Chase Elliott fastest in Clash at the Coliseum opening practice; Kevin Harvick second
Chase Elliott led the first NASCAR Cup Series practice Saturday for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum, turning a 13.455-second, 66.890-mph lap in the No. 9 Chevrolet.
Kevin Harvick was second (13.457), followed by Chase Briscoe (13.470), Justin Haley and Kyle Busch.
“First off just props to NASCAR and everybody involved, all the men and women that put a lot of the effort into making it happen,” Elliott told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little.
SPEED CHART: Click here for the lap times from practice
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“Building a racetrack, paving it and all the logistics that have gone into this. Props to everyone for making it happen. They did a really good job with it. The workmanship and logistics of how this has worked has really impressed me. Happy to be here.
“It’s been a really busy winter and hasn’t felt like much offseason for any of us but super excited to be back. I feel we have a pretty good NAPA Chevy, and at this point, we’re just trying to make the right decisions and not let me mess it up too bad.”
Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill (who is making the first of at least a dozen starts in the No. 77 Chevy this season), Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10 in the lone session for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the first time in the 43-year history of NASCAR’s preseason exhibition that it’s being held outside the 2.5-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway.
The Coliseum short track will offer a vastly different experience.
All but three cars in Saturday’s practice were in the 13-second bracket, turning laps in the mid-60 mph range around the 0.25-mile temporary asphalt surface that was built on top of the famous field normally used for USC football games.
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There will be a qualifying session at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1) to set the field for heat four heat races beginning at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. The main event will feature 23 cars -- the top four finishers in the heats, plus the top three in two last-chance qualifiers and a provisional.
NASCAR divided the 36 cars on the entry list into three groups of 12 during the two-hour practice Saturday with each group on track for three eight-minute sessions.
There were no major incidents, but several instances of contact on the tiny bullring that is a quarter-mile shorter than any other track on the Cup Series circuit.
Harvick and Corey LaJoie traded shots a few times during the first 30 minutes of the session. Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace and other drivers also ended the session with right-side scrapes after brushing the outside wall on the straightaways.
There was a yellow flag with just more than 30 minutes left in the Clash at the Coliseum practice when Briscoe stopped with a broken throttle cable in his No. 14 Ford. Briscoe said during the FS2 broadcast that it would be an easy repair.
Kyle Busch had the fastest 10-lap average (66.307 mph) in the session and told Little he was happy with his car and the track so far.
“Our preaseson testings weren’t quite as great as we wanted to be, but I felt we made a lot of changes to try to get a lot of learning done,” he said. “Overall, all good. Real happy with the M&Ms Camry. Hopefully, that’ll bode well for qualifying action later on and heat races and racing.
"(The track is) cool, it’s fun it’s new, it’s different. It opens up a lot of opportunities for us. We’ll see how it races. Being out there with only 12 (cars), not 24 of us, is quite a different feel.”
Wood Brothers Racing rookie Harrison Burton’s No. 21 Ford was the first car to take the track as drivers made their way into the Coliseum through an entrance ramp by the USC football locker room. The garage area was located a short distance from the stadium, so drivers entered via surface streets through the surrounding neighborhood.