With the return of the Advanced Auto Parts Clash at DAYTONA, let’s take a closer look at some of the most memorable moments in the history of the race.
1979: The First Clash
NASCAR’s first iteration of an star powered, big money event to kick off the regular season came in 1979. Only previous pole winners from the 1978 season were allowed to compete, allotting a field of just nine starting cars.
With the race champion set to walk away with a $50,000 winner’s purse, it was full-throttle from the green to checkered in the twenty-lap inaugural race.
“I can just see it now, with all nine cars coming to the finish line side-by side,” said Cale Yarborough at the time. “With that kind of money on the line, just about anything is possible.”
Buddy Baker, who had not won a race since 1976 at Talladega Superspeedway, ran the track at an blistering average pace of 194.385 mph. He won the race by an entire car length after leading eighteen of the twenty laps, beating out Darrell Waltrip in the 15-minute, 30-second race.
1991: The Most Dominant Clash
DAYTONA’s all-time winningest driver, Dale Earnhardt Sr., is also the winningest driver in the history of the Advance Auto Parts Clash, with six career victories, spanning from 1980 to 1995. The 1991 race was a prime example of his dominance at DAYTONA as he managed to win two first-place purses within one event.
The 1991 Advance Auto Parts Clash was run under a brand new set of rules, breaking at 10 laps for a “half-time” period. At the close of the 10th lap a caution flag was issued and $100,000 was dispersed among the field based on position. Pit stops were allowed and adjustments were made, before drivers then hit the track again – this time in an inverted racing order.
Earnhardt tore through the initial 25 miles, taking first place and setting himself in the back of the pack. Despite starting at the back of the field, “The Intimidator” gave a first-hand display of his driving prowess as he powered his way to the front of the field, moving his way up from 15th, just two laps into the second half of the race.
Overall, Earnhardt led from laps 2-10, and again from laps 12-20, putting to rest any doubts about his talents at taming DAYTONA’s famous 2.5-mile tri-oval.
1987: The Fastest Clash
To this day, Bill Elliott’s 197.802 mph race stands as the quickest running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash. He led the field for 13 of the 20 laps in the race’s early format, beating out Geoff Bodine by a car length to take the checkered flag. Not only was it the fastest running in the history of the race, but to that point, it was the fastest in the history of American Stock Car Racing.
A week later, things proved no different as Elliott won the DAYTONA 500 and put down the fastest qualifying lap in track history at an incredible 210.364 mph.
2012: The Closest Clash
Kyle Busch just barely nudged out Tony Stewart in the 2012 running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash, winning the race by a margin of .013 seconds – the smallest margin of victory since the race’s inception in 1979.
“Man, it was a fun race,” Busch said. “It was intense. Guys pushing all the time, them pushing on you, pushing five rows deep, everybody squirrelly, the back end of the cars being real light. It was a great race from my seat, hopefully it was from everybody else’s.”
The 82-lap race saw twenty-six lead changes by thirteen different drivers as Busch, who had spent most much of the race playing catch-up, masterfully guided himself through a race filled several obstacles. He finally passed Stewart on the outside after the duo came out of Turn 4 for the final time, just edging him out at the line.
2003: The First Night Clash
A constantly evolving star powered event, the Advanced Auto Parts Clash has known many formats over the years. In 2003, for the very first time, the race was moved from its traditional Sunday afternoon slot to a spot on Saturday night in prime-time under the lights.
The 70-lap format included a halftime after the first 20 laps and a decrease in fuel size to add more competition. None of the adjustments seemed to bother Dale Earnhardt Jr., who made a late-race charge to the front, making his move by passing an astonishing 18 cars to wrestle the lead from Jeff Gordon on the 66th lap. The race proved to be a pre-cursor of things to come as just a year later Dale Jr. would pull into Gatorade Victory Lane in 2004 with his first career DAYTONA 500 victory.
Did we leave out any of your favorite races? If so, let us know in the comment box below.
The Advance Auto Parts Clash is back! What is your favorite memory of the Advance Auto Parts Clash? Let us know in the comment box below. Don’t miss out on the historic return of this beloved all-start event! Guarantee your spot today by going online or calling 1-800-PITSHOP!