Monday, May 23

Kyle Busch ‘Clash’ of the Titans

As the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season quickly approaches, it’s shaping up to feature many new and unique twists than fans have seen in quite some time. 

 

The traditional season-opening exhibition race, now called the Busch Light Clash, was held for 43 years at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Debuting in 1979, the non-points event was held on the 2.5-mile oval for the first 42 years, then moved to the Daytona road course for the 2021 edition. For this year, the event has been reimagined in a big way, moving to a purpose-built, quarter-mile, asphalt oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum kicks off the 2022 season at a track other than Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the first time since 1981, when the series opened its season on a road course at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway, approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

 

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is the defending winner of the Busch Light Clash, albeit with a thrilling, last-corner victory on the Daytona road course last February as Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney collided in front of him, allowing the Las Vegas native to slip past both drivers to bring home the checkered flag. The win was Busch’s second in the season-opening exhibition race to go with his thrilling comeback in 2012, when he inched past Tony Stewart at the line to bring home the win on the Daytona oval.

 

While starting the season on a purpose-built track inside the Los Angeles Coliseum qualifies as new and unique, it’s not nearly the only new thing NASCAR fans will need to get used to in 2022. The Clash also serves as the debut of the NextGen car in NASCAR’s top series.

 

The NextGen car is the seventh-generation stock car introduced since NASCAR began sanctioning what is now called the Cup Series in 1949. While the car has a sleek, new look more in line with the street versions of each of its manufacturers. Highlights of the NextGen car include a sequential shifter, 670-horsepower engines, single center-lock wheel nuts akin to what is used on Formula One cars, Indy cars and sports cars, and car numbers shifting forward, just behind the front wheel well.

In addition to those notables, the NextGen car also features carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body panels, a carbon-fiber floor that covers the entire underneath portion of the car, and a rear-end diffuser to reduce dirty air. Also, rack-and-pinion steering replaces the archaic recirculating ball, and an independent rear suspension is a drastic upgrade from the full floating axle.

 

As for the Clash race format, Busch will be one of an expected 36 entries who will vie for 23 starting spots in the 150-lap feature on the quarter-mile Coliseum oval. The race weekend starts with practice and qualifying Saturday and continues with heat races and last-chance qualifiers Sunday. The feature race begins at 3 p.m. EST and will be televised live on FOX.

 

So as Busch and his fellow Cup Series competitors head out West to compete in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, he’s hoping he can bring home a win with his M&M’S Camry in this “Clash” of the Titans of NASCAR’s top series in the City of Angels.

 

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

 

What does it mean to be able to race at a place like the Los Angeles Coliseum?

 

“It’s really cool. Obviously, the history of the Coliseum is really, really neat. It’s going to be tight corners for us, there’s not a lot of space there. We’ll put on the best show we possibly can. Being it’s such a historic venue, we hope we can get a good crowd out there and enjoy the show, and hopefully have a few new eyeballs come out there and tune in on TV, and keep some of those people to watch our other races during the remainder of the year.”

 

How do you think the racing is going to be like at the Coliseum?

 

“I have no idea what it’s going to be like. Top speed is probably going to be around 60 mph and the low speed in the corners may be 20 mph. It’s going to be action-packed. We aren’t going to be able to spread out and get away from each other. We are going to be all over the top of each other’s bumpers and doors. Double-file restarts are going to be really tight, and there’s going to be a lot of fenders bent and probably feelings hurt.”

 

What is your anticipation level for the Clash?

 

“My anticipation level is probably a lot like everyone else’s, just not exactly knowing what we are going to see. I’ve raced on tracks that small before, but it was in Legends cars. We’ll have to see how this track fits these big, heavy stock cars. We’ll see how it goes. I’d like to do nothing more than take our M&M’S Camry to victory lane the very first time we get to run at a new venue like the Coliseum.”

 

What’s it going to be like being in Los Angeles to start the season with a unique, first-time event like the Clash at the Coliseum?

 

“Being in Los Angeles is cool. But when it comes time to race, it’s time to get down to business. We have objectives in mind to be able to go out there and win. It’s a performance-based business, so with that in mind, you want to go out there and do well whether it’s a points-paying race or not for your team and for your sponsors. It’s the first race with the new car so there’s a lot on the line there. You’re going to be close to the fans, it will remind us a lot of Martinsville and Bristol, lining up on pit road before the race just 20 to 30 feet away from the fans right across the way at the fence line.”

 

Event Overview:

 

● Event: Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 6

● Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

● Layout: Quarter-mile oval

● Format: 150-lap Feature with a 23-car field set by Heats and Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)

● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Note: Heats and LCQ are broadcast live from 3-5 p.m. EST. Feature airs live at 6 p.m. EST.

 
 
 

Notes of Interest:

  

● The Format: The L.A. Coliseum track is only a quarter-mile in length – the shortest track the NASCAR Cup Series will compete on in 2022. Only 23 cars can compete in the 150-lap main event. Full format details are below:

 

On Saturday, Feb. 5, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will take to the track for practice prior to single-car qualifying runs to determine the starting order for four heat races. The field will be open to 40 entrants. On Sunday, Feb. 6, on-track action will begin 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-car qualifying session will be on the pole for each heat race, while cars that qualified fifth through eighth 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: Heat one will be made up of 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, 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 those 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 (LCQ) races. Below is a breakdown on how the LCQ will be filled out: The starting order for these two events will be determined based on finishing positions in the heat races. Those who did not advance from heats one and three will make up the first LCQ race. 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 LCQ 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 LCQ 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 will be 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 LCQ races. All other drivers will be eliminated from competition for the remainder of the event weekend. 

 

‘Busch’ Clash history: The Busch Light Clash will mark Busch’s 16th appearance in the non-points event, with his 14 races competing on the 2.5-mile oval and last year’s Clash victory coming on the Daytona road course. He brought home his first of two Clash victories in 2012. In that race, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart coming to the finish line on the final lap. Busch won by .013 of a second, the closest finish in Clash history. Busch has led 61 total laps in his 16 previous Clash starts.

 

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