In the fast lane: LA Coliseum hosts first NASCAR race in its 99 years

In the fast lane: LA Coliseum hosts first NASCAR race in its 99 years

Joey Logano celebrates with his crew after taking the checkered flag at the Busch Light Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Joey Logano celebrates with his crew after taking the checkered flag at the Busch Light Clash at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

LOS ANGELES – Fans from across the country filled the Coliseum on Sunday to see a sporting event never held here before: a NASCAR race.

Despite the little orange earplugs and oversize noise-canceling headphones that many fans wore, the crowd’s roar of approval could be heard over the sounds of crunching fenders, squealing tires and revving engines. Team Penske driver Joey Logano finished first in the historic 150-lap exhibition race at Memorial Coliseum.

The national anthem ends with flares before the start of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.

Pop singer Ally Brooke sings the national anthem before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photos by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Left: The national anthem ends with flares before the start of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. Right: Pop singer Ally Brooke sings the national anthem before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photos by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

FedEX driver Cole Custer acknowledges the crowd before making his way to the quarter-mile track at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Justin Haley, driver for Kaulig Racing, gets his game face on before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Daniel Suarez, who drives for Freeway Insurance, waves to fans as he heads down to the racetrack at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Where’s Waldo? Drivers and their teams prepare for the exhibition race at the L.A. Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Drivers slowly make their way onto the track, warming their engines and tires before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum begins on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. gets wedged between two cars at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Although speeds were much lower than NASCAR fans are used to, drivers topped 65 mph on the quarter-mile track – the shortest course since 1971. Some of the 23 drivers who started recognized benefits in such short tracks.

“The speeds are so slow that I feel like at a track like this, you can have a little more contact probably and the car still has grip or can stay under control,” Logano said at the news conference after his win. “We’ll have to see how that evolves as we get to some of these other racetracks and stuff. I think speed was part of that today.”

Until this year, the Busch Light Clash, an exhibition race that opens the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, had been run in Daytona, Florida.

The storied Coliseum has hosted many events, including University of Southern California Trojan football, blockbuster concerts, the two Olympics and the 1959 World Series – which is why it caught the attention of first-time fans. NASCAR estimated that about 70% of Sunday’s fans had never been to a race before.

A tow truck hauls away the No. 31 Chevrolet of Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley, which struck a barrier on lap 116 of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.

Damage is inescapable in NASCAR, even when the race is run on a quarter-mile track at speeds about 65 mph. Photo taken Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photos by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Left: A tow truck hauls away the No. 31 Chevrolet of Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley, which struck a barrier on lap 116 of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. Right: Damage is inescapable in NASCAR, even when the race is run on a quarter-mile track at speeds about 65 mph. Photo taken Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photos by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Doughnuts of burned rubber decorate the track after the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, was a first for the august stadium, which has hosted two Summer Olympics, two Super Bowls and a World Series. (Photo by Lauren Lively/Cronkite News)

Lauren Lively

News Visual Journalist, Los Angeles

Lauren Lively expects to graduate in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. She is working for the L.A. news bureau.

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