For the first 50-65 laps, the opening exhibition race of the year was quiet.
It’s a bit like the pre-season trials after a long three-month break.
Not only that, but it’s also the right time where teams and drivers get to experiment with a variety of strategies and lines.
They all want to make sure that these best methods will stand by them for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, 16th February.
Ryan Newman started off pole position in the No.6 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway.
But Newman fell to mid-pick from lap five onwards & was nowhere near the Top 3 ever since when Clint Bowyer pushed Martin Truex on the outside line for the race lead.
Denny Hamlin didn’t get any support to move up the field despite launching from the back of the area from 18th to 11th.
By lap 25, a competition like caution came in where some drivers went in to pit while some mainly the Chevy teams stayed out.
At the same time, Brad Keselowski was the race leader most of the time through:
- before the first Lap 25 break
- the halfway mark at around lap 38 until one of the first “The Big Ones” with ten laps left
On lap 66, Kyle Busch added so much pressure while Joey Logano tried to block him.
But that tactic went all wrong when Busch bumped Logano before they tagged Keselowski into the wall, leaving three out of contention.
With four laps left, William Byron bumped Ryan Newman sideways into Ryan Blaney, which left another mess at the start-finish straight.
Again, yes, another yellow came in on that occasion.
However, this carnage wasn’t as big as we’ve seen less than ten laps ago.
Two laps later, a resurgent Hamlin crashed down again when Chase Elliott collected him off the top at turn 3.
Going into another restart attempt for a clean finish, Elliott emulated the same strategy this time on Kyle Larson while Larson tried to maintain the lead, then another pile up made towards turn 4.
At the same time, despite Erik Jones narrowly avoiding Larson & Elliott, he too made a quick cosmetic change on the pit lane to finish the race without the engine hood.
Yes, it may not look as perfect, but the engine and race car itself still has the muscle to pull all way ahead of five other active cars to the checkered flag such as:
- Austin Dillon
- Clint Bowyer
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Newman
- Denny Hamlin (took a free pass from two laps to one down)
And after he fended off the other five, Erik Jones closed the chapter on what has been a fantastic day at The Clash with a win.
The fans wouldn’t be too happy with the so-called “Busch Crash” scenes towards the end of the race.
It can be quite scary at times, which lets the quality of racing slide downwards as worst as it can be to tag the wall.
But for most of the first 65 laps, it was quiet as well as a warm-up to get the racing feeling going with a mix of changed positions, strategy & tweaks to experiment on pit road.
And despite only seen four incident cautions, the six men wheel to wheel battle to the finish line looked to be the perfect final chapter to close the first half of the 2020 Daytona Speedweeks campaign.