Drama Awaits Season Opening Clash at the Coliseum Race

NASCAR begins new season this weekend with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.
Joey Logano, Team Penske
Joey Logano, Team Penske

The green flag will wave on the 2023 Cup season this weekend in Los Angeles. The series returns to LA Memorial Coliseum for the second straight year with The Clash leading into Speedweeks at Daytona. The Daytona 500 will be the first points-paying race of the season, and the biggest race on the calendar, but there will still be plenty of drama this weekend.

Joey Logano enters as the defending Clash winner, and the reigning series champion. He will be aiming for a repeat but that won't be easy. All 36 full-time cars will be lined up for a shot at the main event, where 27 drivers will battle for the victory after a series of heat races set the stage.

Kyle Busch will be making his first start with Richard Childress Racing. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet begins a new chapter in his Hall of Fame career, and joins Logano as two-time Clash winners in the field. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have each won this event three times. Harvick has already announced that this will be his final season with Stewart Haas Racing as the former champion readies for retirement.

Drama Awaits Season Opening Clash at the Coliseum Race

There were 19 different winners in 36 points-paying races last season, and 22 when you factor in the Duel races at Daytona and the All-Star race. Parity was the name of the game last year, with the NextGen car leveling the playing field. The emergence of smaller teams like Trackhouse and Kaulig Racing could be a continuing theme again this season.

Part of the parity from last year kept some high-profile names out of victory lane. Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr, and Brad Keselowski all finished the season without a win. Both Truex and Keselowski, former champions, failed to reach the playoffs. They will be trying to rebound while rookies like Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson will be aiming to collect their first career victory.

This is a new era of competition in NASCAR. In 2020, four teams combined to win 34 of the 36 races. In 2019, those same four teams won 33 of the 36 events. Within the last two years, Kaulig Racing, 23XI Racing, Trackhouse, RFK Racing, and Front Row Motorsports have all won races.

After all of the hype and success of this event last year, it will be interested to see if the same excitement and draw remains. Although it doesn't award championship points, it sets the tone for teams and drivers for the grueling 10-month season ahead. Logano's triumph last year is the perfect example of that.

The top three finishers in the main event will all take home medals this year. The gold, silver, and bronze medals feature the Clash at the Coliseum logo on one side, and NASCAR's 75th Anniversary logo on the other. The race winner’s medal weighs 4.7 ounces and is covered in 24-karat plated gold.

The on-track action begins on Saturday with practice and then single-car qualifying. The heat races on Sunday will determine the field for the main event, with the top five finishers in each heat race advancing to the main event. The 27th and final spot in the field is reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2022 season points standings and who did not already earn a starting position in the Clash.

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