NASCAR strayed well off the beaten path — and tradition — by moving the 2022 preseason Clash away from Daytona with no points and onto a ¼-mile asphalt oval built from the ground up, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built.
The veteran driver, who grew up in Bakersfield, California — a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles — said he was impressed by his first experience on track Saturday at what NASCAR had created.
“Well first just the courage it took NASCAR to take the plunge and attempt an event like this and then see how practice went and how smoothly everything went,” Harvick said. “The open doors are now wide open.
“I think if you look at that particular facility, what I remember most is Mickey Thompson’s off-road trucks jumping out of the top over there. Motorcycles and these SUVs are what I saw here.
“Obviously it’s an iconic place and for me I feel close to home and know I have a lot of friends and family who are just fascinated by the event.”
Harvick, in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, finished second fastest in Saturday’s practice sessions which, contrary to many predictions, ended relatively accident-free due to the tight racing conditions.
Already a success
According to Harvick, the Clash’s move to a new location and track has already proven that the event is a success.
“The excitement of the event is really the most valuable part of the event, not only for what we do as teams, but also for our sponsors and new fans and for the sport in general,” he said. “This is the kind of event that you have to blow out of the water early in the season to get the eyeballs and the people and you all to show up because it’s different.
“This is the world we live in. We live in a different world and try new things and having the courage to do it is sometimes hard, but the rewards on the other hand are pretty big when it works.”
When asked if Sunday’s Main Event drivers were responsible for putting together a good race, Harvick said he believed NASCAR had already “won” the weekend.
“I don’t think you can screw it up personally at this point,” he said. “The event is here. The racetrack didn’t fly high. The training went well. The cars have all made the curves. People passed each other.
“If you look at all that happened, the amount of tickets and media passes and all that stuff, you can’t screw it up at this point. This is my opinion.”
Harvick was far from alone in feeling that way after Saturday’s practice session.2
“It is great”
Reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson was equally impressed.
“I think it is awesome; all about it. Staging outside, driving through the tunnel, coming out – it all has a bit of that grassroots feeling,” he said. “I feel like NASCAR has done a great job with the circuit and so far I have no really worrisome comments.
“I feel like most of the time we drivers think we’re a lot smarter than NASCAR and we could have done a better job than them at whatever they do. Hats off to NASCAR and what they did to build a racetrack here.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I know it’s going to be a great event.”