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Ernie Lap
Ernie Lap
Photo by Katelyn Richardson

NASCAR Completes Inaugural Clash at the Coliseum

On Sunday, Feb. 6, NASCAR made history. Not only did the corporation debut their Next-Gen car for 2022, but they transformed the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into a racing venue. The Coliseum has been home to Super Bowls, concerts and two Summer Olympic Games, but never has it been modified to contain a race track.

Plans to move The Clash to LA were announced in September 2021, which came as a shock to fans. The event had never been hosted outside of Daytona International Speedway in its 43-year history. Construction at the Coliseum began on New Year’s Day in 2022. The quarter-mile asphalt track was built to temporarily cover the Coliseum’s football field and is the shortest track to be on the racing calendar in NASCAR’s modern era.

The race weekend entailed a timed practice session on Friday, single-car qualifying on Saturday, followed by four heat races and two last-chance qualifying races on Sunday before the main race. The four fastest cars from qualifying on Saturday were on pole for each of the four heat races. Each heat race was 25 laps long, with the top four finishers automatically advancing to The Clash. The last-chance qualifying races determined the remaining cars that would advance to the main event. The Clash itself was a 150 lap race split into two 75 lap halves and included a halftime performance from rapper Ice Cube.

Joey Logano, 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Champion and driver of the No. 22 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, won Sunday’s exhibition and claimed the $2 million prize that came with it. Logano battled with last year’s Clash winner, Kyle Busch, in the final laps of the race. After his win, he said, “This is an amazing event. Congratulations, NASCAR. Such a huge step in our industry to be able to do this, put on an amazing race for everybody.” He went on further to say, “I was so excited about this. This is a big win.” The race result yields no championship points for the winner or the top ten, but its successful running marked the beginning of the 2022 season, with more racing to follow at the end of February.

Hours before the green flag was dropped, NASCAR President Steve Phelps penned an open letter to fans expressing his gratitude and excitement for the event and the rest of the season. Phelps, who has been president of the company since 2018, was the leader behind the event’s move out west. He wrote, “It is your loyalty and passion for NASCAR that has carried us forward all these years, and we’re proud to return the heart-pounding action and dramatic, side-by-side racing you’ve always known and loved.” He encouraged everyone to “buckle up” and enjoy the beginning of NASCAR’s new era. The Coliseum held 50,000 fans on Sunday and tallied 4.28 million viewers on FOX, the largest audience viewings since 2016.

The season continues as the sport makes its way back to the east coast, to Daytona International Speedway, for the 64th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.

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Dilyn Hill is a junior at Florida State University majoring Sport Management. She loves watching movies, listening to music, and binge-watching theme park vlogs. On Sunday mornings you can find her watching the latest Formula 1 race.
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