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For the second consecutive season, the race took place on a made-from-scratch ¼-mile asphalt oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The close quarters racing last year was expected to produce a lot of beating and banging and perhaps some driver fireworks but the event remained relatively tame, with five cautions in 150 laps in the main event.
The was a notable difference in the on-track action this year beginning in the four 25-lap heat races Sunday afternoon in which the pole-winner won only one of the four races. Last year, all four races were won by the drivers who started on the pole.
When it came to Sunday night’s main event, there seemed to be a much greater propensity of drivers to make daring moves that resulted many times in spin outs or triggering accordion-like crashes.
The 150-lap main event ended up with 16 cautions with all but one involving at least two cars.
“Last year’s show I felt like was relatively clean and good racing, some bumping, some banging, but we could run long stretches of green-flag action, where today was I would call it a disaster with the disrespect from everybody of just driving through each other and not just letting everything kind of work its way out,” said Busch, who made his driving debut in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 Chevrolet.
“But it’s a ¼-mile. It’s tight-quarters racing. Actually, this is probably how it should have gone last year, so we got spoiled with a good show the first year. Maybe this was just normal.”
In an interview later Sunday night on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Busch took specific issue with the actions of last year’s winner, Joey Logano, who sent Busch around which brought out a caution on Lap 86.
“It’s really unfortunate to get raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano. “We were in the TV booth earlier in the night together and when we were all done with that he was like, ‘Hey man, good luck tonight’ and I said, ‘Great, thanks, yeah. Whatever.’ And then low and behold, there you go, he wrecks me.
“Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive) on the race track.”
Busch’s RCR teammate, Austin Dillon, said there was a noticeable difference in the quality of the cars that teams brought to the race this year.
Last season, the Clash was the first race in which the Cup Series’ Next Gen car competed in race conditions.
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
“Everybody has gotten a little better since last year, so the parity was close,” Dillon said. “There were a lot of fast guys. The little bit, if you are faster than someone, you kind of have to bump them, because they can kind of check up on the exit of the corner and stop you.
“If you get that run and you’re there, you kind of have to use it or be used.”
One such example, Dillon said, was this year’s race winner, Martin Truex Jr., who struggled in last year’s event and finished 15th.
Sunday, Truex won one of the four heat races, started second in the main event and led the final 25 laps after grabbing the lead from Ryan Preece.
“When the field is that tight and you have a little bit of advantage, the only way to do something is to kind of – you can try and cross them up, but then they can pinch you down the straightaway here, and then you’ll lose whatever run you had,” Dillon said.
Alex Bowman, who failed to qualify for the main event last year, was another example of a big turnaround from year-to-year.
Bowman finished fourth and several times ran second late in the race and was in position to challenge for the lead.
“I think it’s a great event. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s tough when it takes 45 minutes to make like six laps or whatever that was,” he said. “That was pretty bad when we were just crashing and crashing and crashing.
“But I feel like last year’s feature was a little bit cleaner than this year’s for whatever reason, but yeah, I think it’s a great event, and cool to be part of it.”