After a 91 day reprieve following the checkered flag on last year’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series kicks off its 2022 campaign with the Busch Light Clash.
Although the lot of the 2021 roster carries over into this year, the Clash offers a first glimpse at the new combinations like Kurt Busch and the No. 45 23XI Racing efforts, Ross Chastain and the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing team, Austin Cindric with the No. 2 Team Penske brigade, Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing group and Todd Gilliland and his No. 38 Front Row Motorsports stablemates.
Beyond the new pairings, there’s also the new, Next Gen stock car making its on track debut at a purpose built, 0.25-mile short track within the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Beyond the one lugnut designed tires and car number placement shift, these new Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs and Toyota Camry cars look more like their street counterparts while exhibiting that NASCAR style.
Above all else, a non-points race at the quarter-mile speedway serves as a great appetizer for the upcoming season. Despite some of the challenges facing the teams with the unknowns and parts shortages, it’s game on for a race that may transcend beyond the typical stock car glory for new audiences at the Coliseum and in various homes across the country.
Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview the latest NASCAR Cup Series race. In this case, as a treat to fans, we’re doing a special preview of the Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum.
This weekend, Cayden Rush, Cody Shoppe, Kobe Lambeth, Luis Torres, Michelle Raynor, Sean Folsom, Stephen Conley, Taylor Kitchen and yours truly consider the challenges with the Next Gen cars, racing at the Coliseum and our picks for the Clash win!
Podium Preview: Busch Light Clash at LA Coliseum
For the first time since 1971, NASCAR will compete inside a football stadium in the 0.25-mile short track built inside the LA Coliseum. What are your expectations for the Busch Light Clash at this historic sports venue?
Rush : This year’s Busch Light Clash, an event which has been run since 1979 will certainly be like no other. Over the years we’ve seen Daytona’s raw speed and adrenaline while Daytona’s road course provided finesse and a different skill set to the event.
Now, for the first time in the event’s history, we travel to a quarter of a mile short track in a football stadium! My expectations are certainly close quarters racing and you can never leave out contact when you put so many cars on a short track.
The part shortage of NASCAR’s next generation race cars may hamper any big bumps or wild moments, but nonetheless, I expect this race to be unpredictable and exciting!
Folsom : This year’s Busch Light Clash, I think, is going to be epic! With the new Next Gen car and a brand new track, plan for nothing but door beating action. I think this race will bring in a lot of new fans and show what kind of action these new cars can maybe do on short tracks!
Torres : While I tend to be traditionalist, this Clash in LA has been quite an amazing novelty. What I hope is the quality of racing to be solid and that’ll get people who haven’t attended a race to become fans when they leave the Coliseum. It’ll be the shot in the arm NASCAR can benefit over time.
Tiongson : This year’s Busch Light Clash has the potential to draw in a lot of new fans into NASCAR. While I don’t have an idea as to how long that appeal will be to the newer fans, if the Clash is a memorable, exciting and entertaining race, it’ll build momentum for other races such as the season opening Daytona 500.
For a while, NASCAR has been a series that appeals to a segment of sports fans and car insurance enthusiasts. Now, there’s the great opportunity to showcase the car culture with the various personalities in the NASCAR Cup Series. Other than the lot of last year’s drivers and teams returning, this is a whole new NASCAR. I can see a somewhat comparable impact for NASCAR as the last year of exciting changes, 2001.
Kitchen : Building a track inside the LA Coliseum had me scratching my head at first. However, after watching practice and the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series competition, I am incredibly excited.
As for what to expect… expect methodical chaos.
For chaos, I expect a lot of bumping and banging. Maybe a few spins and a few wrecks. As for the methodical part, I expect these drivers to be as cautious as possible due to the scarcity of the Gen 7 parts.
Other than that, I expect a fun time for the drivers and fans!
Shoppe : This 2022 edition of the Busch Light Clash had already been a huge success before the first lap had even been run on the new LA Coliseum short track! The hype and overall talk building up this clash is like nothing we’ve seen since the first Clash in 1979! I expect the LA Coliseum to have the same stadium action we know and love from Bowman Gray! I hope this event itself is a huge success and will open the door for future stadium events in the future.
Given how teams are limited in parts and cars at this moment, how aggressive will drivers be this weekend for the Clash?
Conley : Drivers have one thing on their mind. How to win. Parts and pieces for a new car aren’t part of their worry, nor should it be. A driver concerned with off track aspects won’t be 100% focused and that means they’re slower. These teams felt the same exact issue at the release of the COT car, and aggressive driving never slowed down.
Lambeth : Despite all the concerns about limited Next Gen car parts, I still expect the drivers to give it their all. For goodness sake, NASCAR came up with the unique idea to host this exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a reason. Chaos and mayhem inside a bullring in the heart of the LA market!
Do not anticipate anyone taking it easy. Contact is a guarantee. Given the tight nature of the circuit, we’ll likely see the bump-and-run constantly throughout the race weekend. Maybe some bent fenders and hurt feelings as Kevin Harvick once said!
Raynor : This year’s Busch Light Clash is a departure from where NASCAR usually has its event in terms of its location. Even though the teams are limited in parts, I feel like the drivers will be more aggressive because of the type of a race it is. The drivers will take more risks and do whatever it takes to make the main race. Since this is a non-points race, the only things that drivers should care about is making the show, having fun and trying to win the first race at the historic LA Coliseum.
Great, opening laps around the LA Coliseum without scratching our new, imaginary Next Gen TPF car! The Clash has a new format for this year. Let’s look at how the Clash field is decided and how this race will be won on Sunday night.
As there’s no points on the line, we’ll simply move onto our picks for this year’s Busch Light Clash!
Rush : My pick for the Clash is Chase Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Folsom : For the Clash, I think I’ll go with Kyle Busch. He looks like he might put up a good fight at the Coliseum.
Shoppe : With all the unpredictable variables of this race, the safest way to pick is from the time trial chart. Kyle Busch will stay ahead of the carnage behind and win the first Busch light clash from the coliseum!
Torres : I wouldn’t count out drivers who don’t run up front to deliver. Guys like Ryan Preece and Daniel Suarez will surprise people but who’ll go out on top? Let’s go with Daniel Suarez. Different styles of racing tend to go in his favor as indicated with his Bristol dirt run last year.
Tiongson : I’ll have to go with Kyle Larson. He seemed very confident during preseason testing at Phoenix. I’d say Larson’s victory and championship coronation at Phoenix has him motivated and pumped up for a chance to replicate or better his incredible, 10-win season from 2021.
Lambeth : Keeping the momentum rolling from his championship season, the California kid Kyle Larson will kick off 2022 with a big win in Los Angeles!
Conley : Where is my blender? A lot like picking Talladega, leading on the final lap may not be a good thing. Kevin Harvick says you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Kitchen: For the Clash, I am going with the logic to “expect the unexpected.” While I do not think Brad Keselowski is an outlandish pick, it might not be one that is expected. I think Brad will be methodical enough to lay low during the chaos of the race, but be able to make it to the front of the field when the time is right to bump his way to victory.
Raynor : This race is so unpredictable that I feel like anyone who can get up front can win. I am torn between Kyle Busch and Tyler Reddick. But, I am going to choose Tyler Reddick for the win.
We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into the race? Who are your favorites to win? Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!
Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week! Stay safe and wash your hands often. Help yourself, your family and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine!
The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.
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