Chaos or calm? The predictions from drivers vary as they look ahead to Sunday’s inaugural Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.
Not since 1971 has NASCAR’s premier series raced on a quarter-mile track (Bobby Allison won and Richard Petty was second at Bowman Gray Stadium). Never before has NASCAR raced in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a venue that has hosted the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Series, among other events.
One thing is certain. NASCAR knew that putting 36 cars on the track together was too much. So, there will be 23 cars in the 150-lap main event. That just means the intensity could build in the heat races and last chance qualifiers to advance to the main event.
So, what will the racing be like this weekend? No one is certain, but drivers have their opinions. Here is what they said:
“The Coliseum is going to be super interesting. I ran the (K&N Pro Series )East race at Bowman Gray Stadium years ago. It was a better race than I would have thought it would have been back then. I think the Cup cars at the Coliseum, especially the new Cup car, should put on a great show. I think that car is really going to thrive on a short track like that. So I’m excited for it.”
“With a quarter-mile track, I think we can expect a lot of beating and banging and maybe even some tempers by the end. That’s typically what we get at these short tracks. I’d like to say it’s the first race, so everyone will take it easy, but, after heat races and everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few guys had their feelings hurt. We’re all racers and we want to win, so it’ll for sure be a good show for everyone watching.”
“I have no idea what it’s going to be like. Top speed is probably going to be around 60 mph and the low speed in the corners may be 20 mph. It’s going to be action-packed. We aren’t going to be able to spread out and get away from each other. We are going to be all over the top of each other’s bumpers and doors. Double-file restarts are going to be really tight, and there’s going to be a lot of fenders bent and probably feelings hurt.”
“This race isn’t that long, so you are not going to have a lot of chances to kind of give and take. I think it is going to be a lot more take for most of these guys, but I mean overall I think it is good to pick and choose your battles and what you think it important. If you have the pace in the car and the speed to pass guys, then it is going to be a lot easier than trying to defend. I mean if you are defending you are kind of at the mercy of the guy behind you.”
“I grew up racing on a 3/8th mile, pretty flat asphalt track called 417 Speedway (Punta Gorda, Florida) and that’s probably the closest thing I can relate it to, maybe Auburndale Speedway (Florida). We’ll all learn when we get there, that’s for sure. It’s more than a race. We are there to put on a show, and with the acts that are performing, we are there for racing and entertainment.”
“There are so many unknowns going into this race, I don’t think anybody knows what to make of it. Looking at the racetrack, I think it’s pretty much a promise that somebody’s going to be in a fight on the frontstretch. It’s a really tight racetrack, it’s going to be a lot of beating and banging, it’s going to be fighting over space and trying to get to the front any way possible so you can transfer through to the next race.”
“I’m excited to get the season going. The Coliseum is a great venue, and I think it’s going to be a fun event. That’s what it was intended to be, a fun and exciting event to kick off our season, and I think it’s going to do exactly that. If you’re going to try something, the Clash is a good race to go and try it because there’s no points involved. This event has a lot of potential to be a home run for our sport. Hopefully it’s entertaining and people have fun watching at home on TV or from the stands.”
“I don’t know how we’ll make a pass there without clobbering into the person in front of us, which might be what we have to do, but there’s not much to learn from there to be honest (for the rest of the season). With that being said, I do think it is a great momentum builder to start our season. It’s a great venue. Certainly, there is a lot more hype around the Clash this year than any other year that I’ve been involved with the sport.”
“As we go to the LA Coliseum this year, really the event is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing and that’s creating conversation about our sport. It’s given us a topic of conversation throughout the offseason to go on top of the Next Gen car.
“I think as you have events like that, I think it’s important to realize that sometimes it’s about exposing your sport to new people and trying to create new fans and having cool events at cool venues or different racetracks, and creating that story that doesn’t depend on the race.
“I think for me, obviously, the race is going to be a part of the weekend just because for the fact that I’m going to be sitting in the car and that’s what everybody is going to be there to see. But I think, in the end, you can have a great event without having a great race. I think the race could be spectacular, or it could be a disaster. I don’t know. But, in the end, I will still have my name on racing in the LA Coliseum, and I think that in itself is pretty cool.”
“I think the one thing that everybody’s overlooking slightly is that we all are in a way, sometimes we don’t show it, are all professional racecar drivers. I think what you see on a quarter-mile bullring on a Saturday night isn’t quite the product you are going to see here on Sunday. … With the consideration of everybody’s pretty lean on equipment and cars right now, I don’t think you are going to see really bonehead moves or aggressive moves besides maybe some rutting and gauging for a transfer spot, but you’re not going to see people wiping each other out often I don’t think. I could be wrong.
“But I have seen races at Bowman Gray go green to checkered with no cautions. I think people are overlooking the potential that we could see very minimal amount of cautions. I think it will be a good durability test for these Next Gen cars for sure.”
“I do get to race at a lot of short track dirt things, and I imagine (the Coliseum) would be a similar vibe to that, the crowd being right on top of the racetrack. Just feeling their energy and the atmosphere is going to be really cool, I think. It’s going to make the race seem more exciting than it’s already going to be. Looking forward to how they have it laid out, driving through the tunnel and stuff like that.”
“You look at the way they’ve designed this racetrack, not just the fact that it’s small, but the way they put the curbing on the bottom. It just seems like it opens the door for more contact and sliding it down in there, so we will have to wait and see. There’s gonna be moments.
“There are transfers that they’re probably gonna do what they’ve got to do to get into the feature, and you’ve got no points on the line. I think it just kind of depends. Just because there’s no points on the line doesn’t mean that grudges don’t get carried over to the next race, either.”
“I think there will be a decent level of respect and guys trying to it kind of the right way. We’ll see. It could turn into a crash-fest, which I would hate to see. I don’t know. I really don’t have high expectations for either way. I think we are just going to go there and race and see what happens. I just think at a broader look at everything, and what the race is and what attention is getting, I hope that things go – I hope it’s exciting – but I hope it’s not just everybody crashing into one another all day.”