Joey Logano delivers in inaugural Clash at the Coliseum race, outdueling Kyle Busch
Joey Logano outdueled Kyle Busch to become the winner of the NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in NASCAR’s debut Sunday on the 0.25-mile oval in Los Angeles.
Logano took the lead of the 150-lap race after a halfway break and won by 0.877 seconds in his No. 22 Ford over the No. 18 Toyota of Busch on the temporary short track that was constructed over the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Austin Dillon finished third, followed by Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. William Byron, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
“I can’t believe that we’re here,” Logano told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little. “This is an amazing event. Congratulations, NASCAR. It’s such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this and put on an amazing race for everybody.
“This is big. My wife’s having a baby tomorrow, our third one, so pretty big weekend for us. ... I told her if you’re having the baby, I’m just running right off the track from here.”
After starting from the pole position and leading 64 of 150 laps, Busch was unable to challenge Logano in the closing laps, which were surprisingly tame after a restart with just more than 30 laps remaining.
“I was being perfect, doing everything I thought I needed to do to keep the tires underneath me,” Busch told Fox Sports. “When I got close, I was like OK now I’ve got to try more and pounce at the opportunity and just overheated the tires and smoked them in three laps, so that was it.
“Disappointing to win the pole, lead laps, run up front, the finish goes green and it’s not chaotic. We can’t win. That sucks. But congrats to my son. He won yesterday. I was trying to match him. He’s winning more than me these days, so someone ought to send him a contract.”
Logano led the final 35 laps for his second victory in the season-opening exhibition race (and first since 2017). It was his first Cup win in nearly a year (since the Bristol dirt race in March 2021).
“This is special to get the first Next Gen win,” Logano said. “The first win at the Coliseum. It’s a special one. We’re going to have some fun and celebrate it.”
The race marked the debut of the Next Gen car, and the first caution seemed indicative of some bugs with the new car, which has been overhauled completely in favor of a standardized chassis and parts that are built and supplied by vendors instsead of teams.
The yellow flew when Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota slowed on track for a mechanical problem.
“Looks like the power steering belt evidently came off and took the hose with it, so we didn’t have steering abilities,” Hamlin told Fox Sports. “This is something you’ll probably see a lot of this year, fixing all the bugs that are going to happen.”
Before the restart, Chase Briscoe pulled his No. 14 Ford off and radioed about a problem with the drivetrain. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver already had suffered mechanical woes in practice Saturday.
While coming to the green, Tyler Reddick pulled out of the lead with a broken transaxle. The Richard Childress Racing driver had led the first 60-plus laps after taking the lead from pole-sitter Kyle Busch.
“I was trying to get some heat in the tires, and I think I must have broke the transaxle,” Reddick told Fox Sports before taking a midrace opportunity to hang with fans. “That’s a little scary thinking of all the pit stops we’ll have to do and dropping the clutch like that. So unfortunate but I’d rather break it here than a points-paying race or the Daytona 500.
“Just an incredible job by the guys, we really did a lot of things right in this race. It’s a bummer but not too heartbreaking at the same time. We’ll learn from it and hope to never let it happen again.”
As expected in holding the preseason Cup Series exhibition on a short track for the first time in its 43-year history, the Clash produced incessant contact between cars racing on the shortest track in more than 50 years in NASCAR’s premier series.
In one of the day’s most memorable incidents, Ryan Blaney threw his HANS device at Erik Jones after his No. 12 Ford fell out of the main event because of contact with the No. 43 Chevy.
“He just destroyed me for seventh; don’t really make no sense,” Blaney told LIttle. “Just kind of riding around and run in the back of you and killed our car. Yeah, I was mad. But you’ll have that.”
“He brake-checked me off (Turn) 4 for no real reason,” Jones told Little about his contact with Blaney. “I didn’t really appreciate that and showed it on the track. We have a conversation. It’s an exhibition race and we’re doing what we can. I was frustrated with the move he made.
“But overall thought the Chevy was really good. Just a good weekend, come home fourth for us. We were just talking, it doesn’t mean a lot for the setups for the rest of the season, but nobody came out here not trying. It feels good to run good. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum to Daytona.”
Kaulig Racing rookie Justin Haley also was displeased with Kyle Larson after being shoved into the inside wall by the series champion, heavily damaging the left front of Haley’s No. 31 Chevrolet.
“I’m not impressed with that move,” Haley told Fox Sports. “It’s hard to be a rookie and gain respect. I don’t know. It’s kind of BS but glad we had a fast car. Not everyone knows who we are yet.”
The racing was even wilder earlier in the heats and qualifying races that resulted in the elimination of Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman among some big names who failed to advance to the main event.