Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images via NASCAR

Why the 2023 Coliseum Clash Was a Slugfest

By Matt Weaver, Special Contributor

“Maybe it got a little out of hand at times,” said Alex Bowman upon reflecting about the Clash.

Yeah, maybe.

The average race speed was 21.831 mph, so yeah, maybe.

There were 16 cautions across 150 green flag laps on Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, up from five in this same race last year, and it wasn’t because of the full moon. That’s a trope and it didn’t affect the racing one bit.

But what did?

“When they build a racetrack in a football field, that’s what we’re here to do,” Bowman said. “We’re here to put on a show and be exciting. … We all knew when we (first) heard about this event, whenever it was the first time that we were going to come here, people were going to run over each other. It’s too easy.”

Maybe it was just easier this year now that teams have additional inventory in advance of the second regular season using the Gen-7 platform. Maybe it’s a greater conviction that these cars can handle this kind of attempted abuse.

That was how Kyle Larson felt anyway.

“Last year was the first race for this car and we didn’t know how tough they were at the time,” Larson said. “There was not as much slamming. I think people didn’t quite know how strong the noses and rear bumpers were.

“This year it was just like everybody just ran through the person in front of them. If you got a hole to get down, somewhere to get down, then the three or four cars behind would just shove them through the two in front of them. A lot of accordion, and just difficult on the restarts, especially where I was, middle of the pack.”

There were various points of the race where a caution would immediately be followed by another caution during an event that only counted green flag laps. Last year, the race took 55 minutes to complete. The sequel took one hour, 43 minutes and four seconds.

Austin Dillon said he felt like a prize fighter at one point early in the race.

“The first 30 laps my head was against the head rest probably every lap,” Dillon said. “It was just bang, bang, back and forth, every corner. I couldn’t believe how aggressive it was the first run. There was nothing but just hammer each other and hope to come out the other side.

“I got hit one time at the end…when we got back in line, it knocked the wheel out of my hands. I couldn’t believe it. Just kind of picked up the gas and caught it back.

“But you’re taking some pretty good blows out there and trying to stay calm. I think Martin got mad at me one time, and it was (William Byron) driving through me. The hard part is knowing if it’s the guy behind you or if it’s the guy two behind you or even three.”

Given that rear impacts led to concussions last season, it was alarming when Bubba Wallace said that he was feeling the consequences of those rear impacts on Sunday.

Larson agreed to a degree.

“Like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat,” he said.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do, it’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

It was a slug fest and Kyle Busch believes this is probably more normal for an event like this than the tame debut.

“I mean, last year’s show I felt like was relatively clean and good racing, some bumping, some banging, but we could run long stretches of green flag action,” Busch said. “Today was, I would call it a disaster with the disrespect from everybody of just driving through each other and not just letting everything kind of work its way out.

“But it’s a quarter mile. It’s tight-quarters racing. Actually, this is probably how it should have gone last year, so we got spoiled with a good show the first year. Maybe this was just normal.”

The winner, Martin Truex Jr. said moving the race to nighttime contributed to the race conditions. It was pretty chilly outside too and that decreased grip as the tires cooled under each consecutive caution.

“The restarts, I mean, I felt like I was John Force out there all night just smoking the rear tires during the cautions, two or three times every straight away, just trying to keep them warm, and everybody was doing that because the tires are so hard, the track is brand new pavement,” Truex said. “These tires don’t like to cool off.

“Yeah, I would say that’s a lot of it. You’re just sliding so bad on restarts that guys would get in the corner and they’re locking the brakes, they can’t turn, can’t get the rear to hook up. So they’re just sliding into each other, and that was, I’m sure, a big factor. Daytime racing probably would have been a little bit less as far as cautions go, I think.”

Last year’s race was indeed a daytime race.

Busch finished third after an early spin, driving all the way through the field to close out on a podium, leading team owner Richard Childress to say ‘we’ll get better for next year … if we have to come back next year.”

Does he want to go back?

“I don’t care. I’ll be wherever we have to go.”

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *