On Tuesday before the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR announced their addition of another coliseum to the 2022 NASCAR schedule. The LA Memorial Coliseum, home to USC Football, the 1984 Summer Olympics and other notable events in history will now play host to the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening exhibition race, “The Clash”.
Unsurprising at this point, but iRacing had a hand in making this dream a possibility. As it’s been with the future Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Auto Club Speedway reconfiguration as well as other efforts, iRacing has been working together with NASCAR to nail the perfect configuration for the future stadium race.
With a brief exhibition on NASCAR Race Hub on FOX Sports 1, former NASCAR drivers Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray raced a few laps against current NASCAR Cup Series competitor Tyler Reddick on the currently fictional venue. Steve Myers, Executive Vice President of iRacing, put out a tweet explaining some of the process of making the track. That process included having current eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series drivers take part in the testing process.
“I was a part of it, and it was really cool,” Darlington race winner Keegan Leahy said. Leahy was coy about the details further than that. Understandable, as there are still some things being worked on internally before the track becomes a reality for the February race date.
Some of the other drivers who took part in the testing were eager to talk about what they could, especially Logan Clampitt, the runner-up at Darlington last week.
“I think it’s a really fun and unique track,” Clampitt said. “It’s very unique, it’s got five degrees of banking, or something like that. It’s a very small track too, a quarter-mile, so it’s going to be very interesting to see a lot of cars on there. I think it’s going to be exciting.”
Clampitt currently lives in North Carolina with his Team Conti teammate Michael Conti. His hometown in Southern California, however, is near where the new exhibition will take place. He’s excited to go to the inaugural event next year knowing that he had a part in the overall creation.
“I’m going to be there,” Clampitt said. “My home in California is about an hour and a half away from it. We’re definitely going to go check it out. To see the cars racing around there in the Coliseum, just thinking that I was a part of that making, is just that much more special to go there.”
Ryan Luza, the third place finisher at Darlington, was also a part of the process. “It was a cool deal,” Luza said. “I think it’s going to be really tough for them to make it work, honestly, but I think they can. It’s such a small track that I don’t know how they plan on ever putting 40 cars on the track or if they are doing just 20 car exhibitions.”
Luza also commented that they were asked for input on the track. Myers stated that the track had seen multiple configurations so they were likely listening to what the best oval sim racers on the service wanted to see in a short track like that.
“I think it’s going to be interesting show to watch, for sure. It’s really cool to have an early look at things like that, to just be involved with some of the behind the scenes things that NASCAR is doing. I’m not sure how much input we really have or not, but it’s just cool to be involved in something like that.”
Someone who’s been around longer than most in the series, Michael Conti has been able to see the growth of the sim firsthand as an eNASCAR competitor at the top level since 2012. The 2014 Series Champion, who didn’t have the finish he had hoped for at Darlington despite a solid run for most of the night, gave the most insight into the LA Coliseum process.
“We ran a couple of different configurations about a week or so back,” Conti said. “We gave feedback on what we felt. It was a positive test. The NEXT Gen car performed pretty well around there. When you think of the NEXT Gen, you think of it being a little bit more nimble than the current car, so that’s going to be good given how small the track is. I think the horsepower numbers that they are aiming for next year are going to better suit the smaller track.”
The decision to put the NASCAR NEXT Gen cars on the Coliseum track wasn’t a clear one at the start. Many in the industry speculated that the first look of those cars would actually come in the 2022 Daytona 500. It makes sense though to run the new car to kick off the season. If the Clash is to be as it’s been in the past, we shouldn’t see more than 25 drivers in the field anyway.
NASCAR could also change the rules to get the bigger names and teams that wouldn’t be qualified. With previous stipulations, guys like Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon, or Erik Jones wouldn’t be in the field. NASCAR does want to bring out the NEXT Gen cars in a positive fashion, and the uncertainty combined with the unfamiliarity of the new car could provide it’s own form of excitement.
“I think the guys are going to be aggressive with the cars to make moves and not have to worry too much about going past the limits of the car,” Conti said. “I think the car can take whatever these guys throw at it. It’s going to be cool to see.”
Like mentioned above, this isn’t the first time that iRacing has been in the center of a track development project. Atlanta Motor Speedway is moving forward with their new configuration based on data collected from iRacing testing. Whenever we get a new Auto Club configuration, it will have had thousands of laps on it before breaking ground. My favorite story is always the one where iRacing helped fix the real Chili Bowl dirt track one year. There was data collected previously that helped fix the track proportions for better racing.
“iRacing has been propelled to the forefront of track development, car development with the NEXT Gen… iRacing has played a key role in that,” Conti said following a question asked by Seth Eggert from Kickin’ The Tires. “You’re seeing a lot of things get tested on the sim before they go to real life to see if they’re going to be worth it or not, if they’re going to be good or bad, they’ll get feedback and get ahead of it as opposed to just putting a product out there blindly without testing it in a simulated environment like we’ve got with iRacing.”
As for the track going public on the sim, Myers said the version displayed on NASCAR Race Hub and the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series broadcast is using a lot of “placeholder artwork” and will get the “full iRacing treatment” before it’s released before the actual event.
iRacing, as well as other sims like Assetto Corsa, sim hardware manufacturers like Fanatec, and even car companies like Porsche have all been able to bridge that gap between reality and simulation. This is just another fantastic example.
The LA Coliseum Clash will take place for the first time on 6th February, 2022. It will be the first time The Clash will take place at a track other than Daytona Int’l Speedway. Don’t fret, NASCAR fans, as the Daytona 500 will still kick off the regular season. The first points paying race takes place on 20th February.
Back to the other racing coliseum for a moment. After Bristol, the eNASCAR drivers only have two races remaining in the 2021 season. Only one race remains in the Round of 10, Talladega Superspeedway. After Dega, six drivers will be eliminated from a chance at winning the 2021 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series championship.
Leahy and Bobby Zalenski have locked into the title fight at Texas Motor Speedway. Clampitt sits on the positive side of the cut line, eight points to the good entering Talladega. Conti will be in a must-win situation. He might be the favorite though. Sim driver No. 8 won the other superspeedway race this season, the first race of the season at Daytona.