Sunday, 27 November 2022

NASCAR hits home run with Clash at the Coliseum: 5 Top Takeaways

Posted On Monday, 07 February 2022 01:25 Written by
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Kyle Larson, reigning Cup series champion, is pictured during the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in L.A. Larson came home fifth in the final results of the exhibition race that opened NASCAR's 2022 season in spectacular fashion. Kyle Larson, reigning Cup series champion, is pictured during the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in L.A. Larson came home fifth in the final results of the exhibition race that opened NASCAR's 2022 season in spectacular fashion. Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing

NASCAR’s bet on a spectacle in L.A. paid off

Many doubted NASCAR when this unprecedented event was announced. But between the amazing and historic venue that looked beautiful on TV (and no doubt in person, too), tremendous on-track action and musical entertainment from Pitbull and Ice Cube, and an impressive crowd, the Clash at the Coliseum is something that exceeded NASCAR’s wildest expectations.

Joey Logano put on a tough battle with Kyle Busch up front to take the inaugural win for the Next Gen car, and in the process NASCAR exposed itself to a California audience largely composed of people who don’t normally follow the sport. Here’s hoping they stick around and remain fans of the sport as we head into the Daytona 500 and beyond.

I can see the Clash coming back to the Coliseum next year, but we need to be careful to make these things special, and not try to do them multiple times a year. Make it a destination every February; and later, once it’s served its purpose, give another stadium a chance. 

One thing is certain. The Clash, which had become an almost forgotten and frankly boring event at Daytona, has been revitalized, and we’re not going to back to the old ways again. Kudos to Ben Kennedy, the future of the sport’s leadership, for pushing the sport in bold, new directions despite some howling from legacy fans.

Strong Next Gen debut for Justin Haley, Kaulig Racing

When I saw the 31 car was running so well this weekend, I had to think for a minute: Who was that exactly?

Oh yeah, the new full-time car for Kaulig Racing, driven by young Justin Haley. From the time they took to the track in L.A., this kid was bad fast, a good sign for what this young team entering its first full-time year of Cup competition is capable of.  While he eventually got dumped by Kyle Larson, there’s no doubt he made his presence known in L.A.

Many people remember Justin as the somewhat lucky recipient of a Cup win in 2019 when lightning literally struck at the right time for him at Daytona, but this young man has tons of talent. If Kaulig gives him a proper ride each week, and I have no doubt this team of trophy hunters will do so, he may be a threat to win some weeks (especially at plate tracks), and could be a surprise playoff contender. Don’t be surprised, either, if the 2nd Kaulig entry (driven by a team effort of A.J. Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson) wins a race too. Allmendinger will always be a threat at the road courses, and Hemric knows his way around the plate tracks. 

Ty Dillon the wrecking ball

One strategy at the Clash was to knock everyone out of your way, and get to the front by any means necessary. That was definitely the approach of Ty Dillon, who was involved in so many incidents I wondered how his car was still intact (a testament to the sturdiness of the Next Gen car, I suppose). In the end of the 2nd Last Chance Qualifier, he appeared to have taken the checkered flag and moved on to the A Main. But alas, his aggression did him in, as he jumped the final restart (the 2nd time he did that during his LCQ), and was disqualified post-race.


So while he wasn’t penalized directly for his rough driving against the competition, I’m sure some of the other drivers (including Wood Brothers driver Harrison Burton, one of his many targets), saw it as karma. When Dillon was DQed, Harrison made the final show, in fact.

I know one thing: Dillon better not bring that kind of attitude to his racing at Daytona, or he’ll have zero friends on a track where you really need them, and make enemies very early in a long season.

Mixed Results for 23XI Racing

The final LCQ was the most drama packed race of the day, and Bubba Wallace, after starting on pole, fought the entire race to maintain a transfer position. Toward the end, he was in and out and back in, and ended up P2 after the dust settled and Dillon was DQed. 

Unfortanately for Denny Hamlin, team co-owner, the Kurt Busch entry for 23XI was a casualty of the beating and banging at the Coliseum, and Kurt — who had a real fast car — was left on the outs of the main event. It would have been fun to see him in the main show, but it was not to be.


Not a strong start for RFK

The day started with high hopes for Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. But it ended in disappointment, as the team couldn’t muster a single entry in the main event. This was a unique event, and not necessarily an indicator of future performance, but it’s still got to sting that the first time out in the Next Gen car as a team owner, the RFK stable was not represented in the final battle.

All they can do Is learn what they can from the defeat, and move on to focus on Daytona, where the points start to count. Dwelling on the past will have no benefit to Brad and the #6 and #17 teams.

Incidentally, another former champ who struggled this weekend was Martin Truex Jr. After a poor qualifying effort, he was among the slowest drivers on track, and had to rely on the event’s lone provisional (for the highest points finisher from 2021 not yet qualified) to get into the race, completely skipping the LCQ since he was already guaranteed a spot in the race. Once the main event began, he never showed speed to compete and finished 15th in the final running order.

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Matt Myftiu can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu, and follow AutoTechReviews on Twitter @AutoTechReview.

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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