In the 1950s, a young NASCAR desperately seeking to make a name for itself in the northern United States raced on an infield course at Chicago’s legendary Soldier Field. The idea was abandoned after a few convertible races and one Cup Series event were run, but the dramatic visuals that resulted have been a favorite of racing historians in the decades since. In the 2020s, a much more seasoned NASCAR desperately seeking to revive the fading power of its name throughout the same country has a path to revive that same dramatic visual in a new market, at a different legendary stadium. If NASCAR has its way, the series will run a non-championship race inside of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in early 2022.
Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic reports that NASCAR is targeting the venue as a high-profile exhibition to replace its traditional season-opening exhibition the weekend before the Daytona 500. That event has been known by various names since its inception in 1979, but the concept has always been to provide at least some high-profile teams with an event directly before the season-opening Daytona 500. This year, the Super Bowl is one week later than usual and that traditional date has effectively become untenable for any major American race. Rather than keep teams at Daytona for two uninterrupted weeks, NASCAR has instead opted to use the scheduling quirk as an opportunity to try something new.
The goal will be to create a flashy, TV-ready short track product that will attract interest in the new season, but the race may not be the debut of the new-for-2022 Next Gen car that will be the centerpiece of that season. Instead, Bianchi reports, the series could cave to concern from teams that are worried about sending out brand new cars to presumably be wrecked in what should be an exceptionally high-attrition race. Presumably, that would leave the event to be run with current cars.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum turns 99 years old in 2022. It has already been the centerpiece of two Olympic games, but a third will join that list in 2028. The 77,500-seat venue played host to NFL teams and the first-ever Super Bowl in the past, but its football-hosting duties are now limited to the University of Southern California’s games. Parts of the stadium have hosted rallycross in the past, but stock cars have yet to grace the stadium.
No track format has been announced, but the stadium’s limitations leave few options.. If the track really will be an oval that fits inside of the stadium, expect something close to a quarter-mile layout that would be the smallest NASCAR Cup Series venue in modern history. Once the California Speedway in Fontana is converted into a short track of its own, it could be one of two NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks in the Los Angeles metro area.
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