Last Updated Feb 05, 2022, 11:00 AM

NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Predictions, Picks, Odds

The NASCAR Cup Series begins its 2022 schedule with a non-points race on the storied grounds of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time ever, an experiment to attract a new audience one week before the Super Bowl at nearby SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. 

It’s a nice idea in theory, but replacing the football field and Olympic track for a flat quarter-mile asphalt layout may have gone too far. Especially since NASCAR will be debuting the NextGen car that produces 670 horsepower and has one hub on the wheels like IndyCar instead of traditional stock car lugnuts. It’s also NextGen safety to its finest yet, so thumbs up for driver safety.

The 2022 Busch Light Clash is going to be a mess because there’s only one groove. A quarter-mile flat track with 23 drivers crammed together is going to create lots of wrecks and lots of bad blood between a few drivers which is the type of excitement most of us love, but manufacturing wrecks with a shorter track than is used in any other modern-day race is too calculated. It’s as if NASCAR is rooting for wrecks to draw in the non-fan.

But the whole idea still has me excited for the festivities to begin after a quick winter break from NASCAR. Drop that damn green flag already! 

Put on a show NASCAR, and let the boys be boys. Denny Hamlin, you have a score to settle with Alex Bowman. No points lost, slow speeds, punt him. Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott have a past score to settle. Let’s get it on. No points, no problem. Every car is going to look like it was in a wreck anyway so nothing to save. 

Qualifying between 36 drivers will take place on Saturday and then Sunday morning there will be four 10-lap stage qualifying heat races that will determine the starting order for 23 drivers. The Heat races should also produce quite a few wrecks before the 150-lap Busch Light Clash even starts.

“I have no idea what it’s going to be like,” Kyle Busch said. “Top speed is probably going to be around 60 mph and the low speed in the corners maybe 20 mph. It’s going to be action-packed. We aren’t going to be able to spread out and get away from each other. We are going to be all over the top of each other’s bumpers and doors. Double-file restarts are going to be really tight, and there’s going to be a lot of fenders bent and probably feelings hurt.”

In other words, yes, it’s going to be a mess. Lots of wrecks making it a long 150 laps.

But Busch is going to be one of the drivers to beat because he has the best record on the short tracks the Cup series races on. In 97 short track starts, Busch has 16 wins – 6 more than any other – 49 top-fives, and 5,549 laps led, all of which lead active leaders. Short-track racing is in his blood. I don’t ever think I saw him lose as a teenager on the ?-mile Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch also won the Busch Clash last season on the Daytona road course.

BUSCH LIGHT CLASH AT THE COLISEUM BETTING ANALYSIS

The next best short track driver statistically is Denny Hamlin with 10 wins, 40 top-fives, and 4,989 laps led between 93 starts. He opened as the +650 favorite at Caesars books but defending Cup champion Kyle Larson is now their 5-to-1 favorite after opening Larson at 12-to-1 odds. Larson had his best short track season last year and has two wins overall on them. He’s ready to go.

“I participated in several tests with the new Camaro, but last week’s test at Phoenix Raceway was my first with the car with all the changes and updates for the 2022 season,” Larson said. “The test went well, and I’m looking forward to actually racing it.”

The NextGen will produce 670 horsepower everywhere with spoiler heights changing at different tracks. No more three different types of cars like we saw the last few seasons with a 550 HP, 750 HP, and 550 HP Superspeedway set-up. Hendrick, Team Penske, and Joe Gibbs drivers should have an edge here because of spending more money to get everything perfect. 

Team Penske can be thrown in that group as well in spending to be fast. Both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney will be very good this week as long as they stay out of the muck, which there will be a lot of, but rookie Austin Cindric takes over the No. 2 Ford after Brad Keselowski left to be driver and part-owner of Roush-Fenway Racing. T’s now RFK Racing with the K being for him.

“The Clash is a new challenge for us, not only is it the first race of the season, but it’s a new race at a new track, and a completely different style of racing we’ve seen,” said Brad Keselowski who makes his first Cup start without Team Penske. To say there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of hype would be an understatement. When you go to a track you’ve never been to before, the most difficult thing to do is prepare for it and know what to expect. With it being my first race with RFK and our first race together, any success we can have there is going to be huge for our company.”

BUSCH LIGHT CLASH AT THE COLISEUM BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, February 6, 2022
  • TV-Time: FOX, 6:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Distance: 350 laps
  • Defending Champion: Kyle Busch

Keselowski has all those short-track skills – seven career Cup wins – that will serve him well this week, but I’m not so sure the new RFK Racing Mustang will be as good as drivers from the elite teams.

Keselowski is listed at 10-to-1 odds to win by Caesars Sportsbook who I'd bet with those odds didn’t know he left Penske. BetMGM has Keselowski at 20-to-1 odds to win.

But who knows, maybe the cars will all be close to equal. I doubt it, though. Big money always works, but the common theme from almost every driver and crew chief is that everything about this race is different from anything they've done in the Cup series. 

“Everything is different. The approach is different. The way the car handles, steers, and drives is different,” Aric Almirola said. “The way the crew guys work on the cars. The way they set them up. Everything we do is a hard reset.

“When I look at this season, it really gets me excited for all of the changes and the land of the unknown,”Almirola continued. “There is so much opportunity out there for everybody and to be the ones to try and figure it out first is exciting. The entire year is going to be about resetting each weekend, starting at the Clash. Even the data from the first few tests is irrelevant because the rules that applied then are already different, so we’re heavily relying on the guys and girls at the shop to constantly adapt to change and I’ll have to do my part.”

Aric Almirola is set to retire following the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series. (AP)

Almirola notched a win at New Hampshire last season, the only win from Stewart-Haas Racing in 2021, but the downgrade last season has me concerned here as I see Tony Stewart getting much more involved in other racing series. Did SHR go all in with cash for an early competitive advantage the way Hendrick or Joe Gibbs did? I doubt it.

Almirola is 40-to-1 to win the Busch Light Clash at Caesars and BetMGM followed by BetMGM odds for SHR drivers such as Kevin Harvick (16/1), Chase Briscoe (100/1), and Cole Custer (150/1). Almirola will call it a career after the 2022 season.

BUSCH LIGHT CLASH AT THE COLISEUM CONTENDERS

  • Martin Truex Jr +600
  • Denny Hamlin +600
  • Chase Elliott +650
  • Kyle Larson +750
  • Joey Logano +750
  • Kyle Busch +800
  • More NASCAR Futures
  • (Odds Subject to Change)

Bubba Wallace won a Truck Series race at Martinsville in 2014 but he’s had trouble on the short tracks in the Cup series with 22 starts between Richmond, Martinsville, and Bristol averaging a 21.9 finish with just one top-10. BetMGM is offering 100-to-1 odds on him to win. The Jordan-Hamlin team added Kurt Busch (25/1 to win) in the offseason and with a year under the belt, I expect the team to continue to get better with both getting a win for Toyota somewhere this season. There should be excitement and confidence for Wallace after winning his first Cup race last season at Talladega. 

Rookie Harrison Burton takes over the storied No. 21 Ford Mustang and will attempt to qualify for the Clash and is being offered at 100-to-1 odds to win by BetMGM.

“I ran some three-eights and some quarter miles in Legends cars, but none in a stock car,” Burton said. “It’s going to be an adjustment period for sure. There’s not much of a notebook for that.” 

The new car could produce a longshot winner just because of the unknown, but I don’t think so. I will be playing a few drivers from the elite teams that always battle for the win on short tracks.

HANDICAPPING BUSCH LIGHT CLASH AT THE COLISEUM

My top choice is Martin Truex Jr. who has proven to be the best short track driver since 2019 with six wins, nine top-fives, and 1,293 laps led, all are tops among active drivers over the same span. So imagine my surprise when I saw Caesars sportsbooks offering him at 15-to-1?

I was second-guessing myself, ”Did he leave Joe Gibbs?” or “Did crew chief James Small leave?” No to both. A few hours later Caesars realized they got beat to the mistake and Truex was down to +850, but that price even offers value. He should be the favorite based on his short track skills and JGR. Perhaps Caesars thought it was 2.5-mile track instead of a .25-mile track, so the high odds would make sense.

Welcome back NASCAR and best wishes for attracting new fans in Los Angeles. 

BUSCH LIGHT CLASH AT THE COLISEUM
TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

1) #19 Martin Truex Jr. (+850)
2) #22 Joey Logano (+1100)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (+800)
4) #11 Denny Hamlin (+650)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (+1000)

We may be compensated by the company links provided on this page. Read more

Auto News