TRUEX WINS CLASH AT THE COLISEUM
Truex scores first Clash victory
LOS ANGELES (February 5, 2023) – Martin Truex Jr. won the Clash at the LA Coliseum after leading the final 25 (of 150) laps. It is Truex Jr.’s first Clash victory and the seventh Clash win for Toyota. Tyler Reddick finished sixth in his Toyota debut, while Denny Hamlin (ninth) and Bubba Wallace (23rd) both spent time out front in the annual non-points event.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
The Clash – 150 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
2nd, Austin Dillon *
3rd, Kyle Busch*
4th, Alex Bowman*
5th, Kyle Larson*
6th, TYLER REDDICK
9th, DENNY HAMLIN
13th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
22nd, BUBBA WALLACE
26th, TY GIBBS
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
You’ve accomplished a lot in your career, but winning the Clash was not one of the accomplishments until now. What was the difference tonight?
“Really good race car. The guys did a great job with this Bass Pro Shops Club Toyota Camry – TRACKER Boats, Reser’s Fine Foods, Auto Owners, True Timber, Cessna, just all of our partners that let us do this. Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins, so to come out here and kick it off this way – I’m just really proud of all of these guys. Tonight was about perseverance, not giving up – just battle through and we found ourselves at the right spot at the end. Sometimes they work out your way, sometimes they don’t. Tonight it went our way and we made some good adjustments too.”
How satisfying was it for you that with all of those late cautions you were still able to get the job done after last year and all those crazy situations that unfolded?
“Yeah, it was definitely satisfying. Anytime you win it’s obviously satisfying. I had some good guys around me. Austin and Kyle raced clean, and for the most part I’ve never had really any big issues with those guys. You come to a track like this, it’s pretty easy to just blow the corner and knock the guy out of the way in front of you. It’s just easy to do. Thankfully they didn’t do that. They gave me a lap to get going, and obviously we were fast enough to drive away from them.”
Over the years you and Kyle (Busch) might have gotten along the best or raced each other the best of all the JGR teammates; like you guys seemed to get it with each other. On that restart I was kind of like, are things going to change now? Did that go through your head at all? Were you worried he would race you any differently now that you’re not on the same team?
“No. I never thought about it once. We had a really good race in our heat race today, and we talked about it after, and it was like, hey, that was pretty fun. We put on a little bit of a show for a heat race, running side by side for the lead and swapping back and forth two or three times. We’ve raced together for a long time. We understand the sport. I’ve got a ton of respect for Kyle, obviously, and I feel like he’s one of the guys that gives it back to me. It goes all the way back to ’04 when we ran for a championship against each other, and we probably didn’t get along very well then or we didn’t cut each other many breaks then. But I think we’ve all grown up around the sport and raced together a lot and understand that we’re going to be racing together a lot, and it’s a lot easier to do things the right way and have that respect.”
Your crew chief, James Small, said that you were different this off-season. I’m wondering if you are different, and if so, how?
“Mad. Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.
If you look at all the statistics, we had a decent year. We were consistent. We scored a lot of points. We struggled on short tracks and road courses, which ultimately is what kept us out of the playoffs.
Just so many times that we felt like we were doing the right things and probably should have won a couple races, and they got away from us. That was very, very frustrating. Knowing that we were doing everything we needed to do to win, it sucked. Just wanting to go out and show them what we can do. We’ve been very fired up this off-season, working very hard, all of us. It’s just nice when it all works out and you can come to the track and things go the way you hope they will. Hopefully we can do a lot more of that. 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.”
You kind of touched on it there, but is this a statement in some way?
“No, 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. 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. The 41 (Ryan Preece) was really strong. He had some issues. We’ve certainly been in that position a lot, as well. Not sure how that would have worked out if he didn’t have issues. He was really strong. Then like the restarts just worked our way. I was having tons of brake issues all night and throughout the second half of the race, so just lucky to be able to put it all together and hang on to those restarts and put it all together with the brake issues I was having.”
What can a win like this, despite it being an exhibition race, do as far as momentum to carry in to Daytona and to start the season on the right foot?
“It’s huge. It’s a huge confidence booster. Just reminds you that you’re doing the right stuff. Honestly, we were probably the worst car here last year, literally, besides maybe the guys that didn’t have charters. We were just God awful. We barely made the race. Rode around the back and I spun out by myself on the last lap it was so bad, you know, trying to pass one car. To come back this year and be first in practice, I was really honestly nervous last night. I went to bed thinking today was going to suck. It was going to be a long day because it’s going to be hard to pass and we were starting sixth in our heat on the outside. They only take five. It’s like, well, if you finish fifth you’re still going to suck in the race because you’re going to start 20th. To be able to drive up through the field in the heat and win that was just huge. It was a huge confidence builder. I knew after that if we could just be smart tonight and stay up front all night we’d have a shot at it. But it’s a big deal. Any of these races are hard to win. All of them are hard to win. Doesn’t matter if there’s points or not. We’re proud of this one. It’s a big deal.”
Can you take us through what you were going through mentally and emotionally when you dropped the hammer? And also, now that you won this tight quarter mile track, do you feel more comfortable driving through LA traffic?
“LA traffic is no problem. It’s just like Jersey traffic. But I hate traffic. Hate all of it. If I see it, I’m like, oh, this sucks. Just want to hide, pull off the road, drive through them. But on the restarts at the end, it’s frustrating when you’ve got a big lead, and like the 34 was trying to — he rode around at like 10 miles an hour for three or four laps; he should’ve just got off the damn track, you know what I mean? Obviously he wasn’t going to finish the race, so why was he just riding around? So that was frustrating. Then the other stuff, it’s just guys getting into each other on a tiny little track and getting spun out and things. The restarts you’re just trying to get a good jump and then not screw it up. Like I said earlier, I was having lots of brake issues. I’m not sure what was going on. Our rear brakes got too hot or we did something and lost all the rear braking and start locking up front tires getting into the corner, and I just kept putting more rear brake in and I was about to be out of adjustment. I’ve never, ever in my whole entire career put that many rounds of rear brake in a car, so I was a little nervous about that. I was kind of locking up all four tires getting into the corner I and just trying to make the corner. It was a little sketchy at the end, but everybody was out of tires and we had so many restarts and so much air in our tires that everybody just kind of was slipping and sliding. Luckily I was just able to get a good enough jump and get cleared, and then just tried not to give it away and totally miss a corner.”
This is a very exciting event even though it’s preseason. What does it mean to you that you’re participating in this event?
“It’s fun to come here, but it’s a lot more fun to win it. Last year wasn’t all that fun. This weekend was a blast.”
Earlier you also said you’re more determined. Is there any event that you have sort of a checklist so far this season?
“You know, we’d like to win them all. We’re one for one right now, so that’s a good way to start. Daytona 500 is a huge race. It’s the biggest race of the year for us, and going there with momentum is great. Been really close there before; it would be an awesome one to check off the list.”
Apart from all the hard driving and hard work you’ve put in today, just over the couple days of preparation, even Friday and Saturday and Sunday, culminating your today, your perspective on the fans that turned out for the event tonight?
“Yeah, it’s definitely exciting. It’s a different venue for us and it’s kind of got a different vibe with all the things going on and the history around this place, like giving the medals and doing the podium, and it’s a unique event. It’s a one-off deal and it’s fun. We’ve done the Clash for a long time and it’s never really been hyped up like it is now being its own standalone event, and I think that’s really neat, especially doing it somewhere totally different like here with a lot of history. It’s definitely a lot of fun, and hopefully the fans keep supporting it and coming out. There’s no telling what we can make this thing into.”
With you being competitive this time around, did it in any way remind you of the Busch North days back then with the beating and banging on a short track like this?
“Yeah, it was funny. After Victory Lane, I was like, I’ve raced a lot of races that are 150 laps, because most of our races back then were 150s, and I don’t ever remember one taking that long. That felt like a 400-mile race. It was forever and ever, caution, caution, caution. Yeah, we raced on a lot of tracks that there was a lot of beating and banging like that, especially for me up front on those restarts, you know, how many times we’d kind of go back and forth. It definitely reminded me a lot of those short tracks back in those days. Not really taking each other out, just running hard, rubbing a lot, and kind of getting out of shape. It was a ton of fun.”
You’ve said a couple times you had fun tonight. In the moment, the way that race was, as choppy as it was, the beating and the banging, is that fun?
“When you’re not getting spun around, turned around backwards, yes. When you’re up front and you’re just kind of banging and beating and guys are sliding into the corner making mistakes and all that, that’s fun. It’s no fun when you just get run over and turned around, which I feel like is a lot of what was going on with all the cautions. Luckily we weren’t involved in that. We had a few instances where it got close, but we were able to hang on. Yeah. It’s always fun it be up front and have a shot at the win.”
Had you not won, would you still think it’s fun?
“Yeah. I feel like if I would have finished up front, which I — there’s a lot of points in the race where I felt like I didn’t really have the car where I needed it to be to win, and I was still enjoying it.
To answer your question, yeah, as long as nothing really stupid happened, I think I would have had fun most of the time.”
You mentioned Ryan Preece, the 41 car, kind of being the only one that gave you a run for your money pretty much. How shocking was that to see a driver you didn’t race against last year, a car that’s not typically up there, be the one that you’re struggling to track down?
“I’m not shocked at all really. He’s a great short track driver. Won tons of short track races, modifieds, et cetera. He’s run a lot of races in tracks like this or a similar to this. I wasn’t surprised at all, and I’ve raced with him before, and he’s in really probably better equipment now than he’s ever been, and I’m sure he’s got a really good team. I wasn’t surprised, and at that point in the race I felt like my car was off when he got the lead from us there and — or, let’s see, he didn’t get the lead from me. I think I was second at the time and he got by me on a restart then got the lead. He was just really strong at that point in the race, and I didn’t feel like my car was that good. For whatever reason the second half of the race it really took a long, long time for my car to get going, which it’s kind of been that way the whole weekend, but it felt like the second half of the race was even more so. I think just because it was cooling off outside and the track temp was dropping and it was taking longer to come in. We were starting to get real equal to him, maybe a little faster, when he started having his issues.
No telling what would have happened, but it was fun to race with him. He’s a great kid and he’s a great talent.”
Could this race be a points race here?
“No. How are you going to put all the cars out there? How are you going to do pit stops?”
There aren’t pit stops at the Bristol dirt race and it pays points.
“It’s dirt. Different. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t think we can get 36 cars — you’re going to put 36 cars out there? 38? Hell yeah. I think you do. Maybe somebody doesn’t think you do. I don’t make those decisions, but in my opinion, I don’t think it should be, but it’s such a great event. Why would you want to screw it up and make it a points race? It’s like a one-off deal, the Clash. The Clash used to — since I’ve been doing it, it just kind of got boring, from back in the day when it was just pole winners from last year, then it was champions, and then it was everybody that made the playoffs. It just got all weird, and now this is really cool. It’s got its own identity, fun race, all the way out here in a cool venue that’s got a lot of history. I don’t know, I think it’s kind of got a good vibe to it now. Let’s not maybe screw that up. And we have enough points races. How many are we going to have? Where are you going to take it from?”
You mentioned track temps when talking about Preece. How much of a difference do you think it taking longer for tires to come in in the second half, how much of a contribution do you think that was to all the chaos in those first 10 laps?
“Yeah, I would say that it was probably a big factor. The restarts, I mean, I felt like I was John Force out there all night just smoking the rear tires during the cautions, two or three times every straight away, just trying to keep them warm, and everybody was doing that because the tires are so hard, the track is brand new pavement. These tires don’t like to cool off. Yeah, I would say that’s a lot of it. You’re just sliding so bad on restarts that guys would get in the corner and they’re locking the brakes, they can’t turn, can’t get the rear to hook up. So they’re just sliding into each other, and that was, I’m sure, a big factor. Daytime racing probably would have been a little bit less as far as cautions go, I think.”
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