Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez’s Clash status should be same
Both Daniel Suarez and Clint Bowyer are replacing “retired” drivers in 2017, with Bowyer inheriting the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford from team co-owner Tony Stewart and Suarez climbing into the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota upon Carl Edwards’ announcement that he’ll step away from racing for the upcoming season. Both Stewart and Edwards were qualified for the 2017 Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway next month, Edwards by 2016 pole wins and Chase entrance and Stewart by making last year’s Chase and being a past winner of the Clash. But here’s the rub — NASCAR has given its blessing to Suarez by allowing him to enter the 2017 Clash, based on Edwards’ qualifications, but Bowyer will be on the outside looking in, despite his predecessor’s qualifications.
According to NASCAR, the decision to allow Suarez to enter the Chase but not Bowyer is based on the timing of Edwards’ announcement in relation to Stewart’s. By the time Edwards made his announcement, JGR already had a car prepared, complete with sponsorship backing, for this year’s Clash.
Meanwhile, SHR has known of Stewart’s retirement at the end of 2016 since sometime in 2015. As a result, the team had no reason to prep a No. 14 entry for the Clash.
Where’s the justice? Should the timing of a now-former driver’s announcement of retirement or his stepping away of competition for at least a season be a determining factor for other drivers’ Clash status? I don’t think so. That may sound harsh, but that timing and the results of it shouldn’t be of NASCAR’s concern.
Suarez and Bowyer have the specific 2017 rides they have for the same reason; they’re cars’ respective former drivers both stepped away from driving full-time at NASCAR’s Cup level, either permanently or for at least the upcoming season. With both of those drivers Clash qualified but the replacement drivers not on their own merit, I think Suarez and Bowyer’s Clash status should be the same; either they should both be in, or they should both be out. I don’t really car which, but those are the only two reasonable calls.
Besides, isn’t Clash qualification tied to drivers, not the race team? That seems to hold true in the case of Stewart-Haas Racing and Bowyer. But in the case of Suarez and JGR, Clash status seems tied to JGR, not the new driver of the No. 19.
Where’s the consistency? Shouldn’t what’s fair for one be fair for the other?