Joey Logano wins NASCAR’S Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

Joey Logano (22) holds off Kyle Busch (18) on the final lap of the Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Photo by David Barks

By Elliott Stern / [email protected]

LOS ANGELES – Joey Logano is living his best life.

His wife Brittany is due to deliver the couple’s third child back home in Connecticut on Monday.

On Sunday, Feb. 6, Logano won NASCAR’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

“I can’t believe we’re here. L.A. Coliseum, we got the victory with the old Shell-Pennzoil Mustang,” said Logano. “This is such an amazing event … such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this, put on an amazing race for everybody. I’m so excited about this. This was a big win.”

Logano passed pole-sitter Kyle Busch to take the lead with 35 laps to go in the 150-lap race over the specially built, quarter-mile track inside the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the campus of USC.

Joey Logano completes his burnout after winning the Clash at the Coliseum. Photo by David Barks

NASCAR kicked off the 2022 season with The Clash, the first time the exhibition race was held outside of Daytona. The previous races were held at Daytona International or the Daytona Road Course.

It was also the official debut of the new Next Gen race car.

“This is special to get the first Next Gen win, the first win here in the Coliseum,” said Logano. “It’s a special one. We’re going to have some fun and celebrate it.”

“Disappointing obviously,” said Busch of his second-place finish. “Come out here and win the pole, lead laps, run up front. The finish goes green, it’s not chaotic and we can’t win.”

“That last 30 laps I was able to maintain a decent lead but he was able to close the gap,” said Logano. “With five, six laps left I was able to hold him off.”

Tyler Reddick (8), Kyle Busch (18), Joey Logano (22), Justin Hayley (31), Chase Briscoe (14) and Daniel Suarez (99) battle through Turn 3 during Sunday’s NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Photo by David barks.

The final was remarkably free from chaos – only four cautions throughout.

Because of the unusual format, unique track (there was no pit road) and the fact that NASCAR hadn’t raced on a track this small since 1971, no one knew quite what to expect but only the second 50-lap Last Chance Qualifier had any mayhem attached.

That was filled with bump and bang racing.

Midway, Alex Bowman slid into Bubba Wallace who bounced into Harrison Burton – sending Burton into the wall.

Five laps later, Ryan Preece was spun around by Landon Cassill.

Ty Dillon was in second place on the re-start but jumped the re-start and was sent to the back of the field and then on the re-start Cassill was involved in a crash with Brad Kesselowski.

Keselowski was involved in a crash with Austin Cindric on the next re-start and then Cassill stalled in the middle of the track on the next re-start.

With five laps to go, Burton, Wallace and Kurt Busch were side-by-side heading into turn 2 when Burton sideswiped Wallace who bounced into Busch, sending Busch into the wall.

Then on the re-start, Bowman hit Cindric and Wallace hit Cindric, sending Cindric into the wall and pushing the Jersey Barrier out of line.

There were still five laps to go when the race finally resumed but with three laps to go, Burton spun out bringing out the final caution.

Ty Dillon jumped into the lead on the final re-start but he jumped too soon.

Even though he crossed the finish line first, he was black flagged – costing him a spot in the final and giving Burton the final spot in the field.

The format for the day was much like the type used at local race tracks, including the former Santa Maria Speedway, throughout the country.

Only 23 of the 39 cars on hand qualified for the Main Event.

The first 16 qualified by being one of the top four finishers in one of the four 25-lap heat races.

Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Justin Hayley and Logano won the heats to grab the top four sports on the finals grid.

The next six sports went to the top three finishers in each of the two Last Chance Qualifiers.

The 23rd and final spot went to the driver with the most points from the 2021 season who had not already qualified.

That went to Martin Truex Jr. who finished second in 2021 points.

After not gaining an automatic spot in his heat, Truex skipped the LCQs since he was always guaranteed the final spot in the main event.

Truex’s strategy didn’t help. He finished 15th – there were only 18 drivers still on the track at the end.

The Coliseum – home to USC Football and two Olympic Games – is the most unusual venue on the NASCAR calendar.

The quarter-mile paperclip shaped track was built almost overnight, barely six weeks from groundbreaking to completion in the home of USC Football.

“It’s awesome,” said 2021 NASCAR Cup series champion Kyle Larson. “This place has a grass roots feel to it. It’s a little bit of a throwback to our K&N (Series racing) days. The only thing that surprised me was how much grip we had here.”

“The track does change a bit. The grip gets better the longer you run on it,” said 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. It’s amazing how quickly everything came together. Everything seems super nice, well done.”

The official groundbreaking ceremony was held on Dec. 21, 2021. Just over a month later, the track was in, safety barriers were installed and it was ready for racing.

The 150-lap Clash was an exhibition race so it wasn’t run in stages where, in a regular race, points would be awarded after each stage. It was broken into two 75-lap segments with a break midway for a quick Ice Cube concert when the drivers were able to change tires or make adjustments or repairs in the infield before heading back to the track for the final run to victory.

NASCAR returns to California in three weeks when the drivers will move from the Coliseum’s quarter-mile track to the Auto Club Speedway’s two-mile oval in Fontana on Feb. 26-27.

— Elliott Stern can be reached by email to [email protected]

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