The LA Coliseum Roars to Life Again

Noah Stockoski, Editor

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has become a staple in a wide variety of sports over its history, celebrating its centennial in 2023. However, one new addition is the roar of the engines of 40 stock cars, ready to tear up the temporary asphalt in the center of the 78,000 seat stadium.

2020 brought change into the lives of people around the globe, as the COVID-19 pandemic tore through the population, creating much chaos, especially when it came to scheduling and adapting to activities that had once been part of a regular routine.

The sports world encountered the same challenges, and many leagues had to adjust factors such as scheduling and attendance in order to conform to the COVID-19 safety standards. One sport that had to do loads of adjusting was NASCAR, which found itself running weekday races without fans in attendance, which was far from the norms of the sport.

However, the year of adjustments brought fresh opportunities, as the league looked to capitalize on these new situations by expanding their influence beyond their traditional markets. Over the past couple years, NASCAR has visited multiple new tracks in unfamiliar markets, which has proven to be successful.

However, their most ambitious project came in 2022, where NASCAR entered the LA market by creating a race track within the LA Coliseum to host their annual preseason exhibition race: The Busch Light Clash, which was previously held at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

Cars race around the temporary track built inside the LA Coliseum on February 6, 2022. (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times)

The Coliseum is famous for being a stadium that is home to world-class athletics–on the field or a running track. The LA Coliseum has been host to two Olympics, two Super Bowls (including the first), and a World Series, as well as being the home stadium of USC football since its construction. The introduction of a new surface in the bowl was a complete 180 for the venue.

Last year’s race was full of question marks. Would NASCAR be able to make a track inside a stadium? Would it be big enough for stock cars to race on? Would it produce competitive racing, or would passing be non-existent? To add on, the race would also be the debut of the “Next Gen” car, a completely redesigned car for the sport, which many were unsure of about its performance in a racing atmosphere.

“(The Clash) was totally new for everybody, and no one knew what to expect,” said Cup Series Driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Many of those questions would have positive results though, as the 2022 Busch Light Clash was a huge success. The event featured heat races and a main event, as well as a pre-race performance by Pitbull, and an intermission performance by Ice Cube.

The main event concluded with a back-and-forth battle for first between drivers Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. Logano, the eventual 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, would end up winning by two car lengths over Busch. Although the Next Gen cars struggled with short tracks in 2022, their debut at the Coliseum was arguably the best the car performed at a short track all season.

Joey Logano celebrates after his victory in the 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on February 6, 2022. (Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)

“The enthusiasm of the market, the enthusiasm of our industry was at an all-time high going into the season,” said NASCAR Vice President of Marketing Services, Patrick Rogers, about the 2022 Clash’s positive effects.

With the gained popularity and attention from the race, especially in a new NASCAR market like LA, NASCAR made the decision to bring the race back to the Coliseum in 2023.

Excitement has built around the race, especially after NASCAR announced that they would feature two performances at the event again, with a pre-race performance by Dixie D’Amelio and a race break performance by Wiz Khalifa.

The success of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum has furthered NASCAR’s efforts to expand to new tracks and return to the old. This year, NASCAR will return to its roots by visiting a revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina for their All-Star Race. They will then take another gamble at a new concept, racing through the streets of Chicago on July 2. Chicago will be the first time NASCAR has run on a street course.

The LA Clash was certainly one of the biggest events in NASCAR last season. It seems like a no-brainer for the league to return to the Coliseum for a second run. If the Coliseum continues its success, it may possibly replace Daytona as the yearly site for the exhibition race, a possibility that many fans are eager to see take hold.