NASCAR changes Clash format, significantly reducing field size

After last year's Busch Light Clash featured 27 cars and 16 cautions, NASCAR opted to make a significant change to this year's format.
Busch Light Clash, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, NASCAR
Busch Light Clash, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, NASCAR / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

For the third year in a row, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is scheduled to host the NASCAR Cup Series preseason Busch Light Clash exhibition race. Prior to 2022, never in the more than 40-year history of the race had it been contested at a venue other than Daytona International Speedway.

But while the race is set to be contested inside the iconic venue for another year, the format for the race at the flat, purpose-built, quarter-mile oval inside the home of the USC Trojans has once again been changed.

In 2022, there were four 25-lap heat races, and the top four drivers in each advanced to the 150-lap main event. Everyone else was sent to one of two 50-lap last chance qualifiers, and the top three drivers in each advanced to the main event. A 23rd spot in the main event went to the highest finsihing driver in the 2021 standings among those not yet qualified.

In 2023, the field was expanded to 27 cars, as the top five drivers from each of the four heat races advanced to the main event. The remaining format was kept the same, including the points provisional based on the 2022 standings.

NASCAR debuts yet another new format for Busch Light Clash

Now in 2024, the field size is back to 23, but the format is slightly different from what it was two years ago.

Like last year, the top five drivers from each of the four 25-lap heat races are set to advance to the main event. But there is just one last chance qualifier, a 75-lap race, and only the top two drivers are set to advance. The points provisional, based on the 2023 standings, remains in play as well.

With 27 cars competing on what basically amounts to a high school track, last year's race unsurprisingly featured 16 caution flag periods and was largely billed as a disaster. With 23, the 2022 race featured only five, so the move to reduce the field size was beyond justified.

Team Penske's Joey Logano won the race in 2022, and Joe Gibbs Racing's Martin Truex Jr. won it in 2023. Truex and Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson are the betting co-favorites to win it this year, though their separation from the rest of the field is minimal due to the expected chaotic nature of the event -- even with a reduction in car count.

Next. NASCAR team fills final open seat for Busch Light Clash. NASCAR team fills final open seat for Busch Light Clash. dark

Tune into Fox at 8:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, February 4 for the live broadcast of the Busch Light Clash from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. If you have yet to begin a free trial of FuboTV, now would be a great time to do so!