NASCAR’s unprecedented decision to move the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum up one day because of the severe weather in Los Angeles on Sunday received widespread praise from the garage.
“I think it’s awesome,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott said. “I think it’s one of the most logical decisions we’ve made as an industry, potentially ever. I appreciate it. I know a lot of the industry personnel really appreciates the willingness to make a change like that. To be honest with you, doing an event like this on a Saturday night is a better fit for it anyway. I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
NASCAR was set for two days of activity inside the L.A. Coliseum with a combined practice and qualifying session before going into four heat races Saturday night. The main event was slated for Sunday, with the last chance qualifier race and the third edition of the Busch Light Clash.
But everything was condensed to a one-day show, with practice and qualifying taking place just a few hours before running the Busch Light Clash. The race ran to completion, as did the NASCAR Mexico Series race before rain moved into the area.
The Los Angeles area is bracing for a coastal storm that could bring a high risk of flash flooding Sunday and Monday. The Weather Channel is calling it “California’s strongest storm” of the season and has meterologists reporting live up and down the coast.
“I think we should consider tonight a success only because if it didn’t happen tonight, I just don’t think it was going to happen at all,” Denny Hamlin said after winning Saturday night in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “While there will be some people that are upset about not being able to use their ticket for tomorrow, they weren’t going to use it Monday either and Tuesday, I’m not sure was an option. This thing was just going to snowball into a really straining the teams, all the people here at the Coliseum that have to get this thing converted back over.
“Tonight was the only option to get this thing in, and I’m happy that NASCAR made unprecedented changes to make sure that the fans at least saw a race.”
In contrast to the scripted glitz of previous Coliseum Clashes, the rescheduling forced a condensation of the action. Lesley Ann Miller / LAT Images)
The downside of the condensed schedule was losing the pomp and circumstance surrounding the event. There were no celebrity and athlete sightings or buildup to the main event. NASCAR was in hurry-up mode Saturday and did not have pre-race entertainment or the halfway break concert, which was supposed to be performed by Machine Gun Kelly.
“The weather forecast was pretty telling that there wasn’t going to be any racing (Sunday),” Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell said. “I’m happy that they made this decision, and I think it was the right one.”
William Byron called NASCAR’s decision “progressive” and “a good start.” The Hendrick Motorsports driver wants to see it set a precedent.
“I hope we can do that in the future, too, because we’ve all been through the events where we’ve stayed until Wednesday,” Byron said. “I don’t think it’s fun for anyone, but I don’t think it’s productive either for ratings, the excitement on track and the buildup to it. Obviously, I hope we can get into a system of maybe having a chance to flex during the week, kind of like the NFL does. I think if we’re able to flex the race forward sooner, we could get some people tuned in. I think it’ll be better than waiting out a rain delay, for sure.”
NASCAR and its stakeholders, such as television partner Fox Sports, who was broadcasting the event, worked together to decide on the Busch Light Clash. Traditionally, impending weather would mean a change in schedule by perhaps an hour on race day or postponement until the next day.
“It was awesome,” Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsport said. “I was not planning on racing anything other than a heat race (Saturday) and had no thought … running the whole race was actually an option. Cliff [Daniels] had asked me if I had heard the rumors or whatever around 11:30 or so and that got me excited.
“I’m happy that they were able to do that and obviously, I’m sure they take a huge financial hit, NASCAR does, but I think at the same point, the crowd is awesome out there for a spur-of-the-moment race and free admission and all that. So hopefully a lot of these fans who have never been to a race before will now fall in love with the sport and venture out and kind of grow from there. Maybe this could accidentally work out really well for NASCAR.”
Saturday was free to attend for race fans with general admission seating. Those who purchased tickets for Sunday through Ticketmaster or NASCAR will receive a refund. The same goes for those who purchased pre-paid parking through Park Whiz.