NASCAR Cup Series drivers competed in four heat races and two last chance qualifying races at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to try and make the feature Busch Light Clash on Sunday, Feb. 5.
In the first four 25-lap races, nine drivers competed for five transfer spots. Two 50-lap races gave drivers one last chance to make the feature, with the top three advancing. The 27th spot was reserved for whoever finished highest in Cup points in 2022 who didn’t advance via the LCQ or their heat.
Winners of the four heats make up the first four positions in the Clash, while those finishing second take spots five through eighth.
Twenty-seven of the 36 drivers made the feature event on the quarter-mile track, with Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Harrison Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., BJ McLeod, Cody Ware, Corey LaJoie, Ty Dillon and JJ Yeley being the unlucky nine that failed to make the show.
Justin Haley began on the pole and moved back into the lead over Aric Almirola after the No. 10 led the first lap. Harrison Burton spun off the bumper of Noah Gragson, bringing out the first caution early on.
Haley maintained the lead until lap 20, when Almirola grabbed first place. Alex Bowman also followed suit into second, leaving Haley in third.
In the end, Almirola won the heat, while Bowman, Haley, Gragson and defending Clash winner Joey Logano also moved on to the main event.
Kyle Busch started on the pole of the second heat in his No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing and held the lead in the first half of the race. His former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. then battled for first place on lap 18, eventually getting clear on lap 20.
Around the same time, Kevin Harvick made contact with Austin Cindric, sending him around and bringing out the yellow. Cindric then got spun by Chase Elliott on the restart under five laps to go, though the race stayed green.
As the race wound down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumped Elliott on the last turn, and that allowed Harvick to nip Elliott for the fifth and final transfer spot at the line.
Christopher Bell, who was the polesitter in heat three, was in front for about five or six laps until his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin passed him for first. Bell got stuck on the outside, while several on the inside moved ahead of him. One of those was Ryan Blaney, who started last in this heat.
This heat was relatively tame after the first few laps. William Byron started first, while AJ Allmendinger began alongside him. However, Ross Chastain moved into second over Allmendinger, with Bubba Wallace also moving into third place. Ryan Preece was now in fifth.
Allmendinger lost fourth place to Preece later in the race, and Erik Jones’ car started to perform better with the final transfer spot on the line. Jones held off Ty Gibbs and Allmendinger and made the main, along with race winner Byron, Wallace, Chastain and Preece.
But after a while, Bell bumped Gilliland and moved into the third and final transfer spot while Ty Dillon went into fourth over Gilliland.
Gilliland was not done, though, and eventually got back by Dillon and closed in on Bell.
With about seven laps left, Burton went wide in turn 1, allowing Bell and Gilliland to go by and transfer to the main event.
Elliott began on the pole for the final chance to make the main and led the whole way through after holding off a late challenge from Gibbs.
Elliott at first had a five car-lengths lead over Gibbs, but near the end of the race, Gibbs started making a charge on the No. 9. Allmendinger finished third and also advanced to the feature event.
Austin Cindric held the points provisional and will start last in the main race.
The Busch Light Clash airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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