NASCAR’s Clash at the Coliseum Was Kind of a Mess This Year
Drivers grumbled over the racing etiquette on display during Sunday’s exhibition round.
NASCAR’s second time turning the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into a viable racing venue went great—in some ways. It delivered an entertaining in-person spectacle, but the brutal racing melee was plagued by yellow flags. As a result, Cup Series drivers have expressed concerns with the racing etiquette that turned what should have been a full-speed exhibition into a slow-lap processional.
Marred by 16 cautions over a 150-lap race, the Clash at the Coliseum was substantially more brutal than the inaugural race in 2022. There are a few reasons for the obvious increase in aggression.
The short track forces tight, contact-heavy racing and early mixing of the lead group with backmarkers. It’s a recipe for drama, and it makes for spectacular in-person spectating. While the TV coverage of the race struggled to keep track of all the action, the tiny oval at the Coliseum made it incredibly easy to monitor all racers at all times. It is the complete opposite of a superspeedway. NASCAR also bumped the start time to later than last year’s, which meant racing under the floodlights of the historic Coliseum.
The first Clash at the Coliseum preceded the 2022 Daytona 500, which was the Next Gen car’s points-paying debut. Teams notably had to conserve parts as spares were virtually non-existent, even after several races passed by. This year, it was still a no-point race, but drivers obviously wanted to win. With a year of driving the Next Gen under their belt and plenty of spare parts, they pushed harder than before.
“Last year’s show, I felt like was relatively clean and good racing, some bumping and banging,” said Kyle Busch in an interview with Racer. “Where today was (what) I would call a disaster.”
Busch was one of many drivers involved in multi-car clashes during the race, with Joey Logano spinning him out on lap 85. Almost all the collisions in the race came from the accordion effect or stacking, with one car bumping the one in front, which then bumps the leader of a three-car train into a spin. It was like a perverse Newton’s cradle.
Eric Almirola started on pole, with Denny Hamlin taking his lead shortly into the race. Hamlin was spun by Ross Chastain, then Bubba Wallace led the race for a short period, then fell back to third before getting spun into last during the closing laps by Austin Dillon. The contact between Wallace and Dillon was much more aggressive than most other incidents, with deliberate contact made between the two frustrated racers.
It all came together for Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps after a winless 2022. He took the flag with a commanding lead, one of only six drivers not listed on the post-race caution report. Ultimately, it doesn’t count toward the championship standings, but Truex Jr. had a good time, remarking that “it was a ton of fun.”
This year’s Clash was a different beast with different challenges. There’s no word on whether NASCAR plans to continue this arrangement at the Coliseum through next year, but the mainstream crossover has proved it to be an experimental success for NASCAR.
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