OK… The Busch Light Clash… At the end of the day we can put most of our skepticism in the garage. It wasn’t needed. NASCAR planned a thing, put on a thing, executed a thing and did a really fine job on most all of the things. Are there things to tweak? Of course… But opinions are what they are and what tweaking gets done is left to be seen. As far as “gimmicks” go this one seemd to play out as planned with a show that came off really well. There were some bits that seemed odd but as they say… You can’t please everyone…

For the most part, if it were our show, we would not be doing a “Superbowl Style” half time. The race IS the the show. Pre-race entertainment is one thing but once the green flag flies let’s go race. Show us the differing strategies playing out with the teams. This would have been a great time to showcase and highlight the changes with the “NextGen” car (For many who have not been following all the things…). It would have been a great time to run a montage of changing the stadium over to racing. Another good feature might have been a closer look at the teams and changes for the 2022 season. There could have been any number of angles to feature and kept the focus on the racing and the upcoming season.

That placed out there… Most was just fine. The “heat race” format was definitely the way to go on the 1/4 mile, stadium showdown. The tension was almost scripted as many long-time stars of the sport were left hanging on “last chance” races to make the main show. The stadium filled up nicely with fans and we can hope many were presented with their first live look at NASCAR at this level. One question… Why wait to come in for the “main” with so much going in the heat races? Fans lingering or waiting to make their seats missed quite a bit of the action… After all, it’s not every day race cars with a national pool of top talent drivers come in and race on a “paved for this event then removed” track. If it were us, we would soak in as much as possible on our ticket. However, it is LA… Maybe the latte service at the coffee local was running a bit behind with demand…

Another thing… Whoever did the actual engineering and paving at the coliseum needs to share their techniques nationally with the contractors and municipalities in charge of fixing roads. Granted, it was only a short span of time but that track took quite a bit of punishment over the course and didn’t even show a buckle or crack (that we know of…).

The “NextGen” car made a good debut. We did not see any real pit stops under time and pressure but that will come at Daytona. The car itself ran close quarters well with bumps and rubs but the body shell held up. Granted, putting one in the wall can still tear one up. There were a few mystery mechanicals with the drive train that will be looked at closely. Overall, the car looks really good on the track.

Also notable, as far as “firsts” go, Joey Logano took the win at the LA Coliseum. It was the first race of its kind with a purpose built, temporary track over a football field. Logano also won the first dirt race at Bristol in 2021. With such a start it will be interesting to see just what is in store for 2022. The points season opener is coming up in Daytona.

They haven’t moved that… Have they?

It’s only fair… College football with Tennessee and VA Tech played out at Bristol in 2016. Now, we have NASCAR running inside the LA Coliseum. Granted, the coliseum is marketed as a “multi-use” facility but it is built primarily around a football platform in scale and design. There is also, on any given normal day, no asphalt to speak of inside the coliseum. NASCAR spent over a million dollars to “pave” a 1/4 mile track within the coliseum space in order to run the “Busch Light Clash”.

LEFT: VT vs Tenn at Bristol Speedway (2016) | RIGHT: Bristol Speedway dirt race (2021)

Make no mistake. It’s a gimmick. Football at Bristol was a gimmick. It was done because it could be done and it would be one of those “I was there when…” things or one of those “different to be different” experiences. That football game, however, may have sparked an idea which made the Bristol “dirt track” transformation possible. (Another gimmick… Fun to watch and a good race, when it got going… But still a gimmick)

There are any number of short tracks across the country that would have loved to have the exposure and experience of having NASCAR bring their biggest names into their space. Size, however, does make a difference. It could be argued that the “Clash” is a television event with far more viewers on their couch than in the stands. That can be said of any televised sport. In person ticket sales and on-site fan experiences are a another big part of the success. The LA Coliseum is huge and can hold over 70,000 people. (*masks and proof of vaccine / negative test are among the attendance rules)

There aren’t any “weekend” type race tracks that can accommodate that kind of on site volume. Taken in the context of television and ground level interest for the sport in general, would it not be beneficial to have “The Clash” move about the country showcasing short track racing? It is a harsh reality for many of these tracks that attendance is down and interest is being split to other types of entertainment. Highlighting these types of tracks and the racing within by having NASCAR bring a big show to one or more could make a big difference. Look at the interest in the new SRX Super Star series, for example…

SRX Racing coming to South Boston Speedway – June 25, 2022

However this plays out it will be interesting. Practices and qualifying are Saturday (Feb 5) with heat racing and the main event Sunday (Feb 6) afternoon and evening.

The Daytona 500 is coming up on February 20th with the “Duels” run the Thursday before. ARCA, Xfinity and Camping World series also go green. The “Clash” at the coliseum is a minor distraction from all the action centered at Daytona. The ROLEX 24 just ran and NASCAR will ramp up.
But first, let’s go to the other side of the country with an expensive gimmick to start the season…

That was entertaining. Perhaps even more so for those race fans that tune in to watch NASCAR but don’t dive in to all the nuts and bolts of the news and bits. These are the folks that may have gotten a surprise by watching the opening laps of the Busch Clash. Right hand turns, esses, bus stops and chicanes… It might have been a shock to the system for left turn fans looking for a glimpse of the Daytona 500.

Perhaps they thought someone forgot to take the cones and markers down from that pesky sports care race 2 weeks prior… Whatever the case, it was entertaining. NASCAR cars are heavier than the IMSA cars that ran the ROLEX and it showed with spins and straight line runs off course. Drivers like Kevin Harvick who we’re used to seeing in the top 5 were struggling to stay on the pavement. Some others, such as defending NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliott, were taming the turns with a start from the back to the front in the first half of the race.

Lead changes were plenty from straight up racing to pit strategies. Ryan Blaney was on the pole from a random draw. Denny Hamlin quickly took the front a few laps in. Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. traded front spots up to the scheduled competition caution at lap 16.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim.

Kurt Busch won off pit road to restart up front but quickly lost it in the first turn. Mid race mishaps included Cole Custer losing power and catching fire around the overheated brakes. The caution put William Byron back on track with a bad tire change that quickly went flat and off the rim. Truex had missed a turn and had to restart in the back. He came back to the front just to lose it in the dirt and curbs of a chicane and spun the #19 into the garage.

The FedEx #11 of Denny Hamlin might have been the car to beat but he had to pit with half the field with 6 laps to go. Chase Elliott stayed out on older tires and Ryan Blaney took the lead with 2 to go. Elliott wasn’t having and raced hard on the final lap, getting under the #12 in the final chicane. The tires couldn’t hold and he spun Blaney as his own #9 bounced off the curbing. All this allowed Kyle Busch in the #18 M&Ms Toyota to roll past both of them and take the checkers.

Kyle was there when it mattered, ready to roll through the advantage if it presented. With it, he grabbed a second last lap Busch Clash pass for the win. (He did a last lap pass – win in 2012)

Kyle Busch – Busch Clash Winner 2021

The Duels are Thursday. The Daytona 500 is Sunday. ARCA, Camping World and Xfinity run Friday and Saturday. All with standard, left turn Daytona racing. They will remain at Daytona the following week with a full race back on the road course.

If the Busch Clash was any indication, the final February race at Daytona should be a wild one.