Years ago if you had told me I would be watching NASCAR race around a ¼ mile track inside the Los Angeles Coliseum, and that it would be a huge success I probably would have laughed in your face and told you that you were crazy. This past Sunday that very thing happened, and it was a huge success. NASCAR raced in the historic L.A Coliseum in an attempt to reach a new market on the West coast and get new eyes into the sport as a new generation of racing gets ushered in alongside the Gen 7 car.
Everything about this race seemed crazy, moving the Clash from Daytona, running it on a track shorter than any other track on the schedule, and on top of all of this it was the first real race of the new car that will be run for the next couple of seasons. The marketing that went into this event was something we have not seen in NASCAR for a long time, and holy smokes it worked, Fans, casual and new fans alike packed into the stadium, almost filling it to capacity for an exhibition race to watch the spectacle.
The racing matched the hype. Every bit of cars on track from qualifying all the way to the last final laps of the main event, there was never a dull moment. There was everything fans ask for when it comes to short track racing. Despite this being an exhibition race there were a lot of angry racers on the track and they were not afraid to show it. Kyle Larson put on what was the most intentional display of revenge when he turned Justin Haley into the inside wall and ruined his car and his night. There is also an alleged throwing of a Head and Neck Safety device from Ryan Blaney although nobody has video proof as of yet.
Now let’s get into the car, all mainly good things but there are some scares. We will start with the bad news, some cars did randomly break. During practice the Chevy cars were allowed to take parts out of their hood due to the cars running hot and they needed more air into the engine so they would not overheat. There is also the concern that most of the car comes from an outside source and not as much is built by the teams themselves anymore and they come from a third party provider. This means that, while teams can change setups that put more strain on certain areas of the car, the base of the part is more or less the same, meaning 2 things, when things break it could mean that it is likely for more than just 1 car to break, and that it comes down more to luck than build quality. When teams can no longer build their own parts they are not allowed to change enough where teams can build “better parts” and everyone is on the same level.
Now the good news, the new car put on a show. Drivers looked like they really had to wheel their car and the more “talented” drivers that we talk about being the best wheel men in the series were all at the front of the pack and racing hard. While speeds were not super fast, one thing that was very clear was different lines, braking points, and drive styles all took a huge part in the race and how it played out. At the end of the day Joey Logano’s long run speed was proven to outlast Kyle Busch and become the first ever winner in the Next Gen era.
This weekend showed us all that NASCAR is back on the rise and that the sport as a whole can become mainstream again. The outreach was incredible and the product was even better, if the sport can continue to grow and keep their fans they introduced to the sport this new era of racing can be even better than we expected it to be.