The Los Angeles Coliseum event already a break from the norm

Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

LOS ANGELES — Friday was a rare quiet day for a NASCAR weekend. Engine noise was nearly zero and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum provided a historic backdrop as the teams made their homes – turning what is normally a tailgating area into a makeshift garage.

Friday was orientation day before Sunday’s Busch Light Clash (6 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), an opportunity for teams, broadcasters and crew to familiarize themselves with the famous environment. Some of the most curious spectators were the drivers, who boarded early to walk the grounds and see the temporary quarter-mile track for themselves.

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The LA Coliseum has hosted many in its nearly 100-year life, and it’s a list without equal. But there may be no apples-to-apples comparison for what’s about to happen with Sunday’s season-opening exhibit, an exhibit that has grown from a wild idea to a closed-loop reality that could usher in a new era of change.

“We don’t call it a race, we call it an event, and that’s what’s different about this weekend compared to our traditional weekly races,” said Tony Stewart, a team owner who will join the FOX Sports booth for Sunday. to call. “Different cities, different race tracks… were races. This is an event. This is different. It’s not just a race. This is an event in a very special place, a very special place.

“What’s going to make it a success is if everyone leaves here and feels good about the product and what they’ve seen. The time they were here, if they left here and felt entertained, that’s what’s going to make it a success. It doesn’t have to be 40 passes to take the lead, it doesn’t have to be a two-run, three-run. If people leave here and they feel good about this event, it will make this event a success.

Friday’s visit provided clues that this weekend promises to be far from routine. The Olympic torch shone at the east end of the stadium. Race break performer Ice Cube’s bass-heavy sound checks rang out. The LA skyline, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Hollywood sign provided iconic long-running scenery.

Jared C. Tilton |  Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

The LA Coliseum has hosted motorsport events in the past – motocross, rallycross and off-road racing to name a few. But this venture marks something brand new, even though the surface of the fast lane almost seems to be in a natural habitat in the bowl of the Colosseum.

“In the ’70s and ’80s we did the Mickey Thompson off-road show, we did rock ‘n’ roll shows, so toggling the pitch from event to event isn’t our thing at all. stranger,” said Joe Furin, general manager of the Colosseum. “If NASCAR can design something within those parameters, we’re all in. … From a site perspective, in some ways we did what we could do. I think they’re going to put on quite a show. I think if you’re sitting in those bleachers and you hear those engines rumble, you’re not just going to hear it, you’re going to feel it coming through the concrete and it’s going to shake you.

MORE: How the LA Coliseum track was built

The cars will rock the track for practice and qualifying on Saturday, the initial tune-up for Sunday’s rounds and the 150-lap main event. Friday offered a quieter time to get to grips with the venue, and for those who helped bring the track to life, it’s all about soaking it all up.

“If you think about the window between September when we announced this and February 6, that’s a small window – not just to announce a race and run, but also to build a track inside,” Ben said. Kennedy, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation. “As a vision for the team and then to be able to promote it, building the track and then actually running it on Sunday will be something really special. I’m really excited and proud of the team for where they are today. I will be more excited and proud once we drop the checkered flag on Sunday.

Joseph K. Bennett