Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Previewing the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

The wait is over.

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season 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 in 2022, into the confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

For the third 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 a bit of a change in the weekend schedule compared to years past. Instead of single car qualifying to set the field for the heat races, the results from practice on Saturday will set the starting lineup for the four 25-lap heat races to follow later that day.

The top-five drivers from each of the heat races will automatically advance on to Sunday’s main event, while the remaining drivers will have to rest their fate in a last chance qualifier on Sunday. The top-two finishers from the LCQ race will then take their place in the starting grid for the Clash.

The 23rd and final starting position in the Clash will go to whichever driver finished highest in the 2023 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, 6:30 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)

2023 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Started second, 25 laps led)

New Threads for Toyota and Ford in 2024

All three manufacturers have run the same bodies since the advent of the Next Gen car, but in 2024, both Ford and Toyota are bringing out new weapons in their fight for Cup Series supremacy.

Ford, which has run the Mustang name plate, will shift over to the Mustang Dark Horse for 2024, as their new body features aggressive styling cues matching the road version that recently hit showroom floors. Both the manufacturer and teams are hoping to not skip a beat as they look to run for their third straight championship this season.

Toyota will still run the Camry name plate, but like Ford, updated their body to try and improve its raceability going forward into the 2024 campaign.

The manufacturer will also have a new team joining the fray as Legacy Motor Club joins the ranks with Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing after defecting from Chevrolet, where it had called home for a number of years.

New Faces, New Places

With the new season comes a changing of the guard, with the shifting sands of the Cup Series garage seeing new drivers taking their place with new teams for the 2024 campaign.

The biggest of those comes at Stewart-Haas Racing, where retiring drivers Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola will be replaced by former Xfinity standouts Josh Berry and Noah Gragson in the team’s No. 4 and 10 entries, respectively.

2024 marks Berry’s first foray into the Cup Series, while Gragson is on a bit of a redemption tour after finding himself out of a ride with Legacy Motor Club last season.

Speaking of Legacy Motor Club, John Hunter Nemechek makes his return to the Cup Series in 2024, taking over driving duties of the team’s No. 42 Toyota alongside veteran Erik Jones.

A revamped Kaulig Racing lineup sees Daniel Hemric move up to the Cup Series full-time in the No. 31 Chevrolet, while Josh Williams makes his Cup debut as part of an all-star lineup driving the No. 16 car that has recently been piloted by AJ Allmendinger.

Justin Haley, who drove for Kaulig last year, moves to Rick Ware Racing for 2024 to drive the No. 51 Ford.

Last, but not least, is Spire Motorsports, which sees Carson Hocevar moving up from the Truck Series and Zane Smith joining the team as a part of its alliance with Trackhouse Racing to drive the No. 77 and No. 71 cars alongside team regular Corey LaJoie.

Last Year’s Clash Results

The tight confines of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum made for a slugfest in the 2023 edition of the Clash, with the yellow flag flying on a no-holds barred kind of night in the City of Angels.

However, by the time all was said and done, it was wily veteran Martin Truex, Jr. who was taking the checkered flag to score his first win in more than a year for his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team, holding off Austin Dillon down the stretch after taking the lead with 25 laps to go.

“It was definitely satisfying. Anytime you win it’s obviously satisfying,” said Truex.

“I had some good guys around me. Austin and Kyle raced clean, and for the most part I’ve never had really any big issues with those guys.

“You come to a track like this, it’s pretty easy to just blow the corner and knock the guy out of the way in front of you. It’s just easy to do.

“Thankfully they didn’t do that. They gave me a lap to get going, and obviously we were fast enough to drive away from them.”

Kyle Busch came home third to snag the final place on the podium in his debut with Richard Childress Racing. Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman would round out the top-five finishers.

Bubba Wallace appeared to be one of the few that could hang with Truex in the latter stages of the race, but a run-in with Dillon would see him bumped from contending for the win to a 22nd place finish. Ryan Preece was also strong in his debut with Stewart Haas Racing, but a mechanical issue caused him to fall to the tail end of the top-10 after leading a race-high 43 laps.

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, February 3

  • Busch Light Clash Practice (6:00 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • Busch Light Clash Heat Races (8:30 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Sunday, February 4

  • Busch Light Clash Last Chance Qualifier (6:30 pm – FOX)
  • Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum (8:00 pm – 150 laps – FOX)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.