The NASCAR Cup Series is one of the most spectacular forms of racing on Planet Earth – the only problem is that it’s also one of the most inaccessible to people outside of America.
This isn’t a notion based on the difficulty of becoming a NASCAR driver, nor the ability for fans to engage with drivers and teams – the usual factors by which accessibility is determined. Instead, NASCAR’s inaccessibility in Europe lies simply in how different it is from everything else.
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Opening the season with your blue-ribbon race has its drawbacks. It’s a double whammy of anticipation when the NASCAR Cup season-opener also happens to be the Daytona 500 – otherwise dubbed the Great American Race.
Throughout Speedweeks – the week of races building up to the 500 – it seemed as though this year’s season-opener was destined to be anything but great and that the anticipation was tinted toxic.
The concept of The Clash is unique to NASCAR. A televised pre-season race featuring the elite 20 drivers within the category, racing for nothing more than the honour of pride and a cash prize.
Despite the format typically cultivating a thrilling spectacle that perfectly wets the appetite ahead of NASCAR’s marquee race – the Daytona 500 – this year’s Clash was messy, maligned and expensive.
In his maiden race with new crew chief Kevin Meendering and new sponsor Ally, seven-time Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson earned his first win in over a year. However, jubilant celebrations in Victory Lane glossed over the fact that the win was sealed by Johnson spinning long-time race leader Paul Menard in front of the field on what turned out to be the final lap of the race.