2018 Daytona 500: Brad Keselowski wins Advance Auto Parts Clash

Brad Keselowski won the first race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, taking home the checkered flag in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona after starting from the rear of the field. Last year's winner and Keselowski's teammate Joey Logano came in second, while 2016 Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch came in third.

The No. 2 driver remained confident throughout all the shuffling during the 75-lap extravaganza, a confidence that was noted on Twitter hours before the race even began.

Keselowski will not earn any playoff points, or clinch a spot in the NASCAR playoffs with the win. However he will not go home empty-handed. Despite being an exhibition race, The Clash comes with a hefty purse for the winner.

Keselowski is listed as the betting favorite for next week's Daytona 500 at 7/1 according to VegasInsider. 

Austin Dillon started the race on the pole (earned position via blind draw) and quickly gave it up to Denny Hamlin. The No. 11 then instantly reengaged his on-track rivalry with Chase Elliott -- now in the No. 9 -- when the former No. 24 driver passed him for the lead. For what it's worth, the two would later draft each other in a push towards the front. 

The 27-year-old Dillon jumped back into the lead about 10 laps later and continued to shuffle with Elliott while Keselowski inched closer and closer to the front. 

Logano made the pass on Elliott for the lead on lap 24. Logano and a large portion of the field came down pit road just before the competition caution while Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman stayed out. Those drivers later came down pit road under caution.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was penalized for driving through three pit boxes and sent to the rear of the field. It wasn't a major setback for the veteran given the size of the field.

Finally making his move back to the front, Keselowski led the field to green following the yellow flag. While the group continued to shuffle between Keselowski in first and Stenhouse in last, Jamie McMurray went spinning into the wall after contact with Kurt Busch to bring out the first driver-induced caution of the 2018 season. He would later take his car to the garage.

Elliott led the field back to green on lap 38 but was immediately passed by Keselowski. 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. then made a great run up Keselowski's bumper with 34 to go and briefly took the lead before falling back due to lack of drafting partners.

Stenhouse was penalized with a little over 30 to go for making a pass below the yellow line. The No. 17 was forced to come down pit road for a pass through. 

Keselowski continued to lead the field in front of teammates Ryan Blaney and Logano and eventually put fellow Ford driver Stenhouse a lap down with less than 20 to go. The No. 2 picked up a bit of trash on its nose with less than 10 to go but it didn't prove to be an issue. 

Dillon and Elliott made the big move at the end of the race together while Blaney tried to do it by himself. It inevitably resulted in a major wreck that included Johnson and Larson, which came on the final lap of the race.

Advance Auto Parts Clash results

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Kurt Busch
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Austin Dillon
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Kevin Harvick
  10. Kyle Larson
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Jimmie Johnson
  13. Chase Elliott
  14. Martin Truex Jr.
  15. Kasey Kahne
  16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  17. Jamie McMurray

Prior to The Clash on Sunday, Alex Bowman ran an electrifying 46.002-second lap to secure the pole for next Sunday's 60th running of the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin ran a 46.132 and will start the race second. 

The remainder of the field for the Great American Race will be decided Thursday in the Can-Am duels. Starting position for each duel has been determined by Sunday's qualifying times. Odd-positioned cars will line up for the first headlined by Bowman while Hamlin will lead the even-qualified cars to green in the second duel.

Bowman has big shoes to fill this season, taking the place of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for the past 15 seasons, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The 24-year-old Bowman has 81 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts under his belt, with many coming during the 2016 season as a replacement for the then-injured Earnhardt. 

It is the second career pole of Bowman's career, with the first coming at Phoenix during the 2016 season. Danica Patrick ran 28th-fastest on Sunday, and will look to improve starting position time in Thursday's second duel.

Projected starting lineup for Can-Am Duel No. 1

  1. Alex Bowman
  2. Jimmie Johnson
  3. William Byron
  4. Daniel Suarez
  5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  6. Joey Logano
  7. Aric Almirola
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Kurt Busch
  10. Brad Keselowski
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Jamie McMurray
  13. Darrell Wallace Jr.
  14. Ty Dillon
  15. Chris Buescher
  16. Brendan Gaughan
  17. Matt DiBenedetto
  18. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  19. Mark Thompson
  20. Gray Gaulding

Projected starting lineup for Can-Am Duel No. 2

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Erik Jones
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Paul Menard
  7. Austin Dillon
  8. Clint Bowyer
  9. Kasey Kahne
  10. Trevor Bayne
  11. Kyle Larson
  12. Michael McDowell
  13. Martin Truex Jr.
  14. Danica Patrick
  15. AJ Allmendinger
  16. Justin Marks
  17. DJ Kennington
  18. David Gilliland
  19. Corey LaJoie
  20. David Ragan

As far as the Daytona 500 itself goes, the spotlight shifts from Earnhardt to the up-and-comers. Playoff contenders Chase Elliott (last year's pole winner) and Ryan Blaney along with rookies William Byron and Darrell "Bubba" Wallace will be looking to make their mark. Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are among those looking for success in their sophomore campaigns while Bowman takes over for Dale Jr. in the No. 88.

The Great American Race will also signal Patrick's farewell to NASCAR. Patrick announced before the end of last season that her final two races would be the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. The 35-year-old will be teaming up with original sponsor GoDaddy in the No. 7 for her sendoff. 

Martin Truex Jr. is preparing to begin his title defense in the same state where he won the 2017 Championship less than three months ago. The 37-year-old won eight races, including the final one at Homestead Miami-Speedway. Truex has an average finish of 18.28 at Daytona, with his best being second place in 2016. 

How to watch the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500

Location: Daytona International Speedway
Date: Sunday, Feb. 18
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Length: 200 laps/500 miles
Stage 1: Ends on lap 60
Stage 2: Ends on lap 120
Final stage: Scheduled for lap 200
TV: FOX
Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free) 

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