NASCAR started the 2022 Cup Series season with an exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum consisted of a quarter mile track inside the stadium and with the vast majority of those in the stands attending a NASCAR race for the first time, it was successful enough to merit doing it again in 2023. That being said, the LA Coliseum wasn’t NASCAR’s first choice for a stadium race.
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy Ben Kennedy was on The Dale Jr. Download and went in depth on the various schedule changes and new tracks in recent years. A big topic was next year’s Chicago street race, which will take place a couple days before July 4. Kennedy revealed that before there was any talk about a street race, there were discussions about racing at Soldier Field as early as fall of 2019.
“We actually went out to Soldier Field. That was one of our first options for the Coliseum concept,” Kennedy said.
“How come that didn’t work?” Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked. “Because NASCAR raced in Soldier Field.”
Kennedy answered, “It did, yeah. And that was one of the reasons we actually looked at it. Because they raced, I think there was a Cup race there in 1956 I wanna say. It’s actually pretty cool when I went in there and they have pictures of it. So we looked at Soldier Field; the challenge with that was just the size of it. You can probably build a track but the Coliseum was a quarter mile, that would probably be a sixth or seventh, it would be tiny. It would be super tiny.”
As much as I believe a stadium race is a good idea, there aren’t as many stadiums as you would think that could realistically host a NASCAR race. The Coliseum fit because the field is much larger as it was used for the Summer Olympics and required a 400 meter track, but modern stadiums and renovated stadiums like Soldier Field are so specifically designed for the NFL and the NFL fan experience that the stands are way too close to have a quarter mile track. And as we saw with this year’s Clash, a quarter mile is probably the smallest track NASCAR could conceivably race in.
It was that realization where NASCAR moved to the street race concept and after testing it on iRacing and talks with the city, NASCAR will have their first street race in 2023. It’s been reported by Sports Business Journal that NASCAR is interested in a race in New York City and is “exploring” cities like Denver and Portland on a potential Cup race. It remains to be seen if that happens.