As the offseason faded into the night sky in Southern California, a new season for the NASCAR Cup Series began. A new season means new rookies and new drivers in new places. Every season since 1979, the season has started with the Busch Light Clash. An exhibition race that’s for bragging rights, and a lot of money. Last season, NASCAR wanted to go big with the Clash. The event was held inside the famous LA Memorial Coliseum. Joey Logano wound win the event last season in the debut race for the next-gen car. Late last season, it was announced that the Clash would return to LA in 2023. The hype was real for this race. The racing on track seemed to live up to the hype of the event and saw a veteran of the sport bounce back into Victory Lane.
Truex breaks back into Victory Lane:
To say that 2022 was a letdown for Martin Truex Jr, would be an understatement. Truex, who currently drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. 2022 was also the first season since 2014 that Truex did not win a point-paying race. The hunger for Truex to get back into Victory Lane has never been greater. That being said, rumors were swirling around Truex’s future with JGR, and NASCAR, some speculating retirement in 2022. Truex put out a statement in late June stating that he would be back for the 2023 season. As previously said, Truex would not win a race in 2022, most notably in New Hampshire in July. Truex and his crew were already looking forward to 2023 as a year to rebound to championship contention.
Truex started the 2023 Clash in the second position but would stay in the top three positions for most of the race. But Truex wasn’t able to take the lead until very late in the race. It was going to be a battle between Ryan Preece, and Truex for the win. Preece would experience electrical issues with his car, which gave Truex the lead. Truex would lead the last 24 laps to win the 2023 Busch Light Clash. This is a step in the right direction for Truex and the entire No. 19 team. This race may not count towards breaking his winless streak, but this is the first time winning any NASCAR event since September of 2021 at Richmond. This win in the Clash could be what Truex needed to find the spark to return to championship contention form.
Was the 2023 Clash a Success?
Overall, yes. The race and event itself were a success. However, the main issue with the race was that there were too many caution flags. With this being a special event, there were special rules in place. The main event race was 150 green flag laps long. With that said, only green flag laps would count during the race as yellow flag laps did not count throughout the night. The event, which lasted less than an hour last season, was almost two hours long this year. Not a major problem, but once again, this is due to there being too many caution flags throughout the race. In 2022, there were five total caution flags in the Clash, this year, there were 16 caution flags. This was due to so many cars on a quarter-mile track at once.
27 drivers made the main event from the heat races earlier in the day, as well as the last chance qualifier. Last season, 23 drivers made the main event. It would seem that four extra cars wouldn’t create any extra issues, but that wasn’t the case. Most of these cautions were single-car spins that took place on a restart going into turn one or turn three. If the Clash were to return to the LA Coliseum in 2024, they should go back to 23 drivers making the main event. That is, once again, if the Clash were to return to the LA Coliseum.
Should the Clash move in 2024?
After two successful races at the LA Coliseum for the Clash, it is time for NASCAR to start looking at different venues to hold the 2024 Clash. It’s a special event that the sport can try to be different with. This year, the NASCAR All-Star Race is being held at North Wilkesboro, which will hold its first NASCAR race since 1996. Perhaps this could be the future of the Clash, going to previous venues that the sport hasn’t been to for some time. Or, perhaps the sport could try an experimental race, such as the Clash held at the Charlotte Roval at night. The Clash is an opportunity for the sport to take chances and opportunities that they would have never thought to be possible 20 years ago. The time is right to take those chances. These possible moves could set the tone for the sport for years to come.
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