Track Talk: Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

The boys (and cars) are back in town!

The boys (and cars) are back in town!

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR and predict the winner of Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona!

This weekend, our panelists Ashley Hobbs, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyKayla Sturm and Stephen Conley muse about the Clash as a test session for the Daytona 500 and the potential for a three-peat pole winning effort for Chase Elliott.

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Question 1
Flyin' Ryan is a Menards and Penske man.

Flyin’ Ryan is a Menards and Penske man.

Teams often see the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona as a great test session for the Daytona 500.  Will this observation hold true for this year given the new Chevrolet Camaro and some of the new faces we’ll see this season?

Sturm :  Honestly, I have no idea. It’d be easier to say if there hadn’t been so many changes. Between the new faces, everyone switching teams, and the new Camaro body, I think a lot is going to be different.

This is one of those adjustment years, considering there’s been other changes as well such as the pit crew losing a member. Drivers and teams are getting used to all the changes and I don’t think they quite know what to expect either.

It’s hard to say what’s going to happen, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Bowman :  I think any time taken on track in race set-up will be a great test session for all teams. This will be especially true for the Chevy teams to see if there are many differences in how the new Camaro runs in the draft.

It will be interesting to see how the feel varies in pack racing vs. maybe a two or three car break away.  I will be eager to see if there are some teams that take this as an opportunity to experiment a little before the Daytona 500 or if they go in solely focused on winning The Clash.

Hobbs :  It is indeed a test session for Daytona. But, it is also a chance to get the first taste of victory of the year. While it may not be a race that pays points, it sets the tone for the week. In the case of Chevy, they have something new going on, so this is when they really want to look at as much data as possible to help them really tune in for “The Great American Race.”

Cassidy : I love watching everyone readjust to racing after the offseason, including the fans. The Clash gives a great insight as to what we can expect for the season to come, so this year will be no different.

Conley :  I think with the way technology is now, the way the cars are designed, and how close they are to race ready when they show up, the Clash is now more of a warm up. It’s all about getting on track and taking the first checkered flag of he season.  I’m sure they will learn a few things that transfer, like tires, the draft, and engine temps.

Shoppe :  I believe the Clash will be a decent indicator to what we can expect in the Daytona 500. As far as contenders for the big race, I don’t see it telling us much about what to expect for the season as a whole.

Additionally, the new Camaro will be a big point of interest in Daytona but we won’t really see where it stands until we go to Atlanta. As for the new faces, most aren’t in The Clash like William Byron in the 24, Alex Bowman in the 88, or Bubba Wallace in the 43.

However, this preseason event will be our first look at Ryan Blaney in the Penske No. 12, Erik Jones in the Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20, as well as Kasey Kahne in the Leavine Family Racing No. 95!

Question 2
"Say, bud, if you win the 500 pole, can I get a hug?"

“Say, bud, if you win the 500 pole, can I get a hug?”

Hendrick Motorsports has won the past three Daytona 500 pole positions (Jeff Gordon in 2015 and Chase Elliott in 2016-’17).  Does this trend continue in 2018 or might we see a surprising pole winner on Sunday afternoon?

Sturm :  I don’t think any of the Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers are going to capture the pole for the 500. I think it’s going to be a Joe Gibbs Racing driver – more specifically, Kyle Busch.

Bowman :  By no means would it surprise me if Hendrick Motorsports gained another pole. However, there are a lot of other contenders in the field. While, it is impossible to predict who is going to post the fastest lap this Sunday – I will say, that I would be surprised to see Chase Elliott go back to back to back for Daytona 500 poles.

Hobbs :  With the unknown of the new Chevy body, anything is possible. If they can bring the speed, they are just as capable as anyone else in the field who has the speed. But if speed from past season at restrictor plates is any indication, then HMS surely has the target on their back.

Cassidy :  Although the team’s talented line up wise, I think they will need the stars to align perfectly if they want to make this four Daytona 500 poles in a row. Look for an underdog to steal the pole for 2018.

Conley :  I’d like to say it could be Chase, but there are still to many questions with the Camaro. I believe Toyota will kick off the same way the ended 2017. Don’t be surprised to see Truex and Kyle Busch on the front row.

Shoppe :  With the Chevy Camaro body being such an unknown, I bet many will say this is the year their streak of Daytona 500 poles comes to an end. However, I see this continuing. I pick Alex Bowman to win the pole in his first race back behind the wheel of the No. 88!

Solid two lap effort by the TPF Track Talk team in anticipation of the Clash at Daytona!  Keeping in the spirit of this quick race, here’s our projected winners for this Daytona tradition!
This year's Cup field does their best Mega Man boss selection screen.

This year’s Cup field does their best Mega Man boss selection screen.

Tiongson :  Look for Ryan Blaney to become the unofficial first winner of 2018 in his No. 12 Menards Ford.

Cassidy :  Give me that random guy that drives that new 12 car – Ryan Blaney.

Conley :  Winner will be Ryan Blaney on Sunday.

Sturm :  My pick to win The Clash is Kyle Busch.

Bowman :  My gut is telling me to pick Erik Jones.

Hobbs :  Picking a Clash winner is like picking a ball at random out of a bowl! Though, a bit of skill is involved, I like the way Chase Elliott raced last year. And the kid is due for his first win.

Shoppe :  Kyle Larson shines his way to Victory Lane on Sunday!

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.  For you, Spock!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, you'll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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