NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. wins caution-filled Clash at the Coliseum

NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) takes the checkers flag to win the Busch Light Clash NASCAR exhibition auto race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR's exhibition Clash on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Martin Truex Jr. won a mess of a Busch Light Clash exhibition race on Sunday night.

The short track race at the Los Angeles Coliseum featured 15 cautions for spins or crashes and fittingly had a crash on the final lap as drivers were unafraid to run into each other to gain positions whenever possible.

Truex’s win in the exhibition race comes after he was winless in 2022 for the first time since 2014. Truex had won 29 races from 2015-2021 but had just four top fives and 15 top 10s as he missed the playoffs for the first time since that 2014 season.

The exhibition win doesn’t count for anything in 2023 and doesn’t get Truex into the playoffs for the upcoming season. But Joey Logano won the 2022 Clash and won the Cup Series title at the end of the season. Maybe the same thing could happen for Truex.

Austin Dillon finished second and his new Richard Childress Racing teammate Kyle Busch finished third. Busch was involved in one of those cautions and was at the back of the field after a lap 86 spin. But he drove his way through the field despite all of the cautions to have a chance at the end.

Truex had one of the best cars over the course of the race even though he led for just 25 laps. He got the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go as Preece’s car had a short-term electrical problem.

Preece led the most laps of any driver with 43 while Bubba Wallace led 40 laps. Wallace got spun with less than 10 laps to go by Dillon and went from a potential top-three finish to 22nd in the 27-car field.

The race was incredibly messy

There’s no other way to put it. Sunday’s race was brutal to watch. And that’s disappointing for a sanctioning body that moved the Clash from Daytona to the Los Angeles Coliseum a year ago and put the race in primetime on the weekend before the Super Bowl in a bid to attract casual fans.

The first Clash at the Coliseum had five cautions and it’s fair to wonder if drivers drove cautiously — no pun intended — knowing that their teams were short on parts as NASCAR implemented a new car. Sunday night, drivers knew the limits of their equipment and there was no worry about backup parts.

The 150-lap race was broken up into two 75-lap segments and only green-flag laps counted. The second half of the race featured a flurry of cautions at the start as there were six cautions between laps 76 and 86. It took over a half hour to run 11 green flag laps during that span.

The Clash is designed for casual fans and non-fans to get a glimpse of NASCAR that they wouldn’t normally get on a Sunday afternoon, especially during football season. But you couldn’t blame anyone but a hardcore fan for turning off the race in the second half given all the cautions. Eleven of the 15 cautions for wrecks or spins came in the final 75 laps.

The main event took two hours to complete counting the mid-race concert by Wiz Khalifa and the race even went so long that Front Row Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland ran out of gas.

The official race distance was 37.5 miles.

Race results

1. Martin Truex Jr.

2. Austin Dillon

3. Kyle Busch

4. Alex Bowman

5. Kyle Larson

6. Tyler Reddick

7. Ryan Preece

8. Ross Chastain

9. Denny Hamlin

10. William Byron

11. Justin Haley

12. Kevin Harvick

13. Christopher Bell

14. Noah Gragson

15. Chase Briscoe

16. Joey Logano

17. Ryan Blaney

18. Aric Almirola

19. Daniel Suarez

20. AJ Allmendinger

21. Chase Elliott

22. Bubba Wallace

23. Todd Gilliland

24. Michael McDowell

25. Austin Cindric

26. Ty Gibbs

27. Erik Jones