The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season unofficially kicks off Saturday night with the running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Drivers eligible for the race include last year’s Chase drivers, 2016 pole sitters, former Daytona 500 pole winners and past winners of the Clash.
The weekend also includes front-row qualifying for the Daytona 500 official season opener for the Cup Series on Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is qualified for the race by virtue of being a past event winner, but has opted out, instead giving his seat to Alex Bowman, who filled-in for him last season and claimed his first-career pole at Phoenix International Raceway in late 2016.
Also, rookie Daniel Suarez has been added to the mix as driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in replacement of Carl Edwards after Edwards’ unexpected announcement that he wouldn’t race in 2017.
Here is the expected driver line-up for Saturday night’s Advance Auto Parts Clash: Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota), Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford), Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet).
Here is the NASCAR Speedweeks opening weekend schedule of activity (courtesy of NASCAR.com):
all times ET
5-5:55 p.m. — Clash practice (FS1)
6:30-7:25 p.m. — Clash final practice (FS1)
11:30 a.m.–3:25 p.m. — Daytona 500 first practice (FS1)
8 p.m. — Clash (FS1)
3:10 p.m. — Daytona 500 front-row qualifying (FOX)
WEATHER (courtesy of Accuweather.com):
The weekend weather forecast for Daytona Beach, Fla., looks good for Advance Auto Parts Clash practice sessions on Friday and Daytona 500 front row qualifying Sunday afternoon, with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the 70s. The forecast, though, looks more iffy for Saturday, the opening day of Daytona 500 practice and the Clash.
Saturday afternoon’s temperature is expected to reach 80 degrees, and an overnight low of 60s is expected. Rain also is expected, with an afternoon thunderstorm and a 76 percent chance of rain for Saturday night in the forecast.
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