A card-carrying believer, Alvin Kamara has ‘lots of ideas’ to bring new fans into NASCAR

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LEBANON, Tennessee – A smiling Alvin Kamara, swarmed as much by admirers as he usually is by linebackers, proudly kept flashing the NASCAR credential clipped on his Palm Angels tracksuit.

Many have noticed the pass resembles none other permitting entry to the pits at Nashville Superspeedway on this sweltering Sunday morning. Perhaps such special access is befitting a four-time Pro Bowler who tied a 91-year-old NFL record by scoring six touchdowns in a game last season.

But there’s another reason this glass-cased credential, constantly at the ready on a retractable cord connected to his right pocket, was unique – namely, that it’s not a credential.

This is a standard-issue employee badge/keycard with the company logo, name and mugshot of NASCAR’s new Growth and Engagement Advisor.

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara shows off his NASCAR badge at Nashville Superspeedway (Donald Page/Getty Images).

“Now that won’t get you shit in the garage,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps tells Kamara in an easy and playful rapport. “But that will get you in our building.”

Kamara, who had a date with Phelps’ marketing team to brainstorm ideas on a whiteboard for a full day at corporate headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, laughed heartily while in the air-conditioned office of NASCAR’s mobile trailer, a brief respite from his first full-scale “immersion” of pounding the blacktop for hours in the infield at a NASCAR race.

“I know, man, I got to get me one of those,” the New Orleans Saints superstar running back said, pointing to Phelps’ “hard card” (the industry term for NASCAR’s all-access garage pass). “But I think I got enough finesse with my verbal game that I can probably get somewhere around the garage. It already has worked this morning!”

Navigating the garage as deftly as he glides across the gridiron, Kamara has shown a knack for getting ingratiated into stock-car racing, which was hardly his first love when he randomly flipped on a race last year and tweeted about seeing Bubba Wallace’s Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville.

Four days later, he was at the Homestead track (a short drive from his Miami home), kicking off a rapid transformation from superfan (Nashville is the fifth race weekend he’s attended in barely more than a year) to sponsor (he put together backing for an Xfinity Series team in roughly four days with his juice bar, The Big Squeezy) to employee in a multiyear deal with NASCAR that was brokered by the Klutch Sports Group agency that represents several NFL and NBA stars (including LeBron James, a close friend and business associate of Klutch CEO and founder Rich Paul).

“Just to bring my awareness to the sport,” Kamara, 25, told NBC Sports about his new gig as a de-facto marketing consultant for NASCAR. “A different crowd. A different demographic. Because for so long, just to speak candidly, I’m a young black male, and this wasn’t a space where I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to go to a NASCAR race, or I want to watch NASCAR.’ So I think with me being in this position, I feel like it gives a sense of comfort and a sense of, ‘All right, well, I can explore that curiosity without feeling weird.’

“Just me being in this space gives some other people who maybe don’t look like the typical NASCAR fan to feel welcome. Getting people comfortable to try it and come up with some cool ways to welcome new fans. That’s huge. I’m excited. I’m happy.”

NASCAR equally has been pleased with his resonance. Of more than two dozen pieces of Kamara-featured content shared across its social platforms, the engagement has been twice as high as for typical posts shared across NASCAR’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts since last year, and the impressions have been 84 percent higher.

For NASCAR, which is trying to stem a 21st-century audience retrenchment and graying fan base after explosive growth in the 1990s, there have been signs of traction with Kamara’s generation and minority audiences.

According to Zoomph, NASCAR’s Gen Z and Millennial social audiences each grew by 19 percent between from the 2020 to 2021 Daytona 500, and a Morning Consult poll last November ranked NASCAR ninth among fastest-growing brands for Gen Z adults (18-23).

Many in the industry are crediting the cross-cultural presence of transcendent celebrities and athletes such as Kamara, Michael Jordan (who attended last weekend at Pocono Raceway as the new co-owner this year of the No. 23 Toyota driven by Bubba Wallace) and Pitbull, a co-owner of the startup Trackhouse team with Mexican driver Daniel Suarez.

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
NFL star Alvin Kamara and Trackhouse Racing co-owner Pitbull meet on the grid before the Ally 400 at Nashville (Donald Page/Getty Images).

“It’s getting more eyes on it,” said Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, among NASCAR’s most active stars with cross-promotion. “Whether Pitbull, Alvin Kamara and all these different people who want to be involved in the sport, it’s just growing an audience of people who maybe never had an interest in NASCAR, but their favorite athlete shows a big interest in NASCAR. Their fans are going to be like, ‘(NASCAR) must be really cool if my favorite athlete likes it, so let me watch it.’ That part is great, and it’s really neat to be a part of, and I’ve worked at NASCAR a lot trying to do my part growing it. It’s neat the direction it’s going, and the new people coming in, it’s definitely helping the sport.”

NASCAR officials have stressed this isn’t the result of throwing cash at highly paid social influencers.

“What’s cool is it’s genuine; it’s not about the money,” NASCAR chief marketing officer Pete Jung told NBC Sports. “It’s about people interested in playing a role in our journey and what we represent and mean. The type of people who can open doors to trying NASCAR. It’s like Christmas for a marketer. Having these people who are as real and authentic as they come like Pitbull. He brought a piece of paper with 50 ideas this week, and they’re great. He’s got connections, resources and ideas and creativity, it’s just about, ‘We’re interested in supporting you guys and want to play a role.’

“It just starts with a common respect and building a relationship. Nothing has been a pitch to Alvin. He’s just a terrific human being, as is Pitbull. Nothing is fabricated like, ‘Pretend you like NASCAR.’ We haven’t pushed it.”

Football crossovers are nothing new in NASCAR, which has a long history of NFL stars (such as Randy Moss) who dabbled in team ownership. But NASCAR never appealed to Kamara while growing up in the Atlanta area.

“Before I was like, ‘Hell no!’ ” Kamara said. “There’s nobody that looks like me. It’s not something that is big in my community. It’s Confederate flags.”

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
Saints running back Alvin Kamara is greeted by Bubba Wallace in the Nashville Superspeedway garage before the Ally 400 (Donald Page/Getty Images).

For Kamara, NASCAR’s move to ban the Confederate flag – which happened last year on the same day he began tweeting about watching a race – was the major step that NASCAR was “getting the picture of trying to make some changes to be inclusive.

“It’s like skull and bones,” Kamara said of the Confederate flag. “That’s like poison. That’s a sign of hate. And growing up in the South, I’ve been around and seen that. I know what it means, and people know what it means. People try to act ignorant to the fact that, ‘Oh no, I just love my country, and it’s this and that.’ No. Being from Georgia, that’s not what it is. It’s hate, and people try to hide behind it and make it seem like it’s something else. But it’s really hate and cruelty.

“For NASCAR to take the step and ban it was huge. That was when I was like, ‘OK, all right. Let me go see what’s going on.’ And we’re here now.”

The Confederate flag ban came after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, who also was the conduit for Kamara’s indirect introduction to NASCAR six years ago.

A longtime University of Tennessee fan, Wallace was invited to Volunteers practices and donned Kamara’s helmet and No. 6 jersey. They met when the 23XI driver toured the school’s facility during Kamara’s two seasons as a star running back before being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Wallace was among the first greeting Kamara as he entered the Nashville garage at 10:30 a.m. — and then quickly was besieged by autograph seekers and NASCAR team members seeking selfies.

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara poses with fans in the Nashville Superspeedway garage (Donald Page/Getty Images).

Kamara and his brand team from Klutch (which includes his sister, Garmai Momolu, who also works with NFL newcomers Jeff Okudah and DeVonta Smith; and Damarius Bilbo, Klutch’s head of football) duck into a NASCAR inspection bay with a large fan that is circulating air to help escape the oppressive heat.

Despite temperatures in the mid-90s, Kamara never sheds the designer black tracksuit (and hardly broke a sweat, a good sign of his conditioning for Saints training camp in late July). Followed by a camera crew capturing content for NASCAR, his small entourage constantly drew a crowd while turning the heads of both fans and high-ranking NASCAR team executives.

It was a different experience than Kamara’s first race, which he watched from a suite at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Midway through, a stranger struck up a conversation and explained many nuances (such as the gauges on the cars and strategies during the race). Kamara learned afterward that it was Phelps.

“It was surprising to me, because I didn’t know that this was like a welcoming environment for someone that looks like me until I came,” Kamara said. “Then I was like, “Oh, OK. Everybody cool. They don’t have no issue.’ Steve came up to me and was talking, and I didn’t even know who he was. I’m like, ‘Man, that guy is nice.’ ‘Yeah, that’s the president of NASCAR.’

“What the hell! Why the hell is he talking to me? But that’s the vibe and sense you get around all the drivers and staff and everybody in these high positions. Every time it’s refreshing, like ‘Oh, damn, these guys really care.’ They’re like, ‘Welcome back, Alvin!’ So it’s cool.”

NASCAR Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara shares a laugh with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch before the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway (Donald Page/Getty Images).

Though his fifth Cup race, Nashville was the first since COVID-19 protocols were relaxed, marking his first in-person meetings with stars he previously interacted with only over social media. During a lap around the garage, Kamara meets Kyle Busch, Blaney and Joey Logano — a special request by Kamara, who was hooked by NASCAR drivers’ demeanors as much as “the ultimate adrenaline rush” of watching fast cars.

“It’s funny because you don’t see them, but you see their cars, and you see what their personality is from the way they drive,” Kamara said. “So I pay attention to that. And I’m like, ‘Yo, I want to meet Joey and just kind of holler at him,’ because, from what I’ve seen, Joey is the shit-talking, chip-on-his-shoulder guy who don’t give a damn.”

The style reminds him of Philip Rivers, the cocksure veteran quarterback who often practiced against the Saints in the preseason while starring for the Chargers. “Philip is cool as hell off the field, a cool dude. But when he puts the helmet on and gets between the lines in practice, oh my gosh. You want to punch Philip, and I say that in the nicest way.”

Alvin Kamara shows off his NASCAR badge to Joey Logano (Nate Ryan).
Alvin Kamara chats with Ryan Blaney before the Ally 400 (Donald Page/Getty Images).

Kamara finds similarities outside the car with Blaney, Busch (who jokes about Kamara’s badge and makes a friendly pitch on hooking him up with a few cases of Rowdy Energy) and particularly Logano.

“Oh yeah, he’s a nice dude, and suddenly in the car, he turns into an asshole, a monster,” Kamara said with a laugh. “But you’ve got to have that when you’re competing at that level they’re on, and the amount of skill it takes. Talking to them for a little bit, everybody is just a cool dude, though.”

The meeting was impromptu with Blaney, who tapped a NASCAR official for an introduction after seeing Kamara at Logano’s hauler.

“That was awesome because I’ve been a big fan, and obviously, he’s a pretty incredible athlete,” said Blaney, who also met Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey at the Coca-Cola 600. “It’s awesome you have other athletes that want to be involved and are curious about (NASCAR). We have seen that a lot over the past year or two, and that makes us feel good that they feel the same way about your sport as you feel about their sport.”

Kamara asks nonstop questions, especially during an in-race visit to the NASCAR control tower with vice president of innovation John Probst and a prerace tour of Busch’s No. 18 hauler.

TJ Ford, the jack man for Busch’s team, leads the Klutch Sports contingent down the narrow corridor lined by cabinets filled with tools, snacks and firesuits. Halfway through the truck, Kamara and his sister (who later will tweet about it) suddenly stop with looks of wonder.

“What the hell? There’s a car up there,” Kamara exclaims, spotting Busch’s backup Camry through the trapdoor in the ceiling. “There’s a car up there! How do you get it out of there?”

Between swigs of an Emerald Ice Rowdy Energy, Kamara tries on a pit crew uniform while peppering Ford, crew chief Ben Beshore and other team members for information. How did they get started in NASCAR? How are the cars built and how long does it take? Are there enough tools in the truck to build a car from scratch and how long would it take?

“I’m thinking about real life when someone’s radiator is busted, and their car is gone two months,” Kamara said. “Here it’s like the power goes out … and then it’s fixed!”

He also is intrigued by the training regimen for pit crews and how teams use digital radio channels to convey in-race adjustments and intricate tactics depending on caution flags.

Alvin Kamara gets a tour of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 hauler from jack man TJ Ford (Donald Page/Getty Images).
(Nate Ryan)

“I want to see those inner workings; that’s what gets you hooked,” Kamara tells the No. 18 crew, suggesting it might make a good documentary. “You are all way more analytic. We do analytics like on third down, we run to the right 25 percent of the time. But it’s nothing like these pit stops.”

Before heading to the grid for a pace car ride, Kamara does an interview with a Netflix crew that is filming a documentary series about Wallace.

He closes with a poignant message for Bubba, whom Kamara was simultaneously proud of but also concerned for when Wallace wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt at races last year as NASCAR’s most prominent Black voice during America’s racial and social awakening.

Alvin Kamara is interviewed by Netflix producer Rob Ford (Nate Ryan),

“Him putting himself out there and being vulnerable — maybe some would say putting his career on the line for something that was bigger than him,” Kamara told NBC Sports. “That takes such bravery and crazy mental fortitude, and it’s like the most unselfish, people-first thing you could do. Because someone like me watching, I’m like, ‘Damn, this dude is thinking about his career, but he knows in this moment, that’s small compared to what’s going on in the world.

“So for him to just be able to be like the stand-up guy he is, kudos to him. That’s why I was so heartfelt about it because it takes a man to do that. You’ve got to be confident in yourself and what you believe in, and he stood on it.”

Last year, Kamara brought a childhood friend to Bristol Motor Speedway (“He was like, ‘you’re right, this shit is dope.”) after getting some puzzled reactions from family and friends who didn’t get his newfound interest in NASCAR.

“It was like a joke, ‘What the hell are you doing at a NASCAR race?’ and I’m like, ‘Bro, I’m telling you, if you all go to a race, you’ll understand,’ ” he said. “We thought growing up that NASCAR is a super, super White sport unwelcoming to anything else other than what it looks like. But it’s the opposite, man. These guys like Steve, the Frances. From top to bottom, they want people here to enjoy the sport and see the beauty of it because there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s really a nice sport.”

Garmai Momolu worked in fashion PR and marketing before joining Klutch Sports, and her experience was instrumental in helping shape her younger brother’s brand (she advised Kamara and his Tennessee teammates to buy their website domain names while still in college). Momolu said Kamara’s NASCAR deal was considered carefully, emphasizing that having an official title of fan development and engagement would be viewed seriously and not as a contrivance.

“We do deals that are organic to who he is,” Momolu said. “That’s the only way it makes sense with his brand in general. I wanted to make sure NACAR knew we really respected them and what they’re doing, and that this was genuine.”

After briefly meeting CEO Jim France and vice chairman Mike Helton at Nashville, Kamara and his team spend 15 minutes with Phelps in the NASCAR hauler a few hours before the green flag. Kamara wants to know about NASCAR’s potential future plans for Nashville (Phelps tells him he believes the region can support a second Cup race at the city’s Fairgrounds short track) and how it views experiential marketing.

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara stands in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway before the Ally 400 (Donald Page/Getty Images).

The conversation then shifts to pit stops. It’s the first Cup race for Momolu (who later will laud the experience), and Phelps advises the frenzy of four-tire changes will be a highlight when she watches the first stage from the No. 18 pit stand.

“It’s insane,” Phelps said. “They were getting down in the low 10 seconds, but we slowed the pit guns down … ”

“Because you’ve seen people cheating!” Kamara interrupts with a laugh.

“Yeah, they were cheating on the guns,” Phelps said. “My favorite is that they were dogging us because the guns were failing, and it came out they were putting nitrous in them. It was drying them out, so they’d break. And they’re dogging us! Well, stop cheating!”

Over the rest of his day at Nashville, Kamara will hopscotch around the 1.33-mile oval from the infield to the frontstretch suites, fist-bumping fans, high-fiving members of Wallace’s pit crew and shaking hands with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip.

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara meets Richard Petty in a frontstretch suite at Nashville Superspeedway during the Ally 400 (Donald Page/Getty Images).

Kamara, who also refers to his new role as “Chief Engagement Officer,” spent June 30 at NASCAR Plaza headquarters in Charlotte, hammering out plans to attract new fans with the series’ marketing and digital content departments.

As a self-described “people person,” he is passionate about understanding what draws fans to sports and has “a lot of ideas” for NASCAR (though he isn’t ready to share them publicly).

Jung said the new initiatives with Kamara could include content, licensing collaborations and fan communities (perhaps involving the Saints), and NASCAR views Kamara’s input the same way as through contracting with a high-powered consultant or agency.

“He’s super passionate about marketing and business,” Jung said. “He just bounces ideas off us. He said, ‘I want to sit in the conference room with you guys, get in the weeds and ideate.’ We’re like, ‘Bring it.’ ”

Kamara, who also has worked closely with Brandon Thompson, NASCAR’s new vice president of diversity and inclusion, said he “was really just like genuinely interested and happy, they were like, “Yeah, come to a race! You can sit in the suite and talk to everybody.’ I didn’t really think, ‘Oh, I’m going to sign a deal with NASCAR.’ It just kind of happened. So to be in the position I’m in, it’s amazing. I’m excited and blessed to be able to work with some people who are super cool.

“I feel like perception on things kind of messes you up sometimes, because what I thought about NASCAR from the drivers to the staff to the sport as a whole was the complete opposite of what I found. I’m happy to get a good view and good picture of what this sport stands for.”

NASCAR Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara greets NASCAR vice president of diversity and inclusion Brandon Thompson (Donald Page/Getty Images).

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

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CONCORD, N.C. —  NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will not permit drivers to run against the wall to gain speed as Ross Chastain did in last year’s Martinsville Cup playoff race.

NASCAR made the announcement in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

MORE: NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

MORE: NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

Chastain drove into the Turn 3 wall and rode it around the track at higher speed than the rest of the field, passing five cars in the final two turns to gain enough spots to make the championship race. NASCAR allowed the move to stand even though some competitors had asked for a rule change leading into the season finale at Phoenix last year.

NASCAR is not adding a rule but stressed that Rule covers such situations.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

NASCAR stated that the penalty for such a maneuver would be a lap or time penalty.

Chastain said he’s fine with being known for that move, which will never be repeated in NASCAR history.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to make a wave that will continue beyond just 2022 or just beyond me,” Chastain told NBC Sports earlier this month about the move’s legacy. “There will be probably a day that people will learn about me because of that, and I’m good with that. I’m proud of it.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I don’t think it will ever pay the reward that it paid off for us that it did that day. I hope I’m around in 35 years to answer someone’s question about it. And I probably still won’t have a good answer on why it worked.”

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account within a week of it happening. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that had had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account to that point in 2022 was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move at the time, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media. 

NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash


NASCAR’s preseason non-points race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of racing’s fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway.

The concept was driver vs. driver and car vs. car. No pit stops. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona oval, with speed and drafting skills the only factors in victory.

Originally, the field was made up of pole winners from the previous Cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers in the Clash field, and it also served as incentive for teams to approach qualifying with a bit more intensity. A spot in the Clash the next season meant extra dollars in the bank.

The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, and no more so than last year when it was moved from its forever headquarters, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Over the decades, virtually everything about the race changed in one way or another, including the race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship and title. From 1979-2020, the race was held on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, it moved to Daytona’s road course before departing for the West Coast last season.

Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the Clash:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 2022 — Few races have been as anticipated as last year’s Clash at the Coliseum. After decades in Daytona Beach, NASCAR flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its top drivers and cars on a tiny temporary track inside a football stadium. Joey Logano won, but that was almost a secondary fact. The race was a roaring success, opening the door for NASCAR to ponder similar projects.

2. 2008 — How would Dale Earnhardt Jr. handle his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly — in his first race. Junior led 46 of the 70 laps in winning what then was called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. The biggest action occurred prior to the race in practice as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on — and off — the track. Both were called to the NASCAR trailer, where the incident reportedly accelerated. Both received six-race probations.

3. 2012 — One of the closest finishes in the history of the Clash occurred in a race that produced a rarity — Jeff Gordon’s car on its roof. Kyle Busch and Gordon made contact in Turn 4 on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto his roof. A caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart had the lead on the final lap, but Kyle Busch passed him as they roared down the trioval, winning the race by .013 of a second.

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4. 1984 — A race that stands out in Ricky Rudd’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth Clash, but the video highlights from the day center on Rudd’s 15th-lap crash. He lost control of his car in Turn 4 and turned sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it lifted off the surface and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, very badly damaged. Safety crews removed Rudd from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were swollen such that he had to have them taped open so he could race a few days later in a Daytona 500 qualifier.

5. 1980 — The second Clash was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of Daytona International Speedway’s masters. This time he won in unusual circumstances. An Automobile Racing Club of America race often shared the race day with the Clash, and that was the case in 1980. The ARCA race start was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the featured Clash also on the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision of stopping the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt collected the Clash trophy, the ARCA race concluded.

6. 1994 — Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon would score his first Cup point win later that year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but he also dazzled in the Clash, making a slick three-wide move off Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. He held on to win the race.

7. 2006 — Upstart newcomer Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Clash. Tony Stewart, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had the lead with four laps to go, but a caution stacked the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had issues at Daytona throughout his career, on the restart and won the race.

8. 2004 — This one became the duel of the Dales. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by .157 of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-segment, 70-lap race.

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9. 1979 — The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, drew a lot of attention because of its short length (20 laps) and its big payout ($50,000 to the winner). That paycheck looks small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest per-mile races in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in numerous ways over the years, the first race was limited to Cup pole winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, almost always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the 20 laps and won by about a car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race took only 15 minutes.

10. 2020 — This seemed to be the Clash that nobody would win. Several huge accidents in the closing miles decimated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for the victory. Erik Jones, whose car had major front-end damage from his involvement in one of the accidents, won the race with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was one lap down in another damaged car but drafted behind Jones to push him to the win.