By Jerry Jordan, Editor
LOS ANGELES – The idea for running a race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum came from an original plan to try and bring NASCAR back to Soldier Field in Chicago but if things go well Sunday in the Busch Light Clash there may be the possibility to take the concept of a temporary, purpose-built racetrack to facilities around the world, said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation.
“We came out here in the fall of 2019, was actually the first time we came,” Kennedy told Kickin’ the Tires. “It was a small trip that we had with a few folks and we looked at a few places that we could potentially go to and, you know, we were driving down the highway and passed the L.A. Coliseum and thought, ‘what cooler place to have a NASCAR race than such an iconic facility. I mean, just think about all the history, the Super Bowls here, the Olympics have been here but to actually have NASCAR racing here is going to be something special.
“You know, we’ve talked about this on the international side a handful of times, too as we think about some of the new markets for our existing international series and then expanding into others. You have a handful of existing road courses that you go to out there, not a ton of short tracks. We have a ton of soccer stadiums, so we’ve talked about this idea for a number of years of building a temporary track inside of it. We haven’t had the chance to do it internationally, yet, but we had the chance to do it here at L.A.”
NASCAR driver, Kevin Harvick, must have been found a copy of Kennedy’s notes because when he was asked where he would like to see NASCAR build a similar – temporary – venue, he shot back with England’s Wembley Stadium. He also said it doesn’t have to be limited to The Clash and could be used for an All-Star race format or other exhibition events.
“For me, I look at the NFL and what they do in London and I look at the things that they do,” Harvick said. “I think in order to really open doors, I think Wembley Stadium would be fun. I think everyone wants to do something but the weather has to be different. But this is something that you could put in the middle of the year and I think the All-Star race is definitely something that could learn something from this just because of the fact that it needs to be more like this instead of just at a 1.5-mile track that we go to all the time. It needs to have that intrigue and fun and atmosphere that goes along with an event that is different. I am of the opinion that I would never do this twice, but I know that I will probably get overruled after this happens. It is kind of like the ROVAL, the intrigue isn’t as much the second year. I would move it all over the place. If this goes like everyone thinks it will, it will just blow the doors open to opportunities and I would take them.”
Harvick also said no matter what the outcome is Sunday night when the checkered flag falls and the Busch Light Clash winner is crowned, history will have been made and the final outcome will be a success.
“I don’t think you can screw it up at this point, personally,” Harvick said. “The event is here. The racetrack didn’t fly up (during practice). Practice went good. The cars all made the corners. People were passing each other and as our good friend (former NASCAR PR representative) Jim Hunter would say, ‘You have to have cars that pass, Kevin’ to make a good race. When you look at everything that has happened, the amount of tickets and media passes and all the things — you can’t screw it up at this point. That is my opinion.
“You can’t, I am telling you. The race doesn’t even matter.”
When asked by a reporter what happened when if the “walls get knocked down?”
“Knock ‘em down. We will make them stronger next time,” Harvick said. “You already have everything in here and had practice and everything. You cannot screw it up at this point.”
Kennedy agrees that the decision to hold The Clash inside the L.A. Coliseum has already paid dividends for NASCAR. From billboards to TV and radio advertising for drivers and their sponsors, as well as NASCAR overall and even the buzz at area hotels and restaurants, the message is out in the community that NASCAR is in town.
“We have a ton of NASCAR fans here, a ton of fans that are in that 18- to 34-year-old demo and there’s a huge opportunity for us to not only come to Los Angeles and do it in a different way than we’ve never done it before but to do it two weeks before our biggest event of the year at Daytona 500,” Kennedy said. “You know, six hours on big FOX. It’s a huge opportunity for us as a sport. And then on top of that, launching the NextGen car for their first-ever race here in the L.A. Coliseum, you think about new and innovative and bold and a lot of the kind of words that are starting to be ingrained in our culture.
“Personally, to have a vision and then see it now, it’s amazing and I have to give a ton of credit to the team.”