The 2024 Busch Light Clash at the LA Coliseum delivered with exciting racing, boiling tempers and fireworks 24 hours ahead of schedule.
LOS ANGELES — Fireworks. Racing. Beefing. The 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum went off without a hitch for the NASCAR Cup Series — 24 hours earlier than anticipated.
Imminent heavy rains forecasted to persist from Sunday through Tuesday put NASCAR’s plans in Southern California in question, with the main event scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT, on Sunday night. Instead, the sanctioning body worked with television partners, teams and the Coliseum to swap plans midday on Saturday, resulting in the unprecedented decision to move the race one day early, all on a day when fans had free access to the historic venue.
The result? A thrilling exhibition race that delivered thrills, spills and even boiling tempers after the Cup Series’ event — plus a full 150-lap NASCAR Mexico Series race, marking a monumental day for the international series.
“I think it‘s awesome,” said Chase Elliott, 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and six-time most popular driver. “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.”
Denny Hamlin, a 51-race winner in Cup competition, co-owner of 23XI Racing and key player in the new Netflix docuseries NASCAR: Full Speed, echoed his support for the decision after holding off Kyle Busch to win The Clash for the fourth time in his career and first in Los Angeles.
“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,” Hamlin said. “And so while there will be some people that are upset about not being able to use their ticket for (Sunday), they weren’t gonna use it Monday either. And then Tuesday I’m not sure was an option. This thing was just gonna snowball into 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 really happy that NASCAR made unprecedented changes to make sure that the fans at least saw a race.”
Indeed, with Saturday admittance free for all goers, those Sunday ticketholders who purchased through Ticketmaster or NASCAR will be entitled to a refund and will be contacted by NASCAR in the coming days, per the race track, with pre-paid parking purchased for Sunday through Park Whiz to be refunded as well. NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell told NASCAR Studios Saturday afternoon that there were essentially “no good options” but vetted what was available to everybody.
“When we looked ahead of where we might be able to get this race in, you started looking at Monday, Tuesday and even possibly Wednesday,” O’Donnell said. “Challenges in terms of what might be available in terms of a public safety standpoint, and (we) realized this was our best option.”
Coordinating all the moving parts of a NASCAR event are logistically intensive — television, teams, fans, track workers and all others involved. Following a successful showing by all parties to handle such quick-moving alternatives, O’Donnell couldn’t help but smile afterward.
“I applaud the industry for pulling together and getting the race in, and it was actually really neat to see the number of fans that were able to come out,” O’Donnell told NASCAR.com. “We certainly would have liked to see the race start as scheduled on Sunday, but all in all, I think it was a good event. I think the drivers put on a really good show for the fans. We were able to get the Mexico race in too, which was big for us, and hopefully keep everybody safe as the weather comes in.”
The lower sections of the historic LA Coliseum were packed with race fans who got to experience a full day’s worth of events free of charge. While the circumstances were challenging to determine next steps given uncharacteristically severe weather forecasted for the Los Angeles area, Saturday proved to be an endeavor that may pay off to be more fruitful in the long term than short term.
“I’m sure they took a huge financial hit, NASCAR does,” Kyle Larson, the 2021 Cup champion said, “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’ve maybe never been to a race before will now fall in love with the sport and will venture out and kind of grow from there. So maybe this could accidentally work out really well for NASCAR.”
With floods of complimentary responses from the driving core, O’Donnell highlighted the collaborative nature of all members of the sport to achieve what was accomplished Saturday.
“I think on our end, we’ve really stressed communication with all the stakeholders trying to make decisions based on the best interests of the fans but taking everybody’s input,” O’Donnell said. “And this one certainly was one of those where we were able to manage what was in the best interest of the industry, and that also matched up safety of the fans and getting the race in for them, so we didn’t have to ultimately postpone and they were able to see a race, which was great.”