NASCAR has said for the past few years that they were going to try different things to expand the sport.
Well this is definitely going to be different.
The Cup Series usually kicks off their season with the Clash at Daytona, an exhibition race held before the season-opening Daytona 500 with the field generally limited to some combination of former Daytona 500 winners and pole winners from the season before.
The Clash has always kicked off Speedweeks, which also featured Daytona 500 qualifying and the Twin 125 Duel races.
But for 2022, NASCAR is changing it up.
And these aren’t minor changes, like moving it to the road course like they did last year, or changing the eligibility criteria like they’ve done in the past.
No, this time they’re moving the race to a football stadium all the way across the country.
NASCAR announced that the 2022 Clash will be held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the 77,000-seat football stadium that has been home to USC football since 1923.
A quarter-mile asphalt track will be built inside the stadium, making it the shortest track that NASCAR has competed on in the modern era, only half as long as the bullring at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Clash will be held on February 6, 2022 – a week before the Super Bowl and two weeks before the Daytona 500.
Not only will the event mark the first time that the Clash hasn’t been held at Daytona since its inception in 1979, it will also mark the first appearance of NASCAR’s new Next Gen cars that have been in development for the past few years.
According to NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation Ben Kennedy, the race at the Coliseum has actually been in discussions for awhile now:
“We’ve had these discussions for a while, and they actually came about by us going to their website, finding their contact page and reaching out to them.
So, we started that in 2019, I had a few conversations, obviously with COVID put things on pause, but resurfaced and I would say early on this year, I’ve had a ton of dialogue. Over summer, we put a team together a couple of months ago, and really we’re off to the races and running now.”
Now obviously some fans are dismissing this as a “gimmick,” and there are also questions about NASCAR’s rationale for having teams haul cars and teams all the way across the country just to have to cross back over to Daytona the following week at a time when NASCAR claims to want to cut costs for teams.
Teams and drivers, though, seem to be on board with the change.
I asked a team president about the cost of this race and he said if it grows the sport, then it is worth the investment to make that trip. https://t.co/AB7dx8dyaT
Ultimately, the Clash has never been a must-watch event in years past, but now it’s going to be one that NASCAR fans don’t want to miss. And it will also bring the sport to a new venue in America’s second-largest city.
I mean, the best drivers in the world on a quarter-mile track in a football stadium?