Reportedly, NASCAR is considering moving the exhibition Busch Clash from Daytona International Speedway to the Los Angeles Coliseum for 2022. The event has traditionally opened Speedweeks at Daytona, which culminates with the Daytona 500. The move would follow NASCAR changing the Clash from Daytona’s superspeedway to the road course in 2021.
While this potential move would be another change to the schedule, something fans have pined for, would this move be a wise one? Brad Harrison and Mark Kristl debate in this edition of 2-Headed Monster.
It’s Time to Go Elsewhere
First and foremost, a staple of the early part of the NASCAR season is on life support through years of insanity — doing the same thing all over again to expect different results.
At its outset, the Busch Clash was a great novelty, being open only to that previous year’s pole winners. But once exceptions were made to make the field bigger, it became greatly diluted. Last year, for example, pole winners were joined by drivers from eligible categories that included past Busch Clash winners, the previous season’s NASCAR Cup Series race and stage winners, former Daytona 500 pole winners that ran full-time in the previous season and the previous season’s playoff drivers. It became not who’s in The Clash, but who isn’t.
Making the Busch Clash used to mean something. Instead, it became a Daytona-500 Lite over time that in many ways may as well have been a glorified testing session. Sure, running last year’s Busch Clash on the Daytona road course was a change, but doing so with a diluted field in the midst of Speedweeks amounted to putting a band-aid on a hemorrhaging blood wound.
For that reason, it’s time for something totally different for the Busch Clash, something that goes beyond, “well, hey, let’s just put it on a road course,” or 15 years ago… “let’s make it a night race.”
It’s why the possibility of running the early-season staple in the LA Coliseum would make perfect sense, as would running the exhibition race at another unique venue.
With no points on the line, running a venue different from any other should not be an issue for teams and drivers. To be honest, what’s more appealing? A short sprint on an aero-sensitive track during a week span in which it’s just one part of many events, or making it the crown jewel of another event? Racing at a place like the LA Coliseum would be just that. It’d put the sport in front of eyeballs that usually wouldn’t be drawn to it, either in person or on social media.
And unlike the ill-advised move of the Southern 500 to Fontana, this move would not be swiping one of the longest-running crown jewel events of the sport. It’d only be a move of an exhibition race. Let’s put it this way — Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s career wasn’t complete when he won the Busch Clash. It was made so by winning the Daytona 500.
Does the stadium concept of racing sound bizarre? Maybe … but not if you clamor for what happens on Saturday nights at Bowman-Gray Stadium.
Some may decry this thinking as an insult to tradition. Those holding that opinion may want to consider this — that as recently as 1981, NASCAR’s top division started its season not at Daytona, but in Riverside, California.
Running the Busch Clash at Daytona has failed in recent years to generate season-opening excitement. Running somewhere other than Daytona would generate the opposite effect. The Busch Clash has run its course in Daytona, and it’s time for a new chapter. – Brad Harrison
NASCAR Already Restored the Clash Glory
Over the years, the Busch Clash lost its luster. What once was a fun mid-afternoon shootout morphed into a wreck-filled expensive day for team owners. But NASCAR rectified the problem by switching the course from the Daytona International Speedway superspeedway to the road course.
2020 was the final year NASCAR ran the Clash on the superspeedway. Erik Jones won it, but it was disastrous. Nearly a quarter of the laps (21 of 88) were run under the caution flag, and only six of the 18 drivers finished, with five on the lead lap. That’s not an exciting event, it’s a demolition derby on a 2.5-mile track.
NASCAR fixed that problem though. This year, the Clash occurred on the road course. Kyle Busch won after Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott collided on the final lap, and only one driver finished with a DNF. Under the lights on a Tuesday night, this Clash amped up the excitement leading into the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500.
The Clash regained some of its former glory, albeit with drivers making left and right-hand turns instead of the tight-knit pack racing. The weeknight event, if paired with the World Series of Asphalt at nearby New Smyrna Speedway, makes Daytona the host of a weeklong racing festival. More than a month after the New Year, the Clash hypes fans after a dreary January. The road course on a weeknight is the perfect venue for that.
NASCAR teams also benefit from having the Clash in Daytona. Approximately six-and-a-half hours away from the NASCAR hub in Charlotte, teams can travel to Daytona without traveling cross country spending exorbitant amounts of money. A weeknight race means team members can travel there during the day, able to sleep in their own beds on Monday night. It is a win for them.
For fans, a weeklong racing festival in Daytona means they can camp at the track, attend short track racing at New Smyrna, and enjoy all Daytona has to offer with the Clash, Daytona 500 qualifying, the Duels, and then the season-opening race weekend. Let’s keep the Clash at Daytona.
The Clash still has a problem though. Like this year’s All-Star Race, its format, participant eligibility, and rules are convoluted. NASCAR should simplify that, thereby making the racing itself the topic of conversation, not when a competition caution will fly, not detailing how each driver qualified for the event, etc.
Because it is an exhibition race, how about a basic format with all charter teams invited to participate? After all, if NASCAR wants these teams to perform at their best in the first race, why not allow them to practice in an exhibition?
Format should remain 35 laps because an hour and a half for an exhibition hold ones’ interest without becoming boring. No competition cautions, no stages, just strictly green flag racing with one caveat: each team must make a four-tire pit stop before there are 10 laps to go in the event. It is an exhibition after all – keep it simple.
Because NASCAR wants all drivers to give 100% in all events though, how about a bonus of one playoff point to the event winner? It will not guarantee the winner makes the playoffs, but that extra point could become beneficial during the playoffs.
An easy-to-understand formula with more competitors, so more on-track battles for position, on a weeknight under the lights at the Daytona road course? It is the perfect way to grab fans’ attention before the season gets underway.
A race at the LA Coliseum? What historic race is connected to it? None. Daytona – it is a place all race fans know, like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Daytona hosts the Rolex 24, the season openers for the national NASCAR series and ARCA, the Cup Series regular-season finale and the Clash.
The LA Coliseum? It hosts the Rose Bowl and other football games. Let’s keep the racing at an actual racetrack and the football at the football stadium. – Mark Kristl
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