By Summer Bedgood
Denny Hamlin’s path to the Busch Light Clash wasn’t an easy one.
With NASCAR opting to use a heat-race format to set the field for the first ever NASCAR race held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and 36 drivers competing for a 23-car field, several drivers were going to miss out on the opportunity to compete an historic event.
Hamlin started fifth in the first of six heat races (including two LCQs), and had moved up to fourth, until a late-race bump from Ryan Blaney bumped him back to fifth. Hamlin would finish in that same position, meaning he would have to race in a Last Chance Qualifier in order to have a chance at starting in the main event.
Hamlin would go on to lead every lap of the first LCQ race, earning himself a 17th-place starting spot in the Busch Light Clash.
Though Hamlin drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, he is co-owner of 23XI Racing and also had to endure watching driver Bubba Wallace race his way into the Busch Light Clash via an LCQ.
Having now braved a rigorous qualifying format more akin to what you might find at your local racetrack rather than the highest levels of NASCAR, Hamlin was ready to put all that behind him and focus on the Busch Light Clash.
Only that didn’t go as planned either.
After running only 52 laps, Hamlin pulled the No. 11 Toyota into the infield while the field was under caution.
He would be out for the rest of the race.
“Mechanical,” Hamlin said post-race. “It looks like the power steering belt evidently came off and took the hose with it. We didn’t have any steering ability. This is something you will probably see a lot of this year. It’s just fixing all of the bugs that are going to happen. Unfortunately, had a power standing issue.”
The long, frustrating day at the Coliseum will not have any impact on Hamlin’s 2022 season, however, as this was a non-points paying exhibition race.
The Cup Series will return to action on Sunday, Feb. 20th at Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500, which Hamlin has already won three previous times in his career. Coverage will begin at 2:30PM ET on FOX.