Maybe it was foreshadowing, or maybe Ben Kennedy was just stating a fact.
On Sept. 15, NASCAR’s senior vice president of strategy and innovation, and member of the France family, addressed the media on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
He eventually touched on arguably its biggest development: The Busch Clash will be held on a temporary course at the L.A. Coliseum next year.
Yes, the exhibition race will be contested on a temporary quarter-mile track in a historic stadium primarily used for USC Trojans football games.
It might be a small track, but it’s no small endeavor. This is a sport striving to penetrate into metropolitan areas in creative ways long after the end of the era of new tracks being built.
“It will be interesting to see not only the feedback coming out of the February event next year, but what that type of racing could look like in general,” Kennedy said.
Then Kennedy invoked NASCAR’s past to preview its near future.
“If you overlay Bowman Gray Stadium on top of the track surface we have at the L.A. Coliseum, it’s almost identical,” Kennedy said. “We’ve seen some great racing at Bowman Gray Stadium from a racing standpoint, the Coliseum will not disappoint.”
Kennedy should know, he won an ARCA Menards Series East race there in 2013.
Nicknamed the “Madhouse,” Bowman Gray Stadium is a quarter-mile track located in Winston-Salem, N.C., the town where R.J. Reynolds first started the tobacco company that sponsored the NASCAR Cup Series from 1972-2003.
The arrival of Winston in NASCAR marked the start of its “Modern Era.” Ironically, it also heralded the end of NASCAR’s top series visiting Bowman Gray Stadium.
The 29th and final time the Cup Series was seen on the premises for a points paying event: Aug. 6, 1971, in a race won by Bobby Allison. In fact, the final 11 Cup races held at BGS were won by future NASCAR Hall of Famers: Junior Johnson (3), David Pearson (3), Richard Petty (3) and Allison (2).
It’s also the track where in 1960 Glen Wood earned Wood Brothers Racing its first of 99 Cup wins.
But it’s been 50 years since Cup visited the short track. I’m not great at math, but even I know that’s a long time.
Half a century later, however, “The Madhouse” will play a little part in NASCAR’s future.
It was buried amid a bunch of news items that came out of the first day of NASCAR’s Next Gen organizational test on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (Oct. 11).
There was the rules packages the Next Gen car will use in its inaugural year.
Then there were the tracks NASCAR will take the car to over the next few months before its official Los Angeles debut. A test on the Charlotte oval in November, a visit to Phoenix Raceway in December and then another test at Daytona International Speedway in January for “a pretty cool fan thing,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of innovation and racing development.
“Martinsville [Speedway], probably at some point,” Probst added, before mentioning Kansas Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway as possibilities.
Then came the tire tests.
Atlanta Motor Speedway would get a visit once its repave and reconfiguration were done.
“We are also going to go to Bowman Gray to run the car there to get prepped for the Coliseum,” Probst said.
For the first time since Richard Petty was only a two-time going on three-time champion, a Cup car will be back at “The Madhouse.”
Probst was asked if this indicated the exploration of a possible exhibition race at Bowman Gray Stadium down the line.
“That’s fascinating,” Probst said. “You say that, and I hadn’t thought of that, but that’s for another part of our company to work on. I would say that that is right now 100% in preparation for the Coliseum. … I don’t expect (the test) to go more than about four or five hours. We just want to go there, turn a bunch of laps … We just want to know can we run 150 laps in a row? Can we run 75 laps in a row?”
If your appetite for a Cup car again barreling around BGS wasn’t wetted already, Probst dropped this tease.
While it’s not finalized, “I think we’ll have a pretty cool driver for that to be a good story.”
You had my curiosity, NASCAR. Now you have my attention.
What better way to stoke the fire of the Next Gen car and the Clash at the Coliseum than with a brief return to Bowman Gray with a mystery driver?
But what good is that story if no one is in the grandstands to watch such a historic moment?
Typically, NASCAR and Goodyear do not allow media or fans to attend tire tests. Whenever this test takes place, that practice should be put aside.
It might be an “only happens once” moment in time where past and future collide.
As Probst said about the Daytona test, it would be a “pretty cool fan thing.”
Just make a Cup car’s return to Bowman Gray Stadium as widely accessible as possible.
The L.A Coliseum and its imitation of BGS will be 2,246 miles away from the real deal.
Let the real deal — and the fans and community that support it — get its due.
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