It’s hosted the Olympic games, a World Series and two Super Bowls, but on Sunday, NASCAR fans will fill the stands at the LA Coliseum for the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.

What You Need To Know

  • NASCAR is holding its first-ever race inside a stadium at the LA Coliseum

  • 14,000 cubic yards of asphalt were brought into the stadium to make the track

  • Car repairs will be done inside the tunnels that football teams normally use to walk out onto the field

  • If this race is a success, NASCAR may do more races on temporary stadium tracks in the future

For the first time since it began in 1979, the event will be held in Southern California rather than the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

In an interview for LA Times Today, reporter Luca Evans told host Lisa McRee about how the historic quarter mile dirt track and exhibition park was transformed.

A NASCAR track is being built inside the Coliseum, one of the most historic venues in California. The idea started in 2019 when Ben Kennedy, the NASCAR vice president for strategy and innovation, visited Southern California.

“Kennedy was driving down the freeway down in Southern California on a trip to explore new markets. He drove by the Coliseum and the thought popped into his head: what if we built a NASCAR track inside of there? A couple of years later, that dream has now turned into reality,” Evans said.  

The person he tapped to figure it all out was Martin Flugger, the vice president of engineering services at NASCAR. Flugger faced many uncertainties and questions ahead of construction.

“How do you get the facility laid out? How do you bring in hundreds of trucks carrying asphalt into the Coliseum? It’s such a tight venue. ... Where do you put a pit road? Where do you put a garage? There is no pit road. The tracks are too cramped for that. It’s just a quarter-mile track,” Evans explained. “One of the interesting features of this particular course is, if cars have to stop for repairs, they’re going into the tunnels where U.S. football players march out on Saturdays. This event is going to be really unique.”

There was no playbook. This has never been done before. There were also safety considerations. Evans talked about some of the construction challenges the team faced.

“They started construction in December, and by January, they’re starting to put in what they call SAFER barriers," Evans said. "These barriers are unique because, besides the outside track, they can absorb the energy of the car. And that’s really important because the track is so cramped and there is going to be a lot of, as one driver put it to me, beating and banging in terms of cars trying to jockey for position because there will not be much room to accelerate at high speeds around this course. Corners are tight. Flugger made just enough room for it to work."

Because of safety concerns with cars spinning off the track or hitting barriers, the first 14 rows of seats in the stadium will be empty. Contractors laid down nearly 14,000 cubic yards of asphalt to make the track. One of the construction workers Evans talked to said he felt like he was working on a piece of history. The drivers are also excited, but nervous to be a part of the historic race.

“A few of [the drivers] got the opportunity to kind of test out the track in NASCAR’s simulation racing service, which is iRacing," Evans said. "What they said was, this is kind of a throwback to the street races that they grew up on, this very kind of tight, quick acceleration in tight spaces, that style of racing. Some of them are more confident than others. One driver who I spoke to said he didn’t have a great track record on a course, like Martinsville, which is the next smallest course in the NASCAR Cup series and wasn’t very confident about the deceleration, the amount of time off the throttle, in this particular race. Drivers are kind of up in the air as to what to expect, but they’re all going into this blind, which should be a fun event from that standpoint." 

If Southern California fans turn out, and it’s a success, this could be a promising sign for the future of NASCAR.

“Kennedy said that this is something that could unlock a whole range of possibilities for NASCAR’s future, putting a temporary track inside an already established venue," Evans added. "Now that they know that they can do it, they can explore a whole range of other markets beyond Los Angeles. Racing fans are present across the country. You just have to know where to look, and I’m sure that this will not be the last time that we see a track inside a historic venue such as the Coliseum."

Once the race is over, the Coliseum will be returned to a grass field in time for football season. The NASCAR crew is protecting the grass and making sure that no dirt or asphalt gets into the foundation.

Watch “LA Times Today” at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.