Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch among big names out of Clash at Coliseum

Clash Coliseum heat qualifier
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Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman failed to advance to the main event in the Clash at the Coliseum as chaos erupted in the heat and qualifier races Sunday, producing some surprising results.

The final 50-lap qualifier on the temporary 0.25-mile oval took more than 30 minutes to complete and was interrupted by seven caution periods and a red flag.

Ty Dillon took the checkered flag but was later penalized by NASCAR for jumping the final restart (after already serving a black flag penalty during the race for jumping another restart).

That awarded the last three transfer spots to Ryan Preece, Bubba Wallace and rookie Harrison Burton despite the fact that each were involved in yellow flags during the final race to set the 23-car main event of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. The short track lived up to its billing for action in marking the first time the preseason NASCAR Cup Series exhibition was held outside the 2.5-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway in its 43-year history.

Busch and Bowman both were eliminated in earlier wrecks, and Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford ran outside the top three throughout after starting ninth and finishing fifth. Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric also was knocked out of the main event with a fifth.

Busch, who was making his debut in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing, was eliminated while leading on a Lap 47 restart. After taking the green, he was hit by his teammate Wallace, who had been hit in the rear by Burton. While trying to climb back up to third, Busch was squeezed into the outside wall by Wallace, who was battling for a spot with Preece.

“I just got put in a bad spot on one of the restarts,” Busch told Fox Sports. “When you are not managing the race and holding the white line, it puts you in a vulnerable spot. We needed to transfer. We needed to start off the year strong, and we did not. I’m just disappointed we’re not in the A main. We’re racing hard in the Coliseum. This is what it is all about. NASCAR did a great job putting this all together.”

It also was a disappointing debut with a new team for Keselowski, whose new RFK Racing teammate, Chris Buescher, also failed to make the main event.

“We learned a ton today and feel like we’ll apply that and come back stronger,” Keselowski said. “I was really proud of Chris and how smooth of a race he ran.  Our race was not super clean, but we made the most out of what we brought today.  We didn’t bring enough, so we’ll work on that and be better.”

Said Buescher: “The team worked hard. We wanted to be in this thing. We wanted to have a shot at it. It’s going to be really exciting and just hate it. We’re going to work really hard on this. We’re going to study it. We’re going to be better when we come back short track racing. We’re going to be better for Daytona because of it. We’re going to get everything we can out of this to make sure we keep on improving.”

Advancing to the main event was no sure thing for some other big names, too. Denny Hamlin locked in by winning the first Last Chance Qualifier, advancing along with Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger.

“There’s going to be a lot of laps and a lot of attrition, so we’ll see what happens” in the main event, Hamlin told Fox Sports.

It was smooth sailing at the front of the 25-lap preliminary races as pole-sitters Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley and Joey Logano won their respective heats.

Others who advanced to the main event with top-four finishes in the heats — Heat 1: Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; Ryan Blaney. Heat 2: Chase Briscoe, Austin Dillon, Cole Custer. Heat 3: William Byron, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott. Heat 4: Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Erik Jones.

While he didn’t finish well enough to advance in his heat, Martin Truex Jr. made the main event via a provisional. The 2017 Cup Series champion elected to skip the Last Chance Qualifier rather than try to improve his last-place starting spot.

“The crew chief voted for saving the car and starting 23rd (because) we’d start fifth in the LCQ and don’t know we’re good enough to drive up to the top two,” Truex told Fox Sports. “As we go, the desperation gets higher, and guys will do what they have to do. Been a rough day and a half so far. We’re not where we need to be. We’ll keep working on it.”

After starting fifth in Heat 1, Hamlin was in a transfer spot for much of the first heat before getting moved by Stenhouse for third and then Blaney for fourth. That moved Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota into the 25-lap last chance qualifier.

“You kind of got to put the bumper to him,” Blaney told Fox Sports. “Me and Ricky and Denny had a great race going. Luckily we’re locked in and hopefully, the fans enjoyed it, and that’s just a little preview of what’s to come as we see more and more racing today.”

For the first time since cars hit the track Saturday, the caution flag flew twice during the fourth heat and again during the first Last Chance Qualifier as Aric Almirola was eliminated in a crash after getting bumped in the right rear by Front Row Motorsports rookie Todd Gilliland.

“That was a bigger hit than I expected as slow as we’re going here,” Almirola told Fox Sports. “We had a decent start and we were moving forward, and (Gilliland) just destroyed us. (He) just drove in there a mile and tore us up.”

Gilliland took the blame later.

“I definitely made a mistake,” he said. “It’s a super bottom dominant short track, and he had gotten really good momentum off of (Turn 2), and I thought he was going to be clear of me. I was trying to pinch him a little bit and just as I was looking down left I barely turned left, and it barely got him. It didn’t take much. I definitely apologize to those guys. I know that no one really has much equipment to put together, let alone tear up before the season, so I definitely feel really bad about that. I didn’t mean to do it and hopefully I can prove it to him throughout the year.

“As a rookie, coming out of here I really just wanted to gain respect, and I obviously did the opposite of that. It’s hard to gain respect on a quarter-mile. It’s super easy to lose it, so I didn’t achieve that goal.”

Among others who failed to advance: Ross Chastain, Cody Ware, Todd Gilliland, Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Landon Cassill and B.J. McLeod.

HEAT 1: Click here for results

HEAT 2: Click here for results

HEAT 3: Click here for results

HEAT 4: Click here for results

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER 1: Click here for results

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER 2: Click here for results

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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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.

“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.

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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

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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.

Sunday Clash at the Coliseum: Start time, TV info, race format

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LOS ANGELES – NASCAR is back and back at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Nearly three months after Joey Logano won the Cup title at Phoenix, Cup drivers return to action this weekend to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race on Sunday night.

This marks the second consecutive year the series has raced inside the Coliseum, which has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics.

Details for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum 

(All times Eastern)

HEAT RACES: There will be four 25-lap heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top five from each race advance to the Busch Light Clash. The first heat race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIERS: There will be two 50-lap qualifiers for drivers who did not advance to the Clash through their heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top three finishers in each of the qualifiers advance to the Clash. The 27-car Clash lineup will be finalized by adding one provisional spot for the driver highest in points last season not yet in the Clash field. The first of these two last chance qualifying races is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.

CLASH STARTING LINEUP: To be set by heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers. Winner of heat 1 will start on the pole for the Clash. Winner of heat 2 will start second. Winner of heat 3 will start third. Winner of heat 4 will start 4th. Runner-up in heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver intros are at 7:50 p.m. … Invocation by Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome, at 8:07 p.m. … The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform the national anthem at 8:08 p.m. … Actor Rob Lowe will give the command to fire engines at 8:15 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to be waved by USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams at 8:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Clash is 150 laps (37.5 miles) on the 1/4-mile short track.

STAGES: There will be a stage break at Lap 75 (halfway in the Clash). Wiz Khalifa will perform during the break.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the event, beginning at 4 p.m. . … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 63 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the start of the heat races. Partly cloudy with a high of 61 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the Clash..

LAST TIME: Joey Logano held off Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. Austin Dillon placed third. .

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