Austin Cindric, left, takes the checkered flag in front of Bubba Wallace, 23, to win the Daytona 500 last year. The NASCAR season start Sunday at Daytona. Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The second Clash at the Coliseum was cluttered with cautions and got some drivers fired up (and fired up at each other) heading into the Daytona 500.

It also left NASCAR fans with questions that could be answered – or at least addressed – in the 64th rendition of the Great American Race on Sunday. Here are eight of those questions:

Kyle Busch poses for a photo after receiving his medal after a NASCAR exhibition auto race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. Ashley Landis/Associated Press

1. Has Richard Childress Racing rejuvenated Kyle Busch? The two-time Cup champion will go down as one of the all-time great drivers. No question. And despite 2022 being mired in relative struggle, Busch still won a race and made the playoffs, so the Cup driver might not consider “rejuvenated” fair. But what’s fair is this: Busch was fast at the Clash. So was his new teammate Austin Dillon. What’s also fair: One of the last milestones to check off his career bucket list is winning this vaunted race, and having Busch win the Daytona 500 with RCR instead of Joe Gibbs Racing, the team he was with for 15 years, would further signal that Busch is where he needs to be.

2. Did the adjustments to the rear clip and bumper structure of the Next Gen car go far enough? Drivers had a lot to say about how the 2023 adjusted car felt in the wreck-riddled exhibition race in Los Angeles. Bubba Wallace of 23XI Racing used six poignant words: “Back still hurts, head still hurts.” NASCAR invested a lot of time and resources this offseason to find a way to adjust the Next Gen car, hoping the car crumples easier to protect the driver but also maintains its cost-saving durability. Daytona is an unpredictable speedway where cars collect and wrecks hurt. Expect drivers to report how safe they felt in the car throughout the week.

3. Have Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin buried the hatchet? This is an admittedly loaded question but worth saying out loud: No. No hatchet has been buried. Chastain and Hamlin tangled a bunch in 2022. The No. 1 Cup car pulled off the move of a lifetime at Martinsville, ultimately eliminating Hamlin from Championship 4 contention. Daytona 500 could, in theory, represent a clean slate between them. But it likely won’t. (It didn’t help that Hamlin felt like Chastain rammed into him without cause last week at the Clash.)

4. Will the Daytona 500 set the stage for another unpredictable Cup season? Part of the charm of the Cup Series last year was that every week, any week, anyone could win. No other track on the Cup schedule embodies that like Daytona Speedway, “the Great Equalizer.” Last year began with Austin Cindric, a rookie, winning the Daytona 500, and that seemed to set off a season that featured a record 19 different winners and a slew of first-time playoff drivers.


5. Has luck changed for Martin Truex Jr.? If last weekend was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. The 19 car was fast and finished first at the Clash, a result that seemed to signal that last year’s bad luck only set the stage for 2023 to be riddled in serendipity. Winning at Daytona requires help from the field and a few things to break your way. A good showing here will put the snakebit rumors of 2022 aside.

6. Will 2022 transgressions roll over in 2023? The Great American Race is the season opener. New season. New priorities. But the Clash got drivers plenty mad at each other — see Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace, see Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, etc. — and many rivalries of old could be renewed here. A note from Erik Jones, who was the first one knocked out of the Clash last weekend thanks to Michael McDowell: “Michael’s gotten me twice pretty good now.”

7. Will the world explode if Jimmie Johnson wins this? Jimmie Johnson, who recently bought ownership stake in NASCAR team Legacy Motor Club, will be attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has been out of a Cup car for two years, but continued his racing career in the IndyCar Series. The question isn’t whether Johnson is capable of winning this race – he’s won the Daytona 500 twice – it’s more a question of what would happen if he does.

8. Can Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing use the Daytona 500 to find momentum? RFK Racing had an up-and-down 2022. Chris Buescher won at Bristol, but neither he nor co-owner Brad Keselowski qualified for the playoffs. (It’s worth noting, too, that neither RFK Cup car qualified for the main event at the Coliseum last weekend.) RFK found some early success at Daytona’s Duels last season and hopes to use this week’s Daytona 500 festivities as a springboard for a better 2023.

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