NASCAR Forced to Change Clash Schedule Due to Weather

Denny Hamlin becomes the third different winner of the season opening exhibition race for the Cup Series cars and drivers.

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Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA — February 3, 2024

“It never rains in Southern California,” or so the song goes. That is not going to be the case this coming week. A forecast of five straight days of rain with potential flooding has forced NASCAR to reschedule the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum from its original date of Sunday, February 4th, into a condensed version of the exhibition race on Saturday, February 3rd.

In an unprecedented announcement, Los Angeles residents were told not to leave their homes on Sunday as torrential rains will make navigating LA streets and highways a serious safety hazard.

As a result, NASCAR canceled heat races for the Clash, determined the starting lineup via timed six-car qualifying runs, and awarded a provisional starting spot to the highest driver from last year’s points standings. Only 23 cars will make the Clash main event sending 13 drivers home without a shot at the trophy.

Qualifying Results

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND
1 11 Denny Hamlin
2 22 Joey Logano 0.111
3 54 Ty Gibbs 0.122
4 48 Alex Bowman 0.127
5 8 Kyle Busch 0.134
6 24 William Byron 0.177
7 1 Ross Chastain 0.180
8 5 Kyle Larson 0.185
9 23 Bubba Wallace 0.220
10 51 Justin Haley 0.229
11 45 Tyler Reddick 0.237
12 41 Ryan Preece 0.239
13 6 Brad Keselowski 0.249
14 9 Chase Elliott 0.262
15 34 Michael McDowell 0.290
16 38 Todd Gilliland 0.290
17 10 Noah Gragson 0.294
18 7 Corey LaJoie 0.295
19 19 Martin Truex Jr. 0.314
20 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 0.320
21 42 John Hunter Nemechek 0.335
22 14 Chase Briscoe 0.345

**Ryan Blaney becomes the provisional starter as the defending Cup Series champion; he was the highest-ranked driver in 2023 points not to qualify in the top 22.

Ryan Blaney / NASCAR Photo

The 13 drivers going home, included some well-known names. Josh Berry was unable to make the field in his debut, taking over for Kevin Harvick in the #4 Ford Mustang. Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon, Michigan’s Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, and Christopher Bell did not make the show.

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND
23 16 Josh Williams 0.359
24 77 Carson Hocevar 0.360
25 4 Josh Berry 0.374
26 12 Ryan Blaney **Provisional Qualifier** 0.375
27 99 Daniel Suarez 0.385
28 3 Austin Dillon 0.396
29 43 Erik Jones 0.431
30 17 Chris Buescher 0.435
31 2 Austin Cindric 0.443
32 31 Daniel Hemric 0.453
33 20 Christopher Bell 0.454
34 15 Kaz Grala 0.466
35 21 Harrison Burton 0.478
36 71 Zane Smith 0.565

 

Tonight’s Race

The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum is set for 150 laps divided into two 75-lap stages. Only green flag laps count. Denny Hamlin posted a track-record lap of 68.498 mph on the temporary quarter-mile asphalt oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, earning the pole position.

Joey Logano, who won the first Coliseum Clash in 2022, starts beside Hamlin on the front row. The defending race champion, Martin Truex Jr., sits in the 19th starting position. By virtue of his provisional starting position at the rear of the field, Defending Cup Series champion, Ryan Blaney will have to pass 22 other drivers if he is to start his year the way he ended 2023, with a race win.

Joey Logano / NASCAR Photo

Stage One

Joey Logano(22) nosed out in front of Denny Hamlin(11) at the drop of the green flag and finally pulled down in front of the pole sitter after lap two. However, Logano overdrove the next corner, and Hamlin passed him on the inside, taking Ty Gibbs(54) with him. Logano forced his way to the bottom of the track in front of William Byron(24) as the two made bumper contact.

The start of the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum / NASCAR Photo

Just 29 laps into the event, Hamlin caught the rear of the field and put Noah Gragson(10) a lap down. At the front, Kyle Busch(8) replaced Byron in the fourth position. Ty Gibbs closed to the rear bumper of Hamlin as the leader had to contend with lapping traffic.

Gibbs was able to get the nose of his car under Hamlin and took over the lead 50 laps into the race. Logano tried to follow the move, but Hamlin was able to hold off the charge and get back down to the bottom lane.

The struggle for positions caused Hamlin’s car to fall off badly. Logano took over the second spot as Hamlin dropped to seventh in the running order. Gibbs stretched his advantage to the length of a straightaway once he was able to get in clear air.

The caution flag waved on Lap 71 as Todd Gilliland lost control and spun into the outside wall, making him the first driver to retire from the race.

When the race restarted, Logno got a great jump and easily took the lead away from Gibbs. Kyle Busch followed him around the outside. John Hunter Nemechek spun at the rear of the field before the Stage could be completed, so one green flag lap remained as Logano and Busch lined up next to each other for the sprint to the halfway point.

As the green flag restarted the race, Logano forced Busch high into the turn and moved ahead of the pack, scrambling for position. The fight for second went three wide as Kyle Larson(5) and Gibbs dove under Busch. Across the finish line, it was Logano, followed by Larson, Gibbs, Byron, and Busch, slipping to the fifth position.

A 10-minute break between Stages gave crews a chance to make minor adjustments to their cars. There were 16 cautions in last year’s Clash, will there be 14 more in Stage Two? Maybe, but expect the intensity to pick up as the laps count down.

Stage Two

To add to the drama in the Second Stage, the possibility of rain bringing the event to an early conclusion exists. Any lap could be the last.

Logano surged to an advantage over Larson at the start of Stage Two. But, when Logano pulled down in front of him, Larson put the bump and run move to make the pass.

However, an incident mid-pack brought out the caution giving Logano the lead for the restart. Alex Bowman(48), Bubba Wallace(23), Ross Chastain(1), Corey LaJoie(7), Michael McDowell(34), and Chase Elliott(9) were involved in the incident.

The restart only lasted a lap before a spin put them back under caution. It did allow Gibbs to get in front of Logano.

Finally, a restart resulted in green flag racing. Gibbs checked out on the field. Lagano, Larson, Martin Truex Jr.(19), and Busch made up the top five. From last place, Blaney worked his way into the top ten as the race neared the 100-lap mark.

Gibbs was able to stretch his advantage to 2.5 seconds until he caught the rear of the pack. As lapping began, Logano closed, followed by Hamlin. Busch, and Truex. Ryan Blaney was up to the sixth position.

With 20 laps to go, Blaney replaced Truex in fifth and Logano had closed to within a second of the leader. Then, Michael McDowell spun around off the bumper of Chastain, bringing out the caution and setting up a ten-lap sprint to the finish.

The Finish

At the choose mark, Gibbs takes the bottom and Logano goes to the top, Hamlin follows Gibbs and Blaney is behind his teammate Logano.

Gibbs moves Logano way up the track, and it allows Hamlin to slide under both of them. As the positions settle in its Hamlin, Gibbs, Busch, Blaney, and Logano. The battle for the top spot starts with five laps to go.

Gibbs overdrives the corner, trying to move Hamlin. The result is that Gibbs falls back, and Busch moves up, followed by Blaney Logano and Bubba Wallace. Gibbs spins and sends the race into overtime with a green, white, checkered finish to close out the 150 laps.

Hamlin chooses low, Blaney high, with Busch and Larson in row two. Hamlin gets a huge jump and drives away from the other contenders locking up the win for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Denny Hamlin / NASCAR Photo

Results of the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 11 Denny Hamlin 151
2 8 Kyle Busch 0.610 151
3 12 Ryan Blaney 0.883 151
4 22 Joey Logano 1.213 151
5 5 Kyle Larson 2.703 151
6 48 Alex Bowman 2.984 151
7 14 Chase Briscoe 3.491 151
8 6 Brad Keselowski 3.907 151
9 19 Martin Truex Jr. 4.212 151
10 24 William Byron 4.232 151
11 41 Ryan Preece 5.338 151
12 23 Bubba Wallace -1 150
13 42 John Hunter Nemechek -1 150
14 45 Tyler Reddick -1 150
15 1 Ross Chastain -1 150
16 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 150
17 7 Corey LaJoie -1 150
18 54 Ty Gibbs -1 150
19 34 Michael McDowell -2 149
20 10 Noah Gragson -4 147
21 51 Justin Haley -16 135
22 9 Chase Elliott -74 77
23 38 Todd Gilliland -83 68