The Busch Clash made its debut in 1979 and was designed to build interest in cup qualifying throughout the season and showcase the fastest cars in the sport.
The short run for the trophy, coupled with qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the ARCA season opener, kicked off the motor racing portion of Speedweeks.
There is no longer a prerequisite, such as earning a pole the previous year, for entry to the event. The race is open to all teams and drivers.
No one cared about the number of cars in the event or the format for the first dozen years—the 1981 version had just seven entries.
Six years before NASCAR would introduce its All-Star race, the sanctioning body and Anheuser-Busch agreed to create a non-points event designed to build season-long interest in Cup qualifying and showcase the fastest cars in the sport .
Known as the Busch Clash when it made its debut in 1979 at Daytona, it was a 20-lap high-speed freight train that showcased slingshot drawing and maneuvering on the 2.5-mile track. He paid $50,000 to win and it was something CBS could air in a Sunday afternoon timeslot to build interest for its Daytona 500 telecast a week later. The short run for the trophy, coupled with qualifying for the Daytona 500 and the ARCA season opener, kicked off the motor racing portion of Speedweeks.
That inaugural Busch Clash featured only nine drivers. Eight of those drivers received an automatic berth earning them a pole in 1978. The ninth driver took the wild card berth which was determined by a draw of names among the drivers who had conducted second round qualifying the previous year. Buddy Baker signed his name in the record books as the inaugural winner of the Busch Clash, defeating Darrell Waltrip by a car length, averaging 193.384 mph in the no caution event.
Over the next 44 years, the race went through numerous format, eligibility, and name changes. The name changes were directly related to the promoted product. The nine format changes and 11 eligibility requirements occurred in an effort to liven up the event.
Today, the Busch Clash is simply an exhibition event, a marketing tool NASCAR uses to introduce the sport to potential new fans. This concept became evident last year when NASCAR decided to turn the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into a flat short track. The third venue hosting the expo event – Daytona International Speedway and Daytona Road Course being the other two – provided an opportunity to give the new sports car a competitive shake-up before heading to Florida for the season-opening Daytona 500 .
There is no longer a prerequisite, such as earning a pole the previous year, for entry to the event. The race is open to all teams and drivers. All 36 Charter Cup teams entered this year’s event with heat races determining the 27-car field for the feature. The top five finishers in each of the first four 25-lap heat races will advance in the feature. The non-qualifiers will then compete in two 50-lap races with the top three progressing to the feature. The 27-car field will be completed by adding the driver with the highest finish in the 2022 Cup Series points standings who has not already earned a starting spot in the feature.
It’s a far cry from the original version of the Clash, which often provided a preview of who had the horsepower to contend with for the coveted Daytona 500 win. No one cared about the number of cars in the event or the format for the first twelve years . The 1981 version had only seven voices.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt always flexed his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet’s muscles in that event, signaling the strength of his team. Of the 24 riders who have won the event, Earnhardt leads them with six wins. The other 11 drivers with the most wins in the Busch Light Clash are last year’s winner and Cup champion Joey Logano, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Neil Bonnett, Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
Busch Light Clash format over the years
1979-1990: A 20-lap green flag race with no mandatory pit stops.
1991-1997: The race consisted of two 10-lap green flag segments. The field was reversed for the second segment.
1998-2000: It was renamed the Bud Shootout and consisted of two 25-lap races. The Bud Shootout Qualifier took place one hour before the Bud Shootout and the winner advanced to the main event. In each race, a stop for two tires was required.
2001-2002: The rebranded Budweiser Shootout was expanded to a 70-rpm event. Caution laps would count, but the finish had to be under green. The green-white checkerboard rule was in place. At least one two-tire green flag stop was required. The Bud Shootout Qualifier has been discontinued as qualifying for cup competitions has been reduced to just one round.
2003-2008: During these years the race was divided into two segments. The first segment was 20 laps, followed by a 10-minute break, and then the race concluded with a 50-lap segment. A pit stop was no longer necessary.
2009-2012: The race is now a two-segment 75-lap race. The first segment was 25 laps and the second was 50 laps.
2013-2015: During these years, the race was transformed into a 75-lap event consisting of three segments. Online fan voting determined aspects of the race, including segment length, mandatory pit stop requirements, and the number of drivers eliminated after each segment.
2016-2020: The format reverted to a 75-lap race with two segments: 25 and 50 laps.
2021: A 35-lap race divided into two segments of 15 and 20 laps.
2022-2023: The current format of the heat race.