I wouldn’t be surprised if rapper Ice Cube didn’t include “It Was a Good Day” in his set because it simply wasn’t a good day. NASCAR’s widely-hyped exhibition adventure to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum took place today. Joey Logano won the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum after outrunning Kyle Busch and bringing his Team Penske Next Gen Ford Mustang across the finish line first. It seemed to be a Hollywood spectacle that attempted to resonate with everyone and only won over a few.
The 150-lap main event was preceded by a Pitbull concert in the shadow of the Coliseum’s iconic peristyle. The Miami rapper and NASCAR team owner performed to a less-than-enthused crowd. At first, I put it down to a large portion of the crowd not being in their seats yet. However, this repeated itself during the Ice Cube’s halftime concert. Fox continually cut to crowd shots full of uninterested fans with artificial vocal responses to Ice Cube clearly being fed into the audio feed. It was embarrassing to watch.
The racing product itself was far timider than the expectations set by the hyper-aggressive last chance qualifiers. In the second of two qualifiers, Ty Dillon shoved his way to second place and then got black flagged for jumping a restart. Dillon then drove his way to the lead. He wouldn’t make the feature after jumping the final restart from first place.
The main event did feature serviceable racing where passing was possible, but it became rarer as passing attempts became safer and more calculated. It was almost like the teams were worried to burn through an already scarce supply of Next Gen spare parts. The only moment of aggression was when Kyle Larson put Justin Haley into the inside wall at the start-finish line during the feature race’s second half. Larson’s teammate William Byron had shoved Haley into Larson in turn 3, and Larson decided to retaliate against the rookie immediately and ruthlessly.
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If NASCAR wants to expand on this concept or just return to the Coliseum, changes need to be made to make stadium short-track racing more appealing. Also, NASCAR needs to decide who it is trying to appeal to and not make a scattershot effort to win the attention of every person with a pulse.