NASCAR revs up for first green flag of landmark 2023 season

NASCAR revs up for first green flag of landmark 2023 season

LOS ANGELES — 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, old rivalries, new expectations and a landmark championship.

Teams are now arriving in sunny Los Angeles to prepare for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in prime time this Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the second time the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series has opened its racing season with an exhibit at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Another enthusiastic crowd is expected for the main event of the 150-lap points-free exhibition on Sunday, with qualifying and qualifying 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 while Heisman Trophy winner and University of Southern California (USC) quarterback Caleb Williams will be the honorary holder.

Practice begins Saturday at the quarter-mile asphalt oval built inside the Colosseum just for this mega-event. And with a race under their belt now for this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle at this special venue, the NASCAR Cup Series drivers have raised their expectations and their game.

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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 Busch Light 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 three-time winner 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 make his first race start with a new team in 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.

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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, making 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 half-mile Martinsville Speedway which has propelled Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain into last year’s championship. 4.

MORE: See rule changes for 2023

Chastain drove his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet hard against the outside wall for the final half-lap to gain a huge mph 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 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 be given 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 number of different race winners (19) in a single season and the record times modern mostly 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 winning margin 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 Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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“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 punch and the race track was actually pretty race-y. Looking back, it was definitely a fun experience.

For the first time, the race will feature a nod to previous major events at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR will hold a medal ceremony for the top three finishers with a podium at Victory Lane. NASCAR Senior Vice President for Race Development and Strategy Ben Kennedy and the Boys & Girls Club of Carson Youth of the Year winner will present the gold, silver and bronze medals to the three top 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.”

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