By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The wait is over. The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series kicks off this weekend with the annual Busch Light Clash exhibition race.
After being held at Daytona International Speedway as the opening salvo to Speedweeks throughout its existence, the race moved away from the birthplace of NASCAR out to the West Coast last year, into the confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
For the second year in a row, the purpose-built quarter-mile track plays host to NASCAR’s premier division and will give all of the teams and drivers a chance to shake off the offseason rust.
36 cars will enter the weekend looking for a chance to race in the main event, with single car qualifying on Saturday setting the starting lineup for four scheduled heat races the following day, which starts the process of whittling the field down to the 27 drivers who will take the green flag in the Clash.
The top-five drivers from each of the four 25-lap heat races will automatically advance on to the main event later in the night, while the remaining seven drivers will have to rest their fate in a pair of 50-lap last chance qualifiers. The top-three finishers from each of the LCQ races will then take their place in the starting grid for the Clash.
With the heat races and LCQ races complete, the 27th and final starter for the main event will be whichever driver finished highest in the 2022 points standings, but was unable to advance through in any of the preliminary races.
The Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum will consist of 150-laps, broken down into two 75-lap segments. With the tight confines of the stadium preventing live pit stops from happening, a half-time break between the segments will allow the teams to work on their cars.
By the Numbers
What: Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, NASCAR Cup Series Exhibition Race
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Los Angeles, California
TV/Radio: FOX, 6:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: Quarter-mile purpose-built oval
Race Length: 150 laps (Two segments: 75 laps each)
2022 Race Winner: Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford (Started fourth, 35 laps led)
From the Driver’s Seat
Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “I think the aggression will be the same as it was last year. I thought the aggression was extremely high, especially in the last chance race. It was pretty wild to watch.
“An exhibition race. No points on the line. An extremely short track. A place where you have to lay the bumper to somebody to at least get position on them. You’ll see all the same things happening again, if not more.”
Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota: “I’m looking forward to going back. NASCAR has done a great job putting this event together and I know there has been a lot of effort put in when you look at the celebrities coming out and the musical acts. It’s a fun atmosphere and an exciting way to start the season.
“From a racing perspective, we definitely want to have a better showing that we did last year, and I think we will. We improved so much from the start of the season to the end and everyone has worked really hard this offseason, so it’s always fun to see where we stack up.”
Chase Briscoe – No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford: “I remember going into last year excited for what The Clash was going to be like and not really knowing. It was a new car, new track, new venue, and I think there was little bit of hesitation on what to expect, but I was really excited for that first time. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the NextGen drove at the Coliseum and how the track raced.
“We had a lot of fun in 2022, so I’m definitely excited to get back there. It’s a great way to kick off the season, and it felt like we had one get away last year, so hopefully this year we can come out with a win.”
Last Year’s Results
Tyler Reddick dominated early before mechanical issues sidelined him after leading 51 of the first 53 laps of the race, paving the way for Kyle Busch and Joey Logano to battle it out down the stretch for the inaugural win in the L.A. Coliseum.
After Kyle Larson and Justin Haley tangled to bring out the final caution of the race, Logano got the jump on Busch on the subsequent restart and led the final 35 laps of the race to score the win, which would be a precursor to the way his championship winning 2022 season would go.
“I can’t believe that we’re here,” Logano said afterwards. “L.A. Coliseum, we got the victory with the old Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. This is an amazing event. Congratulations, NASCAR. Such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this, put on an amazing race for everybody. I’m out of breath. I’m so excited about this. It was a big win.
“This is big. Having a baby, my wife is having a baby tomorrow, our third one. Pretty big weekend for us.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, February 4
- Busch Light Clash Practice (6:00 pm – FOX Sports 1)
- Busch Light Clash Qualifying (8:30 pm – FOX Sports 1)
Sunday, February 5
- Busch Light Clash Heat Races (5:00 pm – FOX)
- Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum (8:00 pm – 150 laps – FOX)