Martin Truex Jr. passed Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go in the season-opening Clash at the Coliseum and held on during two wild restarts, opening NASCAR’s 75th season by winning in the Busch Light Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday night.
In the non-points race’s second visit to Los Angeles to start a season, Preece passed Bubba Wallace early in the second half on the outside as the cautions mounted for minor spins on the tiny, tight track.
Truex’s Toyota ran down Preece in Turn 4 and slipped underneath him. The 2017 Cup winner — who failed to win in 2022 — then held off Austin Dillon to strike the first blow of the new season.
Truex used a provisional to make last year’s Clash but was good enough Sunday to record Toyota’s seventh career win in it. The race was slowed by 16 cautions.
“Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins,” said Truex of his first Clash win. “Tonight was just kind of persevere and not give up and just battle through it.”
Dillon and new driver Kyle Busch came home second and third, respectively, for Richard Childress Racing. Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
In his debut for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 41 Ford, Preece paced 43 laps before finishing seventh.
Aric Almirola, Truex, Denny Hamlin and William Byron claimed wins in the first four heat races in the afternoon. Both Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers — Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher — along with Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were among those who failed to advance to the 27-car field.
Starting his 23rd NASCAR season, 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick announced Saturday that this year would be his last on the track. He said he would be joining the FOX broadcast booth in 2024.
To open the first 75-lap segment of 150 green-flag circuits where fuel was not an issue, Almirola started from the pole and led Truex from the start, with Hamlin soon sliding up into the second spot on the quarter-mile track.
But the first segment got physical as Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and A.J. Allmendinger went for spins. Hamlin used that opportunity to move his No. 11 Toyota to the point.
However, Bubba Wallace — who pilots the No. 23 co-owned by Hamlin — shoved the boss out of the way without wrecking him and held the top spot at the halftime break.