Do Busch Clash Winners Become Champions?

Congrats to Erik Jones for joining the Busch Clash winners club in his third try. Starting the season off with a win can’t help but rev up the team. (I’ve expressed my doubts about momentum elsewhere.) But does a Busch Clash winner also have an advantage in pursuing the championship?

A Pie Graph: How Busch Clash Winners Finish in the Season Rankings 2002-2009

Busch Clash winners always finish in the top 20. But given the requirements to qualify for the Busch Clash, it’s not surprising those drivers that qualify do well in the regular season.

The random nature of superspeedway racing, however, is evident. A driver can win the Busch Clash, but still finish in the lower quartile (16-20) of the top 20. With today’s system, that means not making the playoffs.

We should also consider Jones’ win in the context of the large number of cars that crashed out. Of the 18 cars in the field, only 1/3 (6) were running at the end of the race. And one of those was a lap down.

Jones gets some money and a trophy, but being a Busch Clash winner has little bearing on how the season will go for the #20 team.

Exceptions

Only seven times since 1979 (the first Busch Clash) has the winner gone on to win the championship. But only four drivers are responsible for those seven championship.

  • Tony Stewart (2002)
  • Jeff Gordon (1997)
  • Dale Earnhardt (1993, 1991, 1986, 1980)
  • Darrell Waltrip (1981)

The list suggests they won the Busch Clash and the championship because they were great drivers, not because one caused the other.

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