When faced with a historic flood in southern California, NASCAR pulled off what seemed impossible, getting both the Cup Series and Mexico Series race completed on Saturday.
The 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and King Taco La Batalla En El Coliseo were run on Saturday night, pushed up a day early due to historic flooding heading towards the Los Angeles area. All three heat races and the last chance qualifier were canceled. Qualifying would come down to three groups, the fastest 22 are in, and one provisional to the highest driver in points from 2023.
It seemed the racing gods were on NASCAR’s side Saturday. Fox had an opening in their TV schedule on FS1 and FS2 for both races, so fans across the country could watch. On Actions Detrimental, Denny Hamlin’s podcast, he said NASCAR had five hours to move all the racing to Saturday. an immense amount of work in a short time, to put on the Busch Light Clash. The weather held off for just enough time to get 300 laps of racing completed.
And another unprecedented day in the books. A big thank you to the Coliseum team, all of the city and local services, and our partners for making today happen. Congrats to Denny and Daniel on their wins. Now eyes on Daytona in two short weeks! pic.twitter.com/mDPBHxmS5T
— Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) February 4, 2024
Qualifying, better than the Clash?
Qualifying was a thrill ride. Josh Williams was looking like he was going to make the Clash in his first Cup Start, but he was bumped out. Final four driver Christopher Bell did not make the race along with Josh Berry in his first start with Stewart Haas. Ryan Blaney, defending champion used the provisional to make the race. Qualifying was short and exciting, a preview of how the racing around the coliseum would be later that night.
Great racing but the short track package needs work:
Tires were a big factor with the restarts. Hamlin, again on Actions Detrimental, said it took ten laps to get the proper heat in the tires. For those first ten laps, the racing was great. Lots of passing and drivers losing grip into the corner. But once the tires got hot and sticky, it disappeared. Drivers seemed to use the bumper, get the car in front out of shape and drag race to the next corner, and try it again.
I think the horsepower question becomes a real solution. NASCAR gave the cars huge brakes and tires; increasing the grip tenfold. But we hardly increased the horsepower. If they had the 900-plus engines the Cup cars used to have, I bet we would have seen more cars getting loose out of the corner or spinning the tires from the corner to the finish line.
Racing is a full-contact sport. 😳 pic.twitter.com/TQkYDinlkl
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 4, 2024
Busch Light Clash Podium:
Denny Hamlin, riding that new Netflix stardom, came out of the gate, red hot. Earning the pole, leading fifty-eight laps, and ‘beating your favorite driver, again’. Momentum is key in this sport, and Denny is quite successful at Daytona. With eight wins at Daytona, and three Daytona 500s, it is hard to not think Denny is the favorite to win his fourth 500 in 2024.
Kyle Busch has been quietly good at the Coliseum. He ran second to Joey Logano in 2022, second to Martin Truex Jr. in 2023, and now second to Hamlin in 2024. I hope they go back one more time so he can walk away a winner finally.
Ryan Blaney almost did not make the race. Using the provisional, he started in the rear, twenty-third. He was not even in the top fifteen at the first caution on lap 71. But slowly, he started passing cars, making up two spots at the half-time break. lap seventy-eight, he was eleventh. By the final restart, a green-and-white checkered, he was fighting Busch for second place. Walking out of the Coliseum with a bronze medal is not a bad way to start your title defense season.
It doesn't matter where you start.
It matters where you finish. pic.twitter.com/IsjGfB5H6n
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 5, 2024
The Future of the Clash:
While I do think the Clash at the Coliseum has run its course, I do not think it should end its time in Los Angeles like this. Weather shortened and many fans missing the racing. I think one more race at the Coliseum, a thank you and farewell to those who enjoyed the racing. NASCAR needs to pursue the L.A market better, give them a points race. Put the money you would spend on building the bullring and put it into Irwindale or go visit Kevin Harvick’s Kern Speedway. Go to a real race track.
Justin Marks, co-owner of Trackhouse Racing said something similar. Invest the short-tracks like Nashville, New Smyrna, or Winchester, which are the foundation of NASCAR and stock car racing.
We use it to showcase the grassroots of our sport. Salem, New Smyrna, Wall Stadium, Nashville, Winchester, etc. Climate depending, invest in the track's infrastructure, galvanize the sport's foundation. Heck of a show. All entries start the main. But produce it at a level that… https://t.co/JYUxzOLGQE
— Justin Marks (@JustinMarksTH) February 4, 2024
I love short-track racing, beating fenders or smooth passes, it is a foundation of the sport. But the Clash has its roots and identity from Daytona. It should return to Daytona. While the last Clash’s on the oval caused some outrage from the fans, I think it needs to be reexamined by NASCAR. Make it short enough to not require pitting or something, we can’t have the racing we saw in 2020 and previous years. But the Clash was the preview to Daytona, and now its just a 2,400 mile trek for less money and no points.
NASCAR will head to the high banks of Daytona for the 66th running of the Daytona 500. Keep checking in with Last Word on Motorsports for all the news leading up to the Great American Race.