New-look Logano leads NASCAR back to the L.A. Coliseum
By JENNA FRYER
LOS ANGELES (AP) Joey Logano arrived at the first event of the season with a jet black shock of thick hair and a banner in the grandstands advertising the company that treated NASCAR's reigning champion for alopecia and early baldness.
"Ask Joey!" the company Hairclub urged on a banner draped in the lower bowl of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The voluminous locks on the two-time champion has been the talk of NASCAR's offseason, a short break from the December awards ceremony to Sunday's exhibition Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.
In the eight weeks since he picked up his second Cup and Saturday, when he pulled his No. 2 Team Penske Ford into the Coliseum, Logano underwent a procedure that has given him a full head of hair for the first time in a decade.
He did not reveal Saturday if he received implants, but raved about the change in his appearance. Logano also said many drivers have reached out to him with questions since he revealed his new look.
"They had a fix for me, probably have a fix for everybody, and so I look 10 years younger," said the 32-year-old father of three. "I'm like the old days again. I'm back. I look better and I feel good."
Logano opens his championship reign where it began last season: Logano was the winner of last year's inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. It was a radical experiment that NASCAR tried by shifting its exhibition opening race from its only previous home at Daytona International Speedway to a temporary track built inside the iconic University of Southern California football stadium.
NASCAR added a halftime show performed by Ice Cube, filled the stands with a younger, curious audience, and succeeded with a flawless show.
"Last year, this was one of the biggest risks, if not the biggest risk, our sport has ever taken," said Logano. "I was very nervous. This could be really bad for the sport, and it was great. I would almost look at winning the Clash last year as one of my biggest victories, and I don't think there's many non-points paying races that you'd ever say that about."
So it was somewhat quizzical that NASCAR would return to the Coliseum for a second year and try to duplicate that success on Sunday. The event is a warm-up for the season-opening Feb. 19 Daytona 500, but after the Coliseum worked so well last year, NASCAR theoretically was emboldened to try something entirely different.
"I think this has opened a lot of doors that in the past probably weren't expected to be open, because when I came here last year, I really thought this was going to be a joke," Kevin Harvick said. "And it was one of the races that I probably had the most fun at last year. The atmosphere, it was a great event, and I think coming back this year, everybody is looking forward to it."
NASCAR for this second edition booked Cypress Hill for the pre-race concert and Wiz Khalifa will play the halftime show. Cheat Codes, a popular DJ group, will entertain during caution breaks Dixie D'Amelio is scheduled for a special performance. Rob Lowe is the grand marshal.
NASCAR has put mufflers on the cars for Sunday to dull the grumble and give spectators an opportunity to both carry on conversations inside the Coliseum and enjoy the musical acts.
The tweak is another attempt by NASCAR to break from its mold and reach new audiences. It will do it again in July when NASCAR runs its first-ever street race in downtown Chicago. NASCAR has committed to using mufflers in Chicago, too.
But returning to the Coliseum for a second year might also be calculated.
Dave Allen, the president of Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana, said Saturday the track will not host any racing in 2024 as it renovates into a new configuration. Allen couldn't even guarantee the track will be ready by 2025.
Before the Clash came to Los Angeles last year, the race at Auto Club was NASCAR's only stop in Southern California. It could be that the Coliseum in 2024 hosts a points-paying Cup race to maintain NASCAR's presence in the area as the Fontana track is renovated.
"I think it's a great venue," said Brad Keselowski, co-owner of RFK Racing. "The potential is here to do so many different things - points races or carry the idea to other venues. I think it's certainly in one year's time earned a lot of respect within the industry that opens up numerous doors and opportunities.
"How that plays forward, I know I'm pretty open-minded to it as both a driver and an owner and look forward to see it play out."
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Updated February 5, 2023