This weekend’s marks the 45th annual Busch Light Clash. However, like last year, this year’s race will take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum instead of the Daytona International Speedway like the first 43 years of this event did.
In all actuality, the first 42 years took place on the high banked 2.5-mile oval with the 43rd annual race taking part on the 3.56-mile DIS road course. The 44th and 45th editions have been moved to the west coast in a football stadium.
Below are the favorites, sleepers, fades, track trends, etc. On Thursday over at COVERS, will be my official bets for this weekend as this is just a blanket guide. You obviously can’t choose them all, so I break down which ones of these to pick over there.
2023 Busch Light Clash Favorites
Joey Logano (+750)
Why go against the defending race winner? Logano dominated this event a year ago and oh by the way, won the last NASCAR race of the 2022 season at Phoenix and took home the title in the process. Until someone beats him, he’s the favorite in my opinion. While there’s no other track to really compare this race to, Martinsville would be the closest example I guess and Logano finished second and sixth respectively there in 2022. Good enough for me.
Christopher Bell (+800)
Worth a look. He was eighth in this race last year and won Martinsville last Fall. He also enters having scored a Top-5 finish in exactly half of the playoff races last season including a pair of wins at that. On top of that, one of his other wins in 2022 was at Loudon, a flat track like Martinsville and the Coliseum.
Kyle Busch (+900)
A new face in a new place with something to prove. Busch inherits a car that looked strong here last year. Tyler Reddick qualified second in this car, won a Heat Race and if not for some bad luck in the race, was going to be a contender to win. In saying that, Busch in his old ride was also good here. He was fastest in qualifying, won his Heat race and finished second in the main event to Logano. Both sides add up to a statement win by Busch on Sunday.
2023 Busch Light Clash Sleepers
Ryan Blaney (+1000)
The Team Penske driver had a pair of Top-5 finishes at the Martinsville Speedway (4th, 3rd) last year and if not for contact with Erik Jones in this race a year ago, was destined for another Top-5 finish here in February. Blaney ended the 2022 season without a points paying win and hasn’t won a points paying race since Aug. 2021 at that. However, he did win last year’s All-Star race (Not points paying) and it would be wild to begin 2023 off with another non points paying win. He closed last season with four Top-4 finishes over the last seven weeks and the only reason it wasn’t 7-for-7 was due to unforced errors on his behalf.
Ross Chastain (+1200)
He didn’t even make the main show last year, but my has his trajectory changed between this time last year and now. Chastain was fifth in Martinsville in the spring race and fourth in a wild last lap move in the Fall. That advanced him to the Championship 4 at Phoenix to which the Florida native ended 2022 with five Top-4 finishes over the final six weeks including four consecutive. All that momentum and a second go around on this track with the same team leads me to believe Chastain will be a popular favorite this weekend.
William Byron (+1200)
He won the spring Martinsville race, was seventh in the Fall and was sixth in this event a year ago.
Chase Briscoe (+3000)
I feel like 2023 will be a breakout year for Briscoe. In 2022, he won his first Cup race and while he had some down stats for the rest of the regular season after, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver really turned it on during the second round of the playoffs to which he finished 2022 with six Top-10 finishes over the final seven weeks including a fourth place run in the season finale at Phoenix. He also was strong and showed a lot of speed in last year’s Clash too.
Austin Dillon (+7500)
RCR had great cars here last year with Tyler Reddick’s speed and Austin Dillon finishing third in the main event. I don’t expect them to just drop off this time around.
Justin Haley (+10000)
Why not here? Won a heat race, started third and if not for contact with Kyle Larson late, he was destined for a Top-5 in the 2022 edition. For his odds, I’d snag him early.
2023 Busch Light Clash Fades
Chase Elliott (+750)
The most popular driver struggled on these types of tracks last year. He only placed 15th after starting 11th. At Martinsville, he finished 10th in both races.
Denny Hamlin (+1000)
Toyota’s largely outside of Kyle Busch struggled on this track last year and Hamlin in general struggled on these types of short tracks last season overall. He finished last in this race and 28th and fifth respectively at Martinsville a year ago.
Tyler Reddick (+1500)
Kurt Busch didn’t even make the main event in this car and the teammate car of Bubba Wallace finished 18th. For his early odds, even with success a year ago, I’d fade him with this new team as they haven’t yet established chemistry to what Reddick needs in a car just yet.
LA Coliseum Track Facts
Not much has changed to the actual track itself between last year and this time around in the LA Memorial Coliseum other than USC Football played their entire home schedule on it. Yes, the track from last year was broken up, sod put back down and the venue changed back to a multi purpose sporting facility within a month from the checkered flag dropping the inaugural Busch Light Clash a year ago. Now that football season has once again concluded, the track surface has been rebuilt to the exact configurations as it was a year ago.
So, with just one year with this unique race format and the cars/venue being the same for the second go around, I don’t expect much difference in terms of how things will look in 2023 as it did in 2022 in regards to the track analysis.
Some places you’ll see an aged surface get a year older, or a change to the tire compound or even a change to how the cars are setup on that specific venue, but for the Clash, it’s status quo from an exhilarating event in 2022.
The only thing I do think will look different, is that these drivers are going to be more comfortable. Last year, was the first year of this new Next Gen race car. It raced different, but most notably, it shifted different.
These cars used to be your typical H pattern gear shifting mechanism’s. Sort of like you’d see in a street car. Last year, it was a sequential shifter on top of a fifth gear being added. That threw the veterans for a loop because they had to retrain themselves on how to race these cars.
Plus, the first ever race for all of these drivers and teams inside of a football stadium, no one knew entirely what to expect. Now, they do…
Busch Light Clash Trends
• Starting position mattered in the qualifying races last year. • The Top-4 qualifiers from qualifying a night before started on the pole for each of the four heat races. Each of those four drivers led every single lap of their heat race to advance to the top four starting positions for the main event. This is something to keep an eye on Saturday in terms of qualifying times and the final order as well as if you’re live betting on Sunday, for whom to wager on for the main event. o The fifth place starter in all four heats also finished fifth in those races too. • 2 of the 4 heat races saw the entire Top-4 of the starting lineup take the four transfer spots to the main event. o 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) • 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.