The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has hosted plenty of major sporting events in its near-century of existence such as the Super Bowl, World Series, and Summer Olympics. The 77,500-seat stadium, currently the home of the perennial underachievers that is the USC Trojans college football team since Pete Carroll’s departure, has even welcomed motorsport such as motocross, rallycross via the X Games, and the Stadium Super Trucks.
However, a surprising face is looking to show up to the Coliseum’s hallowed grounds in 2022. Long rumoured but solidified by a report on Monday from The Athletic, the NASCAR Cup Series is considering moving the preseason Busch Clash from its longtime home Daytona International Speedway to a short track in the stadium.
Since its inception in 1979, the Clash has exclusively been held at Daytona as part of Speedweeks, a slate of events leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500. The Clash, an exhibition race that generally invites pole winners from the previous season with occasional field expansions for those like playoff drivers and former 500 winners, was moved from the oval to the road course for 2021.
Due to the Coliseum being far too small to accommodate a full grid of thirty-six to forty Cup cars, using an non-points race with exclusive field like the Clash will require NASCAR to just fit a fraction of that number. The Athletic did not confirm if teams will use the Next Gen car which will make its inaugural run in 2022, especially as teams might be hesitant about utilising a new vehicle in a short track exhibition.
Stadium stock car racing is commonly seen at the lower levels, with Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, being one of the most notable examples. A former Cup track from 1958 to 1971, the stadium has a track surrounding the football field that is currently used for modified and NASCAR Weekly Series racing. Per The Athletic, Bowman Gray’s quarter-mile layout will serve as inspiration for the LA Coliseum’s version.
Soldier Field, the home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears which opened a year after the LA Coliseum, also held a Cup race in 1956 that was won by Fireball Roberts. Two years later, Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, which formerly hosted the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts and Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, welcomed the Cup Series in what was Richard Petty’s series début; while Exhibition Stadium has since been demolished, the surrounding area is still used for the NTT IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy Toronto. A fictional football stadium track was also present in EA Sports’ later NASCAR games that uses the tunnels as pit road.
While stock cars are certainly a new foray for the Coliseum, the historic venue was the site of X Games rallycross in 2009 and 2010. Three years later, the Stadium Super Trucks competed in the Coliseum during their inaugural season. The Coliseum was also the site of the first stadium motocross event in 1972.
“Word on the street is @NASCAR wants to lay some asphalt down at the LA Coliseum in 2022,” posted SST on social media. “We did that back in 2013 but also added a nice crossover jump”.
Rumblings of NASCAR heading to the Coliseum was initially “broken” by Chris Myers of Fox Sports in May when he tweeted it was “pretty cool that nascar is looking into the possibility of putting a race at the Coliseum in Los Angeles !” The tweet caught many off guard, and most assumed Myers was referring to a street circuit surrounding the stadium; the defunct NASCAR Southwest Series ran such a course from 1998 to 2000. According to a February 2020 article from the Sports Business Journal, the street track plan was also raised by NASCAR in discussions with Coliseum and Soldier Field officials, with Chicago “hosting” a street race in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series in June.
Besides feasibility, another question surrounding the news is the necessity of another short track in the area as Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana prepares for reconfiguration into a half-mile circuit in 2023. Irwindale Speedway, also a stone’s throw away from Los Angeles, has hosted regional-level NASCAR races over the years but has been plagued by closing threats for nearly a decade.
Others raised doubt about heading to Southern California, a market that is large yet saw declining attendance at Auto Club, or even the logistics of leaving Florida for a track on the opposite side of the United States. Proponents of the Coliseum plan in turn point out that Auto Club and Irwindale are not located in urban areas and are difficult to reach, while NASCAR formerly began its season at Riverside International Raceway rather than Daytona until 1982. To reduce travel costs for teams, some suggested running at other short tracks near Daytona Beach such as New Smyrna Speedway, which hosts races during Speedweeks, or even reviving the UNOH Battle at the Beach, a regional series exhibition held on a temporary backstretch short track at Daytona International Speedway between 2013 and 2014.
While the news has sparked debate, various names have remained intrigued by the concept. Xfinity Series driver Bayley Currey tweeted, “I might be going against the grain here, but I’m all for the clash being at the LA Coliseum. NASCAR literally took cars to Japan for exhibition races. Everybody says more short tracks, and then complain about logistics.”
Despite the development, Daytona is still selling tickets for the 2022 Clash, which is set for 15 February. Interestingly, the date is two days after Super Bowl LVI, set to take place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, which is less than seven miles away from the LA Coliseum.