Martin Truex Jr. prevails in NASCAR Busch Light Clash
It took Martin Truex Jr. just over two hours to weave through 60.5 km of traffic on Sunday. He endured rear-end collisions along the way, slowed his pace to avoid more than a dozen accidents, and averaged just 64 miles per hour, a speed that would not draw the attention of the most efficient Highway Patrol officer.
That pretty much describes the morning commute for most people in Southern California. But Truex ended up where he started, on the floor of the Colosseum, and when he got out of his car instead of being late for work with a headache, he was handed a trophy, a gold medal and a check for the winner’s share of a $2.085 million in prize money for NASCAR’s second Clash at the Coliseum.
“It was definitely satisfying. It’s satisfying every time you win,” said Truex, who won for the first time since September 2021. “It’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race.”
Truex, who was fastest in qualifying on Saturday and then won his heat race on Sunday to start second in the final, bided his time in the main event, staying out of trouble and avoiding a series of crashes before finishing 25th took the lead laps before the end.
“It felt like a 400 mile race. It was forever Be careful, be careful, be careful,” he said.
“If you’re up front and you’re just kind of banging, the guys will slide into the corner, make mistakes and it’s all fun. It’s no fun when you just get run over and flipped. Luckily we were not involved [but] We’ve had a few instances where it got close.”
Riding in front of around 50,000 spectators, Truex took the lead from Ryan Preece and never gave it back. He pulled away and won the season-opening exhibition in NASCAR’s 75th year. The dizzying 150-lap sprint around a three-lane asphalt oval, the tightest track in NASCAR, flew the yellow flag 16 times for crashes and spins.
By the middle of the race, the clash had turned into a crash.
If you like bumper-to-bumper traffic, slow speed car chases and lots of accidents, then the Coliseum event was a dream come true. However, what the race did not have was long periods of green flag racing.
“It was just bang, bang,” said second-place finisher Austin Dillon, who moved up to second with eight laps to go after slamming Bubba Wallace into the wall. “I couldn’t believe how aggressive it was. There was nothing to do but just pound each other and hope to come out the other side. I was hit once, it knocked the steering wheel out of my hand.”
Third place finisher Kyle Busch, Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing teammate, added: “I would call it a disaster to just drive with everyone’s disrespect and just mix it up and not just let things go their way. But I mean it’s a quarter mile. It’s a race in a very small space.”
The iconic Colosseum, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in May, is no stranger to auto racing, having hosted events since 1945. But the Clash is a little different, with 27 3,500-pound cars making their way around a makeshift track laid over 130,000 square feet of plywood and plastic sheeting to protect the historic grass field. At a quarter mile, the track is half the size of the next smallest track on NASCAR, while its 2.5 degree incline also makes it the flattest track.
What began as a race and went green flagged for much of the first 74 laps became a demolition derby in the second half, with accidents and spins raising the warning flag six times over the next three miles. In last year’s race there were only five warnings in 150 laps. “It’s pretty bad when you need 45 minutes to do six laps,” said Alex Bowman, fourth place finisher. “The boys just ran over each other.”
When asked when he knew the race was going to go like this, Bowman chuckled. “When they built a track on a soccer field,” he said, adding, “Maybe it got a little out of hand.”
When Justin Haley, Saturday’s fastest qualifier, spun on lap 106, a third of the 27 starters were involved in some kind of mishap.
And the multiple yellow flags helped Preece, a short track specialist, to become the fourth leader of the race on lap 82. He stayed there through a series of restarts before Truex Preece rear-ended and passed 44 laps later.
That was the fourth – and final – lead change of the night, with Truex suffering two more bookings in the final 14 laps. Preece dropped to seventh place while Wallace was 22nd.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2023-02-05/nascar-busch-light-clash-coverage Martin Truex Jr. prevails in NASCAR Busch Light Clash