(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: Another 2023 Winter’s beautiful post-card perfect racing day appeared in our great sports capital of the world, the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA as the NASCAR Busch Light Clash At The Coliseum took over the large spotlight of sporting and other popular activities that were happening here in Southern California on 2/5/23.
[PRE-RACE NEWS]: During a major Pre-race day moment, NASCAR and Ally Financial Inc. announced a league-wide sponsorship expanding the financial institution‘s presence in the sport, having Ally Bank become the Official Consumer Bank of NASCAR and NASCAR-owned tracks.
[“Clash” Race Background on Drivers’ Qualifying ]: The 2:00 pm hour signaled the start of the (4) Heats of (10) drivers who would be the first to qualify for the “Clash” if they were to post the (5) fastest qualifying times for (25) laps.
When those Heats were all finished, they were followed by (2) Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) races of (50) laps each, with the “Top 5” in both going into Transfer categories for the day’s main event, the 2nd Annual, Busch Light “Clash At The Coliseum” race of (150) laps, slated to begin around 5:00 pm.
In Group 1, we kept our eyes on Justin Haley, Saturday’s top qualifier and Pole Awardee winner, for Sunday’s first heat. He managed to take 3rd and move into the qualifying Transfer finalists group.
In Group 2, we watched “El Mexicano” and one of NASCAR’s ever-growing Mexican and Chicano fandom’s favorite, #99/Daniel Suárez’s Chevy Red/White/Blue colored car, sponsored by Jockey. He started in the 5th spot, then faded into the 8th halfway through his run. But give credit to his good fortune, during a couple of mandatory Yellow Flags, he was reconfigured and then repositioned back into contention and finished in a late sprint to 5th and qualified to Transfer.
As time passed and the first shadows were seen in the Coliseum, Groups 3 and 4 were also very competitive and exciting as more and more fans poured in looking for a good General Admission seat. They were entertained not only by the drivers, but also in a mini-concert format, with a Pre-Race performance at 4:00 pm, by the iconic Cypress Hill, and later during the halfway point of the main event race, by Wiz Khalifa.
Next came the opportunity for Last Chance Qualifiers (LCQ) Runs to rake place. There were two opportunities for drivers to make the qualified competitors list for the “Clash.” Once that was accomplished, NASCAR Track Officials declared the entire field of (27) drivers ready to go!
Subsequent to that, all eyes were directed to the peristyle end of the Coliseum, and under the Olympic Flame at 5:00 pm, actor, Rob Lowe, the event’s Grand Marshall, announced for all present to hear him say this most unforgettable phrase, “Gentlemen…start your engines!!” Then, as scheduled, USC Trojans’ Quarterback, All-American and Heisman Trophy Winner, Caleb Williams, was charged with the starting flag to officially get the race underway.
[1st Half]: The Pole sitter went to the #10 car, Aric Almirola, and he led up to Lap 17, before car #43/Erik Jones spun out, and couldn’t avoid hitting Almirola after colliding with the retainer wall on Turn 1. A total of (4) restarts were taken due to the issuance of yellow caution flags, during the first half of the race. After the settling effect from the yellow flags was felt by all drivers and teams, then the solid rhythm of the race began to take shape as every driver was sizing up the field of competitors even more, and pushing it to the best limits that were available to them. At the halfway mark, with (75 ) laps in the books, the Top 5 on the leaderboard were: #23/Bubba Wallace, #3/Austin Dillon, #8/Kyle Busch, #24/William Byron, and #45/Tyler Reddick.
[2nd Half]: Before the pack had raced (8) laps around the oval to get re-acquainted with the changing element of lightness to darkness, (3) quick yellow flags slowed matters to unexpected, but normal halts. Then, in one of the race’s biggest and most dramatic moments, after leading the race for a very decent stretch of time, #23/Bubba Wallace was still in the lead, when on Lap 143, in an instant and unfortunate turn of events, he was negatively impacted and spun out on a turn by car #3/Austin Dillon. Wallace never recovered and would finish in the rear of the pack at position #22.
From then on, the fierce competition went on at a quickened and more serious pace with many of the top veteran drivers and contenders just merely looking for a sliver of space to slip by the driver in front of them. Or, we’re hoping to make their ways through the field in the timeliest, most cautious, and safest of manners. Much was accomplished in this way as drivers torqued up their engines for sprints to jockey for better positions as they came off the back stretches, then surged to the front stretches, and then into all (4) turns of the race track. But, most found that racing tack a bit too difficult to maintain for any great length of time as the laps were counting-down rather quickly and the next yellow flag was weighing on their minds.
A total of (16) yellow caution flags were enforced during the race, (12) in the 2nd half, due to a variety of issues. One of the main reasons was the tire pressures fluctuating due to the track condition of a dusk start time to competing and completing the race at night. Several other critical reasons were obviously the grinding, bumping, and thumping on the front and rear exterior parts of the cars, engine performance problems with fuel, and vehicle suspensions, both (front and back).
And in the bumpiest “Clash” race, when the checkered flag was waved at the finish, these were the Top 5 finishers in the following order: 1st/Martin Truex, Jr. (Gold Medalist); 2nd/Austin Dillon (Silver Medalist); 3rd/Kyle Busch (Bronze Medalist); 4th/Alex Bowman; and 5th/Kyle Larson. Attendance: 50,000.
As a follow-up to our pre-race phone interviews, we also watched how #14/Chase Briscoe and #54/Ty Gibbs fared in their attempts. Briscoe finished 15th and Gibbs 26th. But the Cup Series has just started and they will be big point-getters and big contenders for the title as the season progresses. Other notable drivers and their finishing spots that we took high interest in were: Car #99/Daniel Suárez, who we kept a special eye on, and although he failed to make any strong moves from his cramped, middle of the pack position, and throughout the consistent “bumping and grinding” race, he had to settle for a 19th place finish…he gets an “A” for Effort!
To continue on with our notables list, we give you: #23/Bubba Wallace-22nd; #22/Joey Logano (last year’s winner)-16th; #10/Aric Almirola-18th; and #31/Justin Haley-11th.
A reminder that this “Clash at the Coliseum” was only classified by NASCAR as an Exhibition event since there were no earned drivers’ points that were at stake in this Cup Series event. That will occur during the Daytona 500 this coming Sunday, 2/19 at 11:30 am | PT. Here is list of media that will carry the event: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
In closing, we’ve included a tremendous Photo Gallery for your viewing in two parts. Part 1 is a video highlight of Heat #2, a glimpse of the official start and finish, plus brief footage of Wiz Khalifa. Part 2, features the post-race interviews with the Top 5 finishers.
To wrap things up, here’s notice to our Los Angeles and Southern California NASCAR Cup Series fans, that the Series returns here to Fontana on February 25th and 26th for the Pala Casino, 200 Lap/400 Mile race. Now’s the time to make your plans to attend at the Auto Club Speedway to see the competition take place on its two-mile oval. Go to autoclubspeedway.com for more information.
Finally, a Special thanks goes out to Matt Humphrey, Manager, NASCAR Track Communications and his outstanding Staff for making our inaugural coverage of the NASCAR Bush Light Clash At The Coliseum a big success. ¡Muchas Gracias Mi Amigo!