Race Weekend Central

Should ARCA Race at the LA Coliseum?

On Sunday. Feb. 5, the NASCAR Cup Series stars will duke it out in the exhibition Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The inaugural event at the Coliseum was a roaring success, watched by 4.28 million viewers.

At the historic venue, over 50,000 people enjoyed the racing on the quarter mile. With so much fanfare, why shouldn’t there be a support series event at the track, specifically the ARCA Menards Series or ARCA Menards Series West?

It’s a great idea in theory. The iconic stadium has hosted nighttime football games before, so there could be an ARCA or ARCA West race there on Saturday night. It truly would be fulfilling #ARCANightinAmerica.

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Diving into the nitty gritty details, if this theoretical idea would come to fruition, it would likely be an ARCA West race, not for the main series. Per series entitlement sponsor Menards’ contract with ARCA, a certain number of main series races must be held within the Menards footprint. Because there are no Menards retail locations in California — or out West at all, for that matter — it would be difficult to add the Coliseum to the main-series schedule.

“As a race fan, I think it would be awesome,” ARCA Communications Manager Charles Krall tells Frontstretch. “The energy that is at the Coliseum was surprising how energized the whole event was last year. It kind of feels the same way here in 2023. As a race fan, I could use more of that, I think it would be great.

“From the ARCA perspective, yes, it would be cool for ARCA to share that platform. And remember, for about 40 years, ARCA shared Daytona International Speedway with the Clash. We ran on the same day. So it wouldn’t be totally unprecedented.”

At least two ARCA owner/drivers are also supportive of the idea.

“I am 100% for it,” Willie Mullins says. “If West went out to the Coliseum to race, I would be out there racing with them. I love the idea; I know it’s very far-fetched for that to ever happen, but I am for it.

“It’s the LA Coliseum. It’s the Bowman Gray Stadium of the West. It’s so special. In your lifetime, you only get to go to so many special tracks. Daytona is a special track, there’s a couple of them that are and the LA Coliseum has so much history that it would be an unbelievable event to attend.”

“I think it would have the potential for being a huge event for ARCA on that stage,” Greg Van Alst agrees. “I would do everything I could to make that a race on our team’s schedule.”

Unfortunately, for main-series teams, it’d be expensive to go to the Coliseum. From ARCA home racetrack Toledo Speedway to the LA Coliseum, it’s approximately 2,250 miles. Traveling to the LA Coliseum from Charlotte Motor Speedway, located near the hub for many NASCAR race teams, is even farther at about 2,450.

“The purse wouldn’t cover even the travel out there,” Mullins adds. “But it’s one of those things you could possibly sell sponsorship to. Your TV ratings probably would be pretty good. So, you could have some marketing partners come on board to help you cover the expenses to go West. There are a lot of different things you could do to make it happen. If it became a main ARCA race, that would help with the purse and some things like that.”

Mullins is a native of Fredericksburg, Va. Fellow full-time ARCA team owner/driver Alex Clubb, hailing from Morris, Ill., says he hopes the main series doesn’t compete at the Coliseum.

“If it was a main series combo race we would have to,” he says. “If it was optional, we would not. Just the cost of getting out that way is so expensive. You’re looking at a $10,000 trip before you get to the track for a small team. We can travel to four or five races in the Midwest for that price.

“If we did compete there we would have to go because we are a full-time team, but two West Coast races would be very rough financially for us. We don’t have huge budgets. If it happens, I hope it’s a non-points optional event or pays around $7,500 to start.”

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Indeed, the main series competes in a combination race with the West series at Phoenix Raceway. As a result, main-series teams would travel cross country twice, quite a costly venture. Adding the Coliseum to its slate would be detrimental to Clubb’s team.

“It wouldn’t hurt the bigger teams but the little guys like us will lose a lot of our yearly budget to travel that far twice,” he says. “I think we would probably drop to part time and skip LA and Phoenix if it was going to be a regular thing. We could travel to 10 races throughout the year vs. those two.”

For the West teams, though they are based closer to the Coliseum, they also compete at Irwindale Speedway. The half-mile short track has hosted West 32 times, and it is 23 miles — slightly more than a half-hour drive — away from the Coliseum. That’s a relationship ARCA officials aren’t willing to jeopardize.

“We have a long-running and successful relationship with Irwindale Speedway,” Krall says. “I don’t know if taking that event and adding it to the Clash weekend would help or hurt Irwindale. I don’t know that you want to add that race without knowing for sure that it would help. It’s certainly an idea worthy of discussion.”

Half the size of Irwindale, the Coliseum would likely produce some exciting ARCA racing. Mullins has enjoyed some short track racing success in his ARCA career. In his main-series and ARCA Menards Series East career, Mullins has one top five and four top 10s. Fielding an underdog part-time team, Mullins says he foresees an ARCA event at the Coliseum as an opportunity for the underdogs to go toe-to-toe with top organizations.

“I think especially in the first year everybody would have an equal chance out there,” he continues. “It would be like anytime you go to a new track, it’s an equalizer especially since Cup has only been there once. If ARCA went out there, it would be an equalizer for all of us. Go out there, have some fun and hopefully get some of our East Coast friends to come run out there with the West.”

Though Cup drivers only raced there in 2022, Mullins says he views the racing there like the racing at Bowman Gray Stadium: “Drivers tested the Next Gen car out at Bowman Gray. So you know it would be very similar.”

The Clash didn’t have live pit stops, only a halftime break. There are competition cautions in main-series races. Moreover, both the East and West series will race at two racetracks without any pit stops, except in emergency situations, at All-American Speedway and Flat Rock Speedway. The Coliseum could host an ARCA event without pit stops.

“It’d be just like a regular Saturday night feature,” Krall says.

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The main series debuts a new TV schedule for its 2023 season, with all 20 races set to be broadcast on either FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2.

“Hypothetically, it would be a very big jolt to the West Series,” Krall emphasizes. “That’s a series that’s been around since 1954. To my knowledge, I don’t think it’s ever had a standalone race that has been nationally televised. They certainly have been televised on a tape-delayed basis. It would be a huge shot in the arm for those teams.

“That said, the package that we have with live on FloRacing and delayed races on USA Network, those ratings have been very solid. In fact, in 2022, they were probably beyond our expectations. So, we do have a very solid television platform for East and West right now. Still, any live national TV exposure would go a long way for anybody and that’s why we’re so excited with the FS1/FS2 package for the main series in 2023. It’s great to have all 20 races on that national platform that has that household penetration that FOX Sports gets. It would be terrific for the West series, hypothetically of course.”

Mullins says he is also thrilled about the new TV deal.

“It’s huge,” he says. “Anytime we can get same day or next day coverage for ARCA live events, it brings our live races to fans who want to see it right then. Anytime we can get live in front of our fans is a great opportunity for us.

While the notion of an ARCA West event at the LA Coliseum would have its challenges, is it something series officials are considering in the future?

“For now, it’s just something we’re talking about in the extreme hypothetical,” Krall stresses. “I’m the play-by-play voice for the East and the West series. I’ve got a lot of affection for the teams, drivers, and crew members who participate in those series and I would love it for those folks to get that national platform on their own. Yet I don’t get that feeling. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but I don’t get the feeling that this will happen in the near future.”

When the checkered flag flies ending the Clash, a Cup return to the Coliseum is possible. Just don’t expect ARCA or ARCA West to join Cup there. Krall says the Cup drivers ought to be the lone stars in the LA area.

“There’s also something to be said about just having the headline act,” he continues. “If you go to most World of Outlaw sprint car races, there’s no second division; it’s just the World of Outlaws. There’s something to be said for that.”

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

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