Martin Truex Jr. Wins NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

Restarts were a regular occurrence Sunday night with 16 caution periods punctuating the 150-lap Clash - Getty Images photo
NASCAR’s second trip to the LA Memorial Coliseum was a memorable one

This year’s second annual Busch Clash at the Coliseum marked a big anniversary for NASCAR and a new partnership with ALLY Bank.

Beginning its 75th year of conducting races, NASCAR held its second straight Busch Light Clash at the 100-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this past weekend, with 36 NASCAR Cup Series cars and drivers attempting to make a 27-car field for Sunday evening’s 150-lap race around the quarter-mile circuit constructed over the Coliseum’s football field.

Last year’s inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum was held primarily during daylight hours while this year’s event took place primarily in dusk and into the full-moon’s night. Saturday practice and dusk qualifying determined the fields for four heat races, with the top five entries making the feature. There were also two last-chance qualifiers where the top three drivers made it to the big show. The top four qualifiers from Saturday’s single-car two-lap time trials each led their heat races, and all four “pole” winners made it to the 150-lap finale.

Restarts were a regular occurrence Sunday night with 16 caution periods punctuating the 150-lap Clash – Getty Images photo

In racing, of course, it’s not where you start but where you finish, and while there were five leaders in between the rash of 16 (!) caution flags – a very different scenario from 2022’s fairly clean Clash – it was the savvy and overall smarts of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr that gave his team owner a third Clash victory in the last four races! Polesitter Justin Haley in Kaulig Racing’s No. 31 Celsius Chevrolet led only at the green flag; Aric Almirola (No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota), Bubba Wallace (No. 23 DoorDash Toyota), Ryan Preece (No. 41 United Rentals Ford) and Truex were the only drivers getting semi-clean air in this bullring.

For the second year, Justin Haley was quick in his No. 31 Celsius Chevrolet, taking pole position, but couldn’t stay in front – Anne Proffit photo

The Coliseum lends itself to this kind of motorsport and, with plenty of musical acts, a fan village and other incidental activities surrounding the day-long event, everyone attending had plenty of sideshows to keep them occupied. The addition of Wiz Khalifa’s halftime show kept the crowd at, if not in their seats, at the lap 75 intermission as crews serviced the cars, which mostly needed it with all the bumping and banging going on. 

Failing to qualify were Harrison Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Ty Dillon, Cody Ware, Chris Buescher, BJ McLeod and veteran JJ Yeley. No penalties were noted in this non-points race, but may be issued by NASCAR later in the week. There were not as many fans in attendance for this second Los Angeles Busch Light Clash, but the Grammy Awards being held about two miles away might have kept the fan count lower. As it was, the enthusiasm evidenced throughout the grandstands, the number of people wearing their favorite drivers’ hats, sweatshirts (they were necessary) and other gear was a lot more prevalent than last year, and even with the large number of cautions, everyone stayed until the end and then quickly departed, helping to create massive traffic jams in the area.

Martin Truex Jr. had a tough 2022 but startedf the 2023 with his first Busch Light Clash victory – Anne Proffit photo

After earning his first non-points exhibition NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum victory, Truex saluted his crew on the No. 19 Toyota: “The guys did a great job with this Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry,” he said. “Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins, so to come out here and kick it off this way, just really proud of these guys. Tonight was just kind of persevere, do not give up and just battle through. We found ourselves in the right spot at the end. Sometimes they work out your way and sometimes they don’t. Tonight it went our way.” Truex led the final 25 laps to the checkered flags, beating Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Dillon’s new teammate, Kyle Busch in the No. 8 BetMGM Chevy.

The No. 48 Ally Chevrolet of Alex Bowman was fourth, Kyle Larson took fifth in his No. 5 Chevy, followed by Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 MoneyLion Toyota, Preece’s Ford, Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevy, Hamlin’s Toyota and William Byron in the No. 24 Chevy. The sole drivers not to complete the 150-lap distance were Todd Gilliland’s No. 38 gener8tor Skills Ford, Michael McDowell in the No. 34 Ford, both due to lack of fuel, Austin Cindric, whose No. 2 Freightliner Ford lost its engine on the 107th lap, and both Ty Gibbs (No. 54 Monster Energy Ford) and Erik Jones in the No. 43 Allegiant Chevy, due to suspension issues, likely from contact. 

Prior to the first heat race, NASCAR announced it has aligned with Ally Bank, which has been a prominent sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 for the past five years. NASCAR and Ally announced a multi-year partnership that will see the financial institution increase its presence in the sport. Ally Bank will continue to sponsor the No. 48, in keeping with its contractual obligations, and will increase its participation to become the official consumer bank of NASCAR and all NASCAR-owned tracks around the country. The objective is to bring unique and engaging experiences to fans, while advancing inclusivity in the sport.

“We’ve loved every minute of the ride since becoming a sponsor of the NO. 48,” said Andreas Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer. “From seeing the growth in popularity of the sport to the increased diversity among team ownership, the timing couldn’t be better for us to complement our wonderful relationship with Hendrick Motorsports, by expanding our footprint as an official NASCAR sponsor.”

In two weeks, NASCAR begins its regular season for the Cup Series with the annual running of the Daytona 500.

About Anne Proffit 1219 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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