Chase Elliott looks outside his comfort zone to race different cars


Chase Elliott will try something new tonight when he makes his sprint car debut in California. It’s part of what has been a yearlong tour of competing in different race cars.

Nitro Rallycross announced Tuesday that Elliott will compete in its season finale Dec. 4-5 at The Firm in North Florida. The event airs on Peacock. This will be Elliott’s first time to compete in the series. He follows Kyle Busch, who competed in Nitro Rallycross in November.

Elliott started 2021 racing a midget car at the Chili Bowl in January and “had a blast” doing so. A couple of weeks later, he made his debut in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, driving for the Action Express Racing team that started on the pole.

After winning two Cup races — at Circuit of the Americas in May and Road America in July — Elliott competed in the SRX event at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville and won that race.

Although his NASCAR Cup season finished a couple of weeks ago, he’s still racing.

Elliott will drive a 360 sprint car and run a midget car tonight and Wednesday at Merced (California) Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson will be there as well and compete in both vehicles.

Elliott and Larson also will race with the USAC midget series Saturday at Ventura (California) Raceway.

Elliott said in January that he was looking to “broadening my horizons” in motorsports.

Rolex 24 at Daytona
Chase Elliott drove this Cadillac DPi with Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Mike Conway during the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)

“I think getting outside your comfort zone is huge,” Elliott said at last week’s Next Gen test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I feel like that’s what I’ve really tried hard to challenge myself in doing the past year or so.

“Everything you get in is a little different. Everything you get in has a little different sweet spot of that perfect balance, kind of what you’re trying to achieve on asphalt or dirt, I feel like.”

The result is he’s improved as a driver. That could be a scary thought for the rest of the Cup field. Elliott has made it to the Cup championship race the past two years, winning the crown in 2020.

He seeks to become the fifth driver in the playoff era (since 2014) to make it to the championship race at least three consecutive years. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are the others to do so. Busch made the title race five consecutive years.

“At some point in the process of doing all those things, it really does come back to kind of some simplicity,” Elliott said of racing so many different vehicles. “Typically, wherever you are the most uncomfortable is where you are the most vulnerable. That typically transitions into all cars. Whatever part of the corner that you are most uncomfortable in is probably the area you need to work on the most.

“I feel the people who are most comfortable in areas on track that are typically uncomfortable are going to go fast. That’s where they are going to make time on you. That’s how they’re going to make passes and do all those things. So, I think just driving these different cars just helps you understand those uncomfortable positions and how you can drive through them, or how you can challenge yourself to get better and deal with them.”

Superstar Racing Experience - Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
Chase Elliott finished ahead of Tony Stewart and his father Bill to win the Camping World Superstar Racing Experience event at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. (Photo by Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images)

Elliott competed in a midget last week at Placerville (California) Speedway. He failed to advance to the feature the first night and finished 20th in the feature the second night.

“When you’re faced with new challenges, it’s good for you,” Elliott said. “It might not be fun in the moment. You might struggle and be frustrated, but it’s good for you to recognize those things and then be able to relate something back to that maybe later on down the road.

“This sport … anything you drive could potentially apply down the road, and I think that’s important to remember as time goes on.

“I’ve enjoyed the diversity of trying to do different things, and I do feel like it’s been helpful doing.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying


LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.


LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024


LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.