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January 31, 2023

Passing the torch: Analyzing the action-packed Clash at the Coliseum

Yes, there will be plenty of action on a 0.25-mile track packed inside one of the world’s most iconic venues. The bold new move to host the Busch Light Clash inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum paid off in 2022 with an incredible atmosphere, extraordinary racing – and don’t forget plenty of passing.

During the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum, there were 384 total passes for position in the main event alone, spotlighted by Joey Logano’s maneuver around Kyle Busch for the race lead and eventual historic victory. Including Logano and Kyle Busch, only four drivers ran the entire 150-lap feature inside the top 10 and even fewer remained inside the top five.

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Though they qualified poorly based on their results in the heat races, Erik Jones and AJ Allmendinger rallied their way through the field in imposing fashion. Jones started 16th, eight rows deep in the field, and impressively finished fourth. Allmendinger started even further back in 21st and fought his way through the commotion for a ninth-place result.

By gaining 12 positions in the main event, the pair shared the hypothetical ‘hard-charger’ award, given to the driver(s) who gains the most positions during the race.

Take a look at the chart below of last year’s top-10 finishers.

Driver Start Finish Laps inside top 10 Laps inside top five Average running position
Joey Logano 4 1 150 150 2.50
Kyle Busch 1 2 150 150 1.64
Austin Dillon 10 3 147 36 6.93
Erik Jones 16 4 113 16 8.24
Kyle Larson 8 5 150 117 4.27
William Byron 7 6 150 89 5.45
Cole Custer 14 7 66 0 10.91
Christopher Bell 11 8 94 0 10.33
AJ Allmendinger 21 9 63 0 12.75
Kevin Harvick 19 10 34 0 13.13

Drivers outside the top 10 finishing positions of the 23-driver field combined to run 383 laps inside the top 10, led by Justin Haley’s 116, and 192 laps inside the top five. Seven of 10 drivers finishing inside the top 10 produced a better result than where they ran the race on average.

The ability to pass was prominent throughout the race, whether drivers took advantage of the iconic bump-and-run tactic made famous in short-track racing or dove down onto the rumble strips for an angled exit through the corner.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see this trend continue, or even grow, during this year’s season-opening exhibition race (Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), with most drivers and teams having a better handle on the Next Gen race cars. The 2023 event is also expanding the feature field from 23 to 27 drivers, adding to close-quarters, door-to-door racing inside the famed Coliseum.

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So there is plenty of reason to tune in, even if your favorite driver may not qualify up front. Precedent shows that we will see multiple drivers putting on an impressive show as they work their way through the field in hopes of capturing the second-ever Clash at the Coliseum trophy in Los Angeles.

Passing statistics provided by Racing Insights.