Whether curiosity or excitement for the start of a new season, Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is among the most anticipated NASCAR races in recent years.
NASCAR will race for the first time in a venue that has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics. The sanctioning body spent “significantly more” than $1 million to construct the quarter-mile paved track inside the Coliseum.
NASCAR stated this week that more than 70% of its ticket buyers had not purchased tickets for a series event before.
“I think it’s important to realize that sometimes it’s about exposing your sport to new people and trying to create new fans – having cool events at cool venues or different racetracks and creating that story that doesn’t depend on the race,” Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports.
Still, there’s a race to be run.
How will the 23-car, 150-lap exhibition race turn out? No one is sure.
“I think all of us are ready to get going,” reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said. “Excited to get to LA. Probably going to be a fun venue, fun event.”
The Clash represents the first race for the Next Gen car, a vehicle designed to close the gap between teams. Most of the parts are provided by vendors instead of being made by teams.
Independent rear suspension, composite bodies, bigger brakes and larger diameter tires are among the key changes to the car.
“I feel like it is a bit of a clean sheet of paper,” former champion Chase Elliott told NBC Sports.
Teams have concerns because supply issues delayed shipment of parts, thus slowing production. Teams will not enter this season with the maximum seven vehicles per car number that they’re allowed.
“Race teams always want to be prepared and ahead on everything,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Motorsports. “That’s part of what they need to do and have everything in stock that they need to do when they need to do it, but I think at this point, everybody has a plan with the supply parts that are all coming through to be able to support these races at the beginning of the season.”
New drivers in new places
Brad Keselowski goes from Team Penske to being an owner/driver at RFK Racing. Kurt Busch moves to 23XI Racing to be Bubba Wallace‘s teammate. Austin Cindric moves up to Cup and takes over Keselowski’s ride at Team Penske.
Those are among the list of drivers in new rides for the 2022 season. The rookie class includes Cindric, Harrison Burton, who is with Wood Brothers Racing, and Todd Gilliland, who is at Front Row Motorsports.
All 36 chartered cars are entered. There are no other entries.
Friday, Feb. 4
Saturday, Feb. 5
Sunny with a high of 70, low of 44 and zero percent chance of rain during the day
Sunday, Feb. 6
Sunny with a high of 76 and low of 46 and zero percent chance of rain during the day
(All times Eastern)
Friday, Feb. 4
5 – 8 p.m. – Cup garage open
Saturday, Feb. 5
10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. – Cup garage open
12:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Cup practice (Teams divided into three groups. Each group gets three eight-minute sessions) (FS2, MRN)
8:30 p.m. – Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Feb. 6
10:30 a.m. – Cup garage opens
3 p.m. – First of four heat races/25 laps each (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
4:10 p.m. – First of two Last Chance Qualifying races/50 laps each (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
6 p.m. – Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum/150 laps (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- Four 25-lap heat races will help set the starting field. The lineup for each heat race will be set by Saturday’s qualifying session. Caution laps do not count.
- The top four finishers in each heat (16 cars total) advance to the Busch Light Clash. The winner of heat one will start on the pole for the Clash. The winner of heat two will start second in the Clash. The winner of heat three will start third in the Clash. The winner of heat four will start second in the Clash. The remaining cars that advance from the heat races will follow in the same manner in the Clash starting lineup.
- The cars that do not advance to the Busch Light Clash will advance to one of two Last Chance Qualifiers. Each LCQ is 50 laps. Caution laps do not count.
- The top three finishers from each Last Chance Qualifier advance to the Busch Light Clash.
- The 23rd and final spot in the Busch Light Clash goes to the driver who finished the highest in points who had yet to transfer to the Clash.
- The Clash is 150 laps. Caution laps do not count. There will be a break at Lap 75. Ice Cube will perform during the break.