NASCAR At The Los Angeles Coliseum
Short Track Fever Hits Los Angeles
NASCAR to convert the famed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a "bullring" track and the special "Clash"-race in February.
By Doug Stokes
Thu, Sep 16, 2021 09:23 PM PST
Illustrations as credited.
NASCAR has just announced that it will convert the famed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into a paved quarter-mile so-called “bullring” track for a special “Clash” race on February 6, 2022.
With this news I want to hark back to the early days of the area and the fact that the first organized motor race (ever) in L.A., took place on the grounds of Agricultural Park in 1903, the same piece of property just south of downtown L.A. where the Coliseum was built in 1923.
Short Tracks Are All The Rage
The consensus seems to be that what the insider’s call “short tracks” seem to be all the rage out west in LACar country, for example:
Reshaping Of Auto Club Speedway
This latest in Southern California NASCAR news comes on the heels of the Spring announcement that the 2.5-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana is all set to be cut down and reshaped into a long, narrow half-mile oval in 2023.
The area is also home to the track that was nicknamed “L.A.’s Half-Mile Superspeedway" - Irwindale Speedway - praised by none other than Darrell Waltrip as saying, “… The best short track racing I’ve ever seen”. That 6,500-seat facility, which opened in 1999, is located some 17 miles East of downtown LA.
Kern County Raceway Park
And, “just over the hill” from LA, the high-banked replacement for Bakersfield’s similarly high-banked Mesa Marin Speedway (1977-2005), Kern County Raceway Park opened in 2013.
History Lesson - Where They Raced
I can think of no place better to turn for a historic update on the tale of the racing activity listed in the above swath of the Golden State than to LACar staff writer, historian, author, wood shop craftsman, lecturer, ukulele torturer, and convivial friend, Harold Osmer. His book about the motorsports history of the SoCal area is reviewed on this site, and he very kindly has set along a great video chronicling the rise - and sadly the fall - of many racing tracks (there were over 170, all told) in the greater southern California area stretching from the turn of the century to present day:
Thoughts From NASCAR
One more note, for the record … the following two paragraphs are some of NASCAR’s very own thoughts on the matter:
"The track will be the shortest that the Cup Series has competed on in the modern era. Currently, Bristol Motor Speedway (0.533 mile) and Martinsville Speedway (0.526 mile) are the smallest layouts on the schedule. In previous years, the circuit visited quarter-mile Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 1958-1971 and tiny .2-mile Islip (N.Y.) Speedway from 1964-68, 71.
NASCAR has a steeped tradition of racing in Southern California. National-series events are scheduled to return to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana this year, and the Cup Series also competed in the past at Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside International Raceway, two venues east of L.A. that have since been redeveloped. The ARCA Menards Series West still competes at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, just east of the city limits."
SoFi Stadium In Inglewood The First Choice?
Interestingly enough, the asphalt telegraph has word that NASCAR’s first choice for this slugfest might have been the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. That idea ran out of gas when the February 22 race date was deigned to be far too close to the “Superbowl” game set for the thirteenth there.
Los Angeles And Motorsports
To many, motorsports is a very real addiction - in the Los Angeles area it has always been a love-hate-love relationship that has seen racetracks turned into everything from housing developments, to airports, to sprawling TV studios, to regional shopping centers, and more. Reshaping the L.A. Coliseum into a super-tight, no-quarter given, .25 mile (that’s 1,320 feet) bullring - the kind that the good old boys remember watching races at better than they recall their own kids’ names - is sure to be a big deal for anyone and everyone, from far and near.
Preview Of The Race - by iRacing
NASCAR has released a sneak peek at what the race will look like. The exhibition event typically features a field of around 20 cars comprised of former Cup Series champions, past winners of the event and other top-performing drivers from the previous season. "The flat track features two long straights connected by particularly tight turns and fills up the stadium's entire infield, which is the largest of any in the U.S. and currently has a football field on it used by USC." - NASCAR
The official seating chart seen here came out with a pretty healthy chunk of seats already marked (in gray) as not available. They are most likely earmarked for sponsors, VIPs, and “special guests” and my rough guess is that they comprise about 20% of the seats in the (assumed) 90-100 seat configuration illustrated.
Stokes knows a bit of what he speaks, having worked the PR post at Irwindale Speedway for many years as well as being the communications guy for the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group when that crew filled the Coliseum, and a number of other equally-famous venues across the country, with tons of dirt. They dubbed the concoction “A Chunk of the Baja” and ran closed-course off-road races that, in L.A., saw all manner of open desert racing machines jumping 70 feet in the air out of the Peristyle end of the much-revered Olympic stadium. "We dubbed it a ‘Fistfight in a Phone Booth’ … and it pretty much was," Stokes laughed. And, just for a bit or variety, he managed PR for Perris Auto Speedway (the 1/2-mile dirt track near Riverside) for a couple of years.
About The Author
Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.