The sanctioning body officially confirmed on Tuesday, Sept. 14 that the NASCAR Cup Series will kick off 2022 with a trip to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The stacked field of drivers will take on the football stadium while competing for the first trophy of the year.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive senior vice president and chief racing development officer, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday, Sept. 16, to discuss the upcoming race at the LA Memorial Coliseum. He explained during the interview with Dave Moody that the Clash will be an open invitational for all teams. They will then compete for a spot in the main event.
“When we discussed this with teams, we could have just gone with, ‘Hey if you’re eligible for the Clash, that’s it,’ but I think a number of teams have looked at this and said this could be a really cool event not only for our organization but our sponsors, and we’d like the ability to come out to the event,” O’Donnell said, per NBC Sports. “So we’re going to make it an invitational.
“Certainly, anyone qualified for the Clash will be in the main event. But we want to make it realistic for other teams to come out, have enough time on the racetrack, on TV, in front of the fans to make it worth their while as well. That’s the ongoing discussion in the industry: What makes this something you want to go out there and race and showcase your sponsor in the L.A. market.”
The Main Event Will Feature a Limited Number of Cars
While there are still several details to iron out before the 2022 trip to Southern California, O’Donnell has some information available about the main event. The official Clash will feature between 20-25 NASCAR teams in their Next Gen stock cars.
In order to determine the field of drivers, NASCAR will likely rely on heat races featuring all of the teams. The best drivers from each heat race will move on to the main event and compete for the first trophy of 2022, as well as a spot in future events.
Past Clash races have provided invites to drivers that won the Busch Pole in the previous season or took the checkered flag in a previous Clash. According to NBC Sports, the 2020 iteration at the Daytona Road Course included drivers who won the pole in 2020, past Clash winners, Daytona 500 winners, full-time Daytona 500 pole winners, 2020 Cup Series playoff drivers, 2020 Cup Series winners, and 2020 Cup Series stage winners.
New Faces Could Compete in the 2021 Clash
If NASCAR follows a similar format for the 2021 iteration, there will be a new driver in the field. Bubba Wallace won the first stage of his Cup Series career at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, setting himself up to compete in the Clash for the first time. He then explained to Heavy that this stage win was one of the items on the checklist and that it only helped improve his confidence heading toward other superspeedway races on the schedule.
“My confidence has been higher and higher every time that we finish a speedway race,” Wallace told Heavy in April. “We’ve always had speed — look at the Daytona 500 this year. That was big. But to get our first stage win, lock ourselves into the [Busch] Clash, we’re checking off the little things on the checklist.
“It’s the small victories that we look for right now being a small team. Things that we can progress on and grow with to move forward and to grow our team to get better and stronger for the next speedway race, which will be Daytona coming up later this year. A ton of confidence all around. That’s what you need.”
Another new face in the crowd will be Tyler Reddick. The Richard Childress Racing driver won the first Busch Pole of his career at Circuit of the Americas on May 23. He also locked up three stage wins during the 2021 regular season. Now he should have the opportunity to suit up for the Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
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