Clash Recap: Keselowski and Ford shine at Daytona

Feb 12, 2018 by Nascar Wagers

Clash Recap: Keselowski and Ford shine at Daytona

Clash Recap: Keselowski and Ford shine at Daytona
by Jay Horne of NASCARWagers.com, NASCAR Handicapping Service

Hype, anticipation, and excitement were probably the best ways to describe this past weekend’s kickoff to Daytona Speedweeks. One of the biggest topics of discussion going into the start of Speedweeks was the debut of the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro. The new body changes to the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro have received a lot of praise from team owners and drivers in hopes of improved performance this year stemming from a more aerodynamic design. Those expectations would be solidified when Alex Bowman put the #88 Chevrolet on the pole for the Daytona 500 with Chevys taking 3 of the top 5 starting spots. However, by late afternoon the focus had shifted from the Chevys to the Fords on the heels of a dominate performance in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona.

When the smoke settled, Brad Keselowski emerged from the 17 car field to capture the checkered flag in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. Despite starting in the rear of the field, Keselowski dominated the event by leading 43 of the 75 laps in a prophetic victory. Before the race began, Keselowski tweeted that they would win the race and he backed up those remarks with yet another strong restrictor plate performance. Keselowski has emerged as the Monster Energy Cup Series’ best driver on the restrictor plate tracks and Sunday’s win marked his 7 restrictor plate victory. The win further solidified Keselowski’s status as the overall favorite heading into next Sunday’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.

Somehow between the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro debut and Keselowski’s victory, the undeniable strength of the Fords has been overshadowed. I mentioned in our preview leading up to the Clash that Ford drivers won all of the restrictor plate races in 2017. Keselowski’s win on Sunday extended the streak and Ford drivers took home 4 of the top 5 finishing positions. In particular, Team Penske looked incredibly strong in the late stages of the Clash. Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano ran 1-2-3 for the majority of the closing laps. Blaney arguably had the best car in the closing laps but lost his opportunity for the victory when he stepped out of line coming to the white flag. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch was also within striking distance in those closing laps and brought home a respectable 3rd place finish.

So what can we make of Ford’s streak and dominate showing on Sunday? Is this purely coincidence or are there other forces behind their success? I believe the evidence is clear. Despite struggling on the ovals most of 2017 and having legitimate concerns going into 2018, the one clear stress relief for all of the Fords is their restrictor plate program. While Toyota and Chevrolet teams continue to lead development towards raw speed and aerodynamics, Ford teams are beating the competition with superior handling at the plate tracks. In the late stages of the Clash, cars were sliding around significantly and many drivers were complaining about the handling of their racecars. However, I did not hear one complaint from any of the Ford drivers in terms of handling. It was also clear in the postrace interviews from Blaney, Logano, Kurt Busch, and other Ford drivers that they were very happy with how their cars handled in the draft. As most are aware, Daytona is very sensitive to handling issues unlike Talladega and Fords strength in this department cannot be overlooked going into next week’s Daytona 500.

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