What many initially brushed off as one of the most bizarre rumours in recent memory is becoming a reality. After weeks to months of speculation, NASCAR confirmed the Cup Series‘ exhibiton Busch Clash will be moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for 2022, and is set to take place on Sunday, 6 February.
The Coliseum, which has been the home of the University of Southern California Trojans football team since 1923, is no stranger to hosting motorsport despite NASCAR being a new endeavour. After World War II, the stadium was one of numerous venues that conducted midget racing on asphalt and board tracks; the 1946 race saw 65,128 in attendance, and the Coliseum held a 500-lap event a year later. In 1972, the concept of stadium motocross was realised with event inside the venue, and the AMA Supercross Championship would regularly visit it until 1998. Rallycross races were held in 2009 and 2010 as part of the X Games, and the Stadium Super Trucks competed there in their inaugural season in 2013; SST’s predecessor, the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group, also raced at the Coliseum in the late 1980s and early 90s.
While the three disciplines each ran on tracks featuring plenty of dirt and jumps, including climbs up and down the famed peristyle, NASCAR will obviously not be considering the same for the Clash. Instead, a temporary, asphalt, quarter-mile oval will be constructed akin to other stadium short tracks like former Cup circuit Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Dirt is still involved to cover the playing surface (once a protective cover is placed) before being paved over for the track itself. Although it is only for an exhibition, the .25-mile track will easily the shortest on any of the national series calendars; Knoxville Raceway and Martinsville Speedway, respectively the shortest overall and paved tracks that host points races, are .500 and .526 miles in length.
Due to this significantly short length, it is unrealistic for NASCAR to squeeze as many as forty cars at one time as in a regular Cup race. The non-points Clash, which usually features grid sizes in the late teens to early twenties as eligibility is generally limited to pole winners and those who meet certain criteria, is thus the only feasible option.
In contrast to the regional series, NASCAR-sanctioned stadium races at the national level are rare. Soldier Field in Chicago (half mile) and Exhibition Stadium (one-third mile) in Toronto respectively welcomed the Cup Series in 1956 and 1958, while the McCormick Field baseball park in Asheville, North Carolina, had a quarter miler with a Cup race in 1958. Dodge Raceway Stadium, a fictional 3.75-mile stadium course, is featured in EA Sports’ NASCAR games and many have drawn parallels between the virtual track and the Coliseum; however, a key difference lies in pit road as Dodge Raceway’s pits are located under the stands while the Coliseum will have it in the infield.
On the topic of virtual racing, NASCAR has enlisted the services of iRacing to experiment with viable quarter-mile track layouts. A focal point of the testing was to see how many degrees of banking in the turns was viable. While Bowman Gray is completely flat, the temporary Soldier Field layout possessed some banking. The Coliseum’s midget board track also featured banking that allowed for three cars to run side-by-side.
“Los Angeles is synonymous with major sports and entertainment events, so we seized an innovative opportunity to showcase NASCAR at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation Ben Kennedy stated. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to take center stage in this market as we get our 2022 season underway.”
The Clash had been held exclusively at Daytona International Speedway since its creation in 1979, and the race was moved to the road course layout in 2021.
Although the 2021 Clash took place days before the season-opening Daytona 500, it would be a logistical nightmare to repeat in 2022 with the Clash now on the opposite side of the country. With the 500 scheduled for 20 February, the Los Angeles Clash will be two weeks prior. Such a date change will also provide marketing opportunities as Los Angeles will also host Super Bowl LVI a week later in nearby SoFi Stadium.