LOS ANGELES — The Hollywood sign resting on the distant Santa Monica Mountains to the northwest. The downtown cityscape to the northeast. The San Gabriel Mountains to the east.
NASCAR is, unmistakably, in Los Angeles, California.
The backdrop for the 2023 Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum might as well be set on a Hollywood stage. The beauty of the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum sits ready to host the offseason defroster of an exhibition race for the second consecutive season — and expectations feel bigger than ever heading into Sunday night’s main event.
Daniel Suárez, who became Mexico’s first native to win a NASCAR Cup Series race last season at Sonoma Raceway, felt the energy right away as he returned to Southern California. That international pride shined through as he sat atop United Airlines Field from the 1923 Club for his first press conference of 2023.
“Last year honestly was probably the most amazing event I have ever been part of,” Suárez said. “NASCAR, you guys [in] the media and the teams, they knocked it out of the park. The event was unbelievable. The fans were super amazing. The energy was unbelievable as well. I have never felt so much excitement of the fans in driver introductions like we did one year ago.
“So it was quite special and the expectations are all really high for the second time. And already, on top of all this, for me, racing here in LA is somewhat like racing at home. You know, there is a lot of Hispanics here so this is extra exciting for me. […] A big smile for me racing here that I can call almost home.”
Mike Joy, who leads NASCAR on FOX’s play-by-play booth for its 23rd season and has covered the sport decades longer, has a rich appreciation for NASCAR’s history. From its grassroots upstarts to the Hollywood flair of today, Joy finds himself enamored with the thrill of the famed arena.
“We’re right in the heart of Los Angeles,” Joy said Friday. “And for this sport to have come that far — for the people that run NASCAR to have been that brave to completely break the mold and say, ‘We’re gonna go back to what we used to do in 1956 at Soldier Field in Chicago, and we’re going to pave a track inside a stadium. We’re going to run the Cup cars there.’ We all were as excited as we thought they were crazy. And look at this. I mean, this is fantastic.”
The allure of the stadium speaks for itself: An arena that’s hosted the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the World Series. Its mystique adores it to an international fanbase, instantly recognizable on the screen, as FOX Sports’ Shannon Spake noted.
“I think if you show someone a picture of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, they know exactly what it is,” said Spake, who frequently hosts “NASCAR Race Hub” on FS1. “I know Chuck [McDonald, FOX producer] and I have worked football games here before so I’ve been here as a sideline reporter for college football and it is incredible.
“The one thing that last year that I wish that we had was that I wish that it would finish under the lights, and that’s what we’re gonna have this season. I think with the torch lit and the cars on the race track and the [brake] rotors [glowing] and all of that stuff that we’re gonna see Sunday at this location, I can’t wait. I’m so excited.”
The success of the event has made possible what previously was thought impossible: converting a football field into a race track in a matter of weeks and putting on a compelling event with musical acts from Cypress Hill, Wiz Khalifa and Dixie D’Amelio scheduled to entertain.
“I think this has opened a lot of doors that probably people in the past weren’t really expected to be opened,” 2014 champion Kevin Harvick said Saturday. “Because when I came here last year, I really thought this was gonna be a joke. But personally, it was probably one of the races that I had the most fun at last year. And you look at the atmosphere and everything that happened, it was a great event and I think coming back this year, everybody’s looking forward to it.”
The second running of The Clash at the LA Coliseum takes center stage at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.