NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum 2024 Summary: Should LA Host the Clash Again?

So the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum 2024 is in the rear view, ending the three-year contract with NASCAR to host this event. There’s been much discussion about whether the contract should/would be renewed, and should the event recur at the Coliseum. Talks got even more negative and divisive as this year’s crazy storm hit and changed up the weekend’s schedule in a big way. Let’s break it down some with a summary of race day.

We drove out to Los Angeles the morning of February 3, with plans to attend driver interviews, tour the garage, watch the practices for both the Cup series and the NASCAR Mexico series, then head home after the heats in the evening. The main event was scheduled for Sunday, February 4, in the evening, but the weather forecast looked bleak. Or dangerous, if you were traveling in it as the evening went on.

Then everything changed when NASCAR announced that the main event was going to happen on Saturday evening, after the heats and before the NASCAR Mexico series, in an event to get it all in and avoid a rain-shortened race that’s no fun for drivers or fans. The stands were already cold, people were buying hoodies at the merchandise booth, and while a lot of people did come because the event ended up being free, spontaneously driving into LA on a Saturday night is on no one’s bucket list.

NASCAR Mexico series 2024 at the Coliseum

Let’s digress for a minute. If you’re not a Californian, you’re probably unfamiliar with SoCal weather beyond what you see in the media. Let me clarify how different that view is from the reality. Yes, traffic does come to a screeching halt once those first drops hit the windshield. We’re heavily populated with tourists who already don’t know where they’re going, and we’re in a hurry to go the eight miles to our jobs across town on time — which on a good day, will take an hour, if you’re in LA. One slow driver can hinder everyone.

However, we’re pretty prepared to go to work and school on days where you can’t get into your car dry because the rain washing down the gutter is up over the curb. Our planes take off and land on time. We still go out to dinner, to parties, and we go shopping. Problem is, our roads out here aren’t kept up as one might think, and the foothills can only sustain so much rain before they start coming down, even in small mudslides or wreaking havoc on the roads. And there are just so many of us, particularly if you add in visitors here for special events. Too many cars + bad weather = gridlock. It’s like science…or math.

This means that, in an abundance of caution, sometimes events are canceled. It’s not bad business to want to keep your talent, your special guests, your athletes, your speakers, whomever, safe. Holding an event where a ton of people drive in is asking for more traffic problems that can risk lives. And then it’s an event for racing? With no roof, on a track made specifically for this event? You see football players out in the snow, but did you see thousands in the stands last month when you couldn’t see the green on the field? No.

So with that said, let’s separate the Clash at the Coliseum 2024 from the prior years. We get rain every single year, much of it heavy, but the back-to-back business that began on February 4 was a lot even by our standards. We can’t hold NASCAR or anyone else responsible for poor scheduling, poor planning or any other lame excuse thrown out there by people who couldn’t attend that Sunday.

This year’s Clash was a lot of fun. The drivers gave great interviews all day up in the press box, and much of it was either televised or shared by major media syndicates throughout the day. (Hopefully, you watched it on my socials as well.) We got to interview Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and more. They were as gracious as ever with their candor, and endlessly patient with the number one question they were all asked: what do you think about NASCAR’s decision to run the Cup race tonight?

The Clash race, to be clear, is NOT a points race. It’s more of an exhibition, an event meant to usher in the new NASCAR season while spotlighting the sport to potential new fans. Its race layout is nothing like a normal race, and the 1/4 mile track created inside of the Coliseum doesn’t leave room for much speed or even passing at the same level as you’d see at other short tracks. It results in some spins and slides, as people nudge others to pass. It’s a good show, and I recommend it to new fans or those who don’t yet have the desire to travel out of state to a track, especially since we currently don’t have Auto Club Speedway on the schedule due to its demolition and prospective plans to be turned into a 1/2-mile track.

On that note, as a local to Auto Club Speedway who has been in attendance since day one, it’s a gut punch to drive down Cherry and see the current destruction. Those gates we went through so many times are gone, and it’s sad to think we may not hear the sounds of cars practicing there ever again. NASCAR fans all over California are hoping that 2025 brings good news of SoCal being back on the season’s schedule, but we’ll see. I’ll update here when I learn more.

There are three winners to the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum, with first, second and third all winning medals that get placed around their necks on podiums, not dissimilar to the Olympics held in the Coliseum in years past. That’s an important piece of trivia to keep in mind. The Coliseum held Summer Olympics track and field back in 1932 and 1984; I was beyond fortunate to have attended in ’84, as a young teen who had zero interest in the sport but who knew the importance of the event. We also will be the home to the Olympics in 2028! We are the only location aside from London Paris to host three times. NASCAR holding court in the same location is pretty incredible.

The Clash itself went by pretty quickly. There were seven cautions, and seven lead changes amongst four different drivers. There was only one penalty, which was to the 9 car for pitting before pit road was open, which resulted in having to go to the tail end of the race. And that’s not a place you want to be, because passing is a challenge; however, Ryan Blaney was able to pull it off, coming from 23rd place to finish in third. Kyle Busch came in second, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the number 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota came in first. It was Hamlin’s fourth win in a pre-season exhibition race. His prior three wins were at Daytona International Speedway in 2006, 2014 and 2016.

NASCAR Clash winners get their medals

This is also Toyota’s eighth Clash win.

I’m not sure where the Clash will end up next year, but I do hope we get to keep it here in Southern California, at least until we have an official race back. We drive to Phoenix (PIR), Las Vegas (LVMS) and Sonoma Raceway, but nothing beats having a track in your own neck of the woods. It brings new fans into the fold and gives us a chance to take our friends who’ve never gone. We haven’t yet taken anyway who hasn’t left the track ready to watch another race. It’s hard not to fall in love with the smells, the sounds and the community of the typical race NASCAR crowd.

Should we continue to host the Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, or elsewhere in SoCal? I’d love to hear your thoughts. There are pros: new fans, having something for the old fans, attaching NASCAR to the glitz and glam of the Hollywood area, willingness for people to travel to SoCal. And there are cons: weather will always be a concern, traffic can be tough, and NASCAR isn’t as heavily enmeshed in the culture of Southern California as you’ll find in the south.

Some of those things are what bring the uniqueness to SoCal hosting the Clash though. And weather is commonly an issue when races are hosted at Daytona or anywhere else back in the south. This year’s storm was an anomaly; while we frequently get rain this time of year, we rarely get it as fast and hard as that weekend. I’m not part of any decision-making group, but I’d love to be a fly on the wall whenever they do gather. Cross your fingers. We want to keep hearing “Start your engines!” here in Southern California on a yearly basis.

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