NASCAR Moving The Clash From Daytona to California Needs To Be Black-Flagged

Bringing The Clash to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum could have been a splendid idea a quarter of a century ago when (warning: old-school music reference ahead) Joe Strummer was still alive to join Mick Jones, Topper Headon, and Paul Simonon. As a NASCAR innovation, the idea deserves a black flag before someone approves the idea for 2022.

The Clash announces the start of a new NASCAR season

As the first points race of the Cup Series season, the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s official kickoff to a new season. However, The Clash has been the actual start of the schedule since 1979 as an exhibition event at Daytona International Speedway.

Buddy Baker won the first event, and racing greats like Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Stewart have joined the list of victors since. The test on the 2.5-mile oval created anticipation for the Daytona 500.

NASCAR executives broke with tradition this year by moving The Clash to Daytona’s road course, kicking off a season filled with a record number of points races on road courses. Kyle Busch became the 11th driver to win two or more Clash crowns.

NASCAR reportedly considers moving The Clash across the country

Citing sources, The Athletic reported on Monday that NASCAR is closing in on an agreement to move The Clash to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to kick off the 2022 season.

The website characterized the talks as “serious.” The stadium is iconic in American sports, having hosted two Olympics, two Super Bowls, Los Angeles Dodgers baseball, and USC football.

With the Daytona 500 scheduled for Feb. 20 and the re-imagined Clash tentatively set for two weeks earlier, time is short for figuring out to cram a quarter-mile track into the stadium. The report said NASCAR hasn’t decided whether to use the Next Gen car, an important consideration since such a short track lends itself to demolition derby behavior.

The biggest hurdle of all, however, could be getting racing traditionalists to buy into moving The Clash all the way across the country.

Racing in the LA Memorial Coliseum is a catastrophe waiting to happen

NASCAR executives don’t really need buy-in from anyone to move The Clash to LA. With big money at stake and the television exposure that sponsors value in play, team owners will go where they’re told. They acquiesced this past February, agreeing to shrink Daytona Speedweeks to six days and conduct The Clash on the road course.

The shortened schedule was an acknowledgment of concerns over COVID-19. But Florida has been less restrictive than California on pandemic issues, and trying to conduct a major event in LA could become close to impossible if there is another virus breakout late next winter.

Consider that just one more concern to add to the pile. If NASCAR is concerned about racing the Next Gen car on a quarter-mile track, then teams will have to hold over some of their current cars for the sake of one 2022 race. That’s costly and time-consuming, especially for one- and two-car shops that don’t have the resources of Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing.

On top of that, the trip back to Florida will take time away from practice and testing that teams would otherwise conduct at Daytona. And then there’s the scheduling dilemma. The 2022 Olympics begin Feb. 4, and the Super Bowl is Feb. 13. A gimmicky move to California isn’t going to help regardless of when NASCAR conducts The Clash.

The Coliseum is a magnificent venue … for football. For racing, it means an inconvenient jaunt to an inferior track for an event unlikely to attract new fans in any meaningful numbers.

If NASCAR won’t wave a black flag at the idea, then it should at least pull out the yellow caution flag and hold off for a year while developing a more sensible alternative to Daytona. Better yet, they can keep it at Daytona.

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