This year's Clash boasted a 20-driver field, with the previous season's pole winners joined by past Clash winners, past Daytona 500 winners and polesitters, and the playoff drivers from the previous season.
Byron and Bowman edged the other two Hendrick drivers: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and fan favorite Chase Elliott. "This is really special for me". "I'm ready to get more of this". I made a move and got to the inside and was side drafting him, and his auto started wobbling.
Kurt Busch drove a Ford previous year with Stewart-Haas and now he's on the receiving end while driving a Chip Ganassi Chevrolet. Thirty-six of those spots are already filled because of NASCAR's charter system.
"I think we all aggressively side draft at these tracks", Johnson said. "I can tell you this: I've been at Daytona with a lot less and ran inside the top five".
Joey Gase, Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman and Brandan Gaughan will have to race their way into the 500 during the qualifying races.
"You know, it's a transition for both of us, and we're both working through it on the professional side, but the personal side, we've been great friends for a long time." said Johnson, "Both of us want to make sure that our friendship is one that lasts a lifetime and that we're here for each other outside of - inside the racing bubble, but certainly outside with family and all the other stuff that goes with it".
Johnson's camp was equally as enthusiastic about what the strong start could mean for them, even though the Clash was a non-points race.
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"And now we put them in victory lane", Burton said.
While drafting with Brandon McReynolds to the front of the pack with two laps remaining, Gilliland ended up hitting him in the right-rear and turning him, collecting Holmes and Dean in the incident as well. Those two races were Berryhills on Cup Series races, to this point.
"Becki and I could not be prouder of William's successes, and we are excited to watch the No. 24 in action in the Daytona 500 next weekend", said Liberty President Jerry Falwell. The final tally included three victories for Elliott and no drivers in the championship-deciding finale for the second consecutive year. A new racing package in 2019 also should benefit Bowman and Byron because neither had much experience under the old rules.
"Great day for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet, " Johnson said from Daytona Victory Lane.
The most frustrating thing about watching The Clash at Daytona on Sunday was that after just one single lap, without fail, the entire field would move against the wall and form a single-file train.
Rolling off the trucks as the four fastest cars for the Daytona 500 was an important message for the carmaker and its flagship team. "I can't believe it".