Martin Truex Jr. prevailed in a marathon second edition of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Sunday night.
One of the fastest cars all weekend, the No. 19 JGR Toyota took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex held on to the top spot despite two subsequent cautions that bunched the field back together, then outran Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch to the checkered flag — his first win in a Clash event.
The 1️⃣9️⃣ is there! @MartinTruex_Jr takes the lead with less than 30 to go! pic.twitter.com/DGVoA6xOuz
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 6, 2023
“Just a really good race car,” Truex said of the victory. “The guys did a great job with this Bass Pro Shops Club Toyota Camry.
“Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins and to come out here and kick it off this way, just really proud of all these guys. Tonight it was just kind of preserve, not give up, and battle through, and we found ourselves in the right spot at the end. Sometimes they work out your way, sometimes they don’t. Tonight, it went our way and we made some good adjustments, too.”
Truex led 25 of the race’s 150 laps. Caution laps did not count.
In a nod to the history of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the Olympics, post-race festivities saw Truex presented a gold medal for his win while Dillon and Busch joined him on the podium. Dillon was presented with a silver medal and Busch a bronze.
Alex Bowman finished fourth and Kyle Larson finished fifth. Tyler Reddick finished sixth with Ryan Preece seventh.
Preece led a race-high 43 laps, but as Truex ran him down, the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford began experiencing electrical issues.
Ross Chastain finished eighth, Denny Hamlin ninth and William Byron 10th. Pole-sitter Aric Almirola finished 18th.
Bubba Wallace led 40 laps but was taken out of contention from contact by Dillon. Wallace finished 22nd, the last car running, after Dillon spun Wallace from second place with seven laps to go. The contact was a returning the favor after a bump by Wallace earlier in the event.
“I hate it for Bubba; he had a good car and good run,” Dillon said. “But you can’t tell who’s pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner, and I saved it three times through there, released the brake, all kinds of stuff…He was going to get the same. It probably was a little too hard.
“The Bioethanol Chevy was pretty good. It’s beat up, used up. The teammate (Busch) let me go and try to get Truex at the end — that was nice. It’s been fun. Hopefully, we can do this more often.”
Five drivers did not make the finish. Todd Gilliland and Front Row Motorsports teammate Michael McDowell fell out of the race, as did Austin Cindric, Ty Gibbs and Erik Jones.
The Clash featured four lead changes among five drivers and 16 caution flags. It took one hour and 43 minutes to run the exhibition event.