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, a lap-riddled exhibition race on Sunday night as drivers attempted to navigate the temporary quarter-mile oval built inside the Los Angeles. Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The keyword: tried. The drivers never picked up the pace as they played bumper cars with each other, resulting in 16 cautions during the race, a 150-lap affair where caution laps didn’t count.

“You slide so badly on the restart that guys get into the corner and lock the brakes, they can’t turn,” Truex said. “So they just slide into each other.”

Three takeaways from The Clash:

Truex rebounds with victory

Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, went winless in 2022 and missed the Cup playoffs after a wild regular-season finale at Daytona.

He was ready to kick off 2023 to show that he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team could still win.

Truex led the final 25 laps after passing Ryan Preece.

“Last year was a pretty tough season for us, without wins, and coming here and starting that way, [I’m] really proud of all these guys,” Truex said. “Tonight was kind of about persevering, not giving up, just fighting and we found ourselves in the end.”

Martin Truex Jr. wins the Clash

Martin Truex Jr. wins the Clash

Martin Truex Jr. captured The Clash at The Coliseum after going winless in 2022.

Wallace’s day ends sour

Bubba Wallace led for 40 laps but after being passed by Ryan Preece on lap 83 he could never find his way back.

He tangled with Austin Dillon in a close race with seven laps to go. After spinning into the wall, Wallace gave Dillon a cautious bump to show his displeasure.

“The 3 [Austin Dillon] just never tried to take a corner,” Wallace said. “He always hit my left-back. …I got knocked down by him into the fence right off the restart, so I gave him a shot and then we got dumped.

“It sucks.”

Dillon: “Obviously Bubba hit me in the corner. I was going to hit him back. I didn’t want to flip him around like that, but when it comes to the end I think everyone knows what’s going on , and that’s what you see in places like this.”

Wallace and a few other drivers said that despite the relatively low speeds, the knocks in the car were significant.

“The back always hurts,” Wallace said. “My head always hurts.”

Clash at the Colosseum Highlights

Clash at the Colosseum Highlights

Bubba Wallace asserted himself early on by leading 39 laps, but Martin Truex Jr. made it count where it mattered most by leading the final 25 laps for the win.

Logano felt bad for Busch

Joey Logano felt really bad for his rotation 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 a mystery to me. … I had no rear grip and slipped in the 8 [of Busch]. Luckily he was quick enough to come back up here.

“I felt pretty bad. But I’m glad he was able to get back up there.”

Busch will remember the contact.

“He went straight through me,” Busch said. “So there’s another one coming. I owe him a few.”

“Tonight, we had to persevere and not give up”

NASCAR Takeaways: Martin Truex Jr. back in win column after caution-filled clash

Martin Truex Jr. reflected after winning the 2023 Clash at the Coliseum.

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsport, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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