A small town Connecticut native won on one of NASCAR’s grandest stages in the shadows of Hollywood on Sunday afternoon. Joey Logano held off pole sitter Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
In fitting fashion, tempers flared to spark the fifth and final caution in the 150 lap exhibition race for which Logano inherited the lead on Lap 116, moments before Kyle Larson retaliated against Justin Haley for earlier contact that was not of Haley’s doing. Larson steered toward the bottom of the track, knocking Haley’s No. 31 Chevrolet into the concrete Jersey barrier on the frontstretch.
Haley, had a phenomenal showing until Larson punted him while the duo was battling for position well inside of the top five.
Logano, was scored ahead of Busch at the moment and he’d never relinquish the lead in leading the final 35 laps en route to a thrilling victory in front of a packed house on the first weekend in February as part of NASCAR’s daring foray into downtown L.A.
“I can’t believe it,” Logano exulted after the race. “We’re here. The L.A. Coliseum. We got the victory with the old Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. This is an amazing event. Congratulations, NASCAR. Such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this, put on an amazing race for everybody.
“I’m out of breath. I was so excited about this. This is a big win. My wife is having a baby tomorrow, our third one, so a pretty big weekend for us.
“Of all the Clashes, this is probably the biggest Clash win you can imagine. First time coming to this historic venue, like I said, being able to do that together as a team.”
For most of the closing laps though, we wondered how long Logano was going to hold off either Busch or Larson.
Larson took his turn at Logano for a while but he didn’t have much for him. The defending series champion faded down to fifth in the end.
Busch, passed Larson and made a run at Logano. It seemed like a matter of time before Busch was going to force his way by. After all, the two have a past rivalry and with a nice trophy on the line at the end, Busch likely wouldn’t hesitate to use his bumper to get past his former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
“You know it’s coming,” Logano said of waiting on Busch to turn him for the win. “You’re coming down to the end of a race on a short track, doesn’t matter who it is, they’re going to lay a bumper to you.
“Here it’s probably the only way to pass. Without laying the bumper, kind of tough to make passes. I did it to Kyle to get around him. You know it’s coming back, it’s only fair.
“Assumed that was coming at some point, so was able to stretch it out enough. The last 30 laps there, I was able to get a decent lead. His car really turned on. They made some good adjustments in between the halfway break there. He really turned it on and closed the gap.
“Then the last five or six laps, was able to get far enough ahead where everything was good. I was looking at those lap cars in front of me, oh, no. Just going to stack ’em right to me, then we’re going to be in trouble. Was able to get out there kind of as much as I could.”
Instead, Busch could never get to him. As close as he got inside of 10 to go, his tires started to fade and as a result, Logano’s No. 22 Ford grew bigger and bigger out of Busch’s windshield.
“I was being perfect doing everything I needed to do—keep the tires underneath me,” said Busch, who led a race-high 64 of 150 laps. “When I got close, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to try more and pounce at an opportunity,’ and just overheated the tires and smoked them in three laps and that was it. Disappointing, obviously.
“Come out here and win the pole, and lead laps, run up front. The finish goes green and it’s not chaotic and we can’t win, so it sucks. Congratulations to my son (Brexton Busch) – he won yesterday. That’s cool. I was trying to match him. He’s winning more than me these days, so somebody better send him a contract.”
Busch, dominated most of the weekend. He was fifth fastest in practice on Saturday morning and backed that up with the top qualifying spot that night. In the first heat race, Busch led all 25 laps from the pole which solidified him as the first ever pole winner in the events history in LA.
It looked like this was Busch’s race to lose. The active leader in short track wins was flexing his muscle and looking like the overall favorite for the A-Main.
Tyler Reddick though was quietly just as good. The Richard Childress Racing driver was always one spot behind Busch this weekend. He was sixth to Busch being fifth in practice and second to Busch’s first in qualifying. He too led all 25 laps in his heat race and earned a front row starting spot alongside of Busch for the main event.
It didn’t take him long to find the lead. He led Lap 1 and when Busch got him back a lap later, Reddick returned the favor two laps after that and would hold court for the next 50 laps. Unfortunately for him, a drivetrain failure occurred under the first caution when he tried to warm his tires.
Even though he was leading, his No. 8 Chevrolet came to a stop along the inside wall with his day done on Lap 53. Ironically enough, both Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe had similar issues at the same time and joined Reddick behind the infield wall early.
The caution was actually for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Harrison Burton’s contact in Turn 4. Reddick’s issues handed the lead back over to Busch who despite a caution for Chase Elliott on Lap 63, would lead the rest of the way before the Lap 75 halftime stoppage.
At the halfway break in the 150-lap event, crews changed tires and made adjustments to the Next Gen cars as rapper Ice Cube filled the Coliseum with loud, rhythmic music.
A pantheon of California sports stars—among them former Southern Cal tailback Reggie Bush and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts—joined NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon in a corps of grand marshals and shouted the command to start engines with Pitbull performing a pre race concert prior.
Once the pomp and circumstance was over, back to action we went. We’d see a yellow on Lap 115 for Ryan Blaney for which he grew frustrated with Erik Jones for some on track altercations.
Once we went back green, we’d see the final caution a lap later for more drama for that Larson-Haley incident. The rest of the way was drama free.
Austin Dillon passed Larson to finish third in his No. 3 Chevrolet, and Jones ran fourth after overtaking the reigning Cup Series champion in the closing laps. Larson held fifth, as William Byron, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
The win though was a nice comeback for Logano who started off 26th in practice on Saturday.
“Some of the adversity we fought through,”said Logano. “We were 26th on the board. That was me trying really hard to go as fast as I could go. To see everybody come together, not just the 22 team, but Team Penske in general, to be able to all lean on each other, what we learned in practice, ultimately put together a really good package to where it qualified well, we were able to win our heat race, keep track position, be good on the long run, which was a bit surprising to me. I don’t know about you, Paul. For me I thought it would be better on the short haul. Find our strengths, be able to play to them, win it.”
Wolfe agreed. He said it was unique with the three eight-minute sessions on Friday and you throw in a new race track of this size as well as a new car, well they had a lot to learn in such a minimal amount of time.
“We were learning pretty quick, and we weren’t exactly where we needed to be yesterday,” said Logano’s crew chief. “A lot of teamwork, talking through things amongst our teammates. We were able to put something together really good today that fortunately we didn’t adjust on it much. I did a small air pressure adjustment at the halfway break, but that was all we did. That was from our heat race and all.
“We were obviously pretty pleased with how the car was in the heat race, to be able to win that. Joey just wanted to leave it alone to start the main event today. Today was pretty uneventful, went fairly smooth for us. That was not the case yesterday.”
He wasn’t the only one out to lunch Saturday to turn it on for Sunday. Dillon was 19th quick in practice and 22nd in qualifying. Jones was 24th in practice as well as qualifying. Them with the inclusion of Logano took three of the top four finishing spots.
“From where we were last night, took a lot of crazy faith, a little prayer last night, talked to myself,” Dillon said. “We got it together today. The Chevy was really fast in practice. I struggled a little bit in qualifying. I knew when we got in the race, I would be fine. The long run speed was fine.
“Disappointed I couldn’t get to the next two cars. Really wanting to get there. All in all a great race from where we were last night. Everybody back home at RCR, a great job, it was a good showing for us.”
That’s win for NASCAR too. With less and less practice time being allotted, it goes to show that even with three eight-minute sessions, it was enough for guys to get their cars dialed in for the race.
Even Steve O’Donnell took notice of that fact.
“We saw a lot of teams who in practice were junk and were able to make some adjustments and compete and almost compete for a win today,” O’Donnell said.
Here are my main takeaways.
Logano Winning The Big Events
Joey Logano hasn’t won a race in almost a year. The last trip to victory lane though? Bristol Motor Speedway last March. The highly anticipated dirt race.
He’d not win again until the very similar highly anticipated Clash.
“Really cool. Last couple wins have been on some weird racetracks, so I don’t know. Bring ’em on. Bring on the more weird stuff,” he says.
You now have to wonder if Logano is a lock for the Hall of Fame with these building credentials.
He’s a series champion (2018). He’s made four Championship Four’s. He’s a Daytona 500 champion (2015). He’s a two-time Bristol Night Race Winner (2014, 2015). He’s earned Rookie of the Year Honors (2009). He’s also won the All-Star race in 2016 too.
To go along with that, Logano is the youngest ever winner in the Xfinity Series (18 years, 21 days) and the Cup Series (19 years, 35 days). He’s already won 27 times in his 14 year career and keeps racking up big race trophies.
Crowd Size Big Enough
Some wondered where everyone was. Yes, the crowd for the heat races was a little bit less than desired, but see this is a new crowd for NASCAR. For us diehards, we’re aware of how heat races and last chance shootouts work. Maybe they weren’t.
70% of the attendance on Sunday were first time ticket buyers to a NASCAR race. They maybe just expected things to start at 3 p.m. locally.
See, once the time for the 150 Lap main event to start came, the stands were starting to fill. Those fans were treated to a pre race Pitbull concert and dazzled by a halftime show featuring California’s own Ice Cube.
In the racing aspect in the middle of the two concerts and post the halftime show, they were shown what NASCAR is all about.
The estimated attendance was north of 50k and some reports of 60k+. That’s huge for this race. See, the Clash had become to dull and stagnant that they struggled to get 10k to walk through the Daytona gates to witness it. Last year’s on the road course struggled to get to 7k.
So, to get what we saw today, pales in comparison to the last several years. It’s not even in the conversation since Sunday’s attendance blew Daytona’s out of the water.
We wondered just how much parity would the Next Gen car bring this year. Some said the gap to the top would still be there due to the bigger teams have the most resources to figure this car out the fastest. Other said that it wouldn’t necessarily matter as the gap from the big teams to the small would now be negated.
A year after seeing 17 different winners, how many would 2022 produce?
Well, 13 different teams were represented in the Busch Light Clash including a different team in the entire top seven of the starting lineup. In the end, five different teams were represented in the top five including six in the top seven.
We saw Cody Ware show a lot more pace and come one spot shy of advancing to the big show. Ryan Preece was stout all weekend and was awarded the win in the second LCQ. It clearly shows Rick Ware Racing is benefitting from the Next Gen as well as an alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing.
RCR was very much improved too. Austin Dillon finished third in his heat as well as third in the race too. He passed several cars in going from sixth to third in Heat Race 3 and 10th to third in the feature. His teammate Tyler Reddick was sixth in practice, second in qualifying, led all 25 laps in his heat and led 51 laps including was holding onto the lead before a parts failure.
What about Kaulig Racing too. They were P4 and P8 in practice only to see Justin Haley back his fourth place practice run up with being third in qualifying. He dominated his heat and had a top four car all race before the incident with Larson.
Even Petty GMS Racing had a strong showing too. Erik Jones raced his way in and also netted a top five. His teammate Ty Dillon hit almost everything in his heat but still crossed the finish line first. If not for a penalty, he too was going to the big show.
On the flipside, it was a surprisingly off weekend from Brad Keselowski. He was only 34th in practice, 30th in qualifying, last in his Heat Race (9th) and 5th in the LCQ.
Same for Corey LaJoie. He expected to be strong this weekend but was anything but. LaJoie, was 14th in practice, 31st in qualifying, last in his heat race (9th) and 7th in the LCQ.
2 past champions (Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski) as well as a playoff driver last year in Alex Bowman lead a grouping of 13 drivers that failed to advance to the A-Main.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
Sunday, February 6, 2022
- (4) Joey Logano, Ford, 150.
- (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 150.
- (10) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 150.
- (16) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 150.
- (8) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 150.
- (7) William Byron, Chevrolet, 150.
- (14) Cole Custer, Ford, 150.
- (11) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 150.
- (21) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 150.
- (19) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 150.
- (15) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 150.
- (22) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 150.
- (9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 150.
- (5) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 150.
- (23) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 149.
- (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, 149.
- (13) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 147.
- (20) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 146.
- (3) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, Accident, 116.
- (18) Ryan Preece, Ford, Oil Pressure, 75.
- (2) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Drivetrain, 53.
- (6) Chase Briscoe, Ford, Drivetrain, 53.
- (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Power Steering, 52.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 39.029 mph.
Time of Race: 0 Hrs, 57 Mins, 39 Secs. Margin of Victory: .877 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 0 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T. Reddick 1;K. Busch 2-3;T. Reddick 4-53;K. Busch 54-115;J. Logano 116-150.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 2 times for 64 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 51 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 35 laps.
Heat Race/Last Chance Race Recaps
Beneath the glow of the Olympic cauldron ablaze in the east and the sun setting in the west, Kyle Busch set the quick time in qualifying on Saturday for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The thing is, while he was P1 out of the 36 qualifiers, it didn’t necessarily net him the pole for the main even on Sunday (6 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN). He still had to race in his heat race under the bright blue California skies on Sunday afternoon instead.
The top four qualifiers from Saturday night (Busch, Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley and Joey Logano) each did get to start on the pole for the four 25 lap heat races though as a reward for their qualifying performances. That proved beneficial. Each driver led every single lap in their heat to advance to the 150 Lap A-Main later on today.
By virtue of doing so, Busch will start on the pole in his No. 18 Toyota with Reddick alongside in his No. 8 Chevrolet. Haley and Logano will share Row 2 while Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five in the starting lineup in his No. 99 Chevrolet.
The first three races were pretty tame in nature while the fourth race was a little more wild. We saw the only two cautions in the heat race when Ty Dillon put fluid on the track on Lap 6. The other caution came from contact via Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill and Austin Cindric on Lap 9.
Still, what’s wild was, the fifth place starter in all four heats finished fifth and earned front row starting spots for the two 50 Lap Last Chance Qualifiers.
Also, 2 of the 4 heats saw the entire top four of the starting lineup advance while the second heat saw starters seventh and sixth advance on.
The biggest movers in the heats were Austin Dillon who started sixth and finished third in the second heat and Chase Briscoe who started seventh in the same heat and by the end of the opening lap was fourth. By Lap 8, he was up to second, the spot where he’d finish which transferred him to the A-Main. The Indiana native will start 6th in the A-Main.
Cole Custer started on the outside of the front row in that second heat and fell quickly to sixth but steadily moved his way back up to take the final transfer spot.
Speaking of that, the outside starting spots are treacherous. The low line has such an advantage that you have to find your way back to the bottom quickly or risk losing several spots. It happened to Custer as well as Chase Elliott too who went from second to fourth in the third heat. Kyle Larson had that happen in the fourth heat as Michael McDowell got him for second on the Lap 11 restart, but Larson got back by three laps later once the field got strung out a bit.
At the end of the four heats, we saw seven different teams represented in the top seven of the starting lineup (JGR, RCR, Kaulig, Penske, Trackhouse, SHR and HMS). In fact, 10 different teams took the first 16 guaranteed spots if you throw in Front Row Motorsports, Petty GMS Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing.
That left some big names on the outside looking in for the pair of 50 lap LCQ’s. Four past champions weren’t locked in with Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch still having to race their ways in.
There was a catch though. Among the seven spots left to the main event, the 23rd and final one goes to the top finisher in the 2021 points not already locked in. With Larson winning the title over Truex Jr. last year and he locking himself in via the fourth and final heat, Truex elected to forego his starting spot in the second LCQ and to take the final spot.
He was starting fifth and didn’t feel it was worth the risk to get up to third and potentially wreck his race car so he sat the race out and advances on.
In the first LCQ, we saw the first big crash of the weekend when Todd Gilliland hooked Aric Almirola entering Turn 3 on Lap 4. That ended the day for Almirola. Also, BJ McLeod called it a day early too meaning we had eight cars for three spots over the final 40+ laps.
Denny Hamlin started on the pole and led all 50 laps to take in one of the three spots in his No. 11 Toyota. Kevin Harvick quickly drove to second from his fourth starting spot to finish there in his No. 4 Ford while AJ Allmendinger passed Ross Chastain with 18 laps remaining to take the third and final spot in LCQ #1 to advance to the main event.
The second and final LCQ was definitely the most action packed race of the day so far. We saw a plethora of cautions, 7 in general, and even the first lead change too when Alex Bowman passed pole sitter Bubba Wallace on Lap 26. Wallace, got Bowman back on Lap 28 when they’d run side-by-side before Wallace’s 23XI Racing teammate of Kurt Busch passed them both on Lap 30.
The caution shortly came out after for Austin Cindric, Landon Cassill and Ryan Preece on Lap 32. Then, nine laps later, Ty Dillon got into Brad Keselowski and Cassill to bring out the third yellow. On the restart, another caution came for Cindric and Dillon again.
On Lap 42, Wallace got back by Busch and he was put in a bad position when he got shoved into the wall on Lap 45. Just prior to that, Harrison Burton got by Wallace for the lead too.
On the ensuing restart, more chaos happened with a big pileup between Wallace, Cindric, Preece and Alex Bowman brought out the sixth yellow.
Afterwards, we’d see just seven cars running for a five lap shootout. A few laps into it, Preece, who was running third, shoved second place Dillon into leader Burton. That caused Burton to spin and go from the lead to seventh.
Dillon took over the lead again with Wallace, Preece, Cindric, Keselowski, Cassill and Burton behind for the final three laps. He’d hold everyone off with Preece coming home second and Wallace in third to take the final three spots into the Big Show.
But, not long after, NASCAR issued a penalty to Dillon for jumping the final restart and taking the win away from him. That’s the second time he was penalized for jumping a start. He was also involved in 5 of the 7 cautions too as without Dillon, the race may not have been as chaotic.
In turn, Preece moved into the win, Wallace in second and now Burton back to third.
- The pole winner in all four heats and the first of 2 LCQ’s led every lap.
- We didn’t see the first lead change until Lap 26 of the 2nd LCQ
- The only cautions came in the final heat race as well as the final LCQ
- The outside starting spot on the front row is at a disadvantage. Just once in the six combined heats and LCQ’s did the second place starter finish second.
- Starting spots of cars that advanced
- 1-2-3-4 (Heat 1)
- 1-7-6-2 (Heat 2)
- 1-3-4-2 (Heat 3)
- 1-2-3-6 (Heat 4)
- 1-4-2 (LCQ 1)
- 4-1-7 (LCQ 2)
- Parity is high. 13 different teams make up the main event including 7 different teams in the top 7 of the starting lineup.
- Surprisingly off weekend from Brad Keselowski. He was only 34th in practice, 30th in qualifying, last in his Heat Race (9th) and 5th in the LCQ.
- Same for Corey LaJoie. He expected to be strong this weekend but was anything but. LaJoie, was 14th in practice, 31st in qualifying, last in his heat race (9th) and 7th in the LCQ.
- 2 past champions (Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski) as well as a playoff driver last year in Alex Bowman lead a grouping of 13 drivers that failed to advance to the A-Main.
Busch Light Clash Starting Lineup:
Row 1: Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick
Row 2: Justin Haley, Joey Logano
Row 3: Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe
Row 4: William Byron, Kyle Larson
Row 5: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon
Row 6: Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell
Row 7: Ryan Blaney, Cole Custer
Row 8: Chase Elliott, Erik Jones
Row 9: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Preece
Row 10: Kevin Harvick, Bubba Wallace
Row 11: AJ Allmendinger, Harrison Burton
Row 12: Martin Truex Jr.