The St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are set to battle it out in a baseball contest on Friday, with an eye-catching backdrop: Busch Stadium, a former home for both teams. Here’s where things get unusual in NASCAR history…
The “la coliseum race track size” is a history of unusual NASCAR venues. The article discusses the history and size of the L.A. Coliseum, which is where the upcoming Busch Light Clash at L.A. Coliseum will be held on Saturday night.
“The Colosseum is a Roman amphitheater. Oh, you must go to the Colosseum… A total of 50,000 Romans. You’re keeping a close eye on your sword’s every move. I’m counting on you to deliver the decisive blow. Before you hit, there is quiet. And then there was the commotion. It begins to ascend. It rises as if it were a hurricane. As though you were the god of thunder.”
— Rome, Proximo to Maximus (from “Gladiator”)
“A baseball field, to be precise. They competed in a baseball field race. That baseball diamond was a sight to see. My father collided with a dugout.”
— Richard Petty, Randleman, North Carolina, to Ryan McGee
The Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this weekend has generated a lot of attention, and it should continue to do so. The event will be run in an old-school short-track stock car style, with single-car qualifying and heat races on Saturday, a last-chance qualifier on Sunday, and the main event — a 23-car, 150-lap cage battle — on Monday.
It will be held on a quarter-mile asphalt bullring built atop the playing field that is normally home to the USC Trojans, surrounded by 77,500 recently refurbished seats that have seen a World Series, Super Bowl I, two Summer Olympics (with another slated for 2028), as well as the X Games, the Monsters of Rock tour, and the Lingerie Bowl.
The Coliseum will now be the 16th stadium in California to host NASCAR’s top series, and the seventh in Southern California. Since Carrell Speedway, called the Gardena Bowl, held the fourth event of NASCAR’s third-ever Strictly Stock (now Cup) Series season, seven locations in the greater Los Angeles region have been invaded by different editions of the Cup Series. Unlike Sunday’s demonstration, the rest were all legitimate points-paying races held during regular-season seasons that had 40, 50, or even 60 events.
“They used to race anyplace and everywhere, dude,” adds His Royal Fastness, King Richard Petty, who has a total of 200 victories to his credit, including five victories at the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway in Southern California.
“When I was a kid watching Daddy (fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty) race, I used to think that if a community agreed to host NASCAR, NASCAR would come there. They also showed up in some unusual areas.”
What could be stranger than a football stadium in the heart of Los Angeles?
“Yeah, guy, that’s a lot stranger. Look it up on the internet.”
That is exactly what we did. So, to get you in the mood for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash, here’s a list of the strangest places that have ever crammed a bunch of chrome horns inside their establishment to go racing.
Fireball Roberts won the only Cup Series race held at Chicago’s Soldier Field. ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images
Chicago’s Soldier Field
Cup Series races are held on a half-mile paved oval inside a football stadium (1956)
Most people believe that the Chicago Bears’ home has always been the Chicago Bears’ home, yet the neoclassical column-lined stadium was built in 1924, and the Monsters of the Midway didn’t move in until 1971.
That’s almost half a century of available dates for anything from a football game between the Army and the Navy to the International Eucharistic Congress to, yes, car racing. There’s a lot of car racing. A cinder oval was built down around the perimeter of the football field in 1935, and it was paved in the 1950s. High-banked turns protruding out over the first few rows of end zone seating were built.
The racetrack earned a reputation for putting spectators in the grandstand too near to the machines they came to watch. Weekend racing at Soldier Field was promoted by Andy Granatelli, who is well known for inventing the iconic STP trademark in auto racing. Mr. 500 was also renowned for putting hockey-style thugs in the starting lineup to make things tough for the stars, as well as paying incentives to any driver willing to flip their vehicle or crash dramatically in order to get the audience pumped up. Fireball Roberts won his second of five races of the season on July 21, 1956, against a star-studded 25-car field and a prolonged rain storm.
In 1970, the racetrack was demolished to make way for the Bears’ relocation across town from Wrigley Field. Legendary stock car historian Greg Fielden famously wrote about the closure of Soldier Field’s oval, “Track taken away in 1970 after demonstrations by hippies who opposed to municipal support of auto racing,” which is arguably my favorite statement ever written about motorsports.
Richard Petty’s second Cup Series race took place at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, New York, and lasted 32 minutes. Getty Images/Focus on Sport
Buffalo, New York’s War Memorial Stadium
Cup Series races on a quarter-mile dirt paved track inside a football/baseball stadium: 1 (1958)
The Buffalo Bills played their home games at “The Rockpile,” which was also the home stadium of Robert Redford’s New York Knights in “The Natural.” Between its walls and the sides, it, like Soldier Field, had a cinder-turned-asphalt bullring. It featured sprint car races and two NASCAR events, the first of which was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly in 1956 in the Convertible Division (yeah, it was a thing).
Two summers later, Jim Reed won the third of his seven career Cup Series victories, all of which occurred in 1958-59. Because the race was 100 laps long, it was just 25 miles long, making it the shortest Cup Series race ever. It was 32 minutes long. Pit breaks had to be made across the parking lot at a National Guard installation because elbow space was so limited.
Richard Petty, a rookie making just his second Cup Series appearance at the time, says, “That race was gone so damned quick I thought the caution had come out, but it was the checkered flag.” Father Lee came in sixth place. The track was demolished the following summer to make way for the Bills and the AFL, a NASCAR-style fast downfield offensive football extravaganza.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s Bowman-Gray Stadium
Cup Series races on quarter-mile asphalt inside a college football stadium: 29 (1958-71)
While we’re all gushing about the Coliseum hosting college football and then transforming into a quarter-mile asphalt oval before returning to become a college stadium, the people at “The Madhouse” are wondering, “WTH?! We do it all the time!”
Bowman-Gray Stadium, on the east side of Winston-Salem, initially hosted Wake Forest Demon Deacons football games in 1937, and then added car races around the football field shortly after. Junior Johnson, the subject of the film “The Last American Hero,” won a race only two weeks before Brian Piccolo, the subject of the film “Brian’s Song,” began his season as the nation’s leading rusher and scorer. Although the Deacons relocated to a new stadium in 1967 and The Madhouse held its last Cup race in 1971, the NASCAR Weekly Series still races at BGS every summer and the Winston Salem State Rams have played football there every autumn since 1956. In 2007, WSSU established a motorsports management program, which has since put scores of students in positions with NASCAR teams.
Portland Drive-In Speedway is a racetrack in Portland, Oregon.
Cup Series races on a half-mile paved oval/drive-in movie theater: 7 (1956-57)
The flat, forested fairgrounds track was notable for a manhole cover that located directly in the midst of the racing groove at the exit of Turn 4 and was eventually dubbed simply Portland Speedway. Anyone who came before it closed in the late 1990s knows that the actual star of the show was the enormous movie screen just off the backstretch where they displayed the stars. When the vehicles weren’t racing, they were parked in rows in the racecourse infield, full of residents watching movies at Portland’s popular drive-in cinema.
San Mateo, California’s Bay Meadows Race Track
Cup Series races: 3 on a 1-mile dirt oval horse racing track (1954-56)
Horse tracks offering horsepower were formerly widespread everywhere from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Las Vegas (where the Hilton currently stands) to Moyock, North Carolina’s Dog Track Speedway. It’s logical. Auto racers favored dirt surfaces back then, and the equestrian world had plenty of ready-made venues. West Coasters Herschel McGriff and Eddie Pagan, as well as NASCAR Hall of Famer Tim Flock, won two IndyCar races and three Cup Series races at one of the Bay Area’s historic horse racing grounds. Flock is renowned for driving about in his automobile with a pet monkey named Jocko Flocko, complete with a helmet and outfit. So it’s reasonable to assume the animal lover would have adored the idea that he stood in the same winner’s circle as Seabiscuit twice previously in 1955.
Asheville, North Carolina’s McCormick Field
Cup Series races are held on a quarter-mile asphalt oval atop a baseball field (1958)
Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Stargell, and Todd Helton have all hit home runs into the trees beyond the outfield fences of the Asheville Tourists, a long-time famed minor league baseball club. However, the 32-year-old facility was without a baseball tenant in 1956. As a result, race organizers from neighboring Wilkesboro, North Carolina, leased it, and a quarter-mile racetrack was meticulously constructed around the infield diamond. Banjo Matthews, Ned Jarrett, and Ralph Earnhardt, who was frequently accompanied by his young son Dale, dominated two seasons of racing at McCormick Field.
It was difficult to find my way about McCormick. When someone lost control and drove over the infield by jumping the tire barrier, the stadium groundskeeper would follow them down aggressively. Lee Petty lost control of his Oldsmobile and crashed into a dugout in the lone Cup Series race, which was won by Jim Pachal. The racetrack was demolished when baseball resumed in 1959, but fragments of leftover asphalt may still be seen in the trees around the stadium, and the concrete racetrack retaining wall is now the foundation of the left field fence.
NASCAR’s race at Linden Airport featured American stock cars and foreign sports cars, and it was won by Al Keller in a Jaguar. ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images
Linden Airport is located in Linden, New Jersey.
Cup Series events on a 2-mile paved airport runway road course: 1 (1954)
From the 1.6-mile road course run up and down the Titusville-Cocoa Airport in Florida (winner Fireball Roberts, 1957) to the Montgomery Air Base in New York, which strung together three runways to create a Pocono-like triangle with chicanes added in the corners, races on airport runways were surprisingly common back in the day (Rex White won there in 1960).
The first genuine road course race in NASCAR, though, was conducted on tarmac. On the 13th of June, 1954, 43 automobiles zigzagged their way across the runways of an airport in Staten Island. From the racing style to the race vehicles themselves, the whole event was unique. NASCAR, which was created on the very particular notion of displaying American-built sedans, opted to open the 100-mile road race to sports cars, including convertibles.
As a consequence, MGs, Porsches, Jaguars, and Morgan Roadsters shared the road alongside Buck Baker’s Oldsmobile, Herb Thomas’ Hudson Hornet, and Lee Petty’s Dodge. Al Keller won $1,000 in a Jaguar, marking the first win for a foreign car manufacturer in NASCAR’s six-year existence and the first non-domestic vehicle to win in the Cup Series in over 55 years, until Kyle Busch won in a Toyota Camry at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 9, 2008.
Racing the Beach & Road Course at Daytona took guts. ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images
Beach & Road Course, Daytona, Florida
The asphalt and sand road track is 4.17 miles long. 10 races in the Cup Series (1949-1958)
The oddest NASCAR track is also the most popular among true old-school racers and spectators. The track was inaugurated in 1936, a decade before NASCAR was established in the neighboring Streamline Hotel. The crown jewel of the initial Daytona Speedweeks, the new sanctioning body’s marquee event, was staged on a paperclip of a circuit that went 2 miles south on the gritty, bouncy blacktop of Highway A1A, then turned left to slide out into the beaches of Daytona Beach. Then they raced 2 miles north on that sand, skirting ocean water at speeds of over 100 mph before tossing it back out into the highway and beginning anew.
“The biggest challenge I had racing on the beach was the guts,” Tim Flock explained to me in 1998. He won back-to-back races on the Beach & Road Course in 1955-56 before NASCAR moved to the brand-new Daytona International Speedway in ’59. “I don’t mean my guts as a race car driver. I mean actual guts. If you were leading the start of the race and were the first car to race out onto the beach, you’d end up driving through a bunch of seagulls and there’d end up being guts and feathers everywhere.”
We have no clue what will happen when NASCAR takes the green flag at the L.A. Coliseum this weekend, but we do know it will be different. It’ll be strange. The King, on the other hand, is correct. It won’t get much stranger than that.
The “la coliseum nascar layout” is a history of unusual NASCAR venues. The article includes the list of some of the most notable racetracks in NASCAR history.
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