NASCAR’s most prominent stars have seen the Los Angeles Coliseum live on television, and they are familiar with its capabilities as a football stadium.
But, as a racetrack. They had to see it right away upon arriving in Los Angeles.
The Coliseum was visited by a large portion of NASCAR’s industry shortly after they touched down, to see the bold new venue. NASCAR took its biggest risk yet when it moved its preseason exhibition race into the Coliseum. The Coliseum was renovated at a cost exceeding $1 million and converted into a temporary quarter mile asphalt track for a Sunday evening sprint shootout.
The excitement of Fox Sports team members trying to explain why Coliseum was such a significant step forward for the sport was drowned out by a sound check on the audio system. The speakers were filled with hits from Ice Cube, who was the headliner of the halftime act that worked in to Busch Light Clash’s show.
Tony Stewart, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, asked Tony what it would take to make this event a success. He will be joining the Fox Sports booth this weekend. “Event is the key word. This is more than a race. This is an event in a very special place at a very unique venue.
“People love to be entertained. This is what will make it a success. It doesn’t need to be 40 passes to take the lead. It doesn’t need to be three-wide racing. This event will be a success if people feel positive about it.
For a morning practice session and early evening qualifying, the track will not officially open but it will be open on Saturday. The Clash will take place Sunday night, but heat races will precede it. These heat races will determine which 23 drivers progress to the main event. 13 drivers will be eliminated from the heat races, meaning that only Kyle Larson, the reigning Cup champion, will advance to the final.
The Clash will run 150 laps. Caution laps won’t be counted. Pitbull has a prerace show, a DJ is available for breaks, and Ice Cube has a stage ready for his halftime show.
The drivers arrived Friday morning to see the track, which is the smallest they will ever have raced on. The Coliseum has been transformed to be a quarter-mile long and is half the size of Martinsville or Bristol, both venues measuring just over half a mile.
Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Mayor, also stopped by to view the show that precedes next weeks’ Super Bowl. Garcetti didn’t understand the concept of a race at Coliseum when it was first proposed.
“I was like, “You have to be kidding me.” Where? After touring the stadium, Garcetti said that he thought it was outside the Coliseum. It was going to be in the Coliseum, my first thought. It’s a miracle!
The track was built on top of USC’s football pitch. Joe Furin, Coliseum general manger, acknowledged that the asphalt has covered up the grass. Furin noted, however, that the 100th anniversary of NASCAR’s groundbreaking for the Coliseum was the date when the track was laid.
Furin stated that “the NASCAR event was completely out of the box,” but it is a “definitely worthy event.”
Since 1979, when the Clash was first created to prepare for the season-opening Daytona 500, the Clash has been held every year at Daytona International Speedway. Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson and 30-year-old grandson of NASCAR’s founder is the senior vice president for strategy and innovation and isn’t afraid to depart from the traditional way that his family has run the show.
The idea was expensive. Although $1 million was originally budgeted, NASCAR spent significantly more to host the two-day event. Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president of NASCAR and chief racing development officer, stated that the cost was not prohibitive.
Steve O’Donnell stated that it was a substantial investment by NASCAR. We made a huge bet on it, but we believe it’s the right thing for the industry. If we believe that it’s a path to future growth, we will be bold and aggressive when looking at investments.
NASCAR hopes to profit from the Super Bowl hype. It will be held a week starting Sunday at Sofi Stadium in less than 10 miles. In a week-long sports event for the city, the Rams from the hometown will compete for the NFL championship.
Los Angeles continues to experience high levels of COVID-19 infection, and Garcetti was recently questioned for not wearing a mask during the NFC title match. Masks are required for all occasions under a Los Angeles County health order. Clash fans older than 5 years old will need to show proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 testing.
The rule does not apply to NASCAR’s rivals. Anybody can participate as long as they comply with NASCAR’s requirements. NASCAR doesn’t require testing or vaccination.
Garcetti stated that the Coliseum would be used in the men’s World Cup tournament, 2026. The renowned facility will also be used to host the three Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.
Los Angeles is the sport capital of the world. It really feels that way this week. Garcetti stated that we can host NASCAR on Sunday and the Super Bowl on Sunday. All the while the NBA (and NHL) are still going.” “We are preparing for what will be a great decade.”