Here’s What To Know Before Watching NASCAR Clash At Daytona

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The Clash at Daytona International Speedway

WHAT: 75-lap exhibition that kicks off the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET
WHERE: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
TRACK: Daytona’s tri-oval is 2.5 miles long
TV: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1
LIVE STREAM: FOX Sports GO

Between a new sponsor, new race format and the retirements of veterans Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season has a lot of changes in store for 2017. Those include changes to the series’ season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, the most obvious of which is the race’s name.

For 2017, NASCAR has gone back to calling the exhibition The Clash at Daytona.

“The Clash was a race name that has always been popular among both the competitors and race fans,” Chip Wile, Daytona International Speedway president, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to bringing it back and building on the rich history of this thrilling and always unpredictable event that kicks off the NASCAR season.”

As in the past, the 75-lap event will be comprised of two segments, divided by a competition caution on Lap 25. Unlike in previous years, however, this won’t be a way to make The Clash unique from other races. Rather, it will serve as a preview for the new stage-based race format NASCAR is introducing this year.

There might not be any championship points on offer during The Clash, but teams still take it as a serious gauge of their performance — Toyota-powered outfits especially. Teams with Toyota engines dominated much of the 2016 season, but toward the end other manufacturers had closed the gap.

With Chevrolet trying to carry momentum into 2017, after powering Jimmie Johnson to his seventh Cup championship, and Ford partnering with Stewart-Haas Racing, the Japanese manufacturer surely will look to see if it still has a pace advantage.

Teams will have fewer cars to compare themselves to at this year’s Clash. Instead of allowing a predetermined number of cars to enter the race, NASCAR said drivers will be eligible if they were 2016 Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016 or qualified for the 2016 Chase.

Just 20 drivers fit that bill: Greg Biffle, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

Biffle, Stewart and Edwards won’t participate, as they’ll be too busy enjoying retirement. Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be in the broadcast booth with FOX Sports, opting to let Alex Bowman get one more start in the No. 88 before he makes his return to competition.

With fewer cars on track, that means more TV time for the big-name drivers than during a normal race. As a result, it likely will paint a better picture of where each team stands heading into the Daytona 500 — especially considering we’ll get to hear Dale Jr. assess the pace of both his car, and Hendrick Motorsports as a whole, in real-time.

Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images

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