What will happen in Clash at Coliseum? Here is what some drivers predict

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Chaos or calm? The predictions from drivers vary as they look ahead to Sunday’s inaugural Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.

Not since 1971 has NASCAR’s premier series raced on a quarter-mile track (Bobby Allison won and Richard Petty was second at Bowman Gray Stadium). Never before has NASCAR raced in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a venue that has hosted the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Series, among other events.

One thing is certain. NASCAR knew that putting 36 cars on the track together was too much. So, there will be 23 cars in the 150-lap main event. That just means the intensity could build in the heat races and last chance qualifiers to advance to the main event.

So, what will the racing be like this weekend? No one is certain, but drivers have their opinions. Here is what they said:

Alex Bowman

“The Coliseum is going to be super interesting. I ran the (K&N Pro Series )East race at Bowman Gray Stadium years ago. It was a better race than I would have thought it would have been back then. I think the Cup cars at the Coliseum, especially the new Cup car, should put on a great show. I think that car is really going to thrive on a short track like that. So I’m excited for it.”

Chase Briscoe

“With a quarter-mile track, I think we can expect a lot of beating and banging and maybe even some tempers by the end. That’s typically what we get at these short tracks. I’d like to say it’s the first race, so everyone will take it easy, but, after heat races and everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few guys had their feelings hurt. We’re all racers and we want to win, so it’ll for sure be a good show for everyone watching.”

Kyle Busch

“I have no idea what it’s going to be like. Top speed is probably going to be around 60 mph and the low speed in the corners may be 20 mph. It’s going to be action-packed. We aren’t going to be able to spread out and get away from each other. We are going to be all over the top of each other’s bumpers and doors. Double-file restarts are going to be really tight, and there’s going to be a lot of fenders bent and probably feelings hurt.”

William Byron

“This race isn’t that long, so you are not going to have a lot of chances to kind of give and take. I think it is going to be a lot more take for most of these guys, but I mean overall I think it is good to pick and choose your battles and what you think it important. If you have the pace in the car and the speed to pass guys, then it is going to be a lot easier than trying to defend. I mean if you are defending you are kind of at the mercy of the guy behind you.”

Ross Chastain

“I grew up racing on a 3/8th mile, pretty flat asphalt track called 417 Speedway (Punta Gorda, Florida) and that’s probably the closest thing I can relate it to, maybe Auburndale Speedway (Florida). We’ll all learn when we get there, that’s for sure. It’s more than a race. We are there to put on a show, and with the acts that are performing, we are there for racing and entertainment.”

Cole Custer

“There are so many unknowns going into this race, I don’t think anybody knows what to make of it. Looking at the racetrack, I think it’s pretty much a promise that somebody’s going to be in a fight on the frontstretch. It’s a really tight racetrack, it’s going to be a lot of beating and banging, it’s going to be fighting over space and trying to get to the front any way possible so you can transfer through to the next race.”

Chase Elliott

“I’m excited to get the season going. The Coliseum is a great venue, and I think it’s going to be a fun event. That’s what it was intended to be, a fun and exciting event to kick off our season, and I think it’s going to do exactly that. If you’re going to try something, the Clash is a good race to go and try it because there’s no points involved. This event has a lot of potential to be a home run for our sport. Hopefully it’s entertaining and people have fun watching at home on TV or from the stands.”

Denny Hamlin

“I don’t know how we’ll make a pass there without clobbering into the person in front of us, which might be what we have to do, but there’s not much to learn from there to be honest (for the rest of the season). With that being said, I do think it is a great momentum builder to start our season. It’s a great venue. Certainly, there is a lot more hype around the Clash this year than any other year that I’ve been involved with the sport.”

Kevin Harvick

“As we go to the LA Coliseum this year, really the event is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing and that’s creating conversation about our sport. It’s given us a topic of conversation throughout the offseason to go on top of the Next Gen car.

“I think as you have events like that, I think it’s important to realize that sometimes it’s about exposing  your sport to new people and trying to create new fans and having cool events at cool venues or different racetracks, and creating that story that doesn’t depend on the race.

“I think for me, obviously, the race is going to be a part of the weekend just because for the fact that I’m going to be sitting in the car and that’s what everybody is going to be there to see. But I think, in the end, you can have a great event without having a great race. I think the race could be spectacular, or it could be a disaster. I don’t know. But, in the end, I will still have my name on racing in the LA Coliseum, and I think that in itself is pretty cool.”

Corey LaJoie

“I think the one thing that everybody’s overlooking slightly is that we all are in a way, sometimes we don’t show it, are all professional racecar drivers. I think what you see on a quarter-mile bullring on a Saturday night isn’t quite the product you are going to see here on Sunday. … With the consideration of everybody’s pretty lean on equipment and cars right now, I don’t think you are going to see really bonehead moves or aggressive moves besides maybe some rutting and gauging for a transfer spot, but you’re not going to see people wiping each other out often I don’t think. I could be wrong.

“But I have seen races at Bowman Gray go green to checkered with no cautions. I think people are overlooking the potential that we could see very minimal amount of cautions. I think it will be a good durability test for these Next Gen cars for sure.”

Kyle Larson

I do get to race at a lot of short track dirt things, and I imagine (the Coliseum) would be a similar vibe to that, the crowd being right on top of the racetrack. Just feeling their energy and the atmosphere is going to be really cool, I think. It’s going to make the race seem more exciting than it’s already going to be. Looking forward to how they have it laid out, driving through the tunnel and stuff like that.”

Joey Logano

“You look at the way they’ve designed this racetrack, not just the fact that it’s small, but the way they put the curbing on the bottom. It just seems like it opens the door for more contact and sliding it down in there, so we will have to wait and see. There’s gonna be moments.

“There are transfers that they’re probably gonna do what they’ve got to do to get into the feature, and you’ve got no points on the line. I think it just kind of depends. Just because there’s no points on the line doesn’t mean that grudges don’t get carried over to the next race, either.”

Martin Truex Jr.

 “I think there will be a decent level of respect and guys trying to it kind of the right way. We’ll see. It could turn into a crash-fest, which I would hate to see. I don’t know. I really don’t have high expectations for either way. I think we are just going to go there and race and see what happens. I just think at a broader look at everything, and what the race is and what attention is getting, I hope that things go – I hope it’s exciting – but I hope it’s not just everybody crashing into one another all day.”

Jesse Iwuji Motorsports seeks $4.125 million in lawsuit against sponsor


Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, has filed a $4.125-million lawsuit against Equity Prime Mortgage, one of the team’s sponsors.

In the lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the team alleges that EPM committed a breach of contract. JIM alleges that EPM agreed to pay the team $2.25 million for sponsorship in the 2022 season and $3.75 million for 2023.

The lawsuit attempts to recoup what Jesse Iwuji Motorsports calls two missed payments totaling $375,000 from 2022 and the $3.75 million for 2023. The filing of the lawsuit was first reported by TobyChristie.com.

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The team scored one top-10 finish in 30 Xfinity starts in 2022. The team’s cars were driven by Kyle Weatherman and Iwuji. Weatherman had a best finish of eighth; Iwuji’s best run was an 11th.

The team was founded by Iwuji, former National Football League player Emmitt Smith and a group of investors.

The lawsuit claims that an EPM executive informed the team in September 2022 that EPM had been “margin called” and was dealing with problems because of rising mortgage rates and that EPM could not make any more payments to Jesse Iwuji Motorsports .

According to the lawsuit, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports sent EPM a Notice of Intent to terminate the sponsorship agreement after the payment due Oct. 1 was missed. The suit claims EPM “took no action” after EPM offered 30 days to remedy the situation.

The suit also claims EPM “allegedly continued to take advantage of their status as a sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series team, as EPM continued to make promotional posts on social media, which featured the company’s logo on the JIM race car.”

EPM is based in Atlanta.

Dr Diandra: The best driver of 2022


NASCAR’s elimination playoff format means that the driver with the best statistics — arguably the “best driver of 2022” — doesn’t always win the championship.

Races unfinished

Drivers involved in a lot of crashes also failed to finish a lot of races. But not all accidents end drivers’ races. Comparing accidents and spins to DNF (did not finish) totals helps gauge how serious those incidents were.

Ross Chastain and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in the most accidents for a single driver with 15 caution-causing crashes each. The difference is that Chastain had only five DNFs (33.3%), while Stenhouse had nine (60.0%).

Ty Dillion tied Stenhouse for the most DNFs in the series with nine DNFs and 10 accidents.

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie tied for third place with eight DNFs each. Reddick had 10 accidents, while Dillon and LaJoie were each involved in 11 crashes.

No driver avoided DNFs entirely. Among full-timers, Michael McDowell had the fewest DNFs in 2022 with two. Justin Haley and Ryan Blaney tied for second with three DNFs each.

In 2021, only Denny Hamlin finished every race running. This year he had five DNFs, with four in the first nine races.

This year’s 225 DNFs are up significantly from 179 in 2021. and the most DNFs since 2017. I’ll be watching in 2023 to see if the rise in DNFs continues, or if this was a one-time phenomenon due to the first year with a new car.


“Best driver” doesn’t necessarily mean most wins.

This year’s champion, Joey Logano, didn’t have the most wins. That’s not at all uncommon in NASCAR. With 19 different winners in 2022, no driver dominated the season the way Kyle Larson did in 2021 with 10 wins.

The winningest drivers in 2022 were: Chase Elliott (five wins) and Logano (four wins). Christopher Bell, Larson and Reddick tied for third with three wins each.

Top-five and top-10 finishes

While wins matter more than good finishes, the number of top-five and top-10 finishes show how close a driver got to taking home the checkered flag. Running up front means being there to take advantage of other drivers’ mistakes and misfortune.

In 2021, Larson had the most top-five finishes (20) and the most top-10 finishes (26). This year, good finishes were much more spread out.2022's best drivers in terms of top-five and top-ten finishes

Chastain deserves a special shoutout for having 13 more top-10 finishes than he earned in 2021.

Also deserving of a shoutout, but for different reasons: Hamlin had the same number of wins this year as last, but nine fewer top-five finishes. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. also had nine fewer finishes in the top five.

Logging laps

While Truex didn’t make the championship race, he did tie Elliott for the most lead-lap finishes in the season with 29, or 80.6% of starts. Blaney, Byron and Kevin Harvick each had 28 lead-lap finishes.

Elliott led the most laps in 2022 with 857. He’s followed by Logano (784), Byron (746), Chastain (692) and Blaney (636).

I remain slightly wary of metrics that purport to measure quickness because so much of a car’s speed depends on where in the field it’s running. Lap traffic, or even being far back in the field, can slow fast cars. That’s especially true at short tracks.

For completeness, however, the next two tables show the drivers’ numbers of fastest laps and those with the best rank in green-flag speed according to NASCAR’s loop data.

Two tables showing the drivers with the most fastest laps and the highest rank in green-flag speedChampion Logano ranked 11th in fastest laps with 319, and eighth in overall green-flag speed with an average ranking of 9.281.

Best Finishes

The tables below show drivers’ rankings throughout the season for average finishes and average running position.

Two tables comparing 2022's best drivers in terms of average finish and average running position

Elliott ranks first in both average finish and running position. Chastain takes second for best average finish and fourth for best average running position, while Blaney is second for running position and fourth for finishing position.

Logano finished 2022 third in both metrics.


NASCAR defines a quality pass as a pass for position inside the top 15. Interpreting the meaning of the number of passes is a little tricky. A driver who runs up front a lot doesn’t make many quality passes because he doesn’t need to.

I focus instead on the percentage of quality passes: the fraction of all green-flag passes that qualify as quality passes. A higher percentage means that the driver is efficient: The passes mean something.

Elliott scores first in percentage of quality passes with 63.4%, just edging out Bell, who has 63.3% quality passes. Larson is third with 61.2%.

Who was the best driver in 2022?

I combined the metrics I think matter most for determining the best driver in the table below. I color-coded drivers who appear in the top five in more than one metric to make it easier to see patterns.

A table showing the top five in each of the metrics discussed in the hopes of identifying 2022's best driver.

This table confirms that the NASCAR playoffs format did a good job identifying the top four drivers in the series. Elliott, Logano, Chastain and Bell are well-represented in the top five in each metric.

The table also shows that Larson and Blaney contended strongly in 2022. With a slightly different distribution of luck, one (or both) might have found their way to the Championship Four.

Logano’s consistency is also evident, even though he doesn’t rank first in any of these metrics and fails to make the table in top-five finishes or quality passes. It’s not uncommon for the driver with the most wins not to win the championship. And this year has been anything but common.

But overall, it’s hard not to argue that Elliott had the statistically best year. He led the series in wins, laps led, average finish, average running position and percent quality passes. If his playoffs had been comparable to his regular season, he would have taken the trophy.

But they weren’t and he didn’t. That may have ended the 2022 season on a down note for the No. 9 team, but they can look forward to 2023 knowing they have a strong base on which to build.

While skill is reproducible, luck isn’t.

Kaz Grala, Connor Mosack join Sam Hunt Racing for 2023


Kaz Grala is scheduled to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for Sam Hunt Racing in 2023.

Connor Mosack will drive a second Hunt car — No. 24 — in 20 races for the team. Grala will drive the No. 26 Toyota.

The new season will mark Grala’s first as a full-time Xfinity driver.

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“I’ve scratched and clawed for each opportunity over the past several seasons, and while it hasn’t been easy, it’s made me appreciate this sport and its difficulty more than I ever could if things had been easy,” Grala said in a statement released by the team. “I feel like everything has finally come together at the perfect time in my life with the right team around me to start that next chapter in my career.”

Grala, 23, has scored five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 44 Xfinity starts. He has raced in all three NASCAR national series and won a Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway in 2017.

Allen Hart will be Grala’s crew chief.

Mosack, who will begin his schedule at Phoenix Raceway March 11, was the CARS Tour rookie of the year in 2020. He drove in two Xfinity and two Truck races in 2022.

Kris Bowen will be Mosack’s crew chief. The team said it will announce other drivers for the 24 car later.


Ryan Truex to drive six races for JGR Xfinity team in 2023


Ryan Truex is scheduled to run six Xfinity Series races in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023.

Truex ran five races for JGR in 2022, finishing in the top five three times. He ran third at Atlanta.

Truex also drove limited Xfinity schedules for JGR in 2011 and 2012.

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“We are looking forward to having Ryan back in our lineup in 2023 to run the No. 19,” said JGR vice president Steve DeSouza in a statement released by the team. “He has done well in the races he has run at JGR. His previous experience and driving ability will be assets as the No. 19 competes for an owner’s championship next year.”

JGR has not announced which races Truex will run or which drivers will be his teammates in the 19.

“I am thrilled to be behind the wheel of the No. 19 for a few races next season,” Truex said in a team statement. “It was fun to run well with this team this past year. I appreciate the opportunity to race for JGR again next year.”

Jason Ratcliff will be the team’s crew chief.

Truex, 30, has run 26 Cup, 84 Xfinity and 73 Camping World Truck Series races without a win.