NASCAR Is Returning to L.A., and the Drivers Are Already Fired Up

”We’re thrilled to return to the heart of Los Angeles to officially start the season and set the stage for the Daytona 500,” NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy told LAMag

Todd Gilliland’s family is racing royalty in California. 

Even though the young NASCAR driver’s family moved to North Carolina when he was a boy, his dad, David, and his grandfather, Butch, are both members of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, and Todd Gilliland has been racing at tracks up and down the coast for years. 

So you could understand if the younger Gilliland was too angry to stick around and watch last February after he didn’t do well enough in the heats to race on the track NASCAR built inside L.A.’s historic Coliseum for their annual “Busch Light Clash.”

But that’s not what happened. 

“Dude, I had so much fun,” Gilliland said. 

And he wasn’t the only one. 

This month NASCAR announced that it will return to the Coliseum next year for the Busch Light Clash after this year’s event was a smashing success. 

“Honestly this is the most excited I’ve been in a long time when I saw that Clash was going back to L.A.,” Gilliland told LAMag. “It kind of sucked I didn’t get to race it because I didn’t make the race, but I feel like that gave me even more of an appreciation for it because I was sitting in the stands and the place was just electric I felt like. With Ice Cube there. It was just such an experience, so I definitely loved it.”

While NASCAR has long had a presence in the L.A. area with races at the Fontana Auto Club Speedway, this year’s Clash brought the action right to downtown and a whole new audience. 

As the sport seeks to grow — and grow beyond stereotypes associated with it — NASCAR officials have prioritized attracting a more diverse audience. And as L.A. found out last February, they accomplished that mission at the Coliseum. Officials were thrilled that 70 percent of the ticket buyers were attending their first race, and the race was the most viewed Clash on television since 2016. 

“Our entire industry made a bold move by bringing the Busch Light Clash to the L.A. Coliseum this past February and it paid off by becoming an instant classic with both new and existing fans,” said Ben Kennedy, Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy for NASCAR. “We are intent on showcasing our sport and drivers on the biggest stage and there is none bigger than the L.A. Coliseum. We’re thrilled to return to the heart of Los Angeles to officially start the season and set the stage for the Daytona 500.”

In the days leading up to this year’s Clash, the drivers said they were very happy to be in L.A. and driving in front of a new audience, but there was some skepticism about what the race might look like. Built specifically for the race inside the same place where USC plays home football games, the shortest track since used since 1971 raised a lot of questions about what the actual racing might look like.

Ultimately, the drivers said they were thrilled with the end result, and a number of NASCAR personalities were cheering on the news that they get to come back to LaLa-land.

Back in his home state with his racing royalty dad joining him, Gilliland could have seen this year’s race as a loss. Instead, he is a proud ambassador for more racing in California. The excitement was evident in his voice as he talked about staying in downtown L.A., seeing stars at the race, and just the audacity of building a race car track inside a hundred-year-old stadium. 

It’s just so cool because it’s so different than the normal stuff we do,” he said. “I think the LA Coliseum is just such a big deal. It’s really cool to go back to L.A.” 

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