Drivers, start your engines!! While the 2024 NASCAR season doesn’t officially begin until two weeks from now with the Daytona 500, it unofficially starts this weekend with the Bush Light Clash at the La Coliseum on Saturday night, pushed back from Sunday night due to the threat of rain Sunday night. That’s right, NASCAR is back.
The Clash has been around since 1979. It originally kicked off Speedweeks at Daytona every year. However, NASCAR moved the race out to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. This year is the third year that the race will be in Los Angeles. The Clash is an exhibition race, which means, to quote Aisha Taylor, “the points don’t matter” since no points are given out in this race.
NASCAR was originally going to have four Heat races Saturday night and a last-chance qualifying race Sunday afternoon to set the 23-car field for the Clash. With the Clash being moved up to Saturday night, the Heat races and the last-chance qualifying race have been canceled. Now, the first 22 starting spots will be based on practice speeds. The final spot will go to the driver who finished the highest in points last year and hasn’t made the field yet. 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney is locked into the race.
The Clash will be 150 laps and will have a mid-race break at lap 75. According to Fox Sports, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Blaney, and Kyle Busch are the favorites to win the race. Truex won this race last year, while Joey Logano won the first Clash in LA in 2022. Hamlin has won the exhibition race three times, but those wins came when the race was at Daytona.
This could be the last race at the LA Coliseum, as the future of the race is uncertain. On Friday, The Athletic reported that industry executives see a return to LA next year as unlikely. Mexico City is one possibility, as are some other US cities.
The NASCAR Mexico Series race, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, will now be held after the Clash.
If you think predicting the winner of the Daytona 500 is hard, predicting the winner of the Clash is just as challenging since it’s the first race in stock cars for the drives in three months. I’m going to go with Denny Hamlin winning the Clash. Hamlin is a good short-track racer and knows how to win non-point races like this. Hamlin gives team owner Joe Gibbs back-to-back Clash Wins.
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)