NASCAR Redemption

Before there was a NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Colosseum, 36 stock-cars took to the streets of L.A. and battled it out in front of the historic Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum.  I had the pleasure of attending all three races held at the temporary street course and watched in awe as NASCAR gods like Mark Martin, Kenny Schrader, and Ron Hornaday raced against road course specialists like Steve Petty, Boris Said, Greg Pickett, and Willie T. Ribbs only to go winless against NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour regulars that consistently showed they knew what it took to pilot these machines around the temporary street course.

During this era, I worked as a NASCAR official and traveled the NASCAR Southwest Tour eventually moving to the team side, acting as General Manager of Petty Racing, and fielded two cars in each of these events. Growing up at short tracks around the Southwest, these events felt different. Aside from being a road course, which I love, they had that SoCal swagger that felt special. Celebrities, TV crews, and national sponsorship dollars weren’t something that were regularly found at a Saturday night short track.

The L.A. Street Race was cool, but the racing wasn’t. The narrow streets surrounding the Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum made for poor racing that ultimately led to event attendance declining and the race being canceled after three years.

As a lover of West Coast racing, and with memories of the Los Angeles Street Race in my head, I was pumped when NASCAR announced that they were headed back to Downtown L.A.— but not in the parking lot of the Colosseum and instead inside it. The Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum has played host to two Olympiads (X and XXIII), two Super Bowls (I and VII), one World Series (1959), a Papal Mass, visits by three U.S. Presidents: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, and as of last weekend, one NASCAR Cup Series race.

The NASCAR Busch Light Clash had been held at the Daytona International Speedway since 1979 but had grown stale and was in need of a refresh. Executives at NASCAR made a risky bet and decided to unveil a completely new race car 2,500 miles from their comfort zone of the South and converted a football field into a racetrack for its national debut. This is something they never would have tried 15 years ago but made a courageous decision to roll the dice to plan an event with big event atmosphere, featuring big event athletes, and in a big event arena. And they absolutely crushed it.

More than fifty thousand fans enjoyed the short track excitement in person last Sunday night while an additional 4.28 million viewers tuned in on FOX (and achieved a rating similar to the 2022 Pro Bowl). The buzz within the NASCAR community has been remarkable and is exactly what NASCAR needed as they go into their biggest event of the year—the Daytona 500—that is a little more than a week away.

I was privileged to attend three mediocre races at the L.A. Street course, but I am pumped to see NASCAR return to the Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum for redemption and absolutely hit it out of the park. The hard work that goes into a first-year event is monumental so it’s a testament to the team that was assembled to produce this event. The way the new car performed on track as well as the diversity of teams in the Top 10 shows how much work the officiating and engineering teams dedicated to this new race car.

The NASCAR Light Busch Clash at the Colosseum was a terrific way to kick off what I hope will be an amazing year filled with record-breaking moments. I am excited to be working with the NASCAR team on a special project for the Daytona 500 and truly hope that Daytona is the first of many races I can attend this season!

See you trackside,