NASCAR unofficially begins its 2021 season on Tuesday night with the Busch Clash at Daytona, a 35-lap invitational featuring 21 of the series’ top drivers.
The Clash moves to the Daytona Road Course this year, a preview of a season that will feature seven road courses out of 36 points races.
Road Course Clash Gives Edge to Elliott
Last year, the Clash at Daytona used the oval in a 75-lap format. Erik Jones came out on top ahead of Austin Dillon after a contest marred by four wrecks over the final 22 laps, and which saw only six cars finish the race.
It remains to be seen how moving to the road course will impact the racing. There’s no practice time available beforehand, meaning that for many drivers, this will be their first time on a competitive course since last year. The Clash will begin with a 15-lap segment on the 3.61-mile course, followed by a caution period before a 20-lap conclusion to the finish.
Ryan Blaney won the pole in a draw on Monday night, with Alex Bowman joining him on the front row. Neither comes in as the favorite for the exhibition. Instead, that honor goes to defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, who enters as a +200 pick to win the Clash at Daytona, according to William Hill.
Elliott has performed well historically on road courses, with five of his 11 career victories coming away from ovals. With the number of road races more than doubling this year, he stands to benefit, though Elliott says he’s not focused on that heading into the season.
“There’s not been one part of me that watched the schedule change, saw seven road courses and thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got it now,’” Elliott told reporters on Monday. “That’s just not how I am. The schedule is what it is. I don’t enjoy having any more or less road courses. I really don’t care where we go. At the end of the day, you have to be good everywhere, and I want to be good everywhere.”
Truex Aims to Bounce Back from Disappointing 2020
Martin Truex Jr. (+400) comes into the Clash at Daytona looking to rebound from what qualifies as a down year for the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Truex won just one race and failed to qualify for the Championship 4 after a loose wheel derailed him at Martinsville Speedway during the Round of 8 playoffs.
|Busch Clash at Daytona Odds (via William Hill)|
|Chase Elliott: +200||Martin Truex Jr.: +400|
|Denny Hamlin: +800||Ryan Blaney: +850|
|Brad Keselowski: +1000||Alex Bowman: +1200|
|Kevin Harvick: +1300||William Byron: +1400|
|Kyle Busch: +1400||Joey Logano: +1500|
“Last year did not go the way we wanted,” Truex told reporters on Friday. “We had a lot of close calls and had some races we probably should have won and things didn’t go the way we needed to, or we screwed them up. That always makes you angry and makes you want to go back and redo it or retry it. I think we are better prepared this year, for sure, as a unit.”
While there are no points on the line, the 21 drivers in the Busch Clash at Daytona will compete for a prize pool of more than $1 million. Denny Hamlin (+800), Ryan Blaney (+850), and Brad Keselowski (+1000) are also top contenders to win on Tuesday night.