It’s time to kick off 2023 with the NASCAR Clash at The Coliseum. Find out what’s new, who to keep your eye on, and how to watch this weekend.
I certainly hope you enjoyed the short winter offseason because this weekend marks the return of the NASCAR Cup Series with the NASCAR Clash at The Coliseum. The second annual exhibition event again roars into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with more cars, more hype, and hopefully more excitement for everyone watching.
It’s time for a little primer before we get too deep, that way you’re up to date not only on the event itself but ready for the 2023 NASCAR season as a whole. We’ll start big picture because there were some big driver moves this offseason that shook up the NASCAR landscape.
Offseason Driver Changes
First, Kyle Busch, a member of Joe Gibbs Racing for the last 15 years, transitioned to Richard Childress Racing to take over the No. 8 from Tyler Reddick. It was a shocking move for many in the sport, but Busch now teams up with another legendary team owner and will look to find success with his fresh start. As for Reddick, he’ll take over the No. 45 car for 23XI Racing. He takes over for Kyle’s brother Kurt who stepped away from racing after sustaining a head injury last season.
2022 Xfinity Series Champion Ty Gibbs and runner-up Noah Gragson both graduated to the Cup Series. Gibbs will race for his grandfather and take over for Kyle Busch, while Gragson will race for Legacy Motor Club in the No. 42.
In addition, we saw Ty Dillon move to Spire Motorsports and the return of two former Cup Series drivers in A.J. Allmendinger and Ryan Preece. Allmendinger will take on the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing while Preece replaces Cole Custer in the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing. Also, though not in a full-time capacity, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will return for select races in a third car run by Petty GMS, which will be a great sight to see.
Now that you are caught up on the biggest changes from the offseason, let’s now get a refresher on the NASCAR Clash itself.
NASCAR Clash at The Coliseum Format
The Clash has a unique format that can be a bit daunting to take in at first, but we’ll break it down here.
Things start on Saturday with practice. The field is broken up into three groups, and each of those groups will have three practice sessions to adapt to the track and tune their cars accordingly. The day then caps off with qualifying. Qualifying order is determined by 2022 Owner points, with the lowest-scoring team going first and the highest-scoring team going last.
It is a single-round and single-driver format, with drivers getting one chance to set a lap on the track by themselves. In total, each driver has three laps on the track. One warm-up lap and two attempts to set a fast time. The qualifying results will determine the starting order for the four heat races that take place on Sunday.
The top four qualifiers will each take pole position in one of the four heat races. The next four will take the second-place positions in each of the heats, the next four will take third-place positions, etc.
On Sunday it’s time to go racing. The action starts with the four heat races that are each 25 laps long. These heats will only include green flag laps. The top five in each race automatically advance to the final and make up the top twenty spots on the grid. The four winners take the top four spots in the final, the second-place finishers take the next four, etc.
The rest of the grid is determined by the last-chance qualifiers. There will be two 50-lap LCQs before the final. The first will include the nonqualifiers from Heats 1 and 3, while the second will include the nonqualifiers from Heats 2 and 4. The top three LCQ finishers earn a spot in the NASCAR Clash final, and the final spot goes to the highest-finishing driver in last year’s standings who doesn’t already have a spot in the final.
Ok. Deep breaths, I know that’s a lot to remember. Thankfully NASCAR provided a chart that should help things make sense.
Perhaps the most unique track on the NASCAR Calendar, the Clash at The Coliseum is just 0.25 miles long, and by far the shortest on the schedule. Average speeds, therefore, hover just around 30 miles per hour. The track sits on the surface of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans football team.
The size makes the logistics a bit different for a race weekend. There is insufficient space to keep the haulers in the infield, so the cars enter the track through a tunnel in the stadium. The only infield presence is from the pit boxes and safety crew, and there are no pit stops during the races. Last year’s inaugural race was won by Joey Logano. Kyle Busch took pole position but finished in second place.
The small nature of the track may have you thinking of the best way to navigate it. If your thoughts conjured up visions of Ross Chastain at Martinsville, however, you can forget about it. NASCAR recently announced a rule change that will award a time penalty to any driver who attempts a similar move. We can safely say now that Chastain’s move was a one-time thing, as incredible as it was.
IT’S RACE WEEK!
🎟️: https://t.co/GvhiolN1Ng | #BuschLightClash at the @lacoliseum pic.twitter.com/XAIt2UVq3O
— Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum (@nascarclash) January 30, 2023
Since the Clash is just an exhibition race, no playoff points are earned. Instead, take a look at the drivers with the best odds to grab the win on Sunday.
|Driver||Odds to win|
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
This could be anyone’s race, especially given the difficulty of passing on the short track. I’m going to go with a man who’s getting a fresh start: Kyle Busch. He was the runner-up last year, and I think that his new team will energize him and provide a spark for his natural talents. Make it a win for Kyle in the NASCAR Clash out in Hollywood.
- Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing
- Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports
- Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing
- Joey Logano, Team Penske
- Ryan Blaney, Team Penske
How To Watch: NASCAR Clash (All Times EST)
- Practice: Saturday, February 4th – 6:00 p.m. – FS1
- Qualifying: Saturday, February 4th – 8:30 p.m. – FS1
- Heat Races and Last-Chance Qualifiers: Sunday, February 5th – 5:00 p.m. – FOX
- Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum: Sunday, February 5th – 8 p.m. – FOX (Green flag at 8:15 p.m.)