Well, that was something. The Busch Light Clash became the Busch Light Crash at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Sunday night, but at the end of all of the chaos, it was Joe Gibbs Racing's Martin Truex Jr. who stood above the rest with a hard-fought victory.
"Tonight was just kind of persevere and not give up, and just battle through it," Truex explained. "And we found ourselves in the right spot in the end. Sometimes they work out your way, sometimes they don't. Tonight, it went our way."
Truex was one of just five drivers in the 27-car field to not get swept up in an incident in the frantic exhibition event, which featured 16 cautions.
The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion started the race from the second position, but he never took his No. 19 machine to the front of the field until the 150-lap event reached the 25-laps-to-go mark.
However, once Truex gained the lead, he never relinquished it.
At the end of the night, the 42-year-old racer credited his team for providing him with a rocket ship in a very tough race.
"Just a really good race car," Truex stated after the win. "The guys did a great job with this Bass Pro Shops Club Toyota Camry. Tracker Boats, Reser's Fine Foods, Auto-Owners (Insurance), TrueTimber, ROQ, Cessna, just all of our partners that allow us to do this.
"Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins. To come out here and kick it off this way, just really proud of all of these guys."
Truex had a margin of victory of 0.786 sec. over Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon, who got into it with Bubba Wallace late in the race. With five laps remaining in the event, Dillon sent Wallace spinning from second position.
For Dillon, he hated to ruin a good run for Wallace, but he refused to get pushed around late in the race.
"I hate it for Bubba, he had a good car and a good run. But you can't tell either who pushed him, or who is getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner, and I saved it three times through there, released the brake, and all kinds of stuff. When I got down, I was going to give the same. It was probably a little too hard," Dillon explained.
While Dillon snagged a solid runner-up finish, his new RCR teammate Kyle Busch also came through to finish third in his first event with his new team.
Busch, 37, who spent 14 years as the driver of the No. 18 entry for Joe Gibbs Racing and moved to RCR in the offseason, rallied from being spun out on Lap 86 by Joey Logano. Busch says you can never count him out.
"Yeah, it was a battle all night long. But you can't count us out, you always have to bet on us with the BetMGM Camaro," Busch quipped. "We used the outside on a lot of passes. Everybody would get bottled up on the bottom and start bumper tagging, and I would just go around them outside. When? You're deep in the field you can kind of do some of that and work your way around."
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five finishers in Sunday night's Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
Tyler Reddick, Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin and William Byron capped off the top 10 finishers.
Preece, in his first race with Stewart-Haas Racing, had a legitimate shot at the race win as he led a race-high 43 laps, but faltered down the stretch as his No. 41 Ford Mustang suffered from fuel pump issues.
“The fuel pump," Preece answered when asked what went wrong on his car. "The primary pump went bad. I don’t know. I don’t think we were close on fuel. At first, I thought it was ignition because usually when it’s fuel it just keeps cutting, so I shut off my alternator and all of my electrical stuff and it seemed to help a little bit. It did it again and I lost four spots, so I just flipped the switch and a miracle happened."
While it was a good opening run for his Stewart-Haas Racing tenure, Preece was bummed to give away a potential race win.
"Ultimately, this car was so badass. It was so fast. We drove from 16th outside, inside, everything it took. I’m proud of the speed. I’m happy for the opportunity, but it sucks giving them away,” Preece stated with dejection.
Chastain and Hamlin not only finished together in the final rundown, but the two bitter rivals also got together on the track again -- a constant theme from the 2022 season that continued in the first weekend of the 2023 season.
Just before the race's halftime break, Chastain got into the rear of Hamlin's car which sent Hamlin spinning out of 12th position.
Here is a video of the latest incident between Chastain and Hamlin:
Here are the complete race results for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum:
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Austin Dillon
- Kyle Busch
- Alex Bowman
- Kyle Larson
- Tyler Reddick
- Ryan Preece
- Ross Chastain
- Denny Hamlin
- William Byron
- Justin Haley
- Kevin Harvick
- Christopher Bell
- Noah Gragson
- Chase Briscoe
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Blaney
- Aric Almirola
- Daniel Suarez
- AJ Allmendinger
- Chase Elliott
- Bubba Wallace
- Todd Gilliland
- Michael McDowell
- Austin Cindric
- Ty Gibbs
- Erik Jones
Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing