By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
In front of some sixty thousand plus fans and small track, it was Joey Lagano who came away with the checkered flag in the inaugural BUSCH LIGHT CLASH.
In a weekend that had a big racing buzz that went throughout the City of Angels and the entire West Coast Lagano held off Kyle Busch in the final lap of the 150-lap feature race held at one of the worlds most storied sports venues.
“I can’t believe it,” Logano said after the race. “We’re here. The LA Coliseum. We got the victory with the old Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. This is an amazing event. Congratulations, NASCAR. Such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this, put on an amazing race for everybody.”
Busch came in second after starting at the “Pole.” The etched his name in the history books by turning the fastest qualifying lap on the quarter-mile asphalt track. His No. 18 Toyota TRD Camry jetted to a 13.745-second lap putting him at the pole for Sunday’s first qualifying heat race and making him the driver to beat during the race.
Austin Dillard, Eric Jones and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
Busch, who led a race-high 64 laps was extremely disappointed.
“I was being perfect doing everything I needed to do, keep the tires underneath me. When I got close, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to try more and pounce at an opportunity and just overheated the tires and smoked them in three laps and that was it.”
The quarter mile track put together in just over three months with a price tag over a million bucks. It the smallest track NASCAR has raced on since 1971. The intimacy reminds one of the Waterford Speed Bowl track located in Waterford, Connecticut.
“He (Logano) ran a good race, said Dillard. He got me at the turn and I never could catch him.”
When asked about a repeat at the Coliseum. Anytime you can grow our sport it’s good for everyone.’’
Ben Kennedy NASCARS Senior Vice President of strategy and innovation along with executive vice president Steve O’donnell we both happy with the race as they saw enthusiasm in the drivers.
There was a bunch of talk about the new Next Gen cars that almost for a moment was being pushed back to 2023. Allegedly a dummy was killed during crash testing last summer.
We all know it’s early in the season several drivers experienced different issues. At the mid-race point (75 laps) Tyler Reddick-8, Denny Hamlin-11, Chase Briscoe-14, Ryan Preece-15 and all were out due to wreck or car trouble.
Both Kennedy and O’donnell mentioned that each car that left the race would be given a through going over.
There were qualifying races held Saturday that generated a lot of excitement while narrowing the field to 23.
In one qualifying race Aric Amarillo became the first driver to have a car towed off the oval. In in one of Sundays LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) it became a game of bumper cars as five cautions came out the final eight laps.
Fan Favorite Bubba Wallace finishes 18th. This season Kurt Busch joined car 23XI.The 43 year-old Busch has won at least one race in 18 of his 22 seasons.
At introductions Daniel Saurez #99 finished in 14th walked down the Coliseum steps wearing a Sombrero slapping hands with fans, smiling reminiscing of his heritage he was the only driver from Mexico.
Dillard from Richard Racing summed it up a return to the Coliseum perfectly. “Bob Kennedy and NASCAR did a great Job. If its worth it to the drivers and others then why not. I love California and Fontana is a great place to race.”
NASCAR BUSH LIGHT NOTES: NASCAR has been reaching out trying to be more inclusive and branch out to as many different people as possible. During the building of the track they invited some 25 young people from the Boys and Girls Club of Carson
The youth had a chance to see the behind the scenes of the track wall and fence operated…Pitbull performed a dynamic 45-minute concert, before the featured race. ICE CUBE performed at the mid-way point and DJ.
Grand Marshalls included Eric Dickerson football Hall of Famer, former Raider Greg Townsend, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, Misty May-Traenor, Jeff Gordan and Dodger Skipper Dave Roberts. Race winner Joey Logano headed home right after the race as his wife Brittany was expecting their third child.