Race Report: The Clash was a huge success
LOS ANGELES — After qualifying 4th on Saturday night, it was Joey Logano (22 Team Penske Ford Mustang) taking the win at Sunday’s 150 lap NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. In front of a crowd estimated at 55,000 under clear blue skies, NASCAR debuted the much-anticipated NextGen car in full race conditions. By all measures, the event was a huge success.
TV Ratings: +168% over last year / 4,842,000 total viewers (the most since 2016 according to Nielsen)
Tickets Sold: 50,000+(LA Coliseum officials estimated the crowd at 55,000 for the “A Main” as fans continued to fill the iconic LA Coliseum throughout the 4 Heat races and 2 LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) races that set the final 23 car field.
More Parity in the field?
One of NASCAR’s stated goals for the NextGen car was to bring better competition and “level the playing field” by standardizing many of the parts and key components so the big teams (Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Penske) would not have as big an advantage with their unlimited engineering and custom parts manufacturing capabilities. Based on what we saw at the Clash, the effort at parity seems to be realistic. An example would be the 4th place finish of Erik Jones (43 GMS Petty Chevy Camaro).
Big sigh of relief at TRD
During the final test of the Next Gen car at Phoenix Raceway on January 26th, we reported on the struggles of the Toyota teams. The only Toyota in the top 5 in speed at the test was 23XI Racing drivers Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace who placed the 23 car 5th on the speed chart with a lap of 27.563 at 130.610 MPH. The next fastest Toyota was Kyle Busch in the Joe Gibbs Racing 18 car all the way down in 10th, 0.414 off Larson’s speed with a lap of 27.743 at 129.762 MPH. That all changed Saturday night at the LA Coliseum as Kyle Busch won the pole for the Clash and then battled in the top 5 all Sunday afternoon in an aggressive and entertaining door to door, bumper on bumper slug fest with Logano.
Tough day for a few veterans and rookies
Denny Hamlin (11 Joe Gibbs Toyota) was the first DNF of the Clash. After showing some early speed, Hamlin was the first car in the pit area with the hood up. Two cars that were turning very fast laps in the heats and appeared to be solid contenders to win the Clash were the 14 of Chase Briscoe and the 8 of Tyler Reddick. Both cars had mechanical issues and retired before the halfway point.
Cup rookies Austin Cindric (2 Team Penske Ford Mustang) and Justin Haley (31 Kaulig Racing Chevy Camaro) also had tough days at the Clash. Cindric had moments of speed and the ability to pass during his heat and LCQ but tangled with many cars and ultimately went backwards, failing to make the A Main. Haley was solid throughout the day, showing good speed and tactics in his heat and early in the Clash main event. But short track racing can get rough and going into turn 3 Haley got into the 5 car of reigning NASCAR Cup Champion Kyle Larson (5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy Camaro) hard enough that the Champ taught the rookie a lesson. As they exited turn 4 and Haley tried to go under Larson on the home straight, the Champ flicked a hook left stuffing the rookie and his 31 car into the wall. Haley’s day was done.
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action Feb. 15–20 at Daytona with The Duels on Feb 17 and the Daytona 500 on Feb 20.