Tuesday, 09 August 2022

NASCAR’s bet on a spectacle in L.A. paid off

Many doubted NASCAR when this unprecedented event was announced. But between the amazing and historic venue that looked beautiful on TV (and no doubt in person, too), tremendous on-track action and musical entertainment from Pitbull and Ice Cube, and an impressive crowd, the Clash at the Coliseum is something that exceeded NASCAR’s wildest expectations.

Joey Logano put on a tough battle with Kyle Busch up front to take the inaugural win for the Next Gen car, and in the process NASCAR exposed itself to a California audience largely composed of people who don’t normally follow the sport. Here’s hoping they stick around and remain fans of the sport as we head into the Daytona 500 and beyond.

I can see the Clash coming back to the Coliseum next year, but we need to be careful to make these things special, and not try to do them multiple times a year. Make it a destination every February; and later, once it’s served its purpose, give another stadium a chance. 

One thing is certain. The Clash, which had become an almost forgotten and frankly boring event at Daytona, has been revitalized, and we’re not going to back to the old ways again. Kudos to Ben Kennedy, the future of the sport’s leadership, for pushing the sport in bold, new directions despite some howling from legacy fans.

Published in NASCAR

 

Let’s have a little history lesson, folks.

The year is 2003. Matt Kenseth wins the Winston Cup championship, with a grand total of 1 win. 2nd place points finisher Jimmie Johnson had 3 wins and ended up 90 points behind Kenseth in the standings. Meanwhile, Ryan Newman won a stunning 8 races that year (by far the most wins in his career in one season), but finished just 6th in points. Kurt Busch had 4 wins, and he came in 11th in points.

Matt Kenseth showed us in 2003 that consistency will win you a title, even moreso than wins. In addition to his 1 win, he had 11 top 5 finishes, and 25 top 10 finishes in 36 races. His average finish was 10.2, with only 2 DNFs. Newman, meanwhile, had an average finish of 13.9, and 7 DNFs. Stay out of the wall and finish well every week, and you’ll be champ without a showroom full of trophies.

The outcry was, of course, plentiful (yes, even before social media, people complained about everything in NASCAR). “How can you have a champion with only one win?” was the refrain often heard. 

And so we got (drumroll, please): The Chase. Yes, starting in 2004, NASCAR launched its own version of the playoffs, in large part a reaction to how Kenseth won in 2003. Winning through consistency was boring, and they wanted drama. And drama they got that first year.

Published in NASCAR

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