NASCAR speeds through Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during Sunday's Busch Light Clash.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during Sunday’s Busch Light Clash. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan)

If you walked past the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sunday, you might have second guessed your hearing. Instead of the familiar whistles or referee announcements, a different sound echoed throughout the legendary Coliseum. 

Cars, cars, cars and more cars revved their engines across the sidelines where Head Coach Lincoln Riley will call plays in the fall. Instead of quarterback Caleb Williams looking downfield for a home run play, drivers raced around the middle of the field after it was transformed into a place to pit cars after a crash. 

Home of events such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series and, of course, USC Football, the historic Coliseum hosted NASCAR’s 43rd annual Busch Light Clash.  

Previously held at Daytona International Speedway since 1979, the Clash’s move to the Coliseum was the first time it has been held at a collegiate stadium. 

NASCAR held an event at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1956, but nothing came close to this. Unlike previous races, the track was already built inside the location. This time, NASCAR built it from scratch. 

More than two months ago, the Trojans played their final game of the season against BYU on turf. The field was then taken apart, with NASCAR converting the inside of the stadium into an asphalt track in December. 

The quarter-mile track in the Coliseum was the shortest track ever recorded in the Cup Series’ modern history. Drivers qualified Saturday night for the four heat races that took place the next day. Kyle Busch, who finished the race 2nd, was the fastest qualifier. 

Fans flocked from around Southern California to attend the race, one of them being Nick Muller — a USC alumnus — from Orange County. Muller came with a group of around 20 USC alumni to revisit the stadium where they watched the Trojans play. 

Muller said he attended a NASCAR event a long time ago but considered the Busch Clash to be his first time. 

“Honestly, I don’t know much about NASCAR,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll just be some loud engines flying around, and it’ll be fun.”

Even with loud cars revving around the track, the unique atmosphere of the event served as NASCAR’s best marketing strategy. The track’s construction at the Coliseum, a place where he attended football games as a Trojan, enticed Muller the most.

“How the hell they put a track in here, I don’t know,” said Muller with a chuckle. “It’s just so cool… I’ve probably been going to SC games since I was four years old … Just to go to a stadium for different events is just something that was interesting.”

For new NASCAR fan and Panorama City-native Andrew Garcia, the stature of the event taking place at the Coliseum sparked his interest to see what it was about.

“I figured it was the first time, might as well go out and see it,” Garcia said. “I, myself, don’t consider myself to be a NASCAR fan, but anytime it’s the first time happening in this city, it’s bound to draw a lot of curious folks.” 

And curious folks filled the stadium to watch Ice Cube perform and Joey Logano become victorious on the same stage where Reggie Bush finished his most famous highlights.