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LOS ANGELES — Five thoughts after Saturday’s Clash exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum …
1. Taking Stock
This may have been the end of the Clash at the Coliseum (at least for now), so let’s talk about its legacy for a moment.
Was this concept a success? Massively so.
Oh, come on. Don’t roll your eyes. It really was! If you think about the talk going into the inaugural edition in 2022, there were all sorts of concerns — including whether the cars could even make it around the track, whether the temporary track itself would last without coming apart, and if they could have some semblance of a good product on it.
Those questions seem silly now. The Next Gen’s turning radius and strong bumpers helped drivers have physical racing, the shows were entertaining enough (certainly not a disaster) and no one even gave a second thought to the track construction logistics by Year 3.
Did the Coliseum version lose some of its buzz? For sure, and you can argue NASCAR should have moved it after the second year.
But the concept itself — racing on a purpose-built track inside a football stadium — was a win. That’s not even including the increased media attention NASCAR received from starting the season at a unique venue versus simply having it at Daytona in front of a small crowd.
“The experiment was a great success, and we proved that we can do it anywhere,” Joey Logano said. “Now that we’ve raced at one of the most historic stadiums in the world, it’s pretty cool. You can pick this up and place it somewhere else if you needed to.”
Future of the Clash: After three years at the L.A. Coliseum, what might be next?
2. Fastest-Car Tracker
In NASCAR, the best car of the race often doesn’t win. Did the fastest car win the Clash?
Our verdict: No.
Ty Gibbs led the most laps and was the only leader to pull away from the field twice, but eventual winner Denny Hamlin slipped by as Gibbs battled with Logano on a late restart. Gibbs ultimately finished 18th after spinning, and Hamlin said the restart opened the door for him to win.
“I certainly knew Ty battling for his first win. I certainly wasn’t going to do anything to try to compromise that,” Hamlin said of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. “I was just lucky I drew the right ping pong ball with the circumstances that happened off of Turn 2 with him and Joey, and it just opened up the bottom for me.”
That said, Hamlin could probably make a good case for having the best car after he was fastest in practice/qualifying and started from the pole. So this isn’t one of the slam-dunk calls we’ll certainly make in this space as the season goes on.
But if we had to judge, it seemed like the No. 54 was the fastest of the day.
Fastest-Car Score: Other Cars 1, Fastest Car 0
Each week in this space, we’ll pose one question and attempt to answer one question from the past.
Q: Where does the Clash go now? Our Jordan Bianchi reported last week NASCAR is weighing doing the Clash inside a Mexican stadium (Mexico City or Guadalajara), but officials have much to consider.
Remember, it can’t just be any stadium — but preferably an Olympic-style stadium with a running track around the field. This represents a key test for NASCAR now, because even though the concept has been proven, there are so many logistical concerns (major ones being the weather and the availability of a stadium that can be used for two months).
It’s also worth noting this is quite the expensive venture — for both NASCAR and the teams. So perhaps if there’s no suitable venue for 2025, could we see the race back at Daytona?
A: Last year, our post-Clash question was: What does NASCAR do about Southern California? Well, we still don’t know. There are no answers about that. If the Fontana short track project goes through, it won’t appear on the schedule until at least 2026 (per track president Dave Allen in the Los Angeles Times last week). And the Associated Press quoted Ben Kennedy as saying NASCAR has looked at “a dozen different concepts” but hasn’t found a suitable alternative in Southern California. So for now, it seems like 2025 is headed toward a NASCAR absence from the largest media market in which it had been racing, which we’ll say is not a great thing.
At one time, Kyle Busch used to be fairly open about his dislike for Logano. Heck, you may remember this video of Busch punching Logano in Las Vegas in 2017. It seemed there was no love lost between the two.
And now, suddenly, they’re flying back and forth to races together across the country — and joking about what the return trip would have been like had they smashed into each other late in the Clash.
So of course, we had to ask them about it.
“It would have been an awkward flight home, huh?” Logano said. “Could have.”
“Joey will laugh the whole way home,” Busch said.
“S—, I didn’t hear. I need a playback,” Logano said.
Meanwhile, the driver with whom Logano actually feuded at the Clash was the one occupying Busch’s old ride at Joe Gibbs Racing — albeit a renumbered one. He confronted Ty Gibbs at the No. 54 team’s hauler, which was captured on video by several reporters, including Frontstretch.com’s Michael Massie.
Joey Logano and Ty Gibbs exchange words during post race
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) February 4, 2024
That conversation didn’t seem to go well at all, and it ended with this great little quip:
Gibbs: “I watched this my whole life. The same thing.”
Logano: “Keep watching, buddy. Keep watching.”
Now that would have been an awkward flight home. Fortunately for Gibbs, he typically hitches a ride with Hamlin.
5. Five at No. 5
Our mini power rankings after Race No. 1/38:
- Denny Hamlin. No, we’re still not picking him to win the championship, but it looks like he’s going to have another strong season.
- Ryan Blaney. Defending champ goes from having to use a provisional to a third-place finish after starting last.
- Kyle Busch. The only driver to go three-for-three in Clash at the Coliseum podiums.
- Joey Logano. Had a good run and gave us the Gibbs confrontation that could be NASCAR’s newest rivalry.
- Ty Gibbs. Was the Clash a sign he’s in for a playoff berth? We thought so even before this performance.
How NASCAR pulled off its last-minute Clash at the Coliseum schedule change
(Photo of Ty Gibbs during qualifying for the Clash at the Coliseum: Chris Williams / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)