The NASCAR season is just around the corner, with the Busch Light Clash set to be held on Sunday, Feb. 6. In addition to the storylines surrounding all the drivers coming into this season, there are also some notable developments concerning the races.
For the first time since its inception in 1979, the Busch Light Clash — one of two races that precede the Daytona 500 — will be held outside of Daytona International Speedway. Instead, the exhibition race will commence at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The main reason behind the venue change is the belated official debut of the seventh-generation chassis, known as the Next Gen car. Originally set to debut at last year’s Daytona 500, the Next Gen car has spent the past year experiencing test runs, culminating with a final two-day organizational testing session at Phoenix Raceway last week.
As with any evolution in racing, there is a wide variety of opinions and emotions, ranging from excitement to concern.
“I don’t think this industry, or at least the Cup Series, has overseen a change quite this large...this is a different approach,” 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott said in a recent interview. “I’m anxious to go through that learning process and kind of see who guesses right first, and hopefully it’s us.”
Part of that learning process will be adjusting to the new transmission system. The Next Gen car will be replacing the formerly used four-speed manual transmission with a floor-mounted five-speed sequential manual transmission.
The new transmission will also be packaged into a single unit along with the rear differential and axle — the transaxle. This will allow more room for drivers inside the vehicle and seat them closer to the centerline of the vehicle,
One area of concern for drivers has been the heat level inside of the vehicle. Driver Denny Hamlin experienced excessive heat during a test drive of the Next Gen car at Daytona last September.
“I can’t express how hot it was. It’s a big, big concern,” Hamlin said following the drive. “The design of it having where the exhaust is all boxed in running underneath the seat. It’s hot. It’s 450 degrees down in that box.”
With all of the buzz surrounding the new car, this season will be as unpredictable as ever. For Elliott, he will be looking to get back into the winner’s circle and right back into the Cup Series Playoffs later this year.
Elliott finished in a solid fourth place last season, posting race wins at the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix in Austin and the Jockey Made in America 250 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will be the first top-level NASCAR race held inside of a sports stadium since 1971, which was the last year the NASCAR Cup Series — then called the Grand National Series — raced at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. To this day, Bowman Gray still hosts NASCAR-sanctioned local races.
The single-car qualifying for the Busch Light Clash will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb.5, on FS1, while the qualifying heats begin Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on FOX. The main event will begin at 6:00 p.m.