by Crystal Clay
Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum track update
Image courtesy USC Annenberg School of Communication
NASCAR’s decision to construct a temporary $1 million dollar asphalt track on USC’s Trojan field is perplexing but, not just to the tune of the sport’s tone-deaf omniscient rabble-rousers. As a post-Brian France era fanatic of the sanctioning body that developed as an outgrowth of the bootlegging subculture in the South, I welcome its pseudo-expansion to the sprawling metropolis that I call home. To a BIPOC 90’s kid from Los Angeles, NASCAR for decades, might have been as relevant as the random fact found under the lid of a Snapple. Our inexplicable ability to recall Jeff Gordon’s name is as inherent to us as the long-held resentment some of us distinctly have towards the Raiders NFL franchise. My interest in motorsports began with X-Games, video games, and following AMA Supercross along the southwest region of the United States. As absurd as the idea is, The Busch Light Clash coming to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is simply a key to understanding the disposition & ethos of the prospective ‘hard to reach’ fanbase that NASCAR has been lost on long before its expansion to the west coast and serves the greater good of preserving the culture of American stock car racing.
For the first time in its history, NASCAR is hosting a race traditionally hosted at Daytona International Speedway Sunday Feb. 6th at 3p.m. PST in Los Angeles, a week before Super Bowl LVI arrives at the neighboring So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. This exhibition is also the competitive debut of the highly anticipated NextGen cars (Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Toyota Camry). On track, spectators will see the diversified teams that expanded in the off-season: 23XI (Owners-Denny Hamlin & Michael Jordan, Drivers--Bubba Wallace #23 Toyota Camry, Kurt Busch #45 Toyota Camry) Trackhouse (Owners—Justin Marks & Armando Christian “Pitbull” Pérez, Drivers—Daniel Suárez #99 Chevrolet Camaro, Ross Chastain #1 Chevrolet Camaro). FOX will have complete coverage of the event with Sunday’s broadcast starting at 12p.m. PST. A slate of four 25-lap heat races and two 50-lap Last Chance Qualifiers (LCQ) will round out the field of 23 drivers in a “winner takes all '' main event with mid-race performances by DJ Skee, Pitbull and L.A. native Ice Cube. NASCAR has laid the groundwork for a seismic night of sports entertainment.
The race format for The Clash is digestible to any newcomer and followed by most local short tracks that avid race fans know as the bullring, for the action-packed close-quartered racing it produces. At the outcry of NASCAR’s loyal core fanbase, a ‘short track revival’ is expected soon to resurrect the ghost of NASCAR’s golden age that neglected to include superstar cities like Los Angeles. Auto Club Speedway has plans for a reconfiguration after the 2022 season from a two-mile, low banked D-shaped superspeedway to a short track. In its modern quest to expand to the western region, NASCAR settled in suburban areas like Riverside, Ontario, and Fontana. The Clash at The L.A. Colosseum, make no mistake, is in South Central Los Angeles—one of the most talked about places in the West Coast gangsta rap genre of the 90’s. In order to understand the music, its imperative to understand the socioeconomic background & ethnography of the inner city. It makes perfect sense to have Ice Cube represent Los Angeles on what will be a historic & memorable afternoon.
Representation matters, especially when the goal is to make an entity more inclusive. With a sport that has been so tightly intertwined with its southern roots, this is a huge step forward in the right direction. It is NASCAR's greatest display of self awareness and consideration of how marketing of the sport might appeal to those who aren't of Scots-Irish heritage. The entertainment at the many races I’ve attended have always been Country, something I didn't grow up with much of. With NASCAR’s past of laying host to remnants of Southern strategy and the aesthetics of the treasonous confederacy, I’ve always had an aversion to anything south of the Mason-Dixon line. As a minority that was baptized by and grew up around leaders of the Civil Rights movement, the last place I’ve wanted to be is anywhere that associates admiration for 'dixie' with anything other than a jazzed paper cup. That may be the region that popularized stock racing on ovals, but that isn’t the complete history of American stock car racing. For anyone flying into LAX on the weekend of Feb. 6th, you might be landing on what used to be Mines Field Speedway where one of the earliest stock car races took place. I implore you to go down that rabbit hole and see what you find.