30 Days Away: Kevin Harvick Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

While 2022 marks the 74th year of the NASCAR Cup Series, it also ushers in a new era for stock-car racing’s premier division. A new car debuts on a new track, with the NextGen car seeing its first racing action Feb. 5-6 on a purpose-built, quarter-mile, asphalt oval inside the confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum kicks off the 2022 season at a track other than Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the first time since 1981 when the series opened its schedule on a road course at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway, approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Riverside is long gone, the site now home to the Moreno Valley Mall, but the L.A. Coliseum was at 311 Figueroa Street 34 years before Riverside opened its doors in 1957 and it’s still there today. It’s a juxtaposition of old and new, a microcosm of this brave new NASCAR world.

Event Overview
 

●  Event:  Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

●  Time/Date:  3 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 6

●  Location:  Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

●  Layout:  Quarter-mile oval

●  Format:  150-lap Feature with a 23-car field set by Heats and Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)

●  TV/Radio:  FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

●  Note:  Heats and LCQ are broadcast live from 3-5 p.m. EST. Feature airs live at 6 p.m. EST.

●  The NextGen car is an entirely new racecar, and if you’re keeping score at home, it’s the seventh version of the stock car NASCAR introduced in 1949. Each version has been an improvement from its predecessor, be it from a manufacturer standpoint with more aerodynamic bodies or from a NASCAR standpoint with better overall safety. Dimensions have varied over the years with drivers, teams and manufacturers politicking for various changes to spoilers, splitters, roof railings, ride-heights, etc., resulting in a multitude of templates that have shaped the on-track product. But the NextGen car is a massive leap forward, as never in NASCAR’s 73 prior years has this much time, energy and money been spent to bring a car from concept to reality. Say goodbye to such time-honored traditions as the H-pattern shifter, 750-horsepower engines, five-lug wheels and even centered door numbers. You can say “Hi” to them at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but not at a NASCAR Cup Series track. Instead, say hello to a sequential shifter, 670-horsepower engines, a single center-lock wheel nut akin to Indy cars and sports cars, and car numbers just behind the front wheels. But that’s not all. Introduce yourself to carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body panels, a carbon-fiber floor that covers the entire underneath portion of the car, and a rear-end diffuser – all of which are in place to reduce dirty air. And it’s more than skin deep, as rack-and-pinion steering replaces the archaic recirculating ball, and an independent rear suspension is a drastic upgrade from the full floating axle first championed by 1950s-era Detroit iron. The bottom line is that the NextGen car is much more in line with what manufacturers sell and consumers want. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday has never been more accurate.

 

●  In true L.A. fashion, almost any NASCAR Cup Series team can show up at the Coliseum, but not everyone is getting past the velvet ropes to participate in the 150-lap main event. Because the track at the L.A. Coliseum is only a quarter-mile in length – the shortest track the NASCAR Cup Series will compete on in 2022 – only 23 cars can compete in the feature. Getting to the main event is much more arduous than walking the red carpet and slipping the bouncer a $100 bill. Here’s how it will work…

  • On Saturday, Feb. 5, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will take to the track for practice prior to single-car qualifying runs to determine the starting order for four heat races. The field will be open to 40 entrants. On Sunday, Feb. 6, on-track action will begin with four, 25-lap heat races consisting of 10 cars each. Below is a breakdown on how the heat races will be filled out:
  • The top-four fastest qualifiers from Saturday’s single-car qualifying session will be on the pole for each heat race, while cars that qualified fifth through eighth will make up the other half of the front row in each heat.
  • The remainder of each field will be filled out using this methodology: Heat one will be made up of cars with qualifying positions of one, five, nine, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37.
  • The top-four finishers (16 total cars) from each heat race automatically advance through to the Busch Light Clash, with the winner of heat one winning the pole and the heat two winner earning the outside pole.
  • The winners of heats three and four will fill out the second row, with the remaining order of those 16 cars being determined in the same manner.
  • The remaining six finishing positions from each heat (24 total cars) that did not advance will continue through to one of two 50-lap Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) races. Below is a breakdown on how the LCQ will be filled out:
  • The starting order for these two events will be determined based on finishing positions in the heat races.
  • Those who did not advance from heats one and three will make up the first LCQ race. The second race will be made of up those from heats two and four.
  • The fifth-place finishers from heats one and two will be on the pole in their respective LCQ races. The fifth-place finishers from heats three and four will be on the outside pole.
  • This pattern will continue to fill out 12 cars in each event.
  • The top-three finishers (six total cars) from both LCQ races will advance to the Busch Light Clash, filling out positions 17-22 of the 23 available positions.
  • The final spot in the Busch Light Clash will be reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2021 points standings who does not transfer on finishing position in the heat races or LCQ races.
  • All other drivers will be eliminated from competition for the remainder of the event weekend.

●  Go fast and turn left puts all of the above in more succinct terms, something Kevin Harvick has proven particularly adept at in his 21 previous years of NASCAR Cup Series competition. The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has 58 career Cup Series wins and is alone at 10th on the all-time win list. Not included in that total are Harvick’s wins in non-points races. He has two victories in the NASCAR All-Star Race (2007 and 2018), two wins in the Duel at Daytona qualifying race (2013 and 2019) and three wins in the Budweiser Shootout/Busch Clash (2009, 2010 and 2013), the precursor to the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum.

 

●  The quarter-mile oval at the L.A. Coliseum is the shortest of short tracks. That suits Harvick just fine. Harvick has totaled 119 wins across the NASCAR Cup Series (58), NASCAR Xfinity Series (47) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (14). Twenty-eight of those victories have come on short tracks, with seven Cup victories, 17 Xfinity wins and four Truck triumphs.

 

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang 
 

Does the NextGen car make this season a blank slate, to where whatever you knew with the old car really isn’t applicable to this car?

“It’s all relatively the same as far as the thought process, but the way to achieve that goal, in what you need and what you want, how you race, is going to be different. As to how that equation comes together to make the car go fast, to be competitive, how you race and all that is still to be developed, but it’s the same as all the other cars. I think the development is much different, but in the end you still have to go race. As many differences as there are with the car and the things that you do with the car, in the end we want our Busch Light Ford Mustang to go faster than everybody else’s car, and that really comes down to communicating with the team, understanding what the car feels like, and trying to be a part of that evolution.”

 

Will the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum give you a decent understanding of the NextGen car’s characteristics in racing conditions before you begin points-paying racing with the Daytona 500?

“I don’t think so, but the thing that it will give you is just that time in the car in an environment that’s at a low rate of the speed to be able to kind of diagnose it all. I mean, we’re still at a point where we’re diagnosing how the throttle works and how it functions, the steering, and how hot it’s going to get inside, and vision, and all the little nuances in the driver’s compartment that you’ll want to try to have out of the way before you do get to a place like Daytona. It gives us a great opportunity to do something we all know how to do, and that’s short-track race. But it allows us to still diagnose those things in a situation where you really can’t quit, or come into the pits and say, ‘This isn’t working right, let’s fix it.’ You’ll have to work through it. And are those things that you’re going to have to work through for 500 miles? How do we work through these things methodically in order to just survive? Or, what are the things that are OK and you’re going to have to pick and choose the things that you’re just going to have to survive with for a while?”

 

Since 1972, we’ve referred to this time in the sport as the modern era. Does the NextGen car usher in a new era, where statistics and records need to align with how different this racecar is to its predecessors?

“I don’t think so because, in the end, it’s still the same process and it’s still a race. And no matter how they lined them up in 1975 or 2020 or 2021, you still had the same goal in the end, and that was to go faster than the other guys on the racetrack no matter the number of cars, no matter the type of car. In the end, it’s still the same goal no matter what you race.”

 

What’s the shortest track you’ve ever raced on and what was that experience like?

“The shortest track I’ve ever raced on was the Orange Show Speedway. It was in the football stadium and it was a paved, quarter-mile racetrack in San Bernardino, California. That’s definitely the shortest racetrack – in a car – that I’ve ever raced on, which is exactly what we’re getting ready to do in a much heavier, much bigger car. That was in my Southwest Tour, my Late Model days, that we raced there, so that was always one of the smallest but, definitely, the narrowest because it was, literally, the running track, but paved.”

 

What did you have to do to finish that race?

“It was a demolition derby and you had to be willing to race like it was a demolition derby in order to pass people. Obviously, how the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum develops is yet to be determined.”

 

What are your expectations for the Busch Light Clash?

“It’s going to be a lot of quick throttle, heavy brake, and the speeds are going to be so much slower compared to what we’re used to that you’re going to have to just wing that part of it.”

 

You grew up in Bakersfield, California, and were around for the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series that raced at the L.A. Coliseum and the 1984 Summer Olympics, which held many events at the Coliseum – what has shaped your perception of the Coliseum, and does racing there as a California native hold any special meaning?

“I’m not 100 percent aware of the full history of the L.A. Coliseum, but I have enough of the history of the L.A. Coliseum in my past, living in California, that I understand the magnitude of putting our vehicles on the ground there and having a race, and the historic events that have happened in the L.A. Coliseum. I remember those Mickey Thompson Off-Road races with the trucks and the buggies jumping out of the arches at the top of the stadium, down the hill, and usually at the bottom of the hill, once they landed, they went into a 90-degree turn. So, from a racing standpoint, I have memories of that. So it’s just a unique event and, when you look at the facility itself, there are just a lot of prestigious moments that go along with it.”

 

No. 4 Busch Light Team Roster

Primary Team Members

 

Driver: Kevin Harvick

Hometown: Bakersfield, California

 

Crew Chief: Rodney Childers

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Car Chief: Robert “Cheddar” Smith

Hometown: Whitewater, Wisconsin

 

Engineer: Dax Gerringer

Hometown: Gibsonville, North Carolina

 

Engineer: Stephen Doran

Hometown: Butler, Pennsylvania

 

Spotter: Tim Fedewa

Hometown: Holt, Michigan

Over-The-Wall Members

 

Front Tire Changer: Shayne Pipala

Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois

 

Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith

Hometown: Concord, North Carolina

 

Tire Carrier: Jeremy Howard

Hometown: Delhart, Texas

 

Jack Man: Stan Doolittle

Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina

 

Fuel Man: Evan Marchal

Hometown: Westfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members

 

Mechanic: Richie Bean

Hometown: Bradford, Vermont

 

Mechanic: Nick DeFazio

Hometown: Orange, California

 

Tire Specialist: Jamie Turski

Hometown: Trumbull, Connecticut

 

Engine Tuner: Robert Brandt

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama

 

Transporter Co-Driver: Rick Hodges

Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

 

Transporter Co-Driver: Stephen Mitchell

Hometown: Woodville, Ohio

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