NASCAR takeaways: Martin Truex Jr. back in win column after caution-filled Clash
LOS ANGELES – Martin Truex Jr. emerged as the survivor of the Clash, an exhibition race riddled with spins Sunday night as drivers tried to navigate the temporary quarter-mile oval built inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The keyword: tried. The drivers never got in a rhythm as they played bumper cars with each other, resulting in 16 cautions over the race, a 150-lap affair where caution laps didn’t count.
“You’re just sliding so bad on restarts that guys would get in the corner and they’re locking the brakes, they can’t turn,” Truex said. “So they’re just sliding into each other.”
Three takeaways from the Clash:
Truex Rebounds With Win
Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, went winless in 2022 and missed the Cup playoffs after a crazy regular-season finale at Daytona.
He’s been ready to get 2023 started to show that he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team could still win.
Truex led the final 25 laps after getting by Ryan Preece.
“Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins, and to come out here and kick it off this way, [I’m] really proud of all these guys,” Truex said. “Tonight was kind of persevere, not give up, just battle through and we found ourself in the end.”
Martin Truex Jr. wins the Clash
Martin Truex Jr. captured the Clash at the Coliseum after going winless in 2022.
Wallace Day Ends Sour
Bubba Wallace led 40 laps but after getting passed by Ryan Preece on Lap 83, he never could find his way back out front.
He tangled with Austin Dillon during some tight racing with seven laps remaining. After spinning into the wall, Wallace gave Dillon a bump under caution to show his displeasure.
“The 3 [Austin Dillon] just never tried to make a corner,” Wallace said. “He just always ran into my left rear. … I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on the restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.
Dillon: “Obviously Bubba knocked me through the corner. I was going to hit him back. Didn’t mean to turn him like that, but when it gets down to the end, I think everybody knows what’s going on, and that’s what you see at places like this.”
Wallace, and some other drivers, said despite the relatively low speeds, the hits in the car were significant.
“Back still hurts,” Wallace said. “Head still hurts.”
Clash at The Coliseum Highlights
Bubba Wallace was assertive in the beginning as he led 39 laps, but Martin Truex Jr. made it count where it mattered most as he led the final 25 laps for the win.
Logano Felt Bad For Busch
Joey Logano actually felt bad for his spin of Kyle Busch and was actually happy to see Busch rally to finish second.
“It was my mistake,” Logano said. “I don’t know why. It’s still kind of a mystery to me. … I had no rear grip and slid down into the 8 [of Busch]. Thankfully he was fast enough to get all the way back up there.
“I felt pretty bad. But I’m glad he was able to get back up there.”
Busch will remember the contact.
“He just flat-out drove through me,” Busch said. “So he’s got another one coming. I owe him a few.”
‘Tonight was to persevere and not give up’
Martin Truex Jr. reflected after he won the 2023 Clash at the Coliseum.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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