Although the Daytona 500 famously opens the NASCAR Cup Series season, Sunday's race isn't the first time drivers will compete at Daytona International Speedway.
The season actually starts with the Clash, an exhibition race set for Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, FS1).
23XI Racing — Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin's new team making its debut this year — will have a car compete in the preseason race on Daytona's road course, but Ty Dillon, not full-time driver Bubba Wallace, will be behind the wheel, the team announced last week.
Here's a breakdown of what's going on:
What is NASCAR's Clash?
The Clash – this year officially named the Busch Clash At DAYTONA – is a preseason exhibition event during the week leading up to the Daytona 500.
In the past, the Clash has been the weekend before the Daytona 500, but this year, it's Tuesday, February 9. It's a 35-lap race, and instead of being held on the iconic 2.5-mile oval, it's on Daytona's 14-turn, 3.61-mile road course.
The road course is relatively new to the Cup Series still after making its debut in August because of scheduling changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
See you at The Clash, @root_insurance!
February 9 | 7 PM ET | @FS1pic.twitter.com/S1smFB67pW
Do all NASCAR drivers get to compete in the Clash?
No, only certain drivers are eligible for the exhibition event. There are several ways drivers can qualify, including:
- Previous Clash winners who ran full-time seasons in 2020
- Daytona 500 champions who ran full-time seasons in 2020
- Previous Daytona 500 pole winners who ran full-time seasons in 2020
- 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers
Another way drivers can qualify for the Clash is by being the pole winner for any race in 2020. However, because the COVID-19 pandemic led to shortened weekends without traditional qualifying for the majority of last season's races.
So now, drivers who won any race stages in 2020 are eligible as well. And that brings us to Ty Dillon.
Why is Ty Dillon driving Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing's car in the Clash?
Bubba Wallace is not among the 24 drivers eligible to compete in the Clash, but Ty Dillon is. Dillon won one race stage in 2020 during the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October, and with the new qualifying criteria, that gives him the option to run the Clash.
Pumped to wheel the @root_insurance Camry in the Clash and help the @23XIRacing team get started on the right foot! Thankful for the opportunity. pic.twitter.com/d9qyZ32tQZ
Why doesn't Ty Dillon run the Clash in his own car then?
After four full-time season in the Cup Series, Dillon is without a ride at NASCAR's top level. His previous team, Germain Racing, closed up shop after the 2020 season, and he'll attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing.
Dillon is also one of several drivers who will compete in a handful of races in the second-tier Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. So basically, Dillon can compete in the Clash but doesn't have a Cup car.
Can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a Supra! Great opportunity with @JoeGibbsRacing and I’m excited for @DAYTONA. https://t.co/AYa8Oki40H
In its debut season, 23XI Racing has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, so it makes sense that the brand-new team would tap a Gibbs driver without a ride to get behind the wheel for the preseason exhibition race. Plus, it could help 23XI Racing prepare for the second in-season race, which is also on Daytona's road course.
Source: Read Full Article