HomeSportsNASCAR's Clash format is new this year. Here's how it will work

NASCAR’s Clash format is new this year. Here’s how it will work

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LOS ANGELES — No single-car qualifying, only one last-chance race and a field of 23 cars are among the changes to the Clash format for NASCAR’s annual exhibition event (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET on FOX).

For the third consecutive year, the 36 charter teams head to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (all chartered teams are required to enter) for a race on a quarter-mile track constructed inside the iconic venue.

Here is how the format works for the event.

SATURDAY

Teams are divided into three practice groups based on 2023 owner points, with the 2023 Cup champion in the third group, second in points in the second group, third in points in the first group, fourth in points in the third group, etc.

The groups:

Group 1: William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Ty Gibbs, Josh Williams, Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, Chase Briscoe, Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith.

Group 2: Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Austin Dillon, John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Haley.

Group 3: Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Josh Berry, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez, Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton and Kaz Grala.

Each group will have two eight-minute practice sessions. For the third and final practice/qualifying session, each 12-driver group will be split into six-driver groups by owner points (the lowest in owner points in one group, highest in another). Each group will then get four minutes of practice with those speeds from the final session to determine the heat lineups. In the past, single-car qualifying runs determined the heat lineups.

Those speeds — regardless of group — will determine who is in each of the four heats. The fastest will be on the pole for the first heat, the second-fastest on the pole for the second heat, third-fastest on the pole for the third heat and the fourth-fastest on the pole for the fourth heat. Then the fifth-fastest is on the front row for the first heat and so on.

Each heat will be 25 laps — only green flag laps count. There will be no overtime. The top five in each heat advance to the main event on Sunday.

SUNDAY

The last chance qualifying race will be for the 16 drivers who have not yet made the main event. They will start in order of heat finish, with the driver who finished sixth in Heat 1 on the pole, the driver who finished sixth in Heat 2 on the front row, the driver who finished sixth in Heat 3 starting third, the driver who finished sixth in Heat 4 starting fourth, the driver who was seventh in Heat 1 starting fifth and so on.

This race will be 75 laps and only green-flag laps count. There will be no overtime. The top-two drivers advance to the main event. (Last year, there were two last-chance qualifiers at 50 laps apiece, so this change gives drivers an additional 25 laps but also a bigger LCQ field).

The 23rd and final spot in the Clash will go to the remaining driver who has not yet qualified to the main event who was highest in 2023 driver points (not owner points, driver points). After the heats on Saturday, the driver who is highest in points could potentially not run the LCQ and just opt to use this provisional, but it is at that team’s discretion.

(So, before the weekend starts, only 2023 Cup champion Ryan Blaney is locked into the field).

Martin Truex Jr. on defending his Clash title from 2023

The field in 2022 for the Coliseum race was 23 cars and then it increased to 27 cars for 2023. With 16 cautions during the race last year, NASCAR opted to return the field to 23 cars.

The Clash lineup will be set with the winner of Heat 1 on the pole, the winner of Heat 2 on the front row, the winner of Heat 3 starting third, the winner of Heat 4 starting fourth, then second from Heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

The main event will be 150 laps with only green-flag laps counting. There will be a break at Lap 75.

Among the celebrities/performers announced for the Clash:

–Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias will give the command to start engines for the NASCAR Mexico Series race that will run prior to the Cup events on Sunday.

–DJ Dillon Francis will perform prerace.

–Boxer Canelo Alvarez will give the command to start engines for the Clash.

–Machine Gun Kelly will perform during the mid-race break.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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