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 twist-filled exhibition race Sunday night as drivers tried to navigate the quarter-mile temporary oval built inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The key word: proven. The drivers never picked up the pace as they played bumper cars against each other, resulting in 16 cautions during the race, a 150-lap affair where laps under caution did not count.

“You’re sliding so bad on the restarts that guys would go into the corner and they’re locking up the brakes, they can’t turn,” Truex said. “So they’re just sliding into each other.”

Three conclusions from the crash:

Truex rebounds with victory

Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, did not win in 2022 and missed the Cup playoffs after a crazy regular-season finish at Daytona.

He has been prepared to start 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 a win, and to come here and start it like that, [I’m] “So proud of all these guys,” Truex said. “Tonight it was a little bit about persevering, not giving up, just fighting and in the end we found each other.”

Martin Truex Jr. win the Clash

Martin Truex Jr.  win 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 being passed by Ryan Preece on lap 83, he could never find his way back to the front.

He tangled with Austin Dillon during some tight racing with seven laps to go. After spinning against the wall, Wallace gave Dillon a cautious tap to show his displeasure.

“The 3 [Austin Dillon] he never tried to take a corner,” Wallace said. “He always ran at my left back. … I ran into the fence down the straight on the restart so I gave it a shot and then we got dumped.

“It’s bullshit.”

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

Wallace, and some other drivers, said that despite the relatively low speeds, the bumps in the car were significant.

“My back still hurts,” Wallace said. “My head still hurts.”

Clash at The Coliseum Highlights

Clash at The Coliseum Highlights

Bubba Wallace was assertive early on as he led 39 laps, but Martin Truex Jr. he made it count where it mattered most as he led the final 25 laps to take the win.

Logano felt bad for Busch

Joey Logano felt bad about his spin on 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 didn’t have rear grip and I slid into 8 [of Busch]. Fortunately, he was quick enough to get back up there.

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

Busch will remember the contact.

“He just drove right through me,” Busch said. “So he has another one. I owe him a few.”

“Tonight was about persevering and not giving up”

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

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, 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 Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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