Welcome back, NASCAR. We missed you.
It may not bring the continuous thrills that the 2.5-mile, high-banked oval brings, but the NASCAR Cup Series unofficially returns Tuesday night with the annual preseason opener in the Busch Clash. For the first time in the event’s history, the 3.56-mile road course will be used to kickoff Daytona “Speedweek”, not “Speedweeks.”
With a lot of familiar faces in new places, and new teams joining the Cup Series fold as well, the Clash will be a good introduction for fans who don’t pay much attention to offseason news and for those trying to get into NASCAR. With all that being said, let’s look at three aspects for why you should tune into Fox Sports 1 Tuesday evening.
Chase Elliott’s road-course dominance
The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott has not lost a road-course race since winning at Watkins Glen in 2019. Yes, Martin Truex Jr. was the last non-Elliott to win at a road course, which dates all the way back to June 23, 2019 at Sonoma Raceway. Since the Glen in 2019, Elliott rattled off three-straight wins at road courses at the Charlotte Roval (2x) and of course, the Daytona road course last summer.
Elliott will start the Clash from the seventh position.
Same faces, but new places
While not every driver will be competing in the Clash, there will be three drivers participating with different teams Tuesday.
First, Alex Bowman moves from the No. 88 to the No. 48, which was formerly driven by seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. Safe to say, the pressure will be on Bowman as he attempts to bring the 48 back to prominence after three-straight underwhelming seasons.
Erik Jones was replaced at Joe Gibbs Racing by Christopher Bell and will be behind the wheel of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 car for the 2021 season. The team hasn’t produced a playoff contender in recent years, but Jones should be talented enough to have the team fighting for a spot in the Round of 16 come September.
Lastly, Ty Dillon will debut the brand-new 23XI Racing team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan. Bubba Wallace will run the single-car team full time in 2021, but Dillon’s journey back to the Cup Series begins with this race. Dillon does not have a full-time ride for 2021.
Preparation for points race on Feb. 21
These 21 drivers will have an upper hand on the rest of the field for the second race of the season, which will be on the road course. The aero package is different for 2021 as the Cup Series will use the low-downforce package, which will make the entrances in turn one, the backstretch chicane and the frontstretch chicane a must-watch affair with the high speeds.
The green flag for the Busch Clash is scheduled for 7:14 p.m. EST. FS1 will provide TV coverage while the Motor Racing Network will carry your audio needs. The race will be 35 laps long with a competition caution on lap 15.
Pit stall assignments:
Fuel window: 25 laps