Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

What happened?

Joey Logano won the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series event on Sunday evening (Feb. 6). He was followed closely by Kyle Busch, who wound up second. Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson completed the top-five finishers.

How did it happen?

From the start, the winning choice of many was polesitter Busch – and rightfully so.

After winning the provisional pole in qualifying on Saturday night, the Las Vegas native won his respective heat race after leading all 25 laps. In the main event, he led a race-high 64 circuits en route to his runner-up finish.

However, shortly after the first green flag, Busch found himself behind the No. 8 of Tyler Reddick. For a driver that is still looking for his first Cup Series race victory, the Richard Childress Racing driver impressed as he paced the series veterans of the field for a good while.

Then, a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr brought out the first caution of the feature event and changed Reddick’s luck. The subsequent retirement of Denny Hamlin began a pattern of what was a number of cars pulling off of the quarter-mile racing surface for mechanical failures.

One of those cars was race leader Reddick.

Busch regained the lead after the sudden departure of the No. 8, and from then on, the fight was between Busch and Logano up front.

With one lap to go until the halfway competition caution on lap 75, Logano made his move on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Keeping in tradition with short track racing etiquette, the Connecticut native firmly used his front bumper to persuade Busch to relinquish the top spot. It didn’t work, as NASCAR froze the field while Logano was making the pass. Busch led at halftime.

After the drivers climbed back in their assortment of stock cars, and halftime performer Ice Cube climbed back into his Chevy Malibu, the duo was ready to do battle for the final 75 laps.

And battle they did.

After Busch held the lead over Logano for 40 laps, the Team Penske driver was able to take the lead from Rowdy on lap 116. With the laps quickly winding down on the small racing surface, time was running out for the JGR driver to make a move.

But it wasn’t an easy lead for Logano to hold onto.

What followed was lapped traffic, multiple cautions involving many angry drivers, and one thrown HANS device via Ryan Blaney.

Yet, despite everything, Logano held off the late-charging Busch and managed to keep the No. 18 barely out of bump-and-run distance long enough to clinch his second career Clash victory.

Who stood out?

Busch once again showed why he has the most short-track wins out of all other active Cup Series drivers not just on Sunday, but the entire weekend.

As mentioned, Rowdy not only was fastest in qualifying. He dominated his heat race by leading all laps and then led the most laps in the main event, only barely coming up short of the weekend sweep with a second-place finish. The performance easily outshined all the other JGR cars, but we’ll get to them later.

While Busch’s run was superb, it would be a crime not to mention some of the smaller names that proved themselves.

Before being clobbered into the inside concrete wall near the end, Justin Haley showed that Kaulig Racing may be a legitimate race-winning threat in 2022. 

Not only did the youngster win his heat race to start third place overall, but he also stayed there for a majority of the main event. If Logano and Busch tangled too hard and put themselves out of contention for the win, Haley would have arguably been in the catbird’s seat to score a major upset.

That is until he made contact with reigning champion Larson.

SEGAL: JUSTIN HALEY’S CLASH ENDS EARLY

Who fell flat?

While Busch soared, the rest of JGR snored.

Hamlin found himself the first casualty of the feature after a mechanical failure forced the No. 11 Toyota to retire. He had raced his way into the final after winning his Last Chance Qualifier, a race teammate Martin Truex Jr. declined to participate in.

Truex elected to use his points provisional, which allowed him to automatically advance into the feature after Larson had already moved on through his heat race. The tradeoff for Truex’s promotion was an automatic last-place start, which meant he started at the tail end of the 23-car field when the green flag for the 150-lap main event dropped.

And at the end of the field is where he stayed. The 2017 series champion went a lap down, finishing 15th when it was all said and done. Keep in mind Truex has won three of the past five Cup races held at Martinsville Speedway and has become one of the sport’s premier short track racers.

Christopher Bell seemed to be the best of the rest when it came to the three JGR drivers. After securing a feature spot through his heat race, Bell maintained a solid running in the top 10 but never reached the front of the pack. Despite issues that occurred for many others, Bell seemed to have a quiet Clash run, finishing eighth at the end.

What did this race prove?

Stadium racing works. 

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen NASCAR try so many different new things to bring more interest in the sport. Dirt racing, infield courses, more road courses, new rules packages, race date swaps and new cars highlight many of said changes. Many of them worked. Many of them didn’t.

So trying a new prospect of changing the Busch Light Clash – a race that has run at the sacred Daytona International Speedway since 1979 – to a football stadium in California was going to be a gamble, especially when you consider how traditional NASCAR fans are.

In the end, it was a gamble that paid off.

On top of bumper-slamming, close-quarters, short-track racing action, we saw an event that brought all that to a stadium. And not just any stadium, mind you – a coliseum.

Even better, it was the Los Angeles Coliseum. NASCAR brought the sport into the heart of world entertainment. It allowed stars such as Pitbull and Ice Cube to add concerts to what was already great racing.

Logano may have won the race, but the event itself gave fans and many in the NASCAR industry alike to have something to smile about. That’s not a combination that has happened in quite some time.

GABLE: NASCAR STILL CHASING THE CASUAL SPORTS FAN

Paint scheme of the race

He may not have been in the feature event. However, Austin Cindric‘s No. 2 eCascadia Ford Mustang not only caught the attention of many on the track but on the highway as well.

The Team Penske car was delivered by the first electric-powered hauler in accordance with Team Penske’s partnership with eCascadia. While Cindric didn’t get to the big race, for the time we did get to see that car on track, it was a real looker.

Better than last time?

What last time?

For all intents and purposes, let’s compare it to the last Clash at Daytona.

There was a time when the Clash was only 20 laps, yet still brought a near sold-out crowd to the seats of Daytona.

That was then. This is now.

The reason for the Clash’s relocation was because of dwindling interest in it from fans. Last year, it was moved from Daytona’s oval to its road course, and while the race produced a fun finish, it still didn’t garner much attention.

Coming from a native of Daytona Beach who traveled to see the Clash nearly every year, complete with fond memories of it, I along with NASCAR knew something had to change.

Did it pay off?

Yes. Overwhelmingly.

What’s next?

The Great American Race. The Super Bowl of stock car racing.

The Daytona 500. 

Speedweeks begins on Tuesday, Feb. 15 with a pair of practices for the Bluegreen Vacation Duels that will set the field for the 64th annual Daytona 500. It will be followed by Duels qualifying Wednesday, Feb. 16 and the Duels themselves on Thursday, Feb. 17. A pair of practices on Friday and Saturday will get the teams ready to contest the first points race of the season Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: L.A.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. A race fan since he was three years old, he began freelance writing in 2018 and wrote for IMSA in 2020 after graduating with a B.S. in Communications from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

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Bill B

It was more of a show than a race, but that’s OK, it’s an exhibition race and doesn’t count toward the larger season. I can’t say I liked the whole qualifying process, it seemed too arbitrary, and if NASCAR ever goes that route it might be the end of my watching. Once again it was fine for an exhibition race.

I find the line “After the drivers climbed back in their assortment of stock cars…” forced. I’ve read lots of articles over the years and rarely would I see the word “stock” used in a sentence like that (most would just say “car”) even when the cars were stock, but since you called attention to it, is there any stock car on the market today that has a single lug nut?

Was there really 50,000 fans there? I don’t trust Gluck’s estimate. I also find it doubtful that the ratings will be better than those of the Pro Bowl but I guess we will see.

I hope Ty Dillon settles down. I think that he thinks he can bull/force his way into a successful season by just racing like a douche bag. Watch out Wrecky, you may have competition this year.

Vicq Ruiz

“is there any stock car on the market today that has a single lug nut?”

Not that I know of, but my uncle’s old MGA had wire wheels with that knock-off nut with the three little ears. How I’d love to see pit crews deal with that, using rubber mallets!

And “NASCAR is trending over the Pro Bowl!” You’d have to have a heart of pure granite not to laugh hysterically over that one.

Last edited 4 months ago by Vicq Ruiz
Rick

The Freightliner eCascadia brought the 2 hauler to the Coliseum from. Penske Truck Leasing facility in Ontario CA, about a 50 mile trip. https://www.jayski.com/2022/02/04/team-penske-uses-fully-electric-semi-truck-to-pull-austin-cindrics-hauler-to-the-los-angeles-coliseum/?fbclid=IwAR2PQhc4q3c0NYumrlQQAlcDro4VcxPgezdS2SCk8GGnW-Ul-nSAelz9gHo

Bill B

A 50 mile trip? LOL
That sure takes a lot of the “wow” factor out of the headline.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bill B
Steve

Team Penske hauled that car 40 miles with that electric tractor. That trip started in Ontario, CA not Charlotte. Sorry to disappoint the tree huggers.

SCOTT RICHARDSON

I, too, question the fan attendance count also. For a stadium that reportedly was only set to hold about 60K, there were probably at least 1/3, if not more, of the seats completely empty.

When is NASCAR going to learn that people in California could care less about NASCAR?

Jeremy

I’m surprised California even let all of those evil, dinosaur burning, earth-murdering racecars and the trucks hauling them cross the state line!

DoninAjax

I PVRed the event. It was set for 120 minutes and the green flag flew with 85 minutes left after 60 minutes of pre-event crap.

Bubba was a lap down after NINETEEN laps. He ended up last of the finishers. I’m sure he did what he could to help Baby Busch on the last lap.

When I saw Ice Cube I thought of Ice-T. He should have been iced and put on ice.

Richard Petty ran his first Cup race at a football stadium in Toronto in 1958. Why doesn’t NA$CAR go to a high school with a 1/4 mile running track around its football field and build a permanent site for this example of Brian’s product? Preferably on the East Coast. Maybe around Charlotte.

This telecast was just a continuation of how the networks have teated these events for YEARS.

Jeremy

OK, that was one thing I DID like about the event. For a Sunday night race, a 2 hour timeslot was perfect. Although, I’d prefer to have 2 hours of green flag to checker flag racing, without an intermission.

Bill B

I bet it took a lot of effort for them NOT to have two stage breaks in addition to the half-time.

DoninAjax

Don’t forget the “Competition Caution” because the sun was too bright!

DoninAjax

It started at 6 so the Simpsons episode could start on time.

1911_Bandit

Brand new car design;, same old “No Passing For The Lead Under Green”. 3 official lead changes. I can hear the yawns already.

Last edited 4 months ago by 1911_Bandit
Johnny Cuda

Maybe it had more viewers than the “Pro Bowl”. That “football game” was a joke. Two-hand touch. Nobody was trying. Lame, lame, lame.

Bill W.

I guess I’am in the minority,but the race was not that bad. The camera coverage was terrible. Could have left out the halftime show. Did Mikey show up on his own just to get on tv?

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