Who … should you be talking about after the race?
Part of what made the 2022 Busch Light Clash interesting was the fact some different drivers worked their way into the conversation on the quarter-mile L.A. Coliseum bullring. Justin Haley won his heat, while Ryan Preece, rookie Harrison Burton and even hard-luck Cody Ware made noise as well. But when push came to shove (and it did), the feature all came down to a pair of champions, with Joey Logano bettering Kyle Busch to win the race for the first time away from Daytona Beach.
Busch started on the pole and led twice for 64 laps, swapping the top spot with Tyler Reddick, who also led two times for 51 laps before a drive train failure ended his day early. Busch survived several charges from the No. 22, but couldn’t hold Logano off quite long enough. Logano was able to nose by Busch to lead the final 35 laps.
And don’t forget (the competition certainly won’t): Ty Dillon. He’ll be in the conversation this week for two reasons. First, and most dubious, was his racing style in the second last chance qualifier. Starting last after an issue in his heat, Dillon took the path of least resistance toward the front: through other racecars.
The use of the bumper of his No. 42 led FOX’s Mike Joy to note that “he’s hit everything but the lottery” during the race, including a couple of rounds with an increasingly frustrated Burton. Dillon won the race after moving everyone out of his way but was disqualified for blatantly jumping the final restart, the second time in that 50-lap event he was penalized for a restart violation.
But Dillon is racing for a newly-formed team in Petty GMS Racing, and he certainly got noticed for running near the front this weekend. His sponsor, Black Rifle Coffee, got plenty of airtime, and Dillon nearly did bag a win in that qualifier. It was an impressive run for a team looking to make a splash on the Cup scene. With that type of effort, Dillon could be a threat at Daytona in two weeks if anyone is willing to work with him after his antics on Sunday.
What … is the buzz about?
A large portion (70%, according to an AP report) of fans in attendance this weekend were first-time race-goers. While that’s a great thing for NASCAR, the real question is how many of them will stick around? It’s one thing to attend a race in person because there’s nothing quite like the sound, the smell, the electricity in the air.
But it’s another to tune in week after week once the high wears off. They might watch Daytona, because, well, Daytona, but will new fans stick through the West Coast swing and beyond? The broadcasts have to capture the racing there in a similar way as fans remember when they attended a live event. Can that happen? It probably will for some, but by and large, a one-and-done gimmick won’t grow the sport in the direction NASCAR hopes. They need more, and it has to be done right.
Where … could this lead?
After a race that was surprisingly good, is the concept of a one-off race on a temporary track something that can bring NASCAR directly to other cities? The racing surface itself proved to hold up well, SAFER barriers were in use and the tiny infield worked as well for the type of race this was.
Points-paying races would be a difficult fit because there’s no room for traditional pit stops. But fans have wanted to see the All-Star Race move venues annually for a while now, and this format could be a way to not only move it around but to bring it to new venues and keep the short-track feel and format.
NASCAR has long wanted to bring racing to New York City. Could something similar happen there? The untapped Pacific Northwest presents an interesting challenge, as well. The track was built in just six weeks, and two weeks from now, it will be gone. That’s appealing in that a stadium isn’t tied up for months on end for a race.
A lot went right in Los Angeles, and that could lead to more options for the future.
When … was the moment of truth?
The Clash provided the first look at the brand-new Next Gen racecar. The race itself was a mixed bag. You saw the frontrunners pull away from the field perhaps more than some hoped, but there was also plenty of short-track action.
However, there’s no track on the actual Cup circuit tat’s close to the Coliseum in layout. Even Martinsville Speedway is twice as long, and Bristol Motor Speedway will be covered in dirt when we see it next. So it’s a pretty poor test of what the new car will look like in real competition. Part of the reason the frontrunners could get away a bit was that they didn’t have to fight off a half-dozen others to do it. And with lap speeds of less than what the average commuter hits on the highway, it’s not a good place to judge the role aerodynamics will play.
So the truth here is that L.A. was a fun place, and race to start the season. It came without the carnage that the Clash often brought at Daytona but still had action, and it was a good draw for some people who may never have gone to a race somewhere else. The inclusion of all the teams was a great call, and it didn’t serve as a test session for the elite who needed it the least. The Clash was a little overhyped, but also frivolous fun, a bit like L.A. itself, really.
Why … should you be paying attention this week?
This coming week, there’s some football game or something, so you don’t have to pay attention to that so much. But after that, it’s game on as NASCAR heads to Daytona and all the barely controlled chaos that’s now a very condensed Speedweeks. It won’t be a great test of the new car, but it’ll be typical Daytona, where the playing field is level and carnage is waiting around every turn.
It’s the time of the season when anything can happen because the slate is clean and possibilities endless. It’s the best part of racing when everything is both new and timeless. Bring it on.
How … much did TV coverage affect the race?
L.A. should have been the simplest race for FOX to cover this year. The Coliseum is small enough that we could have been treated to a real fan’s view: a wide-angle shot covering the entire track. We could have easily seen all the action in what was, by necessity, an action-filled event.
But we didn’t.
FOX went with the same-old same-old, tight shots of one or two cars, and at a true short track, it all but ruined the racing. Even many of the battles and the bump-and-runs were shot too close, making it harder to really see how the moves were actually made because they didn’t really show the setup to get there.
Every time there were some good wide shots and the racing looked fun to watch, the cameras zoomed right back in and took it all away. It was a better race (I think) than the broadcast allowed it to be.
And that’s why retaining those new fans will be so difficult.
About the author
Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
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