LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The first sign of the new Next Gen car for NASCAR buried inside the LA Coliseum for a pre-season race proved to be a success for the sport in the Busch Light Clash.
Joey Logano took the checkered flag in a non points race prior to the official season opener in two weeks at the Daytona 500.
The quarter mile track was new for the venue, primarily known as the home for USC football.
The track construction began in December and was ready for the highly promoted race this week.
After a series of heat races, the 150-lap main event in front of an estimated 50,000 fans brought an array of thrills. That included live performances by entertainers Pit Bull and Ice Cube.
Logano's win came in front of Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and the 2021 champion Kyle Larson.
Among those in the stands, David Gasper, the California Lightning Spring Champion from Santa Barbara. "It's real tight," he said and the track size created "good racing."
He thought it would "turn people who aren't necessarily race fans, into race fans."
Gasper picked up his championship trophy Saturday night not far from downtown LA in Cerritos and finished off the weekend with the Clash with his family and friends.
Nearby in the stands, were Edmund and Maureen Daugherty from Goleta.
They said the demographics showed a new cross section for the sport. "It's a huge mix," said Edmund who thought the unique race was positive for the sport overall along with the fan base. He also pointed out the costs of tickets for racing is substantially lower than many other pro sports, and there are family packages.
"Drivers are very approachable they are always open to signing autographs. The same with the owners," said Edmund.
His mother said her first race was the Daytona 500 in 1968 and she still attends many races annually, including the Auto Club 400 an hour away in Fontana.
The entertainment shows added to the Clash were a draw for some of the fans, said Maureen. "It's fun and it brought a lot of people in. There were a fair amount of people here for that, than the cars."
With the tight design of the small track, fans quickly realized the intense sound of the competition with race cars powered by 670 horsepower engines. The quarter mile size did not generate typical speeds over 150 miles and hour but that didn't take away from the on track competition.
The event also featured the symbolic lighting of the Olympic flame at the peristyle entrance to the Coliseum, by NASCAR Hall of Fame legend Jeff Gordon.
As the weekend racing concluded NASCAR executives said they were hoping sports fans and analysts would recognize the popularity of the sport compared to "the big four", pro football, basketball, baseball and hockey.
The enthusiasm around the Coliseum along with people having fun at the race including the fan zone, proved to be a rewarding report card for event.
Logano said, "it was a big win for our sport."