LOS ANGELES, Calif. - With a weather system called the Pineapple Express preparing to dump multiple inches of rain in the Southern California region for as much as three straight days, NASCAR made the decision to turn the Clash at the Coliseum into a one-day show with the main event running on Saturday night as opposed to its regularly-scheduled Sunday slot.
Despite the change and only about five hours of notice that the race was going to be run, thousands of fans showed up and watched defending series champion Ryan Blaney almost pull off a memorable victory. He started at the back of the 23-car field after being forced to take the lone provisional starting spot, but when it came time to decide the winner, he was right there.
Blaney was on the outside of the front row for a two-lap overtime restart with Denny Hamlin inside of him. Hamlin was able to take the preferred lane and edge in front of Blaney, who worked the outside as hard as possible, but eventually finished behind eventual winner Hamlin and second-place Kyle Busch, who also restarted on the inside lane.
Joey Logano took the final restart from the inside of lane three and parlayed that into a fourth-place finish, but he was upset with Ty Gibbs after a restart with 10 laps left didn’t go his way. Gibbs was on the inside of the front row with Logano outside. As the two went into turn two side-by-side, Logano got moved up the track and fell back to sixth-place before recovering to gain two spots at the end.
Chase Briscoe and Brad Keselowski bounced back from a challenging qualifying round to finish seventh and eighth, respectively, as Ford placed four drivers in the top 10.
The race marked the debut of Ford’s all-new NASCAR Mustang Dark Horse and it was competitive all night as Logano led the opening two laps and then held the top spot at the event’s halfway mark of 75 laps.
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st – Denny Hamlin
2nd – Kyle Busch
3rd – Ryan Blaney
4th – Joey Logano
5th – Kyle Larson
6th – Alex Bowman
7th – Chase Briscoe
8th – Brad Keselowski
9th – Martin Truex Jr.
10th – WIlliam Byron
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
11th – Ryan Preece
19th – Michael McDowell
20th – Noah Gragson
21st – Justin Haley
23rd – Todd Gilliland
DID NOT QUALIFY
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Great Lakes Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
DID YOU THINK YOU’D HAVE TO TAKE A PROVISIONAL?
“The plan was not to take a provisional. Our group was pretty slow. I guess we just couldn’t go, so we were lucky that we got in the race and then we did a good job all night. We just kind of stayed clean and our car was fast too, to just kind of drive up through the field. A couple of restarts went our way to where our lanes went. I had a shot. I got a terrible restart on the last one, but I probably wouldn’t have won anyway. We came from a long way back, so it was fun. I think every time I’ve been here I’ve been spun backwards two or three times, so it’s nice not to have that at the last one. It’s good.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LIKED ABOUT RACING HERE?
“The demographic and the way that they kind of pulled the trigger on today trying to get it in. I think that was really smart by NASCAR. Maybe it doesn’t show in the stands just because of what it was, but it gets a lot of support and you also have the NASCAR Mexico Series here too. I think that’s good as well to kind of grow their side. It’s a neat area to do it in.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
WHAT HAVE YOU LIKED ABOUT RACING HERE?
“I think it’s very entertaining and sometimes it’s real frustrating when you’re out there because it’s a tight bull ring and you’ve got big cars and they’re sliding around, especially on refires with old tires you’re sliding a lot. I know from rewatching races and sitting in the grandstands for one of the LCQ’s a couple years ago it was like, ‘This is really entertaining to watch.’ It becomes pretty crazy at the end, obviously, but you kind of see that. I think we were actually a little better than we were last year.”
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“We were good. We weren’t great. We probably needed a little bit more to kind of get into that top three or five group. We were kind of just OK there, but for us starting 22nd and get to seventh was good. I did not even think we were going to make the race. I was walking back to change and ready to head to the airport and I realized we made it so from that to seventh is something to be happy about. It’s a good way to start the season with a little bit of confidence. It was gonna be kind of a kick in the butt if we didn’t make the race, so it was nice to just make the race and then be able to go forward and pass cars and a lot of good cars too. This doesn't really mean anything for the rest of the year, but for our confidence and from a team building standpoint I feel like it’s a really good start.”
JUSTIN HALEY, No. 51 Walmart Health and Wellness Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“I’m really proud of the effort from everyone at Rick Ware Racing. We were having a good night. Early in the race we were able to make some gains and as it went on, you either get better or fall off, and once we lost some track position we definitely had some of that fall off. I think we would’ve been alright at the end. I feel like we could’ve gained a few more positions before it blew up, but overall I’m just really proud of how we did tonight and I can’t wait to get some more time with the team and show everyone what we’ve been working on.”
DID NOT QUALIFY FOR THE CLASH
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Freightliner Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AFTER NOT MAKING IT IN THE MAIN EVENT?
“Obviously, not excited about not being able to make the show. This place has been pretty challenging for me. We made a lot of progress between the first group of practice and second group of practice. We kind of did a Hail Mary on changes for qualifying, so I think we learned some stuff. We tried to apply some things that will hopefully help us with directions in the season, but it’s not fun to be able to watch it. I’d much rather be driving.”
YOU HAD SOME CHALLENGES HERE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND THEN WON THE DAYTONA 500, SO THIS DOESN’T DEFINE A SEASON.
“We do not race anywhere like this, that’s for sure. It’s definitely not discouraging me for the season. I was hoping I’d be able to make more progress at this track with the effort we put into the off-season.”
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE WITH THE CURVEBALL YOU WERE THROWN TODAY WITH THE WEATHER AND CHANGE IN THE RACE?
“Nothing about that messed us up. We were better than we had been in the past. I felt pretty decent in the second practice there and got into our session and I don’t know. We were around fast cars in practice and thought we’d be able to pace them pretty well and the group didn’t go. I got caught up behind a car there and should have gapped more. I felt like we were definitely in a lot better spot this season and we were, but that’s just frustrating.”
JOSH BERRY, No. 4 SunnyD Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“Obviously, it was definitely a fun experience to race here at the Coliseum. I feel like everybody did a good job. It was a lot happening really quickly there and I thought we did the best we could and we just barely missed it. I think we just needed a little bit more time to make some adjustments, but ultimately we were really close to making it into the show, but we’ll just go get ready and get ‘em at Daytona.”
KAZ GRALA, No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“I like the track a lot. Definitely quirky. It's different than anywhere I've ever been in anything, but you know, I feel like we started out of the box a little bit far off there at the beginning and took a swing for that second practice that ended up actually being too much. Right in time for qualifying I felt like we got the balance better. We were finally in the mix and our lap times were close. We just missed it by a little over a 10th. So I mean, the times were so tight that a little bit went a long way here. I feel proud of our effort, we beat a couple of cars that we probably shouldn't have. It seemed like anybody that just missed it a little bit or hit it a little bit, you know, could have swung anywhere on that sheet there. We were just on the wrong end of it, unfortunately, but it was good working with everybody here for the first time. I think we got our communication down a little bit. I would have liked to be in the race tonight. I feel like had we had one more practice maybe we would have been better but I think we can leave here with our heads up as far as who we were competitive with in time there.”