A prime-time, prime opportunity awaits two young drivers who are atypical entrants in Saturday night’s Advance Auto Parts Clash, the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-star style event at Daytona International Speedway.
Circumstances have placed Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez in the exclusive field that features last year’s pole winners, former Clash champions, former DAYTONA 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016 and playoff drivers from 2016. The Advance Auto Parts Clash – a non-points event – is a 75-lap/187.5-mile race split into two segments, separated by a mandatory caution period at Lap 25. The race will be broadcast live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 8 p.m. ET.
Bowman is subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports, as he did for 10 races last season when Earnhardt was sidelined due to injury. Bowman won the pole at last November’s race at Phoenix International Raceway to qualify the No. 88 for the Clash. Earnhardt has returned and will race in the Feb. 26 DAYTONA 500, but has been supportive of Bowman driving in the Clash.
“It’s another opportunity to have a lot of fun with Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “That is something I kind of tried to do all last season was just to have fun and that is what we are going to try to do on Saturday night and hopefully bring home a trophy.”
Suarez is making his debut in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition this weekend. He has taken over the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing formerly driven by Carl Edwards, who recently announced his retirement. Suarez won the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship last season, also driving for Gibbs.
The starting grid for the Advance Auto Parts Clash was determined by a blind draw on Friday in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 SKF Ford for Penske Racing, will start on the pole with 2016 DAYTONA 500 champion Denny Hamlin on the outside pole.
Prior to two early-evening Clash practice sessions Friday, qualifying was held for Saturday’s Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire, the 80-lap, 200-mile season-opening race for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
Tom Hessert, driving the No. 25 Toyota for Venturini Motorsports, posted a speed of 186.943 mph in group qualifying. Matt Tifft, who races in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, took the outside pole with a speed of 186.838 mph. Bryan Dauzat, Kyle Weatherman and Willie Mullins completed the top-five qualifiers.
Port Orange driver Michael Lira qualified 11th and Daytona Beach’s David LeBeau will start 40th with a provisional.
Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts Clash, the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 and all other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app,for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.