DPC headed west last weekend to cover the NASCAR Cup Series Clash at the Coliseum. Part one of his opus is available here.
Friday night was a pretty dull affair. After driving in from Phoenix, checking out the L.A. Coliseum and attending a Fox Sports press conference I headed out and checked into my hotel. California is my home, but my abode is north, and I can’t get around Southern California without a map. With Google Maps I eventually found the hotel and checked in. Feeling hungry I headed out and got some Subway for dinner and a lot of snacks from Target. I travel a bit for work and to keep expenditures down I hit up a Walgreens or a Target to load up on snacks after I check into a hotel. It alleviates any temptation to use the mini bar or the overpriced hotel gift shop. That’s a pro tip from a frugal business traveler that likes junk food.
The life of a motorsports journalist on the road is not an exotic adventure of drama and mystery. Quite the opposite because at the end of the day you can find me in my hotel room watching Netflix and eating take out. I’d like to portray myself as an adventurous dude finding wisdom on the road like David Carradine in Kung Fu, but after reading any of my previous diary posts we both know that is not the case. At 44 my adventurous nights are long gone. I don’t need to close the bar, and I prefer a quiet evening eating a turkey sandwich and watching that Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion. When did I become such a responsible and lame dude? A namesake, two marriages, a mortgage and pets created this boring DPC and I am good with my less than exciting evenings on the road. There won’t be any Fear and Loathing In Los Angeles for this reporter.
I slept well, woke up refreshed and was back at the L.A. Coliseum by 10:00 a.m. This Saturday afternoon would be a light affair with press conferences starting at 12:45 and in many ways folks are getting settled in and preparing for a long stretch, like a calm before the storm. I used this downtime to explore the garage area, and in the process I cleared my head and gathered some level of focus before work.
The first press conference was with Auto Club Speedway president Dave Allen and focused on the Fontana, California two-mile low-banked oval racetrack. Truthfully, it’s a dull track without a lot of flavor or character and reminds me of a subdivision in Glendale, Arizona as a well-planned and designed track but lifeless and dull. It lacks character in the same manner as the cookie cutter, multi-use stadiums like Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium. But Auto Club Speedway’s dullness is being rectified with a major remodeling plan that will make it a short track, however final designs haven’t been completed and 2023 is the last time it will be used under its configuration. At this point it’s unclear when the renovation will be complete but it might be ready by 2024, or maybe 2025. I’ve had a few home projects where the completion date always gets pushed back and now I can relate to a racetrack in Fontana, California.
I’m a fan of Auto Club Speedway’s renovation project. Even with the improved on-track competition from the NexGen car I find a lot of racing on larger ovals boring and short-track racing usually gives us a lot of motorsports action. I love Bristol and I imagine I’ll dig a smaller Auto Club Speedway.
The pressers continued with Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing fielding questions from the media. There were no grand revelations during their press conference, just a lot of boilerplate answers from the trio about the Clash and the 2023 season. I’ve sat through a lot of press conferences in my career and for the most part it involves a lot of cliché answers from the players and coaches. You rarely get controversial answers because there is about 15-minutes between the end of the game or race and the start of the press conference. This break usually gives athletes a chance to settle down before taking questions from the media and you get more subdued answers as a result. I absolutely understand having that gap and if I was in a similar position, I’d like to be offered the same courtesy. I never blame someone for giving dull answers at a presser because honest and emotional responses lead to controversy and that’s just another headache to deal with. However, my job as a reporter is easier when someone goes off the rails when fielding questions from the media after a race or game, but this is a rare occurrence.
After JGR, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson took their turn at bat. As previously noted, Chase Elliott and I have an funky history. He has no idea who I am but when our paths cross his track performance drops. I interviewed him on August 30, 2022 before a charity luncheon and in his next race (The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington) he finished 36th under NASCAR’s Damage Vehicle Policy. In the next eight races he had an average finish of 13.9, but drove well enough to qualify for the championship race at Phoenix. Elliott qualified 5th and was running well in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series grand finale but with 113-laps remaining his No.9 Chevy was bumped by Ross Chastain and spun out of control into the wall ending his championship hopes. This incident occurred about 100-feet away from me when I left the media center to get some fresh air. I guess my mere presence is a kybosh to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champ. This theory has no scientific merit and is largely circumstantial but Elliott did finish 21st at the 2023 Clash.
The Clash at the Coliseum press conferences continued with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney chatting it up about Team Penske and then Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick closed out the afternoon of media access. And just like that everyone went their separate ways to get ready for practice and then qualifying. I headed downstairs and went back to my perch overlooking the L.A. Coliseum in the press box. I had some downtime and used it to catch up on work and check out the Phoenix Suns trade rumors. It was quiet and the press box was largely empty, but this peace wouldn’t last with qualifying a couple of hours away.
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.