The Busch Clash is the first race of each season. It is a non-points race and is usually head the Sunday before the Daytona 500 in Florida. This year they decided to try something new…. and we decided to go and check it out! This time my partner in crime Trina stayed home and I took my husband Cleveland with me. Cleveland is a die hard racing fan and when he heard that they were going to build a race track inside the historic LA Coliseum and run the Clash there, he wanted to go.
They built an asphalt 1/4 mile race track in the middle of a football stadium in 41 days. 55 000 tickets sold for the pre-season Clash race in downtown Los Angeles. This is unheard of…… I can’t remember the last time they sold this many tickets for a Clash race. Rumour had it that 70% of the tickets sold were to first time fans. This was huge for NASCAR. They took a huge risk trying to do this and all indications lead everyone to believe it was going to be something to remember.
Arriving in LA was exciting as we had never been but had always wanted to go. Our first night we decided to take a drive and learned very quickly why people complain about LA driving. According to google maps it was going to take us 90 minutes to travel 19kms! And that is exactly how long it took!
The next day we headed to the track to watch practice and participate in driver interviews. I was very excited to see how the cars would do on such a small track. I mean our kids race their cars on a quarter mile track, but their cars are a lot smaller than a NASCAR car. Walking into the Coliseum was surreal! We walked in at the far end so to look up and see the front of the Coliseum in front of us gave me goosebumps, but my attention quickly turned to the track. Practice was already well under way as we were late getting there due to “LA traffic”. The track was about as small as I thought it would be, but the 1/4 mile measurement was the inside of the track which gave the cars a little more room but not much! Lots of rubbing and brakes locking up in practice! I was excited to get up to the media center to be a part of the interviews with the drivers. I was wanting to hear how they were feeling about the track. This was the first time ever racing here, first race of the season and the first time racing the Next Gen car. Drivers had, had the opportunity to test the Next Gen car during the off season, but this was the first race. With the new car they also went to a one lug nut per tire system, which changed how pit stops happened so there was a whole lot of unknowns coming into this race.
Everything else was different so let’s keep with that…… qualifying was done by heat races which was also something new. 4 heat races based on practices times. Only 22 cars were going to make it to the big race. The first 3 heat races were pretty clean, but that all changed in heat race 4. Kurt Busch started with some bumping and pushing and then a few others joined in and it became a very aggressive race! Any of the cars that didn’t qualify from the heat races to move on, then had to race in the Last Chance Qualifier. What a race that was! Jeff Burton was sitting beside us and his son Harrison was racing in the last chance qualifier. As racing parents Cleve and I could see the frustration every time the caution flag came out, the anticipation of whether his son was going to make it and just the pure raw emotion of watching your kids race no matter what level they are at.
The field was set for the Clash but first the pre-race concert! Pitbull is a co-owner of the Trackhouse racing team and he preformed the pre-race concert and had the crowd pumped up and ready to go! Another challenge with having the race at the Coliseum is it was not made for races! Typically the teams would all have a space in the infield to do pit stops etc but this area was barely big enough to line up the 23 cars let alone pit boxes, supplies and crew members. One of the parking lots in the back had been set up for the teams to park their haulers and do the work they needed to do on the cars. When the cars headed to the track they had to drive down two streets within the Coliseum grounds and go down through the tunnel and on to the track. For the spectators this was very cool to see but I am not sure the teams felt the same way. If something happened during the race, you were basically done as there was no room or supplies for repairs!
The gridwalk happens just before the race starts. The cars are lined up on pit road and the fans, sponsors, media etc can walk along, see the cars, interact with the drivers etc. Because there was no pit road at this track, it happened outside of the Coliseum. This was our first time being able to experience this and yep we were a little “star struck”. Our first time here so we really didn’t interact but it was a very cool experience.
The racing was awesome! Lots of bumping, rubbing and excitement. Given the smaller track and the shape of the venue it was also very loud! Now something else that was new with this race was intermission. We raced half a race and then the cars cleared the track and Ice Cube came out to perform a concert. It doesn’t get much more LA than Ice Cube himself! Now I am a huge Ice Cube fan but many other people including my husband are not…… but even he said it was a great show!
The second half of the race was much more of the rubbing, bumping and passing and lots of excitement! Joey Logano eventually won the race! Just saying, when I seen Joey earlier I wished him good luck and he won. LOL The estimate that I heard was that 70% of the tickets sold were to first time race attendees which is amazing. Having the race in the middle of a city where you can hop on public transit and get there is huge and this allowed many people who may not of had the option to attend before to now attend. I know this is not something that could happen every race but it was great to see NASCAR move away from the traditional Daytona venue for the Clash and try a new spot with lots of new elements. In my opinion and the opinion of many people we chatted with the race weekend was a huge success and we can’t wait to see what NASCAR does for next year!