Challenged by pandemic, Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation keeps rolling

Brad Keselowski foundation pandemic
Brittany Butterworth Photography
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Brad Keselowski and the Checkered Flag Foundation buttoned up a decade of doing goodwill unto others with an event last Saturday that fittingly was about transitions.

In collaboration with Suiting Warriors (a nonprofit organization that aids veterans with upscale professional attire) and lifestyle clothing brand Ike Behar, Keselowski’s charitable organization provided a half-dozen servicemembers with tailored suits to help prepare for entry into the private sector and civilian workforce that can be a jarring adjustment.

The new threads were a welcome gift for Evan Anderson, a 30-year-old Army Special Operations soldier who was part of the “SuitUp” held at Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing in Statesville, North Carolina.

“In the military, no matter what branch you serve, you wake up and put the same thing on every single day,” Anderson, who is completing a University of South Carolina degree to seek agency work in advertising and marketing, told NBC Sports in a phone interview. “All you need to do is show up in the right uniform the way they tell you to put it on, and you’re good. One of the things that I think gets severely left behind during our transition is how to dress for success and how to create a great first impression.

Evan Anderson, a combat veteran and member of the 1st Special Forces Command, was fitted at the SuitUp event held by the Checkered Flag Foundation, Suiting Warriors and Ike Behar (Brittany Butterworth Photography).

“A lot of us carry a stigma we may not be good enough to go into a civilian career even if we have leadership experience. We feel we might project a certain air, or an employer might look at us differently because we were in the military. When we’re able to figure out what we can do to present ourselves in the best possible way, it really does help with the confidence of our transition.”

Transition also has been a theme this year for the Checkered Flag Foundation, which Keselowski founded in 2010 with a goal of supporting veterans, first responders and their families.

While celebrating the CFF’s 10-year anniversary, the Team Penske driver said his foundation massively shifted its 2020 strategy on the fly after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, focusing on partnering with more organizations.

“No doubt, there were serious headwinds,” Keselowski said in a phone interview with NBC Sports. “We can certainly shudder in the face of them, or we can get creative and adapt. We tried really hard to get creative and adapt.

“We were supposed to have a big fundraiser and instead made it a very small one and made it all about the people we serve rather than try to raise funds. We were fortunate to have some funding in the kitty to carry us through the year. Obviously, that won’t last forever, but we used all those resources wisely in order to get us this far, so I’m proud of our team for being able to really tighten up and bear the storm, but do it in such a way that we didn’t slow down on the things we wanted to get done.

“Ten years have gone fast, I still remember announcing the foundation in March 2010, and I’ve still got a lot more I want to do. ”


Despite the pandemic, Checkered Flag Foundation still managed to assist on several major projects in 2020.

Among the highlights:

–The opening of Fisher House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which houses the family members of veterans while they are receiving medical center treatment (Keselowski, who hails from Rochester Hills, Michigan, has family members who have been treated at a nearby VA hospital).

–The training and presentation of a service canine (named “Khaos”) donated to a veteran through Black Paw Canine in a program called “Hero’s Homecoming.”

The third year of Tribute 2 Veterans that puts veterans’ names on Keselowski’s Autotrader-sponsored No. 2 Ford at Atlanta Motor Speedway (the March 21, 2021 race is open for nominating veterans, military members or family military members through the program’s nomination site).

–Providing frontline workers at Atrium Health with meals and facemasks, which also were distributed at the Ann Arbor VA. Keselowski appreciated that because “it gave us the ability to help nurses and make sure veterans were honored in the last day of their lives.

“Unfortunately, a lot of veterans pass away by themselves without any support structure,” he said. “Their final days are not what I think any of us would like for them to be. We’re able to help that out a little bit and then also support the nurses as well. It’s traumatic for all parties involved.”

The goal often is maximizing efficacy and efficiency. Keselowski said it can be challenging for a charitable organization in choosing the worthiest opportunities, particularly during a pandemic that creates great need but also puts limits and restrictions on the methodology for helping.

“We get a lot of individual requests of, ‘Hey, so and so passed away and would like funds on their behalf for families,’” he said. “Those are certainly noble causes, but they are very hard for us to vet and ensure the success of the funding. Some partnerships go better that can really help keep us from being the arbiters of those in need.

Brad Keselowski meets with servicemembers during the SuitUp event at Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing (Brittany Butterworth Photography).

“The last thing I want to do is be asking someone their story and telling them, ‘Look, I know you made a huge sacrifice, but really, it’s not enough to pass our threshold.’ I want us to be in a spot where we can partner with a group that knows what’s going on behind the scenes and also is doing a good job at making sure the right candidates are helped in a way that will be impactful for a long time.”

Those partnerships don’t always involve large organizations. Keselowski said CFF sponsored two veterans in rehab programs because they were recommended by a judge who found their recovery attempts to be sincere.

“We look for causes like that,” Keselowski said. “I’m just trying to be impactful. I think there’s a lot we can do, and it’s hard sometimes to really focus on what mission will make a difference. And we get a lot of individual requests, and the reality is, more times than not, those are not really a wise use of funds or time.

“We’re trying to be really thoughtful, really diligent with the things we support so they can be impactful in a long-lasting way. And this year as much as any other year, I feel we did a hell of a job with that. I’m really proud of it.”


Even with social distancing, there is no substitute for an in-person experience, though. That made last Saturday’s event more special for Keselowski, who wants “clear, tangible results and knowing someone is walking away in a better position before I met them and for them to feel the same way, no matter what it is we’re doing to help them.”

A meet and greet with the servicemembers, most of whom were involved with Special Operations, also was a chance to live vicariously for Keselowski, who often has said he would have enlisted if he wasn’t racing.

“Almost all of them are NASCAR fans, which is pretty cool,” he said. “I just love hearing their stories about ‘I trained in this battlefield.’ And then their mannerisms are so special. All of them are super classy but smart and articulate, which I don’t think a lot of the time our veterans get the credit they deserve for that.”

Nick Syer is fitted for ‘the softest and most comfortable suit’ he ever has owned (Brittany Butterworth Photography).

Nick Syer, who joined the Marine Corps out of high school in 2008, has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain, helping teach skills in close-quarters battles, explosives and ballistic breaching with shotguns.

But the Rochester, New York, native also is a self-taught mechanic interested in a high-performance automotive career, which added another dimension to the SuitUp being held at Keselowski’s former race shop.

“As soon as we got there, I was poking around on all of Brad’s cars like a kid in a toy store,” Syer, 31, said with a laugh about touring a collection that includes a few of Keselowski’s NASCAR winners and a Ford GT.

But just as important was getting fitted for “the softest and most comfortable” suit he ever had worn.

“I’m not the most knowledgeable about it; the need for suits isn’t what I’ve been doing the last decade-plus,” he said. “But for individuals in the special operations community or just the military in general transitioning into the private or civilian sector, it’s important. A first impression with anyone is huge, especially during a job interview, so having a quality suit gives off that positive first impression and a little more presence. You just look professional

“I’m not one usually to take handouts or gifts, so I’m extremely grateful for the foundation. What they’re letting me leave here with is great.”

Anderson, who has been deployed three times to the Middle East, has explored starting a media company to help veteran business owners and had the chance to pick Keselowski’s brain about entrepreneurship.

“Transition is hectic because not only are we thinking about stuff like the state of the job market in the pandemic, we’re thinking about retirement and separation benefits and about dealing with the VA and where we’re going to move our family and health care,” said Anderson, who was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, but fell in love with Southern living after being stationed at Fort Bragg.

“This is just one less thing off a huge plate of stuff to have to deal with. I honestly do most of my learning from speaking to people and learning from their experience and lessons of things they wish they would have done differently.”


Keselowski said his best advice is “to learn Industry 4.0. It’s coming like a freight train, and it’s going to be digital. If you can learn Industry 4.0, you have a great chance of being successful in the near and long-term future.”

The opportunities could come directly from the event’s location – the 70,000-square-foot facility that houses Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, the 3-D printing company that Keselowski opened two years ago. With business booming, Keselowski recently posted a Twitter thread inviting displaced NASCAR team members to apply at KAM – and about 40 did.

“We hired three after interviewing almost 20,” said Keselowski, who estimates 50 percent of the KAM payroll is comprised of former NASCAR industry members. “I tried to hire a dozen, but some work out better than others, and some people might get other opportunities, and that’s OK. We reviewed every person, and we certainly moved forward with hiring some, which was exciting.”

Between managing KAM’s exponential growth and enjoying a career renaissance in Cup last season (a runner-up points finish was his best since the 2012 championship), Keselowski relies heavily on day-to-day oversight of the Checkered Flag Foundation through his wife, Paige, and managing director Emily Gibson.

Keselowski said the work brings he and Paige closer together as “a way to show our gratitude, especially given the life we are so privileged to live.

“Whenever there’s an event coming up, she’s the one who’s scheduling it,” Keselowski said. “She’s the one making sure all the behind-the-scenes details are ready to go. She likes to work behind the scenes and coordinate and get things organized, and she does a hell of a job at it.

“Without having her doing those things, it would have been impossible to pull off the things we did this year. She’s not doing it alone, but Paige is a significant driving force to making the foundation a success.”

Keselowski said the organization’s biggest successes are measured in helping veterans “that are pretty incredible people in many ways,” especially around the holiday season when mental health can be a struggle for some. Keselowski said he has been distressed having read about rising suicide rates for veterans.

“It scares the bejesus out of you,” he said. “You can sit and kind of cry and complain about it or you can get up and go to work on it.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who can do everything, but we can all do a little bit of something, and I’m glad my foundation can do a little bit of something to help.”

Winners and losers from the Clash at the Coliseum

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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

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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.

What NASCAR Cup Series drivers said about The Clash at the Coliseum

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Here is what NASCAR Cup Series drivers had to say after Sunday’s Busch Light Clash exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where Martin Truex Jr. was the winner and was awarded the gold medal (for results and stats, click here):

Martin Truex Jr. — winner: “Really good race car. The guys did a great job with this Toyota Camry. Last year was a pretty rough season with no wins. To come out here and kick it off this way, just really proud of all these guys. Sometimes, you just persevere. Tonight it went our way, and we made some good adjustments, too.”

Austin Dillon — Finished second: “I hate it for Bubba (Wallace), he had a good car and a good run. I just know he sent me through the corner. I saved it three times through there, Then I was going to give the same. Probably it was a little too hard. My teammate let me try to get Truex at the end, that was nice. Been fun. Hopefully, we can do this more often.”

Kyle Busch — Finished third: “It was a battle all night long, but you can’t count us out. We used the outside on a lot of passes. When you’re deep in the field, you can do that to make up ground. Overall good to get back up to third, could have gone second, but I let Austin go. He was better than us in practice. I thought he could have a shot at trying to get close to (Truex), and I’ll push him through to get a 1-2, but never made it there.”

Alex Bowman — Finished fourth: “Yeah, I think there was a couple good restarts from the outside the beginning of the second half of the race when we had a restart every half a lap. That helped us. I think we went from eighth to second there pretty quickly. Obviously that was a big gain for us, and then just kind of got put back a little bit. I had one bad restart from the outside of the front row, and that hurt our finishing position. But yeah, really good race car, and those couple restarts kind of got us out of the mess.”

Kyle Larson — Finished fifth: “It feels good to get to fifth. I didn’t really work my way forward to fifth. It was kind of a battle of attrition. I was just kind of stuck, which I’m sure a lot of people felt stuck and always wanted to choose the outside on the restarts, but everybody in the middle of the pack figured out that the outside was better at the same time. Then it just never worked out where I could choose the outside lane and just kind of got stuck in 10th for a while, and yeah, kind of just got slammed from behind forward. Never really passed but one or two cars and came from 14th to fifth. There was just a lot more slamming around this time. Last year was the first race for this car, and we didn’t know how tough they were at the time. There was not as much slamming. I think people didn’t quite know how strong the noses and rear bumpers were. This year it was just like everybody just ran through the person in front of them. If you got a hole to get down, somewhere to get down, then the three or four cars behind would just shove them through the two in front of them. A lot of accordion, and just difficult on the restarts, especially where I was, middle of the pack.”

Ryan Preece — Finished seventh: “The fuel pump (broke). The primary pump went bad. I don’t know. I don’t think we were close on fuel. At first, I thought it was ignition because usually when it’s fuel it just keeps cutting, so I shut off my alternator and all of my electrical stuff and it seemed to help a little bit. It did it again and I lost four spots, so I just flipped the switch and a miracle happened. Ultimately, this car was so badass. It was so fast. We drove from 16th outside, inside, everything it took. I’m proud of the speed. I’m happy for the opportunity, but it sucks giving them away. That just comes from, first off, my grassroots experience, just working hard and just having a fast race car. Chad and I, we’re a new team but we’ve already got a year-and-a-half experience together and knowing lingo. If it’s off, I’ll let him know it, but if it’s that close, he’ll go with his gut. I’m hoping that we can use this as a good start, go to the 500 and win that one and get ourselves in the Playoffs and then try to win some more.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 10th: “There are just no repercussions to driving in and using the bumper of the car in front of you. They hit someone in front of them, and the car two cars up spins. The only way to do it is to officiate unnecessary contact and (send them) to the rear. But the whole field would be black-flagged if we raced like that. I don’t really have a good answer.” (Could this be a points race with Auto Club Speedway off the 2024 schedule?) “I think they should put it in the playoffs, personally. That would be perfect (smiles).”

Justin Haley — Finished 11th: “I’m so proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing and where we have come in a short amount of time. The race results weren’t exactly what we wanted, but this weekend was a fun confidence booster. It’s pretty cool to get mine and Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR Cup Series pole, points race or not, and I think we really showed we belong here. I feel pretty confident about where we are, and I think we are in a good spot to start the season.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 14th: “I felt like we had a decent No. 42 Sunseeker Resort Chevy. We just had some damage on the front from the heat race that hurt us with cooling the right front and the brakes. We got really tight in the first half of the race. We started cutting some of it away, but overall, it was just a pinball machine out there. I thought we had some good restarts; good lane choices and we were making our way back up there. We got back up to eighth but just didn’t have enough there. I kind of made some poor decisions there at the end and chose the wrong line. I thought they were all going to stack up there on the bottom, so I went to the outside and they didn’t. It’s just part of the learning curve. Thank you to everyone at Legacy Motor Club: Jimmie Johnson, Maury Gallagher, Richard Petty, Mike Beam. Everybody that’s a part of this team. They worked really hard and I’m definitely excited to start the year off with making it into this race. I’m just very thankful.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 15th: “For us, we were never really good all weekend on a short run and that kind of killed us at the beginning. We kind of lost our track position. There wasn’t really very many long runs. On long runs we would always kind of go forward and then you’d be beating and banging, obviously. I got turned around there the one time and it was really hard to pass. I felt like unless you were maybe three or four of those cars, they were really the only ones that were good enough that they could just kind of move through the field. We were one of those cars, I felt like if you put us in fourth or fifth, we would maintain, but we weren’t good enough to drive from the back to the front. We were just a little bit off. We just needed a little bit more. There was a lot of beating and banging and a lot of cautions. That was a really long race, longer than I expected. I felt like it was a good start to the season, just getting a race mentality. The race was extremely hot with the mufflers. I was getting pretty fumed out, but it’s good to kind of get readjusted to those things when we get the season back going.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 16th: “It was an up-and-down weekend for us at the Coliseum. We made adjustments after practice that helped us qualify on the front row of our heat race. We just lacked grip during the heat race and last chance qualifier. We lacked speed all day, but we made the race, made handling improvements and learned a lot to take back and build on. We’ve definitely got some work to do on this style track.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 18th: “Man, we just made a big mistake there. I didn’t get notified that it was the choose lap and we got stuck on the outside and lost track position, and then I kind of burned the tires up trying to get down. It was a track position race all night. You needed to stay in the top three or four and I felt like took off really good. The car had great speed and it was doing everything I needed it to, but you can’t make mistakes like that. I’m not sure what happened on the communication side there, but it didn’t get relayed to me fast enough that we were coming to the choose. I hate that, but still a great way to start the year. We had a lot of speed in our Ford Mustang and led some laps in the big show, but once you get in the back it turns into bumper cars. It is what it is. We’ll go to Daytona.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 19th: “It was tough. I couldn’t breathe and it was tough because of that. I think at lap 30 or so in the first stage, we had contact in the right side of the car, and that made the exhaust get some fumes inside the cabin. After that, I struggled a lot, especially the second half of the race. I felt like I was okay for a while, but then the second half of the race I struggled big time. We just have to continue to get better. I felt like the car was okay. We definitely made a big swing for the main race and we showed that, but actually went to the other side of it. We just have to continue to work and continue to learn.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 24th: “I don’t know how many laps under caution we ran, but obviously just a calculation running the LCQ and a heat race. We just didn’t anticipate running over 100 laps of caution, so that was unfortunate. It was a battle out there for sure. I feel good about how we were able to start near the back and drive up into the top 12, top 13 twice, so our car was good. It’s just a good weekend. We’ve got a lot of new guys, so it was good to get up to speed and figure each other out.”

Erik Jones — Finished 27th: “I couldn’t move over. I was clear on the straightaway, but obviously (Michael McDowell) really wanted the spot. When we got spun out, I think we must have got hit in the right rear and it bent the toe link pretty bad. It kind of is what it is. Michael has gotten me twice pretty good now, which is frustrating. I think we had a decent car. We were kind of moving up there and I felt good about it. It’s a tough little place and it’s easy to get in trouble like that. We’ll move on with the No. 43 Chevy to the Daytona 500 and hopefully go for a win.”

Chris Buescher — DNQ for main event: “It’s definitely a bummer again.  We fought hard and thought we had made some improvements.  I think we did, but ultimately it didn’t yield a much different result here.  We had some really good short track runs last year, obviously Bristol and Richmond and a couple of others, and then there were a handful that didn’t go real good, I’m thinking like Loudon, so maybe it’s one of those deals where we’ve got to dissect what’s similar and what’s plaguing us at times like these or races like this and get back on track.  It’s definitely not the way you want to start the year, but we’ll be ready for Daytona. We’re racers, though, so it hurts your feelings.  You want to be better than that and we just weren’t.  It’s not much like other places we go and it’s kind of like bumper cars out there in a lot of ways, but it’s still a race and we need to be more competitive.”

Brad Keselowski — DNQ for main event: “We’re better than we were here last year but not enough better to make the difference.  This track has gotten slick, but we’ll go swing at them next week. There’s no other track like this and we were really good at Phoenix.  We’re excited to see what we can do there.  Of course, Daytona was really good for us last year, but we have to figure something out for this track, clearly, and we’ll just keep working on it. We are getting a better understanding of the car, but just not better enough of what it needs on the vehicle dynamics side.  We’re still working through that.  We’ve got some new hires and new things going on that started last week and we’ll see if we can get better. We just never could get the corner.  We were just really loose in with both of our cars and just couldn’t turn the wheel.”

Clash at the Coliseum NASCAR Cup Series race results

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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

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: Click here for postrace reaction

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.

Main event results (150 laps): 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