The Clash at The Coliseum Could Provide Some Real Clues About Who’ll Rule in 2023
Sunday’s 150-lap affair at the makeshift quarter-mile race track erected inside the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum marks the unofficial start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Unofficial, in this case, means that it’s an exhibition race that has no impact on the points standings or the ultimate championship outcome.
In fact, just like the winner of the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro, whoever prevails this weekend in Southern California won’t even become playoff-eligible since achieving such status requires winning a points-paying race.
So there you have it: Technically speaking, the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum is rather meaningless. Then again, in a much looser sense, this event is arguably one of the most important races on the entire Cup Series schedule. And in just a minute, we’ll explain why.
The speed that Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick showed at the 2022 Clash set the tone for the season
Last year’s inaugural Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum was widely deemed a major success for the impressive crowd it drew in an area of the country where NASCAR has struggled for many years to gain a substantial footing.
Largely overlooked, however, was the fact that this race — despite being on a track more than a quarter of a mile shorter than any the Cup Series competed on all season — provided some pretty remarkable clues about how the 2022 season would play out.
Consider, for example, that the driver who won the Clash — Joey Logano — went on to win the Cup Series championship nine months later in rather convincing fashion. While Logano didn’t dominate the Clash, he ran well enough by leading the final 35 laps and taking the checkered flag nearly a second ahead of the second-place finisher to serve notice that he could be in for a special season. Sure enough, it was a special season indeed, as the Team Penske driver went to Victory Lane four times and proved especially unflappable once the playoffs rolled around.
Logano’s big day at the LA Coliseum wasn’t the only big clue about how the season would unfold, however. Leading 51 laps before exiting the Clash with a mechanical failure was Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who, in two previous Cup Series seasons at RCR, had never been to Victory Lane and rarely enjoyed this long of a stay out front.
Reddick’s ability to lead the Clash with virtual ease proved to be a sign of things to come for him in the 2022 season — a season when he would go on to win three races, make the playoffs, and lead 503 laps. That was more than five times the number of laps Reddick spent out front in 2020 and 2021 combined, by the way.
Chase Briscoe’s performance in the 2022 Clash at The Coliseum proved to be no fluke
Another surprise at the 2022 Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum was second-year Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe, whose rookie season at the Cup level left a lot to be desired. In his first outing on the heels of a rookie campaign in which he posted not a single top-five finish and just three top-10s, Briscoe ran in the top five in Los Angeles before a drivetrain issue ended his day early.
“Last year, I felt like that was a race that if I wasn’t gonna win, I was for sure gonna run second,” Briscoe, who just last week signed a multi-year contract extension with SHR, told reporters on a call. “I felt like me and [Tyler] Reddick were the two best cars. I went from eighth or ninth to third or fourth in a matter of like 20 laps, and I just felt like my car was really, really good. And then we had the mechanical issue, so that’s one that I feel like kind of got away from us and one that I definitely want to go and try to win.”
No one knew it at the time, of course, but like Logano and Reddick, Briscoe’s performance at The Coliseum was a tremendous indicator of the kind of season he would have. A year after finishing 23rd in points and often struggling to be competitive, Briscoe captured his first career Cup Series victory and recorded 10 top-10 finishes that included six top-fives. He also made the playoffs, advanced all the way to the Round of 8, and led 280 laps on the season — compared to just 18 as a rookie.
So will this week’s Clash at The Coliseum offer just as great of a clue about what’s to come in 2023 as the 2022 Clash did for the 2022 season?
It very well could. And that alone is reason enough to tune in.