NASCAR To Hold 2022 Exhibition Race At L.A. Memorial Coliseum
By Bob Pockrass FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
NASCAR has been wanting to shake up its schedule by racing in different markets and venues.
It will start 2022 with an exhibition at a venue that many wouldn’t have even thought possible.
NASCAR will move its Clash exhibition race from Daytona International Speedway to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This won’t be a race outside on streets, with the stadium as the focal point. It will be a race inside the stadium itself.
NASCAR will construct a temporary, quarter-mile, asphalt track for the event, scheduled for Feb. 6, one week prior to the Super Bowl and two weeks prior to the Daytona 500. The L.A. Coliseum, home of the University of Southern California football team and one of the most historic sports venues, seats 77,500.
The announcement Tuesday precedes the release of the full 2022 NASCAR Cup Series, which is expected in the coming days. After it was rumored for months that NASCAR was looking at the L.A. Coliseum for a potential event, this announcement wasn’t too much of a surprise, but it's still confirmation that NASCAR is looking at unorthodox ways to generate interest in its product.
"As we continue to think differently about the future iteration of the schedule, we wanted to introduce a new venue to it that will really shake things up, bring some innovation, and then on top of that, the Los Angeles market is the No. 1 market for [the number of] NASCAR fans," NASCAR Vice President Ben Kennedy said.
Kennedy, son of NASCAR co-owner Lesa France Kennedy, has been given the directive to make bold moves with the schedule in his role as vice president for strategic initiatives, and a stadium race was one of those on his list.
"We felt like it was important for us to get there and also have a stadium-style event, which we have never done — at least, to this extent — before," Kennedy said.
"It gives you the ability and opportunity to also come to downtown Los Angeles, too. We’ll be right in the heart of Los Angeles. I think it’s a very important move for us. I think it will be great to see the energy around that event."
Racing inside a stadium is not unprecedented. NASCAR has run regional events at Bowman Gray Stadium, which is used by Winston-Salem State as its football stadium. NASCAR also ran a Cup race at Soldier Field back in 1956.
But this Coliseum event will be different, as NASCAR will have to construct a track. It will put a protective barrier over the surface, then layers of dirt on top of the barrier and then paving on top of the dirt. The track will have an inside and outside wall. There will be a handful of pit stalls (probably eight to 10) in case drivers have problems, but there won’t be competitive pit stops.
The specifics of eligibility, how many cars (likely no more than 25) and the length of the race are still to be determined. NASCAR is using iRacing, its virtual racing partner, to create different quarter-mile tracks to help determine what would work best as far as banking. It has had Cup drivers and iRacing drivers test a variety of banking configurations.
The race will use the new NASCAR Next Gen cars, which teams are currently testing in preparation for use next year.
NASCAR considered using its current car rather than the Next Gen, as a short track such as this one could lead to some considerable car damage, and there is concern about limited supplies of parts and pieces for the new car.
"We went back and forth on it for a while and talked to some of our teams to get their perspective on it," Kennedy said.
"Part of the reason is really going into a brand-new year, a brand-new season and a fresh track like the Los Angeles Coliseum, we felt it was important that if we’re showing off the Next Gen NASCAR in many different ways to also introduce the Next Gen car as a part of that weekend, too."
NASCAR had been selling tickets for the Clash as a Tuesday night event to open a six-day stretch of racing at Daytona International Speedway culminating with the Daytona 500. Kennedy said they are still working on the final Speedweek schedule, with an announcement expected in the next few weeks.
Going to the L.A. Coliseum will put two events in the Southern California market, as NASCAR expects to return to Auto Club Speedway in Ontario, California, for a regular-season event in late February. The Cup Series did not race at that track in 2021, as its race scheduled for February was moved to the Daytona road course because of the pandemic.