Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA — February 6, 2022
After all the anticipation, buildup, hype, and talk of chaos, it’s finally here. NASCAR’s preseason invitational, The Busch Light Clash runs today at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Southern door banging stock car racing meets Hollywood glitz and glitter on a single-use-only quarter-mile asphalt track built inside a stadium that has hosted events from the Olympics to football classics.
The short tracks on NASCAR’s regular-season schedule like Bristol and Martinsville are half-mile ovals, the competition is door handle to door handle all race long. The “bump and run” pass was perfected in those asphalt and concrete arenas. Today’s racing takes place on a layout that is half that size. The talk among drivers in the week leading up to the event was “you may have to put your personal racing ethics on hold to make a pass” on the tight racing surface. Expect bumping and bedlam to be the order of the day.
Taking a page from southern bullring racing on Saturday nights there will be heat races and last chance qualifiers that fill the 23 spots available in the 150-lap feature. While determining the manner in which qualifiers transfer into the feature is complicated. Those who do move on will proceed in one of the following manners.
The top four finishers from each of the four heat races advance into the Busch Light Clash. Those who don’t qualify that way will compete later in two last-chance qualifiers. The top three finishers in each LCQ race will also advance, for a total of 22 spots. The final spot is reserved for the driver who finished highest in 2021 points who has not yet qualified.
To add a little extra drama, this will be the first time the new “Next Gen” car has been tested in live racing competition since being introduced to race teams during the off-season.
Heat Race #1
1 18 Kyle Busch
2 99 Daniel Suarez
3 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4 12 Ryan Blaney
5 11 Denny Hamlin
6 10 Aric Almirola
7 78 BJ McLeod
8 38 Todd Gilliland
9 1 Ross Chastain
The lineup for the first heat produced little passing as Kyle Busch ran away led all 25 laps with Suarez comfortably in 2nd. Hamlin worked his way up to 3rd, but then dropped back when the handle went away. The Top 4 finished the way they started sending Hamlin into the LCQ.
1 18 Kyle Busch (A)
2 99 Daniel Suarez (A)
3 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (A)
4 12 Ryan Blaney (A)
Heat Race #2
1 8 Tyler Reddick
2 41 Cole Custer
3 21 Harrison Burton
4 48 Alex Bowman
5 23 Bubba Wallace
6 3 Austin Dillon
7 14 Chase Briscoe
8 6 Brad Keselowski
9 19 Martin Truex Jr.
The 2nd heat produced the type of action that was expected as drivers went three-wide in the early going. Some big names were relegated to the LCQ as passing is going to require exchanging some paint on the composite fenders of these new cars.
1 8 Tyler Reddick (A)
2 14 Chase Briscoe (A)
3 3 Austin Dillon (A)
4 41 Cole Custer (A)
Heat Race #3
1 31 Justin Haley
2 9 Chase Elliott
3 24 William Byron
4 20 Christopher Bell
5 16 AJ Allmendinger
6 4 Kevin Harvick
7 17 Chris Buescher
8 7 Corey LaJoie
9 51 Cody Ware
Chase Elliott tried to race with the pole sitter, Justin Haley, starting on the outside of row one. Elliott passed on a chance to fall in behind the leader early in Heat #3, it was a costly decision. While Chase was able to grab the 4th spot in line and qualify for the feature his starting position will be well back in the pack.
1 31 Justin Haley (A)
2 24 William Byron (A)
3 20 Christopher Bell (A)
4 9 Chase Elliott (A)
Heat Race #4
1 22 Joey Logano
2 5 Kyle Larson
3 34 Michael McDowell
4 77 Landon Cassill
5 2 Austin Cindric
6 43 Erik Jones
7 15 Ryan Preece
8 45 Kurt Busch
9 42 Ty Dillon
Ty Dillon brought out the first caution of the afternoon in Heat #4 when he experienced a gear failure with his race car. Caution laps do not count so the race was frozen after six laps restacking the field for a restart.
The “choose rule” is in effect for the Clash so drivers can select to restart on the low side or high side which shuffles the lineup on restarts. The first accident also took place in this heat as Kurt Busch punted Landon Cassill into Austin Cindric, causing the #2 Ford Mustang to go around.
1 22 Joey Logano (A)
2 5 Kyle Larson (A)
3 34 Michael McDowell (A)
4 43 Erik Jones (A)
The First 17 Drivers into the Feature
The pole-sitter of every heat won his race. That trend may not continue in the LCQs as desperation is sure to set in as drivers claw their way up to try and qualify with a Top 3 finish.
Martin Truex Jr. was the highest-ranked driver in 2021 to not advance. He had the option to run the LCQ and improve his starting position in the feature or preserve his car and start in the final and 23rd spot on the grid. Truex opted to play it safe and ensure his car is around for the big race.
|Starting Spot/Driver||How determined|
|1 Kyle Busch||Heat Race No. 1 winner|
|2 Tyler Reddick||Heat Race No. 2 winner|
|3 Justin Haley||Heat Race No. 3 winner|
|4 Joey Logano*||Heat Race No. 4 winner|
|5 Daniel Suarez||Heat Race No. 1 second place|
|6 Chase Briscoe*||Heat Race No. 2 second place|
|7 William Byron||Heat Race No. 3 second place|
|8 Kyle Larson||Heat Race No. 4 second place|
|9 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Heat Race No. 1 third place|
|10 Austin Dillon||Heat Race No. 2 third place|
|11 Christopher Bell||Heat Race No. 3 third place|
|12 Michael McDowell*||Heat Race No. 4 third place|
|13 Ryan Blaney*||Heat Race No. 1 fourth place|
|14 Cole Custer*||Heat Race No. 2 fourth place|
|15 Chase Elliott||Heat Race No. 3 fourth place|
|16 Erik Jones||Heat Race No. 4 fourth place|
|17 (Hamlin)||Last Chance Qualifier No. 1 winner|
|18 (Preece)*||Last Chance Qualifier No. 2 winner|
|19 (Harvick)*||Last Chance Qualifier No. 1 second place|
|20 (Wallace)||Last Chance Qualifier No. 2 second place|
|21 (Allmendinger)||Last Chance Qualifier No. 1 third place|
|22 (Burton)*||Last Chance Qualifier No. 2 third place|
|23 Martin Truex Jr.||2021 Points Provisional|
*Ford Mustang Driver ( ) Positions filled through LCQ races
Last Chance Qualifier #1
|Starting Spot||Car Number||Driver|
The fender bending action started early as Todd Gilliland hooked Aric Almirola and sent him into the outside wall and to the garage with heavy damage. Hamlin, wanting no part of a bumper tag finish took off and easily qualified. Kevin Harvick moved to second and secured his way into the Clash. The battle for the final transfer position caused hurt feelings and bent fenders as AJ Allmendinger bumped his way past Ross Chastain and Cody Ware to make the feature.
Last Chance Qualifier #2
|Starting Spot||Car Number||Driver|
|5||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
A lot of talent is set to fight it out in the 2nd LCQ. Truex pulling out will make one less challenger that guys coming from the back will have to get past. Bubba Wallace pulled away at the start, but Austin Cindric proved what happens when you get out of the groove as he dropped five positions before getting to the bottom of the track.
The mid-point of the 50 lap race signaled it was time to go and go they did. Positions changed every lap as the front bumper became the most effective tool in getting past the driver in front of you. As a result, the caution flag began to get a workout. Two yellow flags flew as positions swapped around.
Kurt Busch was the new leader as Ty Dillon had moved from the rear of the field into 2nd when Dillon jumped a restart and was penalized by being sent back to the rear. When Dillon resumed racing he caused two more cautions bumping his way back through the pack.
When the race restarted, chaos ensued. The entire running order was reshuffled and Kurt Busch got knocked out of the event. Harrison Burton led with Dillon back to 2nd, another wreck dislodged a concrete barrier bringing a break in the action with 5 laps to go as track made repairs.
With three laps to go, the Top 3 got into it again. Ryan Preece ran into Dillon who ran into the leader Harrison Burton spinning out the #21 car. With the few laps remaining Burton was not able to recover from the incident. Ty Dillon, Ryan Preece, and Bubba Wallace advanced to the feature.
Unfortunately, Dillon was once again penalized for jumping the gun on the final restart and disqualified from the feature. Harrison Burton became the beneficiary of Dillon’s misfortune and he will be the last driver to qualify.
The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum
Kyle Busch, the pole sitter, took the lead at the start but could only hold it for two laps. Tyler Reddick, who started on the outside of row one, fell in line directly behind Busch and managed to get underneath the #18 to make the pass for the lead.
Lapping cars at the rear of the field began quickly. Just 40 laps in Hamlin, Truex, Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Wallace were all at least one lap down.
Reddick, Kyle Busch, Logano, Haley, and Briscoe were the Top 5 at the end of 50 Laps. The caution waved 53 laps in when Stenhouse spun off the bumper of Harrison Burton. During the caution laps, Hamlin became the first car to retire with a steering issue. Chase Briscoe and the leader Tyler Reddick dropped out next, both with driveline problems.
Kyle Busch regained the lead when Tyler broke his transaxle and Busch began to drive away on the restart. Just 10 laps later Chase Elliott lost grip and spun out unassisted to bring out the 2nd yellow flag.
Busch again rocketed to the lead on the restart followed by Logano, Haley, William Byron, and Kyle Larson with just 10 laps left until the mid-race break after Lap 75. Logano gave Busch a big shot in the rear bumper causing the leader to get loose and allowing the Ford Mustang driver from Team Penske to sneak by. However, positions were locked before the pass so Busch led at the halfway point of the race.
Teams were allowed to make adjustments with limited crew members attending to their cars during the stoppage. A total of 20 cars will return to the race when the green drops on the restart.
The Final 75 Laps
Busch was able to create a three-car length lead over Logano on the restart. Kyle Larson slid underneath Logano to move into 2nd place. Haley and Byron rounded out the Top 5.
Ryan Preece became the 4th car to retire from the event with a brake problem leaving 19 cars to contend for the win. Busch extended his advantage over Larson until Logano returned to the 2nd position and began to close the gap on the M&M sponsored race car as laps to run dropped under 50 to go.
With 40 laps to go, Busch caught the end of the field allowing Logano and Larson to close up. A lap later Ryan Blaney took a shot from Erik Jones and broke something on the rear of the car. Blaney slowed and went to the infield as the caution flag was displayed. When Blaney exited the driver’s compartment, he took off his protective collar “Hans Device” and threw it at Jones as he passed by under the yellow.
Haley and Larson got into a door-bashing battle on the restart from the Jones / Blaney incident. It ended with Larson driving Justin Haley into the inside wall completely destroying the front end of Justin’s vehicle. The yellow flag waved again.
With 34 laps to go, the restart had Joey Logano out front, Larson in 2nd, and Kyle Busch in 3rd. With 25 to go, Larson got loose off a corner allowing Busch to drive underneath and into 2nd. New names joined the Top 5 as Austin Dillon moved to 3rd just ahead of William Byron in 4th, and Erik Jones in 5th.
At the 10 laps to go mark Busch closed to the rear of Logano’s car. These two drivers have history and no doubt Busch will not hesitate to move Logano out of the way. He never got the chance as Busch’s car seemed to tighten up over the final laps. Logano pulled away far enough to remain clear as he took the checkered flag.
The racer, once nicknamed “The Kid”, is now the senior driver at Team Penske after Brad Keselowski left to become part-owner at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. In his post-race interview with Fox announcer Jamie Little, Logano announced his wife Brittany will be giving birth to their third child tomorrow. On with the celebration so he can get home to momma.
Logano won the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race last season, now the Ford Mustang driver has another first with the Clash victory at the LA Coliseum.
Could this foreshadow another first with a Daytona win in the new Next-Gen car? We will have to wait two weeks to find out.
The Lasco Press will be on-hand for live coverage of SpeedWeek starting with Media Day on Wednesday, February 16th, and culminating with the 64th running of the Great American Race, The Daytona 500 on Sunday the 20th.
Race Results of the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum
1. Joey Logano(22)*
2. Kyle Busch(18)
3. Austin Dillon(3)
4. Erik Jones(43)
5. Kyle Larson(5)
6. William Byron(24)
7. Cole Custer(41)*
8. Christopher Bell(20)
9. AJ Allmendinger(16)
10. Kevin Harvick(4)*
11. Chase Elliott(9)
12. Harrison Burton(21)*
13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr(47)
14. Daniel Suarez(99)
15. Martin Truex Jr(19)
16. Michael McDowell(34)*
17. Ryan Blaney(12)*
18. Bubba Wallace(23)
19. Justin Haley(31)
20. Ryan Preece(15)*
21. Tyler Reddick(8)
22. Chase Briscoe(14)*
23. Denny Hamlin(11)
*Ford Mustang Drivers