1. Should The Clash Be A Summertime Event?
There’s an understandable argument about the future of the Busch Light Clash. If the goal is to take a stadium-style race to different markets, then places beside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum should be considered.
Think of markets that have long made sense for the sport to expand to – Denver, Seattle, New York, among other major cities.
The problem? Unless you are running snow tires and guaranteeing fans will sit outside in frigid, rainy and possibly snow conditions (sorry, Packers fans), NASCAR running a race in those places during the month of February is not sustainable. It’s the same argument for why the Clash being run at Rockingham Speedway would make zero sense.
Is the goal of this event to build excitement? If so, why not just use the Daytona 500 as a rolling start and slot this one the day after the MLB All Star Game. That’s literally the slowest day in sports. Can you imagine a race in Denver or New York leading right into the run-up to the playoffs?
The Daytona 500 alone excites casual fans and can stand on its own to start a season. That’s why, if NASCAR really wants to shop the Busch Clash around to other markets, it needs to be in the midst of the season.
2. Did Ty Gibbs Serve Notice?
Saturday’s dominant run from Ty Gibbs didn’t come out of nowhere. It seems like an eternity and a half ago, but last August he nearly slipped into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and that came in a season where Gibbs did what any rookie needs to do – run solid and avoid being in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
If that was the first step of a process, then what you saw Saturday (Feb. 3) was the next layer of that. Save for a late caution, Gibbs likely comes away from the Coliseum a fan of Randy Newman’s sentiment of “I Love LA.”
You don’t want to claim that one race makes a reason, especially an exhibition version on a track that the sport won’t race on again this year or maybe ever again. But you can learn a lot about how focused a team is by how they make a first impression of a season, and many learned on Saturday that the No. 54 team is ready to take that next step.
3. Could Saturday’s Schedule Change Have Opened Pandora’s Box?
Saturday was not the first time that weather forecasts indicated a substantial rain would alter the next day’s running of a NASCAR events. Most of the time, however, the start time is minimally adjusted. Reasons are obvious for this as NASCAR has to consider TV partners, corporate commitments and the fact that fans may be timing their travel to an event for a pre-set time.
That’s why it was jarring that NASCAR thought outside the box on Saturday and moved the Clash at the Coliseum up a day. There was absolutely no way the race would get in on Sunday, or probably even Monday. And given the need for teams to trek across the country to get to Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR moved the entire event forward by a day.
Saturday was probably not the first time this year NASCAR will encounter weather expected to wash out an event. But it was also an example that sometimes, there needs to be some give and take from multiple sides. Yes, the event lost a lot of ticket revenue by way of having to refund fans, but it beats the alternative of nobody seeing any of Sunday’s headliner event at all.
4. Did Noah Gragson Begin A Redemption Tour On Saturday?
Ever since Noah Gragson‘s disastrous 2023 season was put out of its misery by way of his suspension and eventual release by Legacy Motor Club, he has been out of the limelight.
Gragson does not need to necessarily light the world on fire at Stewart-Hass Racing, his new team for 2024, but he does need to have some respectable showings to get things on solid footing.
Having enough speed to get into the show Saturday night was huge not just for Gragson, but a SHR organization in transition. Think about the drivers who did not make it in – Chris Buescher and Christopher Bell, two drivers that contended for a championship late into last year’s playoffs, failed to make it, and Ryan Blaney, in his first race as defending champion, needed a provisional to advance.
The best thing in a season of change is feeling good going back to the shop on Monday, and Gragson has that right now.
Gibbs vs. Logano: A Dust-Up Or Something More?
Dust-ups between drivers happen. It happens even more in close-quarter bullrings like the LA Coliseum’s layout. Sometimes, they are quick clashes (no pun intended) and nothing much comes of it. On other occasions, they can build. Initial run-ins between Ross Chastain and drivers such as Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott festered into a squall over time. Other rivalries have a built-in backstory, such as Kyle Busch against the driver who indirectly replaced him at Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Enter Saturday night at the Clash with Joey Logano and Gibbs not only banging into one another on the track, but exchanging verbal shots afterwards, too.
Gibbs, who grew up all around Joe Gibbs Racing, is likely eager to show he can live up to the hype. Logano? He became damaged goods over time at JGR and has essentially shown that all he needed was the right people and situation in Team Penske to thrive and do what he never really could when he replaced Tony Stewart.
If these two continue to go at it, their career arcs could make things very much worth watching.
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