The Clash is back! NASCAR’s 2023 season kicks off with exhibition race in LA Coliseum
Both started with questions about the Next Gen car. Both ended in Joey Logano victory. And both left writers and drivers and industry leaders largely raving in wonder — talking in broad strokes about what this means for NASCAR’s future.
Seems like the debut Clash at the Coliseum and the entire 2022 Cup Series season had a lot in common.
The NASCAR Cup Series begins its 2023 season on Sunday with an exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum for a second-straight year, in the stadium that has hosted Super Bowls and Olympic games and Rose Bowls and University of Southern California home football games. The race’s green flag is set to drop just after 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) on the purpose-built 0.25-mile track, and it’ll be broadcast on Fox, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
So many questions swirled prior to last year’s event, and many do prior to Sunday as well. To help answer those questions, here’s a quick refresher on offseason story lines, venue details, NASCAR rule changes and more.
Offseason story lines to keep track of
The new-and-improved Next Gen car. The Next Gen car, which debuted in 2022, was the source of a lot of parity and excitement — but it also drew the ire of drivers and personnel across the industry. Criticism of the car peaked after the playoff race in Texas, when Alex Bowman became the second driver at the time to be sidelined with a concussion after he collided with the wall on a turn. NASCAR committed to some solutions to the car during the 2023 season, and those adjustments (and then some) were made ahead of The Clash. Just like last year, the car will be under a microscope in NASCAR’s first event.
The Xfinity Series’ triumvirate of 2022 begins a Cup Series run. The three drivers who separated themselves from the pack in the 2022 Xfinity Series are now in the Cup Series — and they’re carrying their sensibilities and specialties and rivalries with them. AJ Allmendinger is competing for Kaulig Racing; the 40-year-old driver is one of the best road-course racers in America. Noah Gragson will drive the 42 car for Legacy Motor Club (which changed brands to Petty GMS this winter), and that means he’ll continue to race against rival Ty Gibbs, the 20-year-old Xfinity Series champion who got the Cup racing gig with Joe Gibbs Racing after Kyle Busch signed with Richard Childress Racing. Sunday marks the beginning of their full-time runs in Cup cars.
Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch settle into new roles at 23XI Racing. Kurt Busch will be in Los Angeles on Sunday. It just won’t be in a Cup car. The 2004 Cup Series champion retired in October, doing what he said in a farewell address was best for his race team and his “long-term health” after sustaining a concussion in July that he has yet to fully recovered from. His retirement opened the door for Tyler Reddick — initially set on coming to 23XI in 2024 — to arrive one year early. Kurt Busch told The Observer in December that he’s enjoyed being a “consultant” for 23XI in his time away from the wheel, adding: “Dario Franchitti hung up his helmet after his IndyCar career, winning Indy championships and races, and has been with Ganassi ever since, helping that program continue to dominate in open-wheel. That’s the role I’m looking for.”
Kevin Harvick readies for one last run. One of NASCAR’s all-time great drivers is hanging it up after the 2023 season. That means Kevin Harvick will be embarking on his many “lasts” — which includes a last trip to LA Coliseum to drive a Cup racecar. He’ll still be around the sport, though, whether that be in the booth and/or as a mentor to young drivers.
Is TrackHouse Racing the real deal? Can Team Penske continue its dominance? Pretty much every Cup team has myriad story lines flowing from it — but there’s an interesting contrast between arguably the two most successful teams from a year ago. Penske was a bastion of consistency in NASCAR’s premier series: It boasted Joey Logano, the ultimate champion who emerged late, and Ryan Blaney, the only driver to make the playoffs (and the Round of 8) without a win on the year. TrackHouse, conversely, underwhelmed and over-delivered at different points in the season but ultimately came out ahead thanks to Ross Chastain’s historic Hail Melon (which was deemed dangerous enough to outlaw in 2023) and Daniel Suarez’s playoff appearance.
A race will occur in Los Angeles — rain or shine. NASCAR announced a bunch of rule tweaks on Tuesday. Among them: certain oval events will have rain tires so racing could still go on under damp conditions, including The Clash at the Coliseum. (The forecast for Los Angeles on Sunday reads for less than 10% chance of rain and a high of 65 degrees.)
Clash at the Coliseum: What to know
Race: Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum
Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Date: Sunday, February 5
Time: 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT
TV: FOX, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 37.5 miles (150 laps), Stage Break: Lap 75
2022 Race Winner: Joey Logano