Compared to its traditional stagnant nature, the recent realignments and revisions to NASCAR's annual schedule show a new willingness from stock car racing to try new things and think outside the box. Such thinking is now being taken to its logical extreme, as NASCAR's 2022 season is set to begin somewhere that currently isn't a racetrack.
On Tuesday, NASCAR officially announced that The Clash -- an exhibition race that has opened the Cup Series season for the better part of 40 years -- will move from Daytona International Speedway to a purpose-built short track within the Los Angeles Coliseum. The race will be held Sunday, Feb. 6, two weeks before the Daytona 500, and will be used as a way to drum up excitement for the 500 as well as the launch of the Cup Series' new Next Gen car.
The Clash also occurs a week before Super Bowl LVI in the greater Los Angeles area, which is set to be held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
"Los Angeles is synonymous with major sports and entertainment events, so we seized an innovative opportunity to showcase NASCAR at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum," read a statement by Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation. "We're thrilled to have the opportunity to take center stage in this market as we get our 2022 season underway."
While racing within a stadium has not happened in NASCAR's modern era, it's hardly unheard of. The 1950s saw NASCAR race briefly at Soldier Field in Chicago, including one Cup race in 1956 won by Fireball Roberts. Meanwhile, one of the most famous short tracks in stock car racing is Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which held Cup races from 1958 to 1971 and continues to be a local racing hotbed today.
The design of the Coliseum track will be a quarter-mile short oval, which will be built on top of the Coliseum's traditional playing surface. An iRacing render of the track was shown off on Tuesday night's edition of FS1's NASCAR Race Hub, with Tyler Reddick, Clint Bowyer, and Jamie McMurray taking to the track for several laps.
The L.A. Coliseum race would give the Los Angeles area two dates on the Cup Series schedule, as the Clash joins the series' annual trip to Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana. Auto Club Speedway itself is set to be turned into a short track, as the speedway will be reconstructed from two miles to just half a mile following its 2022 race.
The Clash at the Coliseum was one of two new additions to the Cup Series schedule for 2022, which was announced on Wednesday morning. In addition to the LA Coliseum, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in St. Louis, Missouri has also been awarded a points-paying Cup race.