I wouldn’t like a constant diet of NASCAR Cup Series racing around 0.250-mile race tracks, but the makeshift LA Memorial Coliseum has proven its worth over the last two seasons. Sunday’s Busch Light Clash felt like a throwback of sorts to the days of Dale Earnhardt Sr. with all of the bumping and banging that was going on over the course of the 150-lap event.
The tight confines of the race track don’t allow drivers to slide into their comfort zone, which is refreshing. And escaping out of the fray is next to impossible.
Along the way, fans were treated to bent fenders and twisted emotions from the drivers. Which is a welcome change from special exhibition events in recent memory. At the end of the day, sure, there were probably a few too many cautions — there were 16 on Sunday night — but it beats the alternative of a stale event where it feels like the drivers just don’t care enough about winning.
According to TobyChristie.com’s Joseph Srigley, Sunday’s Busch Light Clash became just the 36th race in NASCAR Cup Series history with 16-or-more cautions. And the Main Event was only 37.5 miles in length. That should give you an indication of how fiercely contested this race was.
There were definitely storylines that came out of the race as well.
Martin Truex Jr., who suffered through his worst season in the last eight years in 2022, found himself back in victory lane. Could this be the signal that Truex is back and poised to contend for a second NASCAR Cup Series championship? Joey Logano won the Clash last season, after all, on the path to his second-career NASCAR Cup Series title.
Busch Versus Logano
And what about Logano? The driver who has found himself locked in precarious battles with numerous drivers over the years, poked the bear — Kyle Busch — on Sunday night.
On Lap 86, Logano absolutely plowed through Busch, sending the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro spinning out.
LOGANO SPINS KYLE BUSCH!
The No. 22 drives in way too deep into Turn 3 and the No. 8 goes around sending "Rowdy" to the back.#NASCAR #BuschLightClash pic.twitter.com/ADbwxM4Mrc
— NASCAR on TSN (@NASCARonTSN) February 6, 2023
While Busch would rally to finish third in his first-ever race with RCR, the 37-year-old left Los Angeles miffed with Logano vowing to gain an upper hand.
“Yeah, Logano didn’t get hit by [anybody]. He just flat-out drove through me, so he’s got another one coming,” Busch pointed sharply. “I owe him a few.”
Hamlin and Chastain Rivalry Continues
And you can’t talk about rivalries and feuds in NASCAR without bringing up Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain, who found each other on the racetrack again on Sunday.
Again. #BuschLightClash pic.twitter.com/psN0BsnGGS
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) February 6, 2023
But the run-in with Chastain wasn’t the only moment for Hamlin where he was nudged out of the way. Hamlin was also moved by Bubba Wallace, who drives for Hamlin at 23XI Racing, for the lead.
And after the checkered flag, Hamlin was spun one last time for good measure by William Byron, who was shoved by Kevin Harvick.
RCR Looking Strong
Another fun storyline was the emergence of Richard Childress Racing. In the team’s first race with Kyle Busch on their roster, the No. 3 and No. 8 cars came home an impressive second and third.
At the end of the night, Busch and Dillon appeared to be best friends, rather than teammates in their first race together. This could bode well for how the 2023 season will turn out for RCR.
Could the Coliseum Host a Points-Paying Event?
While it was a frustrating night, which ended with a ninth-place result, Hamlin feels races at the Coliseum could be policed differently.
“There’s just no repercussions to driving in and using the bumper on the car in front of you. And then they hit someone in front of them and the car two cars up spins. The only way to do it is to say that was unnecessary contact and so you go to the rear, but the whole field would be black-flagged if we raced like that.”
There have been rumors that if Auto Club Speedway didn’t host a NASCAR Cup Series race in 2024, the LA Memorial Coliseum could host a points-paying race next season.
This week, Auto Club Speedway officially announced that it will not host a race in 2024, as it undergoes construction. That being said, does Hamlin think the race deserves a non-exhibition place on the schedule?
“I think they should put it in the Playoffs, personally. That would be perfect,” Hamlin said with a smile.
Let the record show that Hamlin had a very sarcastic tone when delivering that quote to Dustin Long of NBC Sports.
The Coliseum Has Earned its Place
Overall, the 2023 Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum proved to be an event worth taking time out to watch, which was a refreshing change for a NASCAR exhibition event.
And I believe the race had a lot of features that drew a lot of the hardcore fanbase into the sport, to begin with. And this is coming from a guy who was very skeptical of the idea of NASCAR racing at the Coliseum when the idea was first announced.
Ruthless aggression, short tempers, and the prestige of winning at an iconic venue. The LA Memorial Coliseum checks off all of those boxes, and for those reasons, I feel the venue deserves to stay on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Whether it should be an exhibition or a points-paying event is the only thing up for debate at this point.