- NASCAR released their 2022 race schedule earlier today.
- The fall race in Las Vegas–the South Point 400–will move to October, three weeks later than the current date.
- In addition, the season opening ‘Clash’ exhibition race will move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
NASCAR has released their 2022 race schedule and there’s a number of interesting changes therein. The fall race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway–the South Point 400–has been moved to a later weekend with the hopes of cooler weather in Southern Nevada. The 2021 South Point 400 is scheduled for September 26 meaning the race date for 2022 is pushed back three weeks. In addition, the South Point 400 will become the first race of the final round of the NASCAR playoffs.
The date for the spring NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is essentially unchanged. The Pennzoil 400 will be run on March 6, 2022. The 2021 race was run on March 7 of this year. The race does gain a bit of significance in that it will mark the debut of NASCAR’s new next-gen car on a 1.5 mile superspeedway.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway president Chris Powell is happy about both dates, particularly the prospect of cooler weather at the fall event:
“Our fans have clamored for a cooler race date since we were awarded a playoff race. Anyone who has ever been to Las Vegas in October knows it’s one of the most beautiful months of the year here.”
“And the Next Gen car has been several years in the making. Knowing the importance of 1.5-mile superspeedways to the season championship, we have great anticipation of seeing the new car on our speedway.”
Powell speaks the truth–the weather in Las Vegas from October to March is among the best you’ll find anywhere.
The other major change on the NASCAR schedule is an extremely interesting one–the season opening Clash exhibition is moving from Daytona International Speedway to the West Coast. The event will be held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a downright insane quarter mile asphalt oval built around the stadium’s football field. It will be the first time the preseason event has been held outside the Daytona International Speedway since it began in 1979.
Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation, says that the idea is to keep the Clash interesting for fans:
“We’ve been discussing the Clash for a while, and we’ve had it at the (Daytona) oval for a number of years,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “We moved it to the road course this year, but really wanted to think outside the box as we thought about the Clash in the future — and seeing that it’s an exhibition event, we looked at a number of different places and locations that we could host it at, and ultimately narrowed it down to the L.A. Coliseum.”
“I think the large fan base that we have here in Los Angeles, the largest that we actually have in the nation, paired with exciting racing and being here in the downtown Los Angeles market, I think will be really special.”
Discussions between NASCAR and LA Coliseum officials began in 2019 but plans were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversations began in a very simple fashion:
“We’ve had these discussions for a while, and they actually came about by us going to their website, finding their contact page and reaching out to them. So, we started that in 2019, I had a few conversations, obviously with COVID put things on pause, but resurfaced and I would say early on this year, I’ve had a ton of dialogue. Over summer, we put a team together a couple of months ago, and really we’re off to the races and running now.”
The NASCAR Clash won’t be the first motorsports event at the 77,500 seat stadium. It’s previously played host to motorcycle races, off-road trugs and rallycross events. A temporary paved track for stock car racing is a first. It should be fascinating to watch NASCAR’s best run on a track this short. Currently, the 0.533 mile Bristol Motor Speedway and the 0.526 mile Martinsville Speedway are the smallest track configurations on the NASCAR schedule. The last time NASCAR ran on a quarter mile track was from 1958 to 1971 at the quarter-mile Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
According to NASCAR’s Kennedy, three track configurations are under consideration. iRacing simulations are being used to determine how the track will run and so far trials have taken place with 5 degrees, 2.5 degrees and no banking and in the turns:
“You can only go so high, just because of the sight lines and the temporary construction, but we’ve played with a few different ones. We’ll have more at a later date on that.”
“I think a lot of good feedback and intel that we’ve gotten from some of those test events, and I think that will ultimately help us kind of refine exactly what that model is going to look like. So other than that, it’ll be asphalt, quarter-mile. We’ll have a few pit stalls, maybe eight to 10, inside but for non-competitive stuff. If someone has a loose wheel or needs to repair their car, they’ll be able to come in and do that.”
NASCAR has released a simulated iRacing demo of what the quarter mile LA Coliseum track might look like:
Kennedy says that the format of the race is ‘TBA’ including which drivers will be invited to compete:
“What I will say, though, is the format will be a little bit different from what we’ve traditionally seen at the Clash at Daytona. So, looking at a few different options. The group has really, really been challenged to think kind of differently about how we have all the different events leading into the main event, and I think a lot of good thoughts and input that we’ve got on it so far, so more to come on all that.”
While the LA Coliseum track is definitely unique, NASCAR racing in Southern California is nothing new. The Cup Series has raced at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for years. They’ve had to skip the track during the previous two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it’ll be back on the schedule for February 27, 2022. In the past, NASCAR’s top series has raced at a couple of other Southern California tracks–Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside International Raceway.