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Advance Auto Parts Clash Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: New pit stops, seven-time and calling your shot

It’s been nearly three months since Martin Truex Jr. hoisted the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, so a checkered flag is a welcome sight. The Advance Auto Parts Clash is always the perfect time to ease back into your racing fix, catch up on Silly Season changes (even though we’ll still be referring to Erik Jones as Matt Kenseth until June), and, apparently, watch Jimmie Johnson crash.

Thumbs up: New pit stops

When somebody on your team doesn’t show up for work, the work still needs to get done — you just have to get creative. That’s the scenario NASCAR pit crews face in 2018, with new competition rules standardizing the number of over-the-wall crew members from six to five.

That means relearning how to pit a car in competition with one fewer person. The same job needs to get done, but with one fewer set of hands. (Sound familiar, workplace warriors?) The result has been slower pit stops as teams are forced to adapt.

Thumbs up for forcing teams to get creative.

Thumbs down: No drafting help

In the closing stages of the race, Team Penske ran 1-2-3 with Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano. Being a race car driver who wants to win races, new Team Penske teammate Blaney jumped out of line, running P2 at the time, hoping teammate Joey Logano and others would help him overtake eventual race winner Brad Keselowski.

Blaney’s efforts weren’t fruitful, however, as nobody helped him — he fell immediately out of his position. While he ended up finishing fourth, it’s not the result he wanted. I mean, assuming he wanted to finish first and not fourth. Who knows — maybe he really wanted his teammates to finish 1-2 without him. I don’t know.

Thumbs down for trying to get it done but getting no help.

Thumbs up: The new FOX Sports leaderboard

NASCAR on FOX debuted a new graphics package for 2018, featuring a vertical pylon-style leaderboard displaying the top 20 positions, along with rotating data from time to time.

At least at Daytona where the running order changes more than Ryan Blaney’s haircut, it’s quite valuable to watch trends of drivers moving up through the pack on-screen (or back through the pack if you’re one of the drivers jumping out of line with no help).

Also, most screens today are widescreen — doesn’t it make more sense to show data on the wider axis of the screen? Logically, it works.

Thumbs up for more information on screen. Digging it, FOX.

Thumbs down: Seven in a row for seven-time

Jimmie Johnson is famous for his seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships, but he’s unfortunately reached another seven-time milestone: crashing in seven consecutive Clash races.

Johnson nearly made it out of this year’s running of The Clash without a scratch on his car, until contact with Kyle Larson sent the No. 48 around on the backstretch.

Larson apologized for the contact, but it didn’t unbruise Johnson’s ego.

Thumbs down for bad luck — but at least The Clash is a non-points race.

Biggest thumbs up of the week: Calling your shot

Confidence is a must when you’re competing at stock car racing’s highest level. Last-place starter Brad Keselowski had so much of it that he called his shot, predicting he’d win The Clash.

Sure enough, Keselowski pulled it off, claiming the first checkered flag of 2018.

Two thumbs up for No. 2. If you’re going to predict you’ll win, you’d better come through — he did.