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When NASCAR first decided last season to create a ¼-mile track from scratch inside a sporting venue, Harvick was no fan of the idea.
“I had anticipated it being a complete joke, to be honest,” said Harvick, who is entering his final fulltime season in the NASCAR Cup Series. “But after practicing and running the race, it was probably the most fun that I had all year because the cars raced so well.
“You could beat and bang, and the race track was actually pretty racy. As you look back on it, it was definitely a fun experience.”
A resounding success
More than 70 percent of ticket buyers from 2022 event were first-time ticket buyers to a NASCAR-owned event. The race received a 2.32 TV rating with more than 4.3 million viewers and it was the most-viewed Clash since 2016 with viewership numbers up 168 percent over 2021.
NASCAR and coliseum officials took notice and thought so highly of the event as an unofficial kickoff to the season that they decided to come back for a second visit, which takes place at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday (Fox Sports).
Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images
“It all worked out better than everybody anticipated. When you look at the event itself, especially in Los Angeles, it’s just tough to have anything that’s really impactful,” Harvick said.
“But that event for us was really impactful, and it was in a market where we tend to struggle a bit to get big audiences and grab the attention of the media during that particular time. For us, there wasn’t anything at the Coliseum that wasn’t a success last year.”
Harvick said the timing of the Clash – two weeks before the season officially starts at Daytona and during the “off weekend” before the Super Bowl – worked well.
“It really allows us to get a jumpstart on the season, and it leads into some storylines and other things while there’s a little bit of a break in the football season, because we all know that football is king, right?” he said.
“Football has got the most eyeballs on it and the most things going on, and putting that right in Fox’s backyard there in California and being able to put on an event like that – and we also had the Super Bowl there last year – to make the impact we did with all that was going on in L.A. was a big deal.
“So, for me, there’s not anything more you can do to kick off the season and make it any bigger than how we’re doing it at the Coliseum.”
As for this year’s event, Harvick said Cup teams’ year of experience with the Next Gen car combined with having run the event once before could well spice up the action.
“I think everybody’s going to be much more confident in how their cars race,” he said/ “Everybody knows it’s going to be a good event, and I think as you look at the racing, as long as the race track gets built the same, I think it’ll produce another good show.”