My 5 things to watch for Sunday’s 2023 Busch Light Clash

Will Clash Be Back In LA For 2024?

After the 2022 version of the Busch Light Clash being a hit, we wondered if NASCAR would try it again in 2023. It didn’t take much time for them to announce that they would. With that said, does the Clash come back to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2024?

If it’s a flop, then you know it certainly won’t. If it’s a hit, does NASCAR attempt to take the Clash on the road?

NBC Sports reported last year that NASCAR agreed to a 3-year deal with the Coliseum and USC. The final 2 years (2023, 2024) are option years that NASCAR has until early May to make the decision on coming back the following year or not.

“It’s something that I think we’ll certainly look at,” Ben Kennedy said. “Los Angeles, as we’ve mentioned from the start, is really an important market for us. It’s important for us to get here in a big way, too. It’s been two years since we’ve competed in Southern California. To be able to get back here to downtown Los Angeles at the L.A. Coliseum, come back a few weeks later at Fontana, I think it was really important to us.

“The Coliseum, USC, have been tremendous partners. That will be certainly an important part as we think about this. But to your point, too, if we can prove this out, a proof of concept, it does open the door to other locations in the future.”

Corey LaJoie said that if this truly is a success and they can do this anywhere, his vote is to go to the AT&T Stadium (the home of the Cowboys).

“It all depends on the footprint,” he noted. “If this model works then it can open a lot of doors for the future.”

Kevin Harvick agreed. He says that if you can even do this in the middle of the year for an All-Star race too and rotate it around.

“For me, I look at the NFL and what they do in London and I look at the things that they do,” he said. “I think in order to really open doors, I think Wembley Stadium would be fun. I think everyone wants to do something but the weather has to be different. But this is something that you could put in the middle of the year and I think the All-Star race is definitely something that could learn something from this just because of the fact that it needs to be more like this instead of just at a 1.5-mile track that we go to all the time.

“It needs to have that intrigue and fun and atmosphere that goes along with an event that is different. I am of the opinion that I would never do this twice, but I know that I will probably get overruled after this happens. It is kind of like the Roval, the intrigue isn’t as much the second year. I would move it all over the place. If this goes like everyone thinks it will, it will just blow the doors open to opportunities and I would take them.”

Kennedy, agreed with that.

“I think as far as venues go, I talked to Kevin in the elevator yesterday, he was talking about that,” he said. “I think it does open the opportunity and door to do that. I think it’s going to be really important as we think about those venues, the size of it. I think the Coliseum was a perfect footprint as you think about the size of the field itself.

“I don’t know that we’d want to make the radiuses of the corners that much tighter. I think you probably play with the straightaway length a little bit. I think it will be an important factor. If we are going to take this to other locations, I want to make sure that the racing product is good for our fans.”

Steve O’Donnell didn’t put those rumors to bed. In fact, he heightened them.

“I think everything is open. To Ben’s point, you look at the footprint, one of the unique things about this stadium is the Olympics and the track that they had around a football field doesn’t really exist anymore in the purpose-built football stadiums. It’s a lot tougher to look at that footprint of what might have the room for us.

“Certainly, if you looked, and I’m not advocating that we’re taking the Clash overseas, I don’t want anyone to take that away, but it does open up the opportunity for us if we wanted to showcase NASCAR, we’ve always talked about, Ben and I, you have to go to a road course, they have to build a track somewhere if you’re in Europe. Not anymore. We’ve proven out you can go to a cool stadium with a track around it, we know what to do, we can go in and out, some opportunities there.

“Ben, if he hasn’t already, is already studying the footprints of a lot of different stadiums in the U.S., what works, what may not work, but also pretty happy here.”

So if you get a second straight hit, it’s a risk to move it away, but why not explore? You want to take the Clash to other venues while the attention is high rather than it trending down. Does coming back to LA a third straight year in 2024 risk the popularity going downward?

There were a lot of new fans last year that you’d want to come back. How many more can you truly get in 2023 and again in 2024? If you go somewhere new, does this just become a one-year fad for them too?

Metrics to note:

Last year’s exhibition race drew a 2.32 rating which equates out to 4.283-million. By comparison, Fox Sports 1 saw 1.577 million viewers for the 2021 race which was a .93 rating. That was down almost 1 million people as 2.455 million tuned into the 2020 Busch Clash.

Granted, the 2020 race was on a Sunday afternoon on the oval compared to 2021 on a weeknight on the road course.

Still, last year’s race outdrew the year prior’s by almost 3 million people and nearly doubled the last one held on a Sunday afternoon on the Daytona oval.

On top of that, the estimated attendance was north of 50k and some reports of 60k+. Daytona was lucky to draw 10k over the last few years, so they saw 5x the crowd and over double the viewership.

Mission accomplished.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 06: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

How Much Is The Clash A Glimpse of NASCAR’s Future?

From heat races, to LCQ’s, to concerts, to halftime shows, to a podium ceremony, etc, how much of what we witnessed at the Clash the last two years will translate over to a new NASCAR?

Halftime shows could work. Maybe not every race and maybe not overboard with concerts, but surely for big events you could do so. I mean we already slow for stages, maybe figure out a way to incorporate a halftime break with a concert.

I liked the way to set the field like they did too. It was reminiscent of your local Saturday night shows with heat races all the way up to the main event. Surely you can find a way to do this some during the season too.

Also, what about the medals for podium finishers? That’s new and something I can see sticking around as well.

70% of the fans in attendance last year had never been to a NASCAR race before. They seemed to like what they saw. The thing is, what’s the perception of NASCAR moving forward? Will they trek to Fontana later this month but be confused to see a different format?

That’s a big key now. How do you get these fans to come back to a NASCAR race and like what they see moving forward?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 05: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Is Nighttime The Right Time?

This year’s Clash will differ from last in the sense that it will run under the lights. As an 8 ET start, the race last year was done by this point. Is the move to under the lights on a Sunday night the right time?

It’s an experiment NASCAR is trying this season. Overall, 10 NASCAR Cup Series races will air in primetime during the 2023 season. The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, the Bristol Dirt Race, NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Sunday, May 21, at 8 p.m. ET, FS1), Charlotte Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Chicago Street Race, Atlanta Motor Speedway (Sunday, July 9, at 7 p.m. ET, USA Network), Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway (Sunday, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. ET, USA Network), and Bristol Motor Speedway (Saturday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network) highlight racing under the lights next year.

Among them are 7 points paying races including 5 of the 7 taking place on a Sunday night at that. Nashville and Atlanta are movers from Sunday afternoons to Sunday nights.

Does NASCAR find a new time range for races in moving from Saturday night’s to Sunday night’s? This is the first test.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 06: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, leads Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Does Starting Position Matter?

Last year it both did, and it didn’t.

The top four qualifiers from the Saturday night qualifying show (Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley and Joey Logano) each did get to start on the pole for the four 25 lap heat races a day later 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.

Also, 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. On top of that, 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.

  • Starting spots of cars that advanced through heats and LCQ’s last year.
    • 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)

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.

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.

In the main event though, the 4th placed starter won and the pole sitter finished 2nd. They were the only top 5 starters to even finish in the top 13 though. 8 of the top 12 finishers in the A-Main started 10th on back.


This was a topic brought up prior to last year’s race to where some wondered if there’d be any hurt feelings leaving LA. We saw two separate instances to where drivers got into one another in the main event. That also didn’t count Ty Dillon making plenty of drivers mad during the second LCQ prior.

Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones had a run in late. Blaney, was pissed at Jones for turning him and ending his race before the checkered flag while Jones admitted that he did punt Blaney on purpose but did so as a payback for how Blaney was brake checking him on track prior.

“I was racing with him there,” said Jones of Blaney. “He brake checked me off of four. Okay, no real reason. I didn’t appreciate that. Felt like I showed it on the track.

“We have a conversation, we have a conversation. It’s an exhibition race. We’re out here doing what we can. I was frustrated with the move that he made. That’s what happened.”

That came before Kyle Larson got into Justin Haley exiting Turn 4 and forcing him into making hard contact into the inside wall. Haley, wasn’t too pleased with Larson for making that move.

Do we see any more incidents this weekend?

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