What Is the Clash at the Coliseum?
The Clash at the Coliseum is a fun new twist on a decades-old NASCAR tradition. The exhibition race has traditionally opened the season, but since 2022, it has taken place on a custom dirt track in an iconic stadium. Keep reading for all the details on NASCAR’s Clash at the Coliseum.
What Is the Clash at the Coliseum?
The Clash at the Coliseum is an exhibition event that occurs every year before the start of the NASCAR season. Like the NASCAR All-Star Race, it is a race that has a long history in connection to the NASCAR postseason but ultimately has no points or playoff points awarded for placement within the race. The event is also now commonly known as the Busch Light Clash.
The Clash at the Coliseum was first held as the Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway in 1979. It was an exhibition race, worth no points, that served as a pre-season race to get fans excited for the upcoming NASCAR season. The race has continued to fill that role, being held every year in February prior to the Daytona 500, which is the first points-paying race of the season.
In 2022, the race moved to the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, adopting the official name of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. Since then, a quarter-mile dirt track has been constructed inside the stadium each year to bring a unique, traditional stock car racing experience to Southern California and to fans watching worldwide.
Clash Field Size
Unlike most regular NASCAR Cup Series races, which have 40 drivers starting, the feature race of the Busch Light Clash only allows 27 drivers to compete. A unique feature of the Clash at the Coliseum is its heat race format, which is used to narrow the field from 40 competitors down to the 27 cars permitted to start the feature race.
The Clash at the Coliseum comprises seven races, which add up to a total of 350 laps. 36 charter teams and up to four open teams participate in four heat races of 25 laps each. Drivers are slotted into heat races based on the times they set during qualifying sessions. The top five drivers in each 25-lap heat then advance to the feature race.
All drivers that did not advance in the first four heat races then compete in two 50-lap heat races. The top three drivers in each of the two 50-lap heats then advance to the feature race. The remaining driver with the highest number of Cup Series points from the prior season also automatically advances to the feature race.
Once the heat races are over, all qualifying drivers race in the feature race for a total of 150 laps. Though the race does not award any points for placement within any of the seven races that make up the Clash at the Coliseum, the top three drivers of the feature race are respectively given gold, silver, and bronze medals in honor of their achievement.
How does the Clash at the Coliseum work?
The Clash at the Coliseum works by staging six preliminary heat races, with the top three or five finishers in each heat advancing to the feature race. Charter teams automatically qualify for the heats, and other teams may enter the heats by setting sufficiently fast lap times in qualifying sessions. The feature race is 150 laps long, with the first driver to cross the start/finish line on the final lap declared the winner.
What makes the Clash at the Coliseum special?
The Clash at the Coliseum is special because it has a unique, heat-race format, takes place on a purpose-built temporary dirt track, and is a NASCAR exhibition race. The Clash takes place over six preliminary heat races, followed by a 150-lap feature, unlike other races. Each year, a dirt track is constructed specially for the race, then torn down after, unlike the permanent tracks that host other races. Alongside the All-Star Race, the Clash is one of two NASCAR exhibition races, which pay cash prizes but offer no driver points for finishing.