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If This is the Last Clash at the Coliseum, Was It a Success?

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What’s Happening?

This weekend is the final race of a 3 race contract to hold the Clash at the LA Coliseum. The future of the event is a question mark, so, it feels like as good a time as any to analyze how this event did. Has the Clash at the LA Coliseum been an overall success?

  • The LA Coliseum has held the Clash since 2022. It was NASCAR’s first race in a purpose-built stadium since before the modern era.
  • The original intent of the event was to experiment with putting NASCAR in a city center to reach new fans. It was also intended to bring new life to the season-opening exhibition, which had gone stale in recent years.
  • Fans are excited about the Clash returning to the Coliseum in 2024. However, some fans are open to this event moving to a brand new venue.

How it Impacted Where NASCAR Can Host Races

One thing that moving the Clash to the LA Coliseum did do was allow NASCAR to rethink where they could host races. Previously, NASCAR had raced throughout the modern era exclusively on purpose-built race tracks. These race tracks were and continue to often be outside of city centers, usually on the outskirts of the metro area of the city they were named after. The obvious problem with this is that the race track is out of the way for new fans to get to.

The Coliseum is right in the LA Metro Area, and it is right next to the University of Southern California. Instead of building a race track and asking fans to travel, why not bring NASCAR racing to the people at a venue that is already built? It’s a creative solution, and it opens up a whole world of possibilities.

Staging a race in a football stadium gives NASCAR an entirely new way to stage a race. If NASCAR wants to expand to different markets, they can look at purpose-built stadiums to see if a race could be held there. It’s especially good flexibility if NASCAR is looking to race internationally in a country with few purpose-built oval tracks.

The impact of this will take some time to ultimately be felt. Will NASCAR hold more races in stadiums, or, will this end up only as the answer to a trivia question? If NASCAR does not hold any more races in stadiums that work, then, it’s tough to say that this ultimately led to anything.

Did It Make New Fans?

Ultimately, all NASCAR can do is stage a race in an area with new fans and market that race to those new fans. It’s up to those new race fans to buy tickets and tune in, and, if it does not work, then NASCAR should move on.

An estimated 50,000 people attended the inaugural event according to Fox Sports, and NASCAR expected 50,000 again in 2023 according to Sports Business Journal. That’s a solid number overall.

However, looking at the sport as a whole, NASCAR has continued to struggle with TV viewership.. The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season averaged 2.89 million viewers per race, which was down from 3.03 million viewers in 2022. Now, the reasons behind NASCAR’s TV viewership struggles are very complicated, but, it’s tough to say the Clash at the Coliseum moved the needle.

The Clash at the Coliseum did put NASCAR in front of plenty of new fans, but, it’s impossible to say how many new NASCAR fans it created. It’s shortsighted to put NASCAR’s growth entirely on the back of an exhibition race, but, it is fair to question how much it helped.

Did It Revitalize the Clash?

When the LA Coliseum gained the Clash, this race needed a boost. With NASCAR cutting down on preseason testing and practice at Daytona, the race became a glorified test session during Speedweeks that either featured single-file racing or a wreck-fest. The 2020 race was particularly egregious.

NASCAR experimented by running a midweek Clash at the Daytona Road Course in 2021, but, in 2022, they moved it to the LA Coliseum. The LA Coliseum is unlike any race track on the schedule, so teams could not use it as a testing or tuning session.

Now the Clash had a big event feel. It was at an iconic venue that even non-NASCAR fans could recognize, and there were big musical acts along with plenty of celebrities. The event was unique, but, it was exactly what the Clash should be.

The LA Coliseum turned the Clash from a dying race to a must-see event. It truly has revitalized the event, and it’s made the race worth watching and competing in.

The Clash at the Coliseum has made plenty of positive waves, but, has it really had the impact it was intended to have? Maybe that question can be best answered years from now.

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Joshua Lipowski

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