Good Sam 500 almost ends as it started with Joe Gibbs Racing up front

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Joe Gibbs Racing led the Good Sam 500 field to the green with a sweep of the top three positions. The team would have finished that way as well — if not for Kevin Harvick’s win.

Harvick had the field covered at Phoenix International Raceway like he has in recent years until a caution came out on lap 308 after Kasey Kahne blew a tire and slammed the Turn 3 wall.

Carl Edwards was running third behind Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the caution waved and he was the first driver to hit pit road. The entire field followed with the exception of Austin Dillon. Earnhardt stayed out along with Harvick and Austin Dillon. A two-tire stop put Edwards back on track in fourth.

Leading the race, Harvick had his choice of lanes and took to the outside. Edwards was behind in the second row. “Caution came out; Dave rolled the dice and we got a shot at it,” Edwards said of crew chief Dave Rogers. “We made them work for it and that’s more than we’ve been able to do the last few times.”

Edwards got to Harvick’s rear bumper in Turn 3 on the final lap and knew that his best chance to win  was to move Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet out of the way.

“I wish it would have worked out a little bit differently, but it was a good race,” Edwards said. “I ran into him about as hard as I thought I could without wrecking him and it ended up being a drag race.”

Two of Edwards’ teammates followed him across the line. Denny Hamlin finished third with Kyle Busch fourth.

Edwards spent the majority of his laps inside the top 10, but Hamlin and Busch had major obstacles to overcome.

Hamlin‘s team lost control of a tire on a Lap 53 caution and he was forced to the back of the longest line on that restart. He struggled in heavy traffic and it took 80 laps to climb back into the top 15 and 125 laps to crack the top 10.

Losing the track position was pivotal, but Hamlin still gave the pit crew credit for his top-five finish.

“I thought we had a car that could win,” he said. “We really did a good job back there — pit crew did a good job down the stretch. So, overall I’m very proud of our program. We’ve really come a long way on this race track.”

Busch had multiple mistakes during a Lap 163 pit stop. He overshot his pits and when he backed up he was too close to the wall. This caused him to drop from second entering the pits to 18th on the restart.

“We just can’t quite keep up as good as those guys can on the long side of the run, so that’s kind of where we lost it today,” Busch said. “I also screwed us up a little bit on pit road, but we were at least able to overcome that.”

“It was great to get back into position (to win),” Busch added. “Barring some different conditions there on the restart with Kevin and the two-tire cars ahead of me, I had to restart fifth. Maybe if I had started fourth I’d had a shot at it. Good job for Carl there; a valiant effort overall. A good job for JGR.”

Matt Kenseth finished seventh, which was his first top-10 of the season and only his second since last fall’s race at Dover International Speedway.

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Clash at the Coliseum NASCAR Cup Series race results

NASCAR Clash Coliseum results
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Martin Truex Jr. led the final 25 laps to win The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race in the results from the first event of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing team celebrated as the 2017 Cup champion quickly rebounded from a winless 2022 in his No. 19 Toyota by winning the NASCAR exhibition season opener for the first time.

Truex became the 25th driver to win the race. It’s JGR’s series-leading 11th Clash victory.

Austin Dillon finished second, followed by teammate Kyle Busch in his debut with the Richard Childress Racing No. 8 Chevrolet. Alex Bowman finished fourth, and Kyle Laron was fifth.

Tyler Reddick took sixth. Ryan Preece led a race-high 43 laps in his No. 41 Ford debut for Stewart-Haas Racing but faded to seventh because of an apparent electrical problem. The rest of the top 10: Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin (who also led 26 laps in the No. 11 Toyota), and William Byron.

BOX SCORE: Click here for full results from the Clash at the Coliseum

PENALTY REPORT: Click here for infractions during the race

This is the seventh time Toyota has won the Busch Light Clash.
Austin Dillon has finished runner-up in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and will recieve the silver
medal.
Kyle Busch has finished third in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and will recieve the bronze
medal.

Aric Almirola started on the pole position and led the first 16 of 150 laps in the race, which featured no pit stops and was split into 75-lap halves.

The race was slowed by 16 caution flags (up from five last year), including 12 in the final 75 laps. Laps under yellow weren’t counted in the official distance.

Bubba Wallace led 40 laps but finished 22nd after being rooted by Dillon into a late spin.

During a series of heat and qualifying races, the field was whittled to 27 cars for the Clash at the Coliseum main event. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher both failed to advance for the second consecutive year, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie and Harrison Burton were among others who were eliminated.

Click here for the results from the preliminary events in the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum.

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

Martin Truex Jr. charges late to win Clash at the Coliseum

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Martin Truex Jr., who struggled through a winless season last year, opened 2023 in style Sunday night, winning the Clash at the Coliseum with a late-race charge.

Truex bumped by Ryan Preece to take the lead with 25 laps to go and led the rest of the way.

Truex, Alex Bowman and Preece appeared to have the strongest cars over the race’s closing segment. Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch joined the struggle at the front in the final 10 laps

With seven laps to go, Dillon shoved Bubba Wallace into the wall as they raced for second place.

Dillon, Busch, Bowman and Kyle Larson followed Truex to the finish. The victory was the first by the 42-year-old Truex in the Clash in 12 tries.

MORE: Clash at the Coliseum results

The race was the second Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“It was just a really good race car,” Truex told Fox Sports. “Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins. To kick it off this way was great for these guys. We found ourselves in the right spot at the end.”

Truex won by .786 of a second.

As the first three finishers, Truex (gold), Dillon (silver) and Busch (bronze) were presented medals in a podium celebration, an oddity for NASCAR but a nod to the coliseum’s Olympic history.

Dillon and Busch, new teammates at Richard Childress Racing, were battling for second in the final laps before Busch allowed Dillon to push forward in pursuit of Truex. “Overall, it was good to get back up to third, could have gone second, but I let Austin go,” Busch said. “He was better than us in practice. I thought he could have a shot at trying to get close, and I”ll push him through to get a 1-2, but never made it there.”

The second half of the race was pockmarked by contact and subsequent spins as the field was slowed time after time for cautions. The yellow flag flew 16 times across the race’s 150 laps (12 times in the second half), and only five of the 27 starters were not involved in accidents.

Wallace, who wrestled the lead from Denny Hamlin on the first lap of a restart, was in first place at the race’s halfway point as the field parked for service. Wallace led 40 laps.

Following Wallace at the break were Truex Jr., Dillon, William Byron and Tyler Reddick. In the second five were Preece, Busch, Bowman, Joey Logano (last year’s winner) and Larson.

The race’s first caution flew after 17 laps as Erik Jones spun out after contact from Michael McDowell. Jones parked for the night.

Seven laps later, 11th-place Ryan Blaney spun out in heavy traffic to prompt the second caution.

Among drivers who failed to qualify for the 150-lap feature were RFK Racing entries Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. Both also missed the race last year.

Who had a good race: Martin Truex Jr. came close to writing an end to his Cup career last season but decided to sign on for another year with Joe Gibbs Racing. On Sunday night, that decision looked fine, indeed. … Ryan Preece sparkled in his first race with Stewart-Haas, leading in the second half before dropping to seventh. … Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch made Richard Childress Racing look good with second- and third-place finishes.

Who had a bad race: Former series champion Chase Elliott struggled most of the weekend and limped home 21st Sunday. … Michael McDowell was involved in several accidents and finished 24th. … An accident bumped Erik Jones from the race in the early going. He finished last.

Jimmie Johnson to run Chicago Street Course Cup race

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LOS ANGELES – Jimmie Johnson says that one of his Cup races this season with Legacy Motor Club will be the July 2 Chicago Street Course race, which will air on NBC.

The seven-time champion will run select Cup races this season after spending the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. Johnson, who left NASCAR in 2020, will return in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway as a driver and part owner of Legacy MC. His No. 84 car does not have a charter and he’ll have to secure one of the four spots for non-chartered cars.

Johnson said on Fox before Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum that he looked to do more Cup races beyond Daytona and Chicago but did not announce any others. He will drive the NASCAR Garage 56 entry in June in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Kevin Harvick to join Fox booth in 2024

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LOS ANGELES – Kevin Harvick will move from the car to the TV booth next year when he joins Fox Sports.

Harvick, who is in his final season driving in Cup, will join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer in the booth for the NASCAR races on Fox in 2024.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Harvick said on Fox on Sunday. “We’re coming right to the booth. I couldn’t be happier. For me, the timing in life has just been absolutely perfect with everything on the driving side and now to have this opportunity to tell people about racing, there’s not anything I love more and I can’t wait.”

The announcement was made before Sunday night’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Harvick advanced to the Clash through his heat race.