Clash at the Coliseum Diary: Part Three

DPC headed west to cover the NASCAR Cup Series Clash at the Coliseum. Part two of his opus is available here.

It’s about 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. It’s race day and I have a little more pep in my step as I make my way to the lobby. Even after having a cup of weak coffee my energy is up and I’m excited to go to work.

Holding a NASCAR race in downtown Los Angeles at a venue built a century ago is a complicated exercise. The L.A. Coliseum has minimal parking near it, there is no open area due to its urban setting and it is half a mile away from USC’s campus. That’s a perfect storm for never finding a parking spot, or finding one at a reasonable price, and as a result I ordered a Lyft.  

 Clash at the Coliseum
Sunday morning at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Photo by David P. Castro)

I waited for the Lyft on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and a gentleman asked if I was waiting for the NASCAR shuttle to the L.A. Coliseum and mentioned it was running late. I let him know I was taking a Lyft to the race and he could bum a ride with me. He accepted and a few minutes later we were on our way. Despite never meeting each other before there was a natural kinship between a NASCAR employee in the production department and motorsports reporter. It was one of those impromptu meetings where you both speak the same language and have similar professional experiences.

Our chatter was all work related about the hours we keep, parking at NASCAR tracks, and food served in the media center. The chatter probably bored our Lyft driver but I found it engaging. Eventually the Prius stopped outside the L.A. Coliseum and we disembarked with simple goodbyes and wishes for good luck at work on race day. Like many folks I meet on business trips they briefly appear, then disappear forever, and then I have an existential crisis on my inability to make strong relationships with people. Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club often comes to mind from moments like this:

Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends. – Fight Club

My inability to develop and maintain relationships goes out the window after I go through security and see the L.A. Coliseum up close. Even after spending the last couple of days at the two-time Olympic venue it still maintains a sense of awe because of its size and history. I won’t go into the great athletic moments at the Coliseum, however when you host two Olympics and USC football you get a lot of significant sports history moments, which would explain why I saw Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez at the race.

By 10:00 a.m. fans were entering the Coliseum at a steady pace. Qualifying for The Clash wasn’t scheduled to begin until 2:00 p.m. but the fans were prompt and among the steady stream of older fans in Dale Earnhardt jackets or Tony Stewart Home Depot gear there were a lot of younger folks in Bubba Wallace or Daniel Suarez shirts. I’ve been going to NASCAR races since the early 2000s and the lack of diversity among the fan base was always apparent and that was a reflection of drivers in any NASCAR series. Keep in mind that Jeff Gordon was considered an outsider during the early part of his career due to his California roots, and this notion continued with Juan Pablo Montoya and then Danica Patrick.

Clash at the Coliseum
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on race day (Photo by David P. Castro)

Montoya and Patrick helped pave the way for Suarez and Wallace. There is a concept that one is more inclined to watch a sport when the athletes involved resemble the fanbase. I have no idea if this is true or not, but the idea comes up when discussing race and gender in sports and it makes sense to me. You need someone to relate to and that’s why I’ve gravitated towards Montoya, Patrick, Suarez, and Wallace. They’ve always been outsiders and I often feel like one as a multi-ethnic (White mom and Mexican dad) liberal from Northern California with a lot of tattoos that is a NASCAR fan and reporter. That’s a mouth full and I hate labels, but I feel it’s ok if I give them to myself.

However, walking around the Coliseum I saw more folks that looked like me with poor tattoo choices, questionable fashion style (Like Speech from Arrested Development I consider myself a “fashion misfit”), and an overall vibe that goes against preconceived notions of NASCAR fans. This is progress. This is inclusion.

NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative is working but there is still a long way to go, but each day I spent at The Clash gave me some hope.

To be continued…

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series continues with the Daytona 500 airing on Fox at 1:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, February 19th.

The Journal

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