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April 24, 2024
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The future success of the NASCAR Clash may lie outside L.A.

The future success of the NASCAR Clash may lie outside L.A.

The idea of building a ¼-mile asphalt track inside a sports coliseum seemed unfathomable when NASCAR first announced its intentions to move its preseason exhibition race to Los Angeles.

But the event was well-received in the city and TV ratings and attendance were both up in its first two years from when it was held at Daytona.

Saturday night’s race won by Denny Hamlin was originally scheduled for Sunday night but pushed forward a day in an unprecedented move by NASCAR due to several days’ worth of severe weather arriving in the L.A. area.

Despite the inconvenience of fans and the last-minute scheduling change on TV, NASCAR was able to complete the race and the companion NASCAR Mexico event before the bad weather set in.

This was the final year of the original three-year deal to hold the Clash in Los Angeles, and while NASCAR officials remain noncommittal on its future, many drivers believe the concept is one that should be continually explored.

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“I applaud NASCAR,” said driver Kyle Larson. “I think they’ve pulled this off in a great way. I would have never expected the first year that it would have been as legit as it is and the atmosphere is great.

“There’s definitely a place for this style of event, I think, in our sport, if it moves around to different states or countries or whatever. They’ve proven that they can do it. They’ve proven that they can get a crowd.

“I hope they can take this kind of model and move it around and grow it and try and broaden our fan base some.”

Even with all the challenges associated with this year’s race – tickets weren’t even originally sold for Saturday’s activities – Hamlin praised NASCAR’s effort to uproot its schedule and hold the race a day early.

“I think we should consider (Saturday night) a success, only because if it didn’t happen, I just didn’t think it was going to happen at all,” Hamlin said. “While there would be some people that were upset about not being able to use their ticket for (Sunday), they weren’t going to use it Monday, either, and Tuesday I’m not sure was an option.

“This thing was just going to snowball. This was the only option to get this thing in, and I’m happy that NASCAR made unprecedented changes to make sure that the fans at least saw a race.”

A model to be used elsewhere?
Hamlin said he also sees the model developed in Los Angeles being utilized elsewhere.

“I think it was a success. Certainly, you can’t argue it from a viewership standpoint,” he said. “I certainly think that it’s got merit in going to different places, but I think L.A. was very good to us, and I think we were good for this community, as well.

“If you look around at the stands, it’s more diverse than what you’ll see at most race tracks.”

Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for NASCAR to extend its stay at the L.A. Coliseum.

It has proved a popular event for TV partner Fox Sports and the L.A. market remains without a regularly scheduled Cup series race with the demolition of Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana, Calif.

A proposed short track to replace the 2-mile oval which was located there has yet to receive final approval, let alone begin construction.

Driver Joey Logano believes the Coliseum experiment illustrates NASCAR’s willingness to look beyond traditional venues to showcase its product.

“The experiment was a great success, and we proved that we can do it anywhere,” he said. “Now that we’ve raced at one of the most historic stadiums in the world, it’s pretty cool.

“I think you can pick this up and place it somewhere else if you needed to or something completely different. We’ve done crazier things at this point. There’s dirt races. There’s little small tracks like this, street races.

“You name it, we can do it.”

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