NASCAR’s non-points pre-season race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of the fastest racetracks – Daytona International Speedway.
The concept was driver versus driver and car versus car. No pit stop. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona Oval, speed and drafting skills were the only factors in achieving victory.
Originally, the field was made up of the title winners from the previous cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers into the Clash, and it also served as an incentive for teams to approach the playoffs a little harder. A spot in Clash next season means extra bucks in the bank.
The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, none more so than last year when it was moved from its eternal home, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short course inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
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Over the decades, nearly everything about racing has changed in one way or another, including race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship, and job title. From 1979 to 2020, the race was held on a 2.5-mile oval at Daytona and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, she switched to the road course at Daytona before leaving for the West Coast last season.
Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the clash:
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1. 2022 Few races have been as predictable as last year’s race at the Colosseum. Decades later in Daytona Beach, NASCAR has flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its best drivers and cars on a small makeshift track inside a football field. Joey Logano wonbut this was almost an insignificant fact. The race was a resounding successwhich opened the door for NASCAR to consider similar projects.
2. 2008 – how do you want Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dealing with his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly – in his first race. Junior led 46 of his 70 laps in winning what was then called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. Biggest pre-race event happened in practice like Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled in and out of the track. Both were called to a NASCAR trailer, as the accident accelerated. Both received six race tests.
3. 2012 – One of the closest finishes in Clash history occurred in a race that produced a rare – Jeff Gordon rooftop car. Kyle Bush And Gordon made contact in turn four on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto the roof. The caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart was leading on the final lap, but was passed by Kyle Busch as they pulled into the trio, winning the race by 0.013 of a second.
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4. 1984 — a race that stands out in Ricky Road’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth game but L.J Video highlights from the daytime center of Rudd’s 15th lap crash. He lost control of his car in turn 4 and swerved sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it rose off the roof and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, badly damaging it. Safety crews removed Rod from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were so swollen that he had to tape them open so he could race a few days later in the Daytona 500 Qualifiers.
5. 1980 The second game was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of the masters at Daytona International Speedway. This time he won in unusual circumstances. Auto Racing of America often shared race day racing with the Clash, such was the case in 1980. The start of the ARCA race was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the Clash also featuring the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision to halt the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt captured the Clash Cup, the ARCA race came to an end.
6. 1994 Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon scored his first Cup point win later that year at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, but he also impressed at the Clash, making a great three-point move into Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. Keep winning the race.
7. 2006 – cocky newcomer Denny Hamlin He became the first rookie to win Clash. Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart was leading with four laps to go, but a caution piled up the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had problems at Daytona his entire career, on the restart and won the race.
8. 2004 – This became a duel of the valleys. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by 157th of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-part, 70-lap race.
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9. 1979 – The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, attracted a lot of attention due to its short length (20 laps) and large payout ($50,000 to the winner). This salary seems small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest distance races per mile in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in many ways over the years, the first race was limited to the top two Cup winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the next 20 laps and won by about car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race only took 15 minutes.
10. 2020 – Looks like this is a clash that no one will win. Several massive crashes in the nearby miles devastated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for victory. Eric Joneswhose car had severely damaged the front end due to his involvement in a crash, won the race with the help of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was on a lap down in another stalled car but was tailing in the back Jones to push him to victory.