The second Clash in LA was... something. There was some good, some bad, and everything in between. We're not going to focus much on the off-track festivities (or lack of), but what was actually happening on the track. This is our first look into the 2023 season, and if you remember last season it was pretty telling of the season to come - considering Joey Logano won the Clash and then went on to win the championship.
Ryan Preece Looked Fast
One of my biggest questions heading into the season was undoubtably Ryan Preece. He had speed no doubt, but he was far from proven in the Cup Series from his time at JTG Daugherty Racing. I don't think anyone expected his performance Sunday night where he lead the most laps and looked like the fastest man all night. Unfortunately a fuel pump issue forced him to drop several spots, but at least he was able to recover to a 7th place finish.
The ongoing question people will be asking all season is if SHR made the right decision replacing Cole Custer with Preece. I don't think we've seen Cole put together a performance this impressive through his his career so far, and it was Preece's first race. Sure, he had the Kentucky win, but he has never looked like "the guy to beat" during a single race weekend. If this was a sign of anything to come, Preece could be looking for a huge 2023.
One of the biggest stories in NASCAR in the last decade was Kyle Busch's departure from JGR and his decision to race for RCR. Surprisingly, Kyle Busch and teammate Austin Dillon both had incredibly strong runs, both with podium finishes. Although this didn't come with controversy. Austin
Dillon completely dumped Bubba Wallace in middle of the race, and Kyle Busch went off on Sirius XM after being spun by Joey Logano. Anyways, time will tell if this speed transfers elsewhere, but it was refreshing to see RCR with speed in both cars. Dillon had a disappointing season in comparison to his teammate last year, Tyler Reddick, so it'll be interesting to see how he stacks up against Busch this year.
Martin Starts Retirement Tour With a Win
A lot of media speculated over the offseason that Truex's 2023 would take a similar trajectory as 2022 and be disappointing as well.
Truex was able to shut everyone up and did something last night that he couldn't do all year in 2022, and that was win a race. We can't forget that he finished 5th in the regular season last year, they just didn't get that elusive win. Hopefully this brings that entire team some confidence, and gets the #19 crew on track for a fruitful season.
Kaulig's Mixed Night
If you remember from last year's clash, Justin Haley had a pretty great run going until Kyle Larson completely took him out. But it was still a surprise to see him claim the pole award for the Clash. He showed some pretty decent speed throughout, but after suffering a bit of damage and a late-race spin, Haley finished 11th. I think he can be somewhat happy with his run, considering Kaulig is really trying to build on their first full time season in 2022.
The much more interesting part of this was AJ Allmendinger's struggles. He qualified on the front row of heat number four, but struggled greatly in his heat and had to depend on a third place in the LCQ to make the big show. Ultimately he finished 20th in the race and didn't show speed anywhere close to Haley's. Not the start that AJ wanted in his return back to the Cup Series.
Should They Come Back?
This is the key question on everyone's mind. Should NASCAR go back to LA? Well, in my opinion - no. Instead I think NASCAR should do a similar event somewhere else for the Clash in 2024. NASCAR proved that they could do it successfully for 2 consecutive years, so I'm sure many stadium owners would be much more open to a NASCAR event like this with evidence of actually being able to pull it off.
I think it should be move because, let's face it - the LA market just isn't that interested. The crowd was not particularly great Sunday night, especially for the heats. Maybe NASCAR should leave while they're on top, and recreate the event in an area where mass amounts of fans will be able to go. If NASCAR is that set on using the Clash as an outreach event to new fans, then they could also start rotating this event to a new stadium/market every single year. I think that would bring the excitement, energy, and national headlines that the LA Clash provided last year. Seattle, New York, and more could all be explored using the Clash. NASCAR could potentially have stadiums bid on the opportunity to host a Clash in the future, just to hopefully cover some of the costs. I personally have no problem with it, and using the experience of the LA Clash I think NASCAR could pull it off well.
Read some of my bold predictions for the 2023 NASCAR Season here!