Weekend Preview: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
NASCAR’s first green flag of 2023 is ready to wave, activating what is sure to be a spectacular 75th anniversary season for the sport – new venues and old rivalries; new expectations and a remarkable championship.
Teams arrive in sunny Los Angeles to prepare for the primetime Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum this Sunday night (8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the second time the NASCAR Cup Series has opened its season at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Another enthusiastic crowd is expected for the main event of the 150-lap points-free exhibition on Sunday, with qualifying and heat races in the afternoon and A-list performers such as Wiz Khalifa, Cypress Hill , Cheat Codes and Dixie D’Amelio entertaining the crowd on site and at home throughout the day.
Actor Rob Lowe will serve as the grand marshal and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams of USC will be the honorary starter.
Practice begins Saturday at the quarter-mile asphalt oval built inside the Colosseum just for this mega-event. And with one race under their belt for this unique spectacle at this special venue, the Cup Series drivers have raised their expectations and their game.
Team Penske driver Joey Logano proved last February that the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum could be a huge start to the regular season, which officially begins with the Feb. 19 Daytona 500. Logano, 32, won the Clash at the Coliseum and finally capped off the year by lifting his second NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy.
There are six active former winners of the 45-year-old race, including Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who will retire at the end of the season. Kyle Busch, who will be making his first start with a new team (Richard Childress Racing) and Logano each have a pair of Clash wins. Brad Keselowski, owner/driver of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and Erik Jones, with the rebranded Legacy Motor Club, also each have a Busch Light Clash trophy.
A second straight win for Logano on the No. 22 Penske Ford team would make him the fifth driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back Busch Light Clash races and the first since Harvick did so in 2009-10.
There will be no shortage of exciting competition with just 27 of the 36 drivers entering the race field this weekend. There will be four Heat races with the top five from each qualifying for the Main Event, representing 20 starting positions.
Six additional starting places will be determined through “Last Chance” races – the first three of the two last chance qualifying races will qualify for the show. And the last grid spot is reserved for the driver who finished highest in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series standings who did not qualify in the Heat or Last Chance races.
This week, NASCAR announced several significant rule changes for the 2023 season, among them a stricter enforcement of the “Hail Mary” movement at one of the sport’s smallest venues, the one-half Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. -mile that propelled Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain into last year’s Championship 4 Round.
Chastain drove his #1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet hard against the outside wall for the final half-lap to gain a huge speed advantage and ultimately earn a spot among the four title-seeking drivers.
Although the risky and one-of-a-kind move was authorized at the time, it will not go ahead – starting this week at the quarter-mile Colosseum oval.
NASCAR officials strongly reminded teams Tuesday that they will enforce Rule 10.5.2.6.A which, in part, states “any violation deemed to compromise the safety of an event or present a dangerous risk to the safety of competitors, officials, spectators or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness.If a driver attempts anything the officials deem unsafe, they will receive a time penalty.
After a record season with the launch of the Next Gen car, expectations are high for 2023. Last year’s tally tied a record for the number of different race winners (19) in a single season and the record for the modern era for most NASCAR Cup Series winners for the first time in a season (five). More than 60% of the races (22 out of 36) were won by drivers under 30, including Austin Cindric’s incredible victory at the Daytona 500, 23, in his first start in the iconic race.
The average margin of victory for the 36 runs was 1.011 seconds – the second closest since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993. And the 1,544 green-flag passes for the lead were the highest since Loop stats began Data in 2007.
Everything bodes well for this 75th anniversary season. Drivers are excited to get back in the cockpit this week and see what 2023 has in store for them, starting with this unique event at the LA Coliseum.
“After practicing and racing the race (last year) it was probably the most fun I’ve had all year because the cars raced so well,” said Harvick, who drives the Ford n ° 4 SHR. “You could beat and hit and the circuit was actually quite racy. Looking back, it was definitely a fun experience.
For the first time, the race will present a fitting nod to previous major events on the site. NASCAR will hold a medal ceremony for the top three finishers with a podium in victory lane. NASCAR Senior Vice President Ben Kennedy and the Boys & Girls Club of Carson Youth of the Year winner will present the gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three drivers.
“These will be great prizes for our pilots competing at a venue that has hosted two Olympics and preparing for a third,” Kennedy said. “Not only do the medals honor the rich tradition of this stadium, but they also provide a special element unique to NASCAR’s 75th anniversary.”
–By NASCAR NewsWire, special for field-level media