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Did NASCAR Manage to FIX The Clash Format?

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What’s Happening?

Behind the controversy of originally not allowing fans into the Saturday festivities at the Clash at the LA Coliseum, NASCAR made some interesting changes to the format for 2024. It led us to ask the question, has NASCAR fixed the format, or, are they tinkering with something that did not need to be tinkered with?

For a Complete Breakdown of the format, Read Below:

  • Since we have already broken down how the new format works, we will focus today on the impact of these changes. Are these good changes, or bad changes, and how will they impact the racing product at the Clash.
  • This is a big year for the Clash, as it is the 3rd year of a 3 year contract with the LA Coliseum to hold the race at the venue. If both parties want to continue working together, this year’s event needs to work.
  • Fans are curious to see how some of these changes work. It’s going to be a slightly different event than it was in years past.

Shrinking Field Size

In 2024, The Clash field size shrinks from 27 cars to 23 cars, the same total it was in the inaugural race in 2022. Originally, NASCAR expanded the field likely to make sure that their stars would not miss the main feature. This is one of two non-point races all season long where a chartered entry can miss the main event.

However, the result was a caution fest in 2023. There were 16 caution flags in the 150-lap race, with many caused by stack-ups that were precipitated by the expanded field. With only green flag laps counting to the 150-lap total, this race dragged on and on and on.

This change seems to be generally popular amongst the fanbase. A caution-fest like one year ago serves more to drag a race down than to keep the race close. On top of that, it does make the heat races interesting because good drivers and teams will be fighting just to get into the show.

The Addition of the NASCAR Mexico Series

The addition of the NASCAR Mexico Series is an interesting one. It’s the first time ever that the Clash has a support race because the Clash itself was originally designed as a support race for Daytona Speedweeks. This will be the first time the NASCAR Mexico Series has ever raced on national TV in the United States, so, it provokes some intrigue amongst NASCAR fans.

However, the addition of the Mexico Series has caused the heat races to move from Sunday to Saturday. As a result, those who bought a ticket for Sunday are paying for less Cup Series action than in previous years. It’s also a series that most NASCAR fans don’t know much about.

Then again, it is a neat addition to the weekend. It ultimately accounts for more racing, which is good for the fans watching at home. The main Mexico Series race taking place on Sunday also makes up for the decrease in Cup Series competition.

Heat Races on Saturday

This is primarily the result of the Mexico Series addition, but, it is still an interesting idea. NASCAR tried this at the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro in 2023, where they held the Heat Races the day prior to the main show.

The drawback is, again, that the paying customer no longer has these races included with their ticket. The Mexico Series is ultimately the substitute for these races, but, fans do not see the Cup Series stars that they ultimately paid to see as much as in previous years.

For fans at home, it gives them more reason to tune in on Saturday. As opposed to just a practice or a qualifying session, they have actual racing that impacts what they will see during the main event on Sunday. It’s also ultimately a pretty good deal for fans to see 100 laps of Cup Series action for FREE, but, that happened only after NASCAR was not going to allow public access to the heat races.

No Single Car Qualifying

This year, qualifying will be a bit different. As opposed to single-car qualifying like in years past, the starting lineup for the duels will be based on drivers’ fastest laps during each group’s 3rd session of the day.

There are a couple of drawbacks to this. First off, it is tougher to follow than single-car qualifying, which is pretty straightforward. Secondly, since multiple cars will be on the 1/4 mile track at a time, someone could get slowed up behind someone, which causes driver conflict.

However, watching multiple cars on the track is more intriguing than watching one car on track at a time. It also allows NASCAR to get practice and qualifying done at potentially a quicker pace than in previous years.

Only One Last Chance Qualifier

In 2024, The Last Chance Qualifying Race will be only one 75-lap race with the top-2 finishers advancing. In the past, it was two 50-lap races with the top-2 finishers advancing. This race happening on Sunday guarantees that paying customers will see all 36 chartered entries on Sunday.

This, again, feeds into fewer laps of Cup Series racing for the paying customer. As opposed to 100 laps of LCQ racing, there is only 75 laps. If prominent drivers are left out of the race, then fans see their favorite drivers even less than in previous years.

However, having only two drivers get in through this race increases the intensity. There are also more cars in a longer race, which is closer to the main, 150-lap feature that evening. From a competition standpoint, it is a closer fit to the main show than it was in previous years.

Will these changes ultimately work? Have they fixed the Clash, and will these changes help keep it at the Coliseum for years to come?

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Joshua Lipowski

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