Darrell Wallace Jr. explains heated discussion with Denny Hamlin after Daytona 500

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Darrell Wallace Jr. said Denny Hamlin was not happy with him for comments Wallace made after Sunday’s Daytona 500 and that they were still texting about the matter Tuesday.

Wallace and Hamlin made contact after the checkered flag and had a brief and heated discussion afterward in the garage area.

In an interview with Fox after the race, Wallace said of Hamlin and their post-race contact: “He might need to take some Adderall for that one.’’

Wallace’s comment was a dig at Hamlin, who said a few days earlier on a podcast that 70 percent of the Cup drivers take Adderall or a similar type of medicine to stay focused.

Hamlin later recanted those comments and said he was joking.

Tuesday, Wallace explained on “The Morning Drive” what happened with Hamlin.

“I was told I cut his tire as I was doing the interview, and I already had my mind made up about what had happened,’’ Wallace told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Just got into the heat of the battle. At the end of the day, we’re racing and that’s what you do, you go down and sidedraft the guy through the short chute and try to suck him all the way down and get the run and pull away from him and just felt like he had turned right. That was my opinion. He had thought otherwise. He said there was more footage from in-car that I haven’t seen yet. I’ve been looking for and haven’t seen yet.

“At the garage, he was upset with me over the comments I made about something he was joking about, which shouldn’t have been joked about. All in all, that’s all right. We’re actually texting each other right now, we’re still not happy. I’m OK, he’s not. We’re racers, and we’ll go to Atlanta and be battling each other.

“I told him we’ll be racing together for a long time so I wanted to step out and reach out and clear the air. We’ll see how long it takes to officially clear the air.

“All in all, it was an exciting week for us. I told him I was just pumped up with the way we finished and just hated that I couldn’t go out and celebrate the finish with my guys. I really wanted to see them. I had Richard Petty running all over pit road and all over Daytona to the infield care center so that was just a bummer. When you have a good finish, the first thing you want to do is get out and hug your guys and give them all the praise that they deserve.’’

Hamlin responded on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Wallace was emotional after finishing second in the Daytona 500 and says that’s just who he is.

“You’re always going to get emotion and raw and pureness out of me after every race no matter how we finish,’’ Wallace said. “I watch some of these interviews and I’m like man ‘I wish I could be a little bit more like that and show off my likeness a little bit more,’ but at the end of the day that is going against what I always talk about and how it’s being me. I don’t need to change to be anybody else. I don’t want to change for anybody else. For people to see that and latch on it makes you feel really good.’’

Wallace’s focus turns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race. It will be his first time in a Cup car at that track.

“We look back on last year and obviously you study the notes on what they went through,’’ Wallace said. “Each and every week on an intermediate track we were a 15th- to 20th-place car and that’s not what we want to do.

“We know how the sport goes, you improve, and it’s not like you improve 20 spots throughout the next year. We want to improve a handful of spots, three or four spots to put us in that top-10, top-15 range. I think that is a success for us, especially with the new alliance (with Richard Childress Racing). Speedway racing, everybody has a chance when they show up there. Atlanta, you go in and start picking your favorites and you have a pretty good shot at winning that.

“For us to not be the favorites, it’s fine. We get it. We know that we have so much stuff that we have unchecked off the list, from switching to Chevrolet, testing out the new Camaro ZL1, the RCR alliance. We’re all kind of in a rebuild mode right now. We do have momentum on our side, a we have a lot of momentum on our side. We’re excited about that and that is going to help us out some what of the way.’’

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NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.