NASCAR has opened every season since 1979 with a preseason event called the Busch Light Clash. The Clash has always been at Daytona International Speedway since, until this year. For the first time in NASCAR history, the annual event will be held at a different location and inside a football stadium.
The Coliseum is home to the USC Trojans Football team, with a seating capacity of over 78,000. The configuration for the Clash is unique, with the entire area inside the seating area converted to asphalt. There is no room for a pit road, so all cars will be stored and worked on outside of the arena, in the parking lot. The cars will enter the stadium through the tunnels typically used for the players to enter.
While this isn’t the first football stadium to be used as a race track, this will be the first time that NASCAR will run the Clash at one. Bowman Gray Stadium, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has hosted dozens of NASCAR Sanctioned races throughout history. The last race was in 1971, and to this day is still marked by an asterisk. Bobby Allison won the race, but was never given credit in the NASCAR History Books. I’m not saying this year’s Clash will live up to those storylines, but how cool would that be?
So let’s talk about the format for this special race. There will be a single-car qualifying session on Saturday, Feb. 5th, determining which drivers will be placed into four separate heat races. The four races will be 25-lap shootouts on Sunday, with the top four from each race moving on to the Main Event. There will then be two Last Chance Qualifying races, made of up all drivers who did not qualify for the Main Event, with the top three from those races getting in, a total of 22 drivers altogether. For the last position in the Clash, the highest finishing driver from the 2021 Point Standings that remains unqualified will get the spot.
The Main Event will be a 150-lap shootout, with the same winner take all prize accompanying The Clash since 1979. This should be a fantastic spectacle for racing fans around the world. Pit Bull will host a 45-minute concert before the race to expand his role with the NASCAR Community. The hope is that NASCAR will make an impression on a new generation of fans across the globe. It’s hard to say who will be a favorite, with a new race car, completely new racetrack, and new teams all over the place. I will give the early nod to the Chevy camps. As a Manufacturer, they always seem to excel with new car generations in NASCAR.