Teamwork Proves Key
Some keen strategy and good teamwork after the mid-race break put the Toyotas in a commanding lead, and Denny Hamlin looked set to take home the win in this delayed running of the Clash. As the race drew to a close, however, the Fords worked together, making a great push to catch the Joe Gibbs cars. By the beginning of the final lap Brad Keselowski was right up the bumper of Hamlin’s no. 11 car, and a last-lap diving move by Keselowski pitched him into Hamlin, sending both cars up the side of the track. From the chaos, Team Penske’s Joey Logano emerged unscathed and went on to take the first victory of the 2017 season.
If we learned one thing from today’s race, it’s that the value of teamwork cannot be overstated. The Joe Gibbs Racing team proved to be tight-knit, dominating almost the entire race by pulling each other along. In the final phases of the race it was teamwork, again, that helped the Fords break that dominance up. The teams and drivers are sure to keep that in mind heading into the Can-Am duels and the Daytona 500 throughout this week.
Behind him, Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman fought it out for second, with Busch edging out Bowman as they crossed the line. After the race, Busch exchanged some frustrated words with Bowman, contending that if the two had worked together they would have been able to catch back up to Logano.
A Good Day for Danica
Coming up from near the back of the field to a surprising fourth place in the last lap was Danica Patrick in the No. 10 car—an unexpected and much needed result for her. Although the race didn’t pay any championship points, a fourth-place result serves to put momentum in Patrick’s favor and can do nothing but good for her precarious sponsorship situation.
Quick Turnaround for Qualy
Because of the rain delay, the drivers and teams are on an incredibly tight schedule, going straight from the Clash to Daytona 500 qualifying at 3:00pm EST (8:00pm GMT). It’s important to remember that the qualifying session, while important, is not nearly as decisive for the race as as it is in series like Formula 1.
In Las Vegas the odds show Earnhardt Jr favored to win, followed By Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano. Logano will have obvious momentum heading into the 500, as will his Team Penske teammate, Keselowski. Although he crashed near the end, he looked fast and confident in his No. 2 car. Reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is always a threat, but he and his crew need a good qualifying session to put wind back into their sails after a disappointing early-race crash in the clash.
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