to get a little bit better on, for us to grow on. This is a good start. Doing the work that we did to prepare for this event and getting us in the right spot to be able to win tonight was what its all about. Good all around.”
Are there things you can apply in two weeks from tonight’s race?
“Yeah, that was definitely the focus on this race. It’s like a test session, it’s like our practice. Definitely, I feel like we have a strong car and I think we have a strong program and balance right here. There’s still some things that could be a little bit better. The 9 (Chase Elliott) was definitely beating me on the brakes, getting into the turns and just being able to out-brake me. I just didn’t quite have enough for that.”
2nd place Chase Elliott
You Led Four Laps Tonight And Came From The Back. It Was A Fun Show. We Know You And Ryan Blaney Are Good Buddies, But He’s Got The Wrecked Race Car. How Do You Balance That Together?
“Yeah, and neither one of us won. That’s the big one. I was close enough to drive it in there and I feel like I’d be mad at myself for not at least trying. Obviously, I don’t mean to wreck anybody, especially him. Some guys I wouldn’t mind. But he’s not one of them. Hopefully he’s not too mad at me. I feel like you’ve got to go for it here in an event like this in any situation. I can’t be sorry about going for the win, but I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him. I drove in there and, just that corner gets so tight and I didn’t want to just completely jump the curb to the right. But I feel like I tried to get over there as far as I could. And at that point we were coming together at the same time. I hate it. We had a fast Chevrolet in a position to have a shot at it. We’ll try again on Sunday.”
Blaney said he was surprised Elliott was able to even make the race as close as it was, considering Blaney’s Ford had fresher tires.
“A race is a race. I don’t care if it’s an exhibition race or a normal points race. I don’t care about that. It’s racing, but I was upset about it, for sure. Chase and I know each other well. I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but sending it off in there hard like anybody would do it’s just a shame we both got taken out or neither one of us won the race. If you’re gonna make a move like that make sure you either win the race, don’t let the third-place guy do it.”
“I hate it happened too, it didn’t work out for either of us,” said Blaney, who started from the pole position and ultimately ended up 13th. “We were just racing hard and I had a little bit fresher tires there. We saved a set [of tires] and got back to second there. His car was really good, I had to use up a lot to get to him. I tried to protect and drove into that last corner really deep to make sure I didn’t get dive-bombed like that. But we just came together.”
“Of course he didn’t mean to wreck me, but I ended up wrecked,” Blaney said later, in the post-race media conference. “I told him if you’re going to make a move like that, at least win the race.”
Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “Perseverance – just keep fighting. it’s a small field so you can always come back. All of the cars run off the road in the bus stop and got my grille packed full of mud. It’s not even grass back there, it’s just mud so I felt like I was dirt racing again. And then we got that cleaned out and was getting close to being in position to win it, I don’t understand the call NASCAR made there. I’ve got to talk to them. That’s a move that’s been made for the 10 years, 11 years I’ve been doing this. I don’t know why it’s not ok now. I just want consistent officiating. That’s all I’m looking for, so just trying to understand that a little bit better. It might be on me, I’ve got to look at it. And then we fought. We got close. I just ran out of tires there at the end and tires ended up passing us.”
Tyler Reddick – Finished 4th: “Tonight was all about shaking the rust off and learning as much as we could in our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for next week’s race at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. We had a fast car tonight, and I learned a lot about what I need. It was great to lead laps and be up front, but there is definitely still work to be done. Pit road was one of the most challenging parts of the NASCAR Cup Series last year, and I’m still working hard to be better at it this year. We were also a touch tight all around, but we’ll regroup and see what we can change before we return. Overall, it was a good night for us. I had fun, and I think we learned some valuable things for the points-paying Daytona Road Course race in a week.”
William Byron – Finished 5th: “We had an eventful night for sure. We had the pit stop issue that we had to fight back from and were still able to finish fifth. Good job to the team to be able to rally. (Crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) made awesome adjustments to make us better. We started off the race surprisingly kind of off and we were able to work on it and make it better. To finish fifth overall is good. We know what we need to work on for when we get back here in a couple weeks.”
Alex Bowman – Finished 7th: “I really think we could have been in contention to win tonight. Those speeding penalties on pit road hurt us a little, but this Ally team really helped make adjustments and get the car back toward the front. Even after those penalties, we were still in contention to be up front. We learned a lot that we can bring back for next weekend’s road course race. Now it’s time to get focused on the oval and qualifying tomorrow night.”
Austin Dillon – Finished 11th: “We learned some things tonight in the No.3 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We used the beginning of the race to work on picking up overall speed. We got into our groove and it was good to race up front and battle in the top-five. It was wild out there tonight. The whole exit to the chicane was filled with dirt from cars going off course and sliding around the track. On that last restart we all went three-wide and I got punted and shut out. We ended up finishing 11th, but we definitely learned a lot that we can use next week when we race on the road course again. We’ve come a long way from where we were a year ago.”
Aric Almirola – Finished 12th: “We learned a lot tonight. We tried some things for the road course race in a few weeks and found speed that will hopefully carry over. Our Smithfield pit crew team did a great job tonight. It’s good to be back racing.”
Brad Keselowski – Finished 17th: “Not the finish we wanted tonight in our MoneyLion Ford. I tried something a little different in the bus stop and it didn’t work. We’ll learn from it and get ready for the Daytona 500.”
Cole Custer – Finished 20th: “I felt like we were having a pretty good run in our HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang. The adjustments we were making were definitely helping, and we were gaining track position. I’m not sure what happened when I stopped after missing the chicane. The good news is we learned a lot that we can work on for next week (on the road course), and now we can focus on the Daytona 500.”
Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 21st: “I just overshot the bus stop a little bit and hit that mud that was there. It was worse than the laps before, so just caught me off guard. I actually slowed down from the lap before going through there and once it got in the bus stop turned back to the right, it was gone. It’s been a tough night with that mud there, but I made a big mistake early on and it cost us the lead and we had to come from the back. Honestly, I beat the car to pieces trying to get there. It was fun; it was a lot of fun getting through the field, just wish we could have closed it out for DeWalt, coming on for the first time.”
The Clash Results
|9||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Chevy||Running||35||0|
|21||19||Martin Truex Jr||Toyota||Accident||27||2|