Ryan Newman says he suffered a head injury, seeks to race again

0 Comments

Ryan Newman said in a statement that he is being treated for a head injury that he suffered in his last-lap crash in the Daytona 500 but that he’s “looking forward to getting behind the wheel and battling for another race win.”

Newman’s statement was read by Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing president.

In Newman’s statement, he said he suffered no internal injuries and no broken bones in the crash and that “the doctors have been pleased with my progression over the last few days.”

There is no timetable for Newman’s return, Newmark said.

“He has unequivocally expressed this is where he wants to be,” Newmark said of Newman.

Newmark later said in the press conference at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that Newman’s “objective is to get back in the car as quick as he can.”

Ross Chastain is scheduled to drive the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing while Newman is out.

“Right now we’re just taking it one race at a time,” Newmark said of how long Chastain will drive the car. “The arrangement with Ross is if we need him, he should be available.”

Newman will have to be cleared by his doctors and by NASCAR before he can race. Newman has been in conversation with this weekend with crew chief Scott Graves and Chastain, Newmark said.

Martin Truex Jr. said Saturday that he’s confident Newman will be back sooner than later.

“I’ve been talking to him throughout the week,” Truex said. “He’s doing real good. I feel like he’ll be back before anybody thinks he could. He’s a tough son of a gun. He’s in good spirits and hanging out with his family, so he’s doing well.”

MORE: NASCAR won’t change overtime rules after Ryan Newman crash 

MORE: Podcast – Kyle Petty on wounds being reopened by Ryan Newman’s crash 

Newman, 42, was injured after a chaotic last lap in the Daytona 500. He passed Denny Hamlin for the lead on the backstretch, getting a push from Ryan Blaney.

Exiting Turn 4, Blaney went low to challenge for the lead. Newman dropped down the track to block. Blaney then hit Newman to push him to the victory, later saying he knew he couldn’t win at that point and wanted to ensure that a Ford won.

The contact turned Newman’s car to the right. He slammed the outside wall and turned upside down. Corey LaJoie’s car slammed into Newman’s car on the driver side. Newman’s car crossed the finish line sliding on its roof with sparks flying. The No. 6 Ford car came to rest just beyond the exit of pit road. Safety crews needed 15 minutes to extricate him and he was taken immediately to Halifax Medical Center. 

Newman was released from the hospital Wednesday, less then 42 hours after being injured in the Daytona 500.

 

STATEMENT FROM RYAN NEWMAN

“I’m sorry that I can’t be at the track in person, but I asked Steve (Newmark) to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for all the support that was shown last week to both me and my family. The outpouring of emotion from not only the NASCAR community, but across the country has been truly humbling.

“I want to personally thank everyone, including the man upstairs, for their support, encouragement and the numerous offers of assistance. We always say that the NASCAR community is one big family and never has that been more evident to me than after seeing this family rally together and provide the comfort and support that has been shown to my family and me over the past few days.  The calls and visits from the NASCAR executives and my friends and competitors has been truly uplifting.

“I want to thank everyone involved in my care, especially the staff at Halifax Medical Center, where I am convinced I received the best care available. I’m confident the efforts of each of those trained professionals played a major role in where I’m sitting today. And to the entire NASCAR organization, led by Jim France, thanks for being by my side the entire time.  You truly stepped up to support me unconditionally when it mattered most.

“Most importantly, I have to thank the guys back at the Roush Fenway Racing shop that built me a car not only fast enough to lead the final seconds of the Daytona 500, but strong enough to do its job under great distress, allowing me to survive such an accident. I am truly indebted to each of you and it is unlikely I will ever be able to properly express to you how much the diligent effort with which you conduct your craftmanship has affected me and my family. I hope you took pride in the photograph of me walking out of the hospital hand-in-hand with my daughters on Wednesday. Thank you. I can’t wait to get back in your race car.

“I was fortunate to avoid any internal organ damage or broken bones. I did sustain a head injury for which I’m currently being treated. The doctors have been pleased with my progression over the last few days.

“Again, I want to thank each of you, from my partners, teammates and competitors and each and every fan across the country. Thank you everyone for the unparalleled concern and unwavering support. And to the media, who has acted with such respect and class during this time.

“I have spoken with Jack Roush and he has assured me that the number six car will be waiting and ready for my return. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel and battling for another race win in the Roush Fenway Ford.”

COMMENTS FROM ROUSH FENWAY PRESIDENT STEVE NEWMARK AT PRESS CONFERENCE

“I also spoke to Ryan just before I came on here and in talking to him he wanted to reiterate to me again that his goals for this year haven’t changed.  His objective is to win the 2020 Cup championship, so hopefully that gives you a little insight into his mindset.

 

“What I’d like to do now is give you a little perspective from Roush Fenway, so I’m going to piggyback a little bit on the themes that Ryan touched upon in his statement.  We’ll probably have a little repetition, but I think that’s probably appropriate based on the support that we’ve received over the last few days.

 

“I think everybody understands that the events of Monday and the days that followed it was really kind of a surreal experience for the entire Roush Fenway organization, and probably fit right in to the definition of an emotional rollercoaster.  We went from what we thought was seconds away from winning the Daytona 500 with Ryan, locking into the playoffs, and also having our other car – the 17 Fastenal Ford finish fourth in Chris Buescher’s first race with us.  It was looking like it was gonna be a storybook race for us and a great start to the season and all of that changed in an instant, and we go from not caring about the race, not caring about the competition, in fact I’m not sure that we knew who had actually won the race until a few hours later because the whole later was on Ryan’s safety and well-being.  When you see a teammate and a friend and part of your family in that situation.

 

“So during that process, obviously, Ryan mentioned the gratitude he had toward the Halifax Medical Center.  I also want to recognize another group that was an anchor to us during the entire time and that’s the NASCAR leadership team.  When we arrived at the hospital that night, NASCAR with Matt Humphrey was already there coordinating logistics.  And then during that entire period, so that evening and the days that followed, Jim France, Lesa France, Mike Helton, Steve Phelps, Steve O’Donnell, Eric Nyquist, and Ben Kennedy were either there at the hospital or providing support in whatever way we needed.  I know that really lifted the spirits of Ryan’s family and our entire team to see that, and I think it speaks to the caliber of people that they are when you look at the lengths that they went to support us, and it also gives a lot of faith that we’re in pretty good hands going forward.

 

“For the Roush Fenway organization, it was a pretty agonizing few days.  Obviously, a brutal period that night as we had a lot of our team members down at the end of pit road, just feet from where the accident finished.  There was obviously a lot of uncertainty at that point and I can tell you to a person on the corporate side and the competition side there wasn’t a single one at Roush Fenway that actually wanted to go home that night.  In fact, if we had acquiesced to their wishes, they would have camped out at the hospital waiting until they could actually see Ryan with their own two eyes.

 

“Thankfully, they kind of relented and reluctantly went back because we still had a job to do, and it was a pretty Herculean task for that organization this week.  What we had was a short week to get to the west coast because of the rain delay, and then we also had the uncertainty of who was gonna drive the 6 car, how do you upfit it?  How do you get the right seat in that?  So they flew home that night, were back in the shop at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and then we basically worked 24-hour shifts so we could be here.  I think the results speak for themselves in that we feel like we’ve got two pretty fast race cars, and it’s a tremendous testament to the effort, the work ethic and the passion that whole group showed.  I’m extremely proud to be associated with that organization and that group of individuals.

 

“I also want to thank our partners for their overwhelming and number of reach outs that we received for assistance.  As some of you are aware, Koch Industries was on the car with Ryan in the Daytona 500.  That was their first foray into NASCAR, so pretty interesting introduction as they come in and get the emotional highs and lows in a compressed period of about 30 seconds.  But when we look at what happened over the next few days with Koch Industries, Castrol, Acronis, Wyndham, Oscar Mayer, Coca-Cola, Fastenal, Fifth Third, SunnyD and Ford – all just relentlessly giving us offers for assistance, trying to help Ryan, trying to help his family.  It made us just recognize how blessed we were to have such a good partner group.

 

“Similarly, we received all sorts of reach outs from other drivers, a lot of the drivers visited Ryan, other team owners, team presidents and just across the industry.  I do need to take a minute to give a special thanks to Chip Ganassi and Jim Campbell at Chevy for allowing us to put Ross Chastain in the car.  Once we understood where Ryan’s condition was and it wasn’t life threatening, we obviously had to shift to try to at least make sure that we continued to race and have this season move forward.  So Tuesday morning I called both Chip and Jim to ask for their permission.  I will tell you that they were very short conversations because both of them immediately said, ‘You have our blessing,’ and offered unequivocally and support that they could provide to help us through this situation.  We also talked to Kaulig Racing and Ross’ agent to put this together.

 

“To me, we talk about NASCAR being one big family and that was a pretty big testament to it is that each of them put the personal above the professional and we were in a tough situation and it was nice to see our competitors step up and help us in that situation.

 

“On the team front, I also do want to address any lingering criticisms of Joe Gibbs Racing.  From my perspective, they did absolutely nothing wrong.  They had just won the Daytona 500, which should be a celebratory time, and I know that the minute they were informed that Ryan’s situation was severe, he hadn’t gotten out of the car, that they completely stopped and started praying for him.  Denny came to the hospital that night.  I heard from coach Gibbs.  We heard from Dave Alpern and so we really appreciate the respect that they showed him and it’s nothing that I wouldn’t expect from an organization with that integrity and that level of class.

 

“Lastly, and then we can get to some questions, I really do want to thank the media.  I received a number of emails, texts, reach outs from many of you here today that were reaching out, not as news reporters, but as friends and individuals generally concerned about the well-being of a member of the NASCAR community.  Although we tried to do our best to get you guys updates, we fully recognize that there were a lot of gaps in those updates and that in this day and age of instant communication, social media, that there was immense pressure on most of you out there to fill those gaps with speculation, conjecture, wild theories, and the reality of it is the regular NASCAR reporters didn’t do that and we really appreciate the respect you showed us and how you approached the whole situation.”

 

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION:

 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROCESS OF GETTING ROSS IN THE CAR AND TO GET HIS SEAT FITTED?  IS HIS SITUATION OPEN ENDED WITH YOU?  “The situation unfolded is that when we were at the hospital that evening there was actually no discussion at that point because that wasn’t the focus.  You were 100 percent trying to support the family and just all of us were concerned about Ryan’s situation at that point.  Once we had learned of his status through his dad from the doctors, there was a group of us – Jack Roush, Kevin Kidd, Tommy Wheeler, Scott Graves, myself and Mark Rushbrook from Ford has a conversation about what was the right direction to go, and the first call that Kevin Kidd and I made was to Ross Chastain the next morning, along with Jim and Chip.  At this point, I would say it’s open ended because, I’ll answer another question that I’m sure will come up, is we don’t have a timetable for Ryan’s return.  I can tell you what his timetable would like to be, which is soon as possible, but there’s some other hoops that he’s got to jump through before that happens.  Right now, we’re just taking it one race at a time.  Our arrangement with Ross is if we need him, he should be available.”

 

WHAT PROCESS DOES THE TEAM AND RYAN HAVE TO GO THROUGH FOR HIM TO GAIN CLEARANCE?  “The first thing I would say is that I’m thankful that we’re actually even able to have this dialogue about that question because that was not something any of us were certain about when this happened, so it’s a great conversation to be having.  The reality is there are three groups that are going to dictate when he returns because he has expressed unequivocally that this is where he wants to be and he wants to be back in a race car.  Those three groups are gonna be Ryan and his family, his doctors, and then NASCAR and their medical team.  Our assumption is once all three of those sign off, then we’ll see him back in a race car.”

 

CAN YOU ADDRESS JACK’S REACTION TO THIS?  “I was with Jack.  Jack and I were in the 17 pit box and it was actually an interesting way that it played out.  When the incident happened, we were watching on the screen and then we started to go down towards the end of pit road where the car was.  On our way down there we were told Ryan is out of the car and he’s in an ambulance heading to the hospital, so we actually took a hard left and didn’t go down to where the car was, which was probably fine because we weren’t gonna do anything helpful or contribute anything anyways, but we went straight to the hospital.  We actually got to the hospital and had to grab a police officer on a motorcycle when we were trying to get out of the track because we were stuck and he gave us a nice opening and ride to the hospital.  We got there.  Matt Humphrey was there already coordinating logistics.  Mike Helton showed up soon after, but we were actually there before Ryan got there and Jack’s focus the whole time was we need to kind of more crisis mode, we need to make sure we’re supporting the family, we need to make sure everything is arranged at the hospital, does he have all the medical care.  That was really the dialogue throughout the night and then, quite frankly, we were on pins and needles as I’m sure many of you were waiting for that first indication that it wasn’t life threatening.  The way that it played out is the doctors spoke with Greg Newman, Ryan’s dad, and then Greg immediately conveyed that to us and then probably within a minute after that is when we put out the statement just to make sure that the fans understood that as well.”

 

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE HAVING SOMEONE DIFFERENT IN THE CAR?  CAN RYAN HELP BEING AWAY?  “There’s no doubt that there are challenges, but I think the sense of relief and the wave of relief that’s kind of gone over our organization makes you recognize that these challenges pale in comparison to other challenges that we could have faced, so I really do think you’ve seen everyone step up.  You had challenges of changing the seat, and there’s no doubt that when you look at Ross’ situation it’s tough situation.  He’s running three series this weekend.  He’s never been in any of our cars, but we thought he was the right person to do it and had the right demeanor and the right character to be able to handle this.  As for Ryan, he’s already been involved.  He was on the phone with Scott Graves, his crew chief, calling him because I think he was watching practice.  I believe he’s talked to Ross, so he has been very active in trying to be involved in the direction of the team.”

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE SITUATION WAS DIRE OR WAS IT CLEAR THE INJURIES WERE NOT LIFE THREATENING AT THE TIME YOU GOT TO THE HOSPITAL?  “The first indication we got is what we passed along, that he was in serious condition and it wasn’t life threatening.  As you can probably appreciate, I can’t get into the medical conditions because if HIPAA and other medical privacy laws, but the other piece of it is Ryan actually wants to be the one in front of you to answer those questions.  He and I talked about that and he’s kind of chomping at the bit to get back here and I think he feels that would be most appropriate for him to be behind the mic answering a lot of those questions.”

 

HAS HE SAID ANYTIHNG ABOUT CHANGES HE WOULD WANT TO THE CAR OR RACING AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA?  “He hasn’t specifically.  We haven’t discussed that.  He knows that he’s gonna get access.  The people of NASCAR have been phenomenal.  They’ve given access to our organization, our engineers to go over and look at the car, offered it to Ryan.  I think everybody in here knows that Ryan has been an advocate of driver safety for many years.  He uses his engineering degree and is very vocal, so I have no doubt that he’ll be in the middle of that.  It’s an ongoing effort to continue to improve the safety, but from my perspective it’s a testament to the safety that less than 48 hours he was able to walk away after that accident and the reality is most sports have injury reports every week.  The reason we don’t is that it’s pretty rare that we actually have an injury in this sport.”

 

WHAT WAS YOUR EMOTIONAL REACTION?  “It probably affected me the same way it affected a lot of members of our team.  It’s a hard dose of perspective.  You go from being nervous and anxious about the race and thinking that you’re about to have a fantastic start to the season and vindication of a lot of the effort you had over the offseason to realizing those concerns aren’t really that heavy and that weighty and that really the important part is you just go to thinking that I hope he’s all right and this doesn’t impact him going forward.  He has two young, beautiful daughters and thankfully several hours later we kind of got that news and there really was a wave of relief for everybody in our organization.  There’s a group at the hospital – Mike Helton and Jim France and Jack – and I think a lot of prayers were said and I think a lot of people felt they were answered when we got that news.”

 

THOUGHTS ON GETTING A WAIVER UPON RYAN’S RETURN?  “We really don’t know.  I think we haven’t crossed that bridge.  I know what Ryan’s perspective is – he recognizes there’s a precedent.  We haven’t talked about this with NASCAR because it hasn’t been high on the priority list, but it’s something that I think in his mind he’s gonna figure out how he can get back here, get that waiver and then go out and win a race.  We are gonna continue to pursue that vision until we’re told we can’t.”

 

HAS RYAN USED HIS SENSE OF HUMOR OR MADE ANY COMMENTS ABOUT THE CRASH?  “I’m glad you recognize his sense of humor.  As an aside, when Chris Buescher started with us this year he was asked what one of the most difficult things has been for him in the transition and he said it’s trying to figure out at times whether Ryan Newman is being serious or sarcastic.  I think we’ve seen that in our conversations in the last few days, so that personality type is not impacted, but we haven’t talked a whole lot about the actual race.”

 

COULD WE SEE RYAN AT THE TRACK BEFORE HE’S ACTUALLY BACK IN THE CAR?  “It’s a good question.  It’s not something we’ve discussed, but I wouldn’t see any reason why not.  I know his objective is to get back as quickly as he can and get in the car, but I could see the minute Ryan is given the green light to be back at the track he’ll be back out there whether it’s getting himself ready or helping Ross to prepare.  I’m certain that will be high on his priority list.”

 

DOES IT SURPRISE YOU AT ALL RYAN’S APPARENT INVINCIBILITY AND IS IT TRUE HE ASKED FOR DONUTS WHEN HE WOKE UP?  “It does not surprise me.  He is as tough as they come and it was also refreshing to be in the hospital room listening to his family make fun of him for having no neck and for just being completely thick.  And there is truth to the rumor that when he heard there were donuts down in the room where we were all congregated that he asked his dad to confiscate some and bring them back up to his room.  I don’t know what happened them, but not a surprising development.”

 

 

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

0 Comments

LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo 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 deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

0 Comments

Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.

 

 

Winners and losers from the Clash at the Coliseum

0 Comments

A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the non-points race that opened the NASCAR season:

WINNERS

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex limped through a frustrating 2022 season, going winless and contemplating writing “finish” to his driving career. But he decided late in the year to make another run, and that choice paid big dividends Sunday as he put Joe Gibbs Racing in victory lane.

Richard Childress Racing — RCR opened the season with power, putting Austin Dillon in second and newcomer Kyle Busch in third. The new teammates even enjoyed some late-race collaboration, Busch backing off a second-place battle to give Dillon a chance to make a run at eventual winner Truex.

Ryan Preece — Preece, given a shot in the offseason at a full-time ride in Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, showed strength in his first outing, leading 43 laps before electrical issues dropped him to seventh.

Bubba Wallace — Wallace held the lead at the halfway point and totaled 40 laps in first but was drop-kicked by Austin Dillon late in the race and finished 22nd.

LOSERS

Chase Elliott — It was a lost weekend for the former Cup champion. Elliott was lapped during the race, failed to lead a lap and finished 21st.

Ty Gibbs — Suspension problems parked Gibbs after 81 laps, and he finished next-to-last a day after his car caught fire in practice.

Michael McDowell — McDowell was involved in several on-track incidents during the evening and finished 24th after running out of fuel, along with teammate Todd Gilliland.

Long: Drivers make their point clear on Clash at the Coliseum

1 Comment

LOS ANGELES — So what to do with the Clash at the Coliseum?

The second edition of this exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showcased beating, banging and 16 cautions in a 150-lap race won by Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday night.

A year remains on NASCAR’s three-year contract with the Coliseum — NASCAR holds the option for next year — and it seems all but certain Cup cars will be back next year.

With Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen saying Saturday that his track will not host a NASCAR event in 2024 while being converted from a 2-mile speedway to a half-mile track, the Los Angeles area would be without a NASCAR race if the Clash did not return.

NASCAR is not likely to leave the nation’s No. 2 TV market without a race. 

A question this weekend was if the Clash would become a points race next year to replace the Auto Club Speedway date and allow NASCAR to have a new venue for the Clash.

“I think they should put (the Coliseum race) in the playoffs, personally. That would be perfect,” Denny Hamlin said straight faced after Sunday’s race before breaking into a smile to show he was speaking sarcastically.

Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano was emphatic in his response.

“No,” Logano said, shaking his head Sunday night. “We can’t do that.”

Why?

“You’re going to fit 40 cars out there? We can’t even make a caution lap without the pace car bumping the last-place car.”

Logano smiled as he spoke — then again he often smiles as he talks. He was not speaking sarcastically as Hamlin showed with his smile. Logano’s grin was part of a passionate defense.

“No. You can’t do that,” Logano continued of why a points race at the Coliseum is a bad idea. “That’d be dumb.”

Even in a celebratory mood after his first victory in NASCAR in more than a year, Truex was clear about his feelings of making the Clash a points race.

“Why would you screw it up,” he said, “and make it a points race?”

Just because drivers don’t like something doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

But much would have to happen to make this event a points race.

Those familiar with the charter agreement between teams and NASCAR told NBC Sports that they weren’t sure that the language in the agreement would permit a points race at such a venue. With the charter system guaranteeing all 36 teams a spot in a race, it’s not feasible to run so many cars on this small track. Only 27 cars ran in Sunday’s Clash. That almost seemed too many.

Should there be a way to make this event a points race without all 36 running in the main event, there are other issues. 

The purse would have to significantly increase. NASCAR stated that the purse for Sunday’s Clash was $2.085 million. Last year’s championship race at Phoenix had a purse of $10.5 million. The purse for last year’s Cup race at Watkins Glen was $6.6 million. The purse for last year’s race at Nashville Superspeedway was $8.065 million.

If NASCAR made the Clash a points race, then the purse would be expected to fall in line with other points races. Of course, there still would be the logistics. 

But is it worth it to try to make an event something it doesn’t need to be?

While the attendance appeared to be a little less than the estimated 50,000 for last year’s race, it wasn’t enough of a drop to warrant abandoning this event. Is a points race at the Coliseum going to increase the attendance significantly? No.

Just bring this event back next year as is.

“I think it’s good for what it is,” Logano said. “It’s a non-points race. I think we need to go back to maybe only four cars (instead of five) transferring from the heat (races) … there’s just too many cars (on the track). I think that’s part of the issue as well.”

Then, to make sure he got his point across about if next year’s Coliseum race should be a points race, Logano said: “A points-paying race. No. I’ll be the first to raise my hand that’s a very bad idea.” 

But it’s possible 2024 could be the final year for this event at the Coliseum. 

If Auto Club Speedway’s conversion to a short track can be done in time to be on the 2025 schedule, then the Los Angeles region would have a short track and NASCAR could move the Clash to a new area to reach more fans.

That’s part of the goal this new dynamic NASCAR, which has moved Cup races to different venues in the last couple of years and will run its first street course race in July in Chicago. 

While NASCAR has made such changes, making the race at the Coliseum a points race serves no purpose. Just listen to the drivers.