Of all regions across the United States, Southern California has long had a particular knack for ushering in a new year. Each time the calendar turns from one year to the next, the nation is enchanted by the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, which includes events such as the Rose Parade and college football's Rose Bowl that celebrate all that begins anew.
It is fitting, then, that Southern California is now also where NASCAR celebrates both a new year before it and the many years that have come before. The sport's 75th Anniversary season begins at the Los Angeles Coliseum -- fittingly celebrating its centennial in 2023 -- with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, a non-points showcase for the new season that puts all of the sport's stars on a close-quarters quarter-mile track within one of the most famous stadiums in all the world. This year marks the second edition of the new concept for the Clash after its successful debut in 2022, which was won by eventual NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.
How to watch the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum
- Date: Sunday, Feb. 5
- Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Time: 5 p.m. ET (qualifying races), 8 p.m. ET (main event)
- TV: Fox
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to watch
NASCAR has made some alterations to the 2023 Clash format, expanding the field for the main event from 23 cars last year to 27 cars this year. All 36 chartered Cup Series teams are in the field.
After single-car qualifying on the Saturday before the Clash, there will be four heat races on Sunday to determine the starting field for the 150-lap main event.
Each heat race will be 25 laps with only green flag laps counting, and the top five finishers from each Heat race will advance to the Clash. The remaining finishers will move on to one of two 50-lap last chance qualifiers, with the top three in each race advancing to the Clash.
The final starting spot will be reserved for the driver who finished highest in points in 2022 who did not already earn a starting spot in the Clash. The Clash will be 150 laps, with only green flag laps counting.
Click here for more details and a full breakdown of the Busch Light Clash race format.
Next step for Next Gen
Last year's Clash at the Coliseum served as the launching point for NASCAR's Next Gen car. That meant its first time ever in live race conditions, and it also meant that some technical glitches with the new car ended up rearing their head through unusual and seemingly random failures.
Tyler Reddick went from seemingly having the car to beat early on to suddenly dropping out while leading under caution due to what was found to be a damaged prop shaft. Denny Hamlin and Chase Brisoce would be felled by similar issues. Seemingly innocuous contact between Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones while racing for position led to Blaney's car breaking its right rear suspension, ending his race prematurely.
The Next Gen car has since had a full season of troubleshooting, and it comes back to the Coliseum with all teams having a full notebook on what makes the car tick. It also comes back with some necessary improvements for 2023, particularly better crumple zones and a safer rear bumper structure and supports after the car's being too rigid in rear impacts proved a hazard to driver safety.
It will be interesting to see if the softer rear bumper has any influence on the racing product for the Next Gen car on short tracks, which left a lot to be desired last season. While the quarter-mile configuration of the L.A. Coliseum will put a premium on optimal track position, a rear bumper that gives more could make moves such as the bump-and-run much more effective -- Or at least make the cars look like they've actually been raced on a short track compared to other such events in 2022.
New faces in new places
As an exhibition event, the Clash serves as the first opportunity for drivers who have changed teams to get behind the wheel of their new cars and work with their new crews. This is also the case for drivers who have returned to their teams, but who now have new crew chiefs or other major crew changes.
Here is a quick rundown of major driver and team changes for the 2023 season. Click here for the full list of drivers and teams for 2023.
- Kyle Busch has moved to Richard Childress Racing's No. 8 Chevrolet after 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing. 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Ty Gibbs takes over Busch's old ride, which has changed numbers from No. 18 to No. 54.
- Tyler Reddick has moved to 23XI Racing to take over the No. 45 Toyota for Kurt Busch, who stepped away from full-time racing near the end of 2022 due to concussion issues.
- Ryan Preece is the new driver of Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 41 Ford, replacing Cole Custer who has been relegated to an Xfinity Series ride.
- NASCAR Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson is now the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for what was Petty GMS and is now Legacy Motor Club. Ty Dillon, who drove that car last year, has moved to Spire Motorsports' No. 77 Chevrolet.
- A.J. Allmendinger is now the full-time driver of Kaulig Racing's No. 16 Chevrolet after driving the car on a part-time basis over the past several seasons.
- Alex Bowman (Blake Harris), Michael McDowell (Travis Peterson), Todd Gilliland (Ryan Bergenty), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Mike Kelley), Cody Ware (Jerry Kelley), and B.J. McLeod (David Ingram) all have new crew chiefs.
Pick to win
Tyler Reddick -- Choosing a clear favorite for the Clash is a tough task, as there are a number of variables at play that aren't present on most race weekends: For one, the track itself has been reconstructed with completely new asphalt, and the lack of different grooves or racing room on a quarter-mile track will likely favor whoever is able to start up front and stay there.
Last year, it looked like Tyler Reddick was going to never see anywhere but the point, leading 51 of the first 53 laps before an abrupt mechanical failure knocked him out of contention. If Reddick still has the right touch for the Coliseum, he may very well be able to take care of unfinished business and make a strong statement in his debut with 23XI.