Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: A New Home for the Clash?

Over the last few years, as NASCAR has gotten more and more diverse with its schedule, fans have speculated about tracks that would either return to the Cup Series schedule or have a chance of hosting a Cup Series race for the first time.

First, it was North Wilkesboro Speedway, which beat the odds, got the facelift it needed and returned to the NASCAR schedule in 2023, hosting the NASCAR All-Star Race and a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. It will return to host both events again for 2024, and rumors have swirled that it’s on its way to hosting a points-paying Cup race for the first time since 1996.

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Aside from North Wilkesboro, there’s the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, which has been fighting a litany of protesters just to remain open, let alone host a NASCAR race. NASCAR already has a presence in the city, running at Nashville Superspeedway in nearby Lebanon, so its not too far-fetched to say the Superspeedway is a holdover until the Fairgrounds are ready — if that day comes.

Then there’s been hope that Rockingham Speedway would return to the schedule after the track received financial backing to get a facelift similar to, but not quite as extreme as North Wilkesboro. Meanwhile, Iowa Speedway finally got the Cup date it had yearned for over the last decade, while the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was rumored to join Iowa on the 2024 schedule before that ultimately fell through — though the option is still on the table for 2025.

But in the midst of all these hopes of tracks coming back, one track that sits fairly close to NASCAR’s home base of Charlotte has largely been overlooked for a return to the schedule.

On Thursday, March 21, it was announced that NASCAR had acquired Winston-Salem Speedway Inc., and with it, the rights to manage the racing operations at the historic Bowman Gray Stadium. The deal runs through 2050 (boy that’s a long time).

Bowman Gray is a quarter-mile bullring that surrounds the football field of Winston-Salem State University. In essence, if you’ve ever looked at your high school or college track-and-field track and thought that an auto race could be held on it, you’ve described Bowman Gray to a ‘T.’

The track was a mainstay on the NASCAR schedule in its infant years, hosting Grand National races from 1958-1971. It was the site of “The Race that Nobody Won,” otherwise known as Bobby Allison‘s 85th win. It also hosted the K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series East) from 2011-2015, which included a fierce battle in 2012 with a sold-out crowd for a feeder series race.

The track also hosts NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series races and has done so for almost all of its history.

But now with NASCAR taking full control of racing operations of the track, don’t overlook Bowman Gray as a potential addition to the schedule in 2025 or 2026.

However (big however), don’t count on it being a points race.

The Busch Light Clash has been held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, another quarter-mile track, however temporary, that takes place at another college football venue — the L.A. Coliseum is home to the USC Trojans.

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However, this season, which marked the series’ third venture to the Coliseum, questions loomed about the future of the Clash and where it would be held. It didn’t help that NASCAR changed the scheduling at the last second and pushed the Clash (and the NASCAR Mexico Series support race) up from Sunday to Saturday to avoid potential weather.

But even without the schedule change, the future of the Clash at the Coliseum has been left largely uncertain. NASCAR COO Steve O’Donnell has mentioned that relocation of the Clash is possible.

Now, I’m a proprietor of putting the Clash back at Daytona International Speedway, where only pole winners and previous Clash winners duke it out for 20 laps with $50,000 on the line, like the old days. But if we insist on having the Clash at a short track, Bowman Gray could be the answer.

When you have one of NASCAR’s most influential figures in Dale Earnhardt Jr. wondering the same thing, there’s serious potential that it could become reality. And if there’s anyone who can convince NASCAR to go this route, it would be Earnhardt.

Bowman Gray, like the L.A. Coliseum, is a quarter-mile long. However, unlike the Coliseum, Bowman Gray is essentially purpose-built to host racing. The resources are there. NASCAR knows how to run races there, as it has never stopped hosting at least Weekly Series races at the venue.

If NASCAR insists on keeping the Clash on the short track, the format it uses in L.A. could easily translate over to Bowman Gray. Try as it might, NASCAR will not be fitting 40 cars on track at the same time. It will have to run another 20-22-car field like it does in LA.

Not to mention, Bowman Gray actually hosted a tire test in preparation for the first iteration of the Clash at the Coliseum in 2022. In late 2021, Earnhardt, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer took to The Madhouse to help Goodyear put together a tire capable of holding up in L.A.

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With NASCAR acquiring the racing operations of Bowman Gray, the pieces are all there: an uncertain future in L.A., a similar track layout, and data from the track to support L.A.

Plus, there’s one last big thing that could get people behind the idea: cost. Bowman Gray is only around an hour from Charlotte Motor Speedway, around the same distance as it is to North Wilkesboro, which currently holds the All-Star Race. Why make teams drive all the way across the country for an exhibition race when they can go an hour north and save time, money and resources?

And it would be more reasonable to host the Clash the Sunday before the Daytona 500 (or Saturday night if Super Bowl Sunday conflicts) instead of two Sundays before. Plus, more team members that usually don’t travel to races can come out and watch.

So while North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, Montreal, Iowa and Nashville Fairgrounds have gotten the majority of attention in regard to reviving racetracks, Bowman Gray has gone largely overlooked. Until now.

The evidence supports it. It’s more than reasonable to think that Bowman Gray Stadium could host the Clash in 2025.

It just makes too much sense.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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4 Comments
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Jeff H

Hmm, have you checked the weather? Average Feb temp for Winston-Salem is 43 degrees. The Clash really needs to be in a place that typically has a warmer average temp.

Christopher

The Clash should be at Homestead…or just terminated as a waste of time and money for teams

DoninAjax

Maybe a home for the “All-Star” farce before the World 600?

Christopher

“Now, I’m a proprietor of putting the Clash back at Daytona International Speedway…” You’re a proprietor of an idea? You own the idea, do you?

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