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NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Busch Earns Runner-Up at The Clash

Kyle Busch was all smiles even before the Busch Light Clash kicked off at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

LOS ANGELES — Last year, Kyle Busch made an impressive splash in his unofficial, first race in his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing mount. Starting sixth, Busch overcame a penalty to net a podium finish at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although it was just an exhibition race, it was a clear sign that the Busch-Richard Childress Racing connection was going to be fruitful. Indeed, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion went on to win three races and earned a coveted Playoffs spot.

On Saturday night, Busch’s race day at the famed sports complex was less dramatic. This time, he did not contend with a penalty nor did he ruffle any feathers.

It was an unprecedented race day in which NASCAR moved the annual, all-star race to Saturday night with the threat of a winter storm forecast to ravage California. Despite teams scrambling for a compressed schedule to practice, qualify and race in stock car’s short track gala, Busch and his team were ready to fight.

Before taking on the famed sports stadium on Saturday night, Busch posted the 12th fastest effort for a 10-lap consecutive run. Such effort indicated that Busch and crew chief Randall Burnett had a car that could be adjusted to break into the top 10 for long run pace, especially in the opening stanza.

Qualifying fifth for the somewhat extended 151-lap race, Busch drove a smooth, relatively clean race in his No. 8 Morgan & Morgan Chevrolet Camaro. While Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Ty Gibbs were the class of the field, the 39-year-old Las Vegas native pushed back when necessary, particularly on those hair raising restarts.

The latest iterations of the Toyota Camry seemed to have that brand new holiday season boost for Gibbs while Busch wanted to be more than best in class. At times, on the short runs, he had the car to possibly snooker Hamlin and Gibbs, especially in the opening half of the race.

Instead, Busch secured a runner-up result, his second consecutive podium finish at the temporary 0.25-mile track. Upon reflection, Busch considered the positives along with the need to improve upon stock car’s tight bullrings.

Kyle Busch did not need Morgan & Morgan to resolve any grievances in Saturday night’s Busch Light Clash. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

“It was a good run for us tonight at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” Busch said. “The No. 8 Morgan & Morgan Chevrolet Camaro was good. It was solid. I felt like we were a little bit better in the first half of the race.

“In the second half, we were not as good, but we still came out of Los Angeles with a second-place finish. I’m happy with that, but we know we have work to do on our short track program. Maybe some of the stuff we tried today will help us get there.”

Considering the prestige associated with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as a respected sports venue, the 21-year Cup racer wanted to win the kickoff to the 76th NASCAR season in style. Nonetheless, he fared better than 21 of his other on-track competitors.

“We had a decent shot at the end of the race,” he said. “We had a decent start, and I knew the No. 11 car was going to keep blowing off the bottom because he kept locking up his tires. I knew there was going to be a hole at the bottom and I got there off of Turn 2, but I couldn’t accelerate late in the run.

“There was just too much wheel spin to keep that position on him and to be close enough on the next end to get to the inside of him while he locked up. It definitely stings, but all-in-all, I’m glad to have a good night and come out of here in one piece, even with all of the bumping and banging and everything else that happens.”

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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