Daytona Speedweeks begins this week, with 17 drivers set to square off in Saturday night’s Advance Auto Parts Clash, which takes place at 8 p.m. ET with live television coverage on FS1.
Sunday at 3 p.m. on FOX is Daytona 500 qualifying, which will set the front row only, with the remaining 38 starting positions to be decided in the Can-Am Duel qualifying races Thursday night.
With the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season at hand, time to play a little game we call Daytona Speedweeks: Fact or fiction?
Win the Clash, win the 500
Fiction: Only five drivers have won the Clash and the Daytona 500 in the same season: Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996, 2000), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Denny Hamlin (2016).
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Cinderellas win the pole
Fact: The last four years have produced remarkable Daytona 500 pole-winning stories: Danica Patrick won it in 2013 as a rookie, the only woman to qualify No. 1 at Daytona. Austin Dillon won it the next year — also has a rookie — in the first return of the No. 3 since Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001. Jeff Gordon won it in his final season of 2015 and Gordon’s replacement, rookie Chase Elliott won the pole last year.
That sets up for another Cinderella story this time around — maybe Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon or in his triumphant return to NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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The Clash format frequently changes
Fact: Since the inaugural Clash was run in 1979, the format for this race has changed 14 times.
Earnhardt owned the Clash
Fact: The late, great Dale Earnhardt won the Advance Auto Parts Clash a record six times, which is twice as many victories as anyone else in this race. Earnhardt’s average finish in the Clash was a mind-boggling 2.75.
Four drivers have won the Clash three times each: Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.
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Daytona trifecta is doable
Fiction: In the entire history of Daytona International Speedway, only once has one driver won the Advance Auto Parts Clash, the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 in the same season. That was NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison in 1982.
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The Clash will be a crash-fest
Fact: With no points on the line, the Advance Auto Parts Clash has turned into checkers-or-wreckers in recent years. It’s win or nothing, so you will see drivers take chances in the Clash that they wouldn’t dream of doing in the Daytona 500 or even the Can-Am Duel qualifying races.
Starting on the pole matters
Fiction: The winner of the Advance Auto Parts Clash has started the race from the pole just four times: Darrell Waltrip (1981), Bill Elliott (1987), Ken Schrader (1989) and Denny Hamlin (2014).
Clash cars are disposable
Fact: The teams save their best superspeedway cars for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race. The top teams wouldn’t dare run their 500 cars in the Advance Auto Parts Clash for fear of crashing them out.
So in the Clash, you’ll see even the top teams run last year’s superspeedway car or maybe this year’s Daytona 500 backup car.
The Daytona 500 will be more intense this year
Fiction: The addition of bonus points for leading the first two stages of the Daytona 500 are an inducement to be more aggressive. On the other hand, NASCAR has said crashed cars can’t be repaired in the garage and returned to the race.
As a result, the first half of the 500 might actually be calmer and more conservative than normal. But in the final 20 laps, expect all hell to break loose, just like always.
Chevrolet dominates the Clash
Fact and fiction: In 38 years of the Advance Auto Parts Clash, Chevrolets have won 20 times, most recently with Kevin Harvick in 2013. But Toyota has won the last three Clashes with Denny Hamlin in 2014 and last year, and Matt Kenseth in 2015. Kyle Busch also won for Toyota in 2012.
The real laggard here is Ford, which hasn’t won the Clash since Dale Jarrett (above) was victorious in 2004.