The 2022 NASCAR season has finally came upon us. Nearly 90 days have passed since the champions of the 2021 season were crowned in the Arizona desert. Now, for the first time ever, the NASCAR Cup Series kicks off their season with a brand new Busch Light Clash.
The Clash was introduced in 1979 as an All-Star non points paying event to kick off Daytona Speedweeks. It typically featured the pole winners from the previous season. As the year went on, plenty of changes were made to the annual race.
Last year’s was run on the road course instead of the oval at Daytona. This year though, the biggest change of all will occur – a new venue.
This weekend’s Clash will take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Yes, a football stadium. They’ve constructed a .25-mile asphalt oval inside of the venue which will host a NASCAR race a week before LA plays host to the Super Bowl.
So, with that said, lets look on why the change from Daytona to LA, when cars will be on track and what the format will be.
Why The Move To LA
For the second consecutive year, NASCAR has made a change to the way the Busch Light Clash is ran. From 1979 through 2019, it was annually held on the high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Last year, they moved it to the road course. Now, not only is it being moved again, it’s being moved across the country.
I do however feel like something had to be done about the Clash anyways to spark this move. My vote was to eliminate it all together as I don’t feel like the road course worked for it. While it was honestly a good ending last year, it just felt awkward to have a road course race kick off Speedweeks. Plus, it wasn’t a big rated event anyhow.
Fox Sports 1 saw 1.577 million viewers for last year’s race. That’s down almost 1 million people as 2.455 million tuned into the 2020 Busch Clash. Granted, the 2020 race was on the oval and was held on a Sunday afternoon compared to a weeknight, it still shows that doing the same thing again in 2022 wasn’t going to be ideal.
The problem was, holding it on the oval didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense anymore anyways. It had become the Busch Crash instead of the Clash. Most, if not all cars in the field, would end up with crash damage which made the event very expensive for race teams.
See, if you were in it, there’s no way you bring your Daytona 500 car for it. You’d have to prepare a completely different throw away car for the Clash and then prepare a new car for the Daytona 500. Throw in a backup car for the ‘500 and the big teams were bringing three cars down to Daytona for Speedweeks.
The other thing is, the Clash went away from what it initially was founded off of. This was a race for pole winners only. Now, it had been expanded and extended from the original 20 lap format.
The original concept for the Busch Clash was for a Sunday afternoon show a week before the Daytona 500 and to fit it all in during a half an hour TV window on CBS. Well, the race had become 55 laps longer than the inaugural event in 1979, in recent year, was as boring as ever until a crap show at the end.
Due to the distance and like in 2019 having only 18 cars racing in it then, why put yourself in harms way by drafting early and often? With a guaranteed caution coming on Lap 25, you could ride around in a high speed parade and keep your car clean for the end.
That’s what happened the last two years on the oval.
The first segments were full of 18 cars running in tow with one another. The second segment was run with cars trying to save fuel until the end, then having manufacturers pit together.
From there, it was the usual crash fest in the end. Just look at how the last one on the oval ended. We’d see a six car crash that was sparked by a block by Joey Logano with 10 laps left in regulation. Then, on the restart with three laps remaining in regulation, we saw a bizarre crash in the tri-oval between nine cars. From there, a crash on the first overtime restart when Denny Hamlin cut a tire while leading, took out 10 more cars which was followed by a three car crash on the next restart.
That left six cars on track for the third overtime, one of which being a lap down.
So, I ask, why race for 75 laps when 65+ of them are run single file and we get every car crashed in the end?
I mean when you show up with 18 cars for this race and all of them have damage, there’s a problem. In 2018, 17 of the 20 cars crashed in one accident at the end before the rain fell too.
That’s 38 cars and 35 of them crashed in a two year span.
So I applaud the change. I also applaud the change to LA. It gives the spark to the event back again. You can bet your ass that even if you’re against this move, you’ll still be turning in. The ratings and attendance for this race is going to be one of the more highly anticipated ones of the entire season. New events always are.
Plus, it’s the week before the Super Bowl which just so happens to be played in the same town. Talk about a win-win. While it could also wad up a bunch of cars too and not end well either, I give NASCAR props for the change. They could always change it again in 2023.
The luster for the old Clash was gone. No one was showing up. Crowds were so scarce that I’d estimate 5-10k in Daytona anymore. Ratings were getting lower from 2019 to 2020 and the race was growing more expensive.
It wasn’t a good move for anyone involved.
So, in comes a new event. I like it.
On Saturday, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will take to the track for practice sessions prior to single car qualifying runs to determine the starting order for the four scheduled heat races. The field will be open to 40 entrants but only the 36 chartered teams are showing up.
On Sunday, on-track action will begin at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, with four 25-lap heat races consisting of 10 cars each. Below is a breakdown on how the heat races will be filled out:
- The top four fastest qualifiers from Saturday’s single vehicle qualifying session will be on the pole for each heat race, while cars that qualified fifth through eight will make up the other half of the front row in each heat.
- The remainder of each field will be filled out using this methodology (Ex. – heat one will be made up cars with qualifying positions of one, five, nine, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37).
- The top four finishers (16 total cars) from each heat race automatically advance through to the Busch Light Clash (8 p.m. ET, FS1), with the winner of heat one winning the pole and the heat two winner earning the outside pole.
- The winners of heats three and four will fill out the second row, with the remaining order of these 16 cars being determined in the same manner.
The remaining six finishing positions from each heat (24 total cars) that did not advance will continue through to one of two 50-lap Last Chance Qualifying races. Below is a breakdown on how the Last Chance Qualifiers will be filled out:
- The starting order for these two events will be determined based on finishing positions in the heat races.
- Those that did not advance from heats one and three will make up the first Last Chance Qualifying race while the second race will be made of up those from heats two and four.
- The fifth-place finishers from heats one and two will be on the pole in their respective Last Chance Qualifying races. The fifth-place finishers from heats three and four will be on the outside pole.
- This pattern will continue to fill out 12 cars in each event.
- The top three finishers (six total cars) from both Last Chance Qualifying races will advance to the Busch Light Clash, filling out positions 17 – 22 of the 23 available positions.
The final spot in the Busch Light Clash is reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2021 points standings who does not transfer on finishing position in the heat races or Last Chance Qualifying races. Right now, if Kyle Larson races his way in, Martin Truex Jr. would be next up if he doesn’t. Then so on for on back.
All other drivers will be eliminated from competition for the remainder of the event weekend.
The Entry List
|Saturday, Feb. 5||12:30 p.m.||Busch Light Clash practice||FS2/MRN/FOX Sports App|
|Saturday, Feb. 5||8:30 p.m.||Busch Light Clash single-car qualifying||FS1/MRN/FOX Sports App|
|Sunday, Feb. 6||3 p.m.||Busch Light Clash qualifying heats (four heat races)||FOX/MRN/FOX Sports App|
|Sunday, Feb. 6||4:10 p.m. (approx.)||Busch Light Clash last-chance qualifiers (two LCQs)||FOX/MRN/FOX Sports App|
|Sunday, Feb. 6||6 p.m.||Busch Light Clash main event||FOX/MRN/FOX Sports App|
Pitbull will perform a 45-minute concert prior to the main event on Sunday. Also, DJ Skee will become the first live DJ to perform during the caution breaks of a NASCAR race. As fans wait for the racing action to resume, Skee will entertain and energize the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum crowd with the style and flair that has made him an international sensation.
“We’ve said from the beginning that the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum is a first-of-its-kind event, and having DJ Skee spinning during the caution breaks adds to the fresh, unique nature of this event,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president for strategy and innovation. “DJ Skee is a world-class talent who is going to create a fun and entertaining experience for everyone as our drivers prepare to take the green flag once more.”
On top of all of this, Ice Cube will perform during the race break of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6. His performance, which will be shown live on FOX, enhances an already star-studded lineup of racing and entertainment set for the sport’s season-opening exhibition inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“Ice Cube is more than a rapper, actor and entertainer,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president for strategy and innovation. “He’s an icon who has risen to the top in all of his endeavors. We’re honored to have him perform at this first-of-its-kind event in the heart of Los Angeles.”