FOX NASCAR Insider
LOS ANGELES — Denny Hamlin got a chance to taunt those who boo him a day earlier than expected.
Hamlin captured the exhibition Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, about six hours after NASCAR announced the race originally scheduled for Sunday night would be run Saturday night with a dangerous rainstorm predicted for Southern California over the next few days.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver used up his teammate, Ty Gibbs, on a restart with 10 laps remaining to capture the win on the quarter-mile track built inside the iconic venue.
He was followed by Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson.
Takeaways from the 150-lap exhibition:
Hamlin Feeling Good
Hamlin, the driver and team co-owner (of 23XI Racing) who receives the most airtime during the Netflix series on NASCAR that dropped earlier this week, has relished his role as a polarizing driver.
“You know I beat your favorite driver again, right?” Hamlin told the crowd after the victory.
Hamlin, who had offseason shoulder surgery, said his shoulder felt better than he thought it would feel.
“We knew that this race was going to fatigue it a little bit,” Hamlin said. “Adrenalin is such a factor. Like last year even though it was really, really bad, adrenalin once you get in the car, it’s a lot different.
“But overall, it feels better than I thought it would, considering how far you have to crank the wheel at this race track. But the race is just short enough to fatigue it a little bit, so when I get to Daytona, I’ll be nice and strong.”
Denny Hamlin reflects on his first-place finish in the Clash
Hamlin, who has 51 career Cup wins but still seeks an elusive Cup championship, wouldn’t read too much into his win as there is no quarter-mile track during the NASCAR regular-season and playoff schedules.
“If your favorite driver didn’t even make the race, I’m not really sure it’s a huge deal,” Hamlin said. “There’s only one winner that comes out of this weekend. Ask Kyle how he feels about [second]. He’s probably, ‘Meh.’
“I think he was on the podium last year. There’s just not much correlation. There is some but not a lot.”
What did Busch think?
“Wish I was better, to tell you the truth. … Second kind of hurts,” Busch said.
Gibbs A Force
The 21-year-old Gibbs led a race-high 84 laps but said he needs improved results on restarts.
“It was just unfortunate,” Gibbs said. “I just have to get better at restarts.”
After the race, Logano came over to Gibbs and they had an animated discussion.
“I ran him up [the track], but if you go back and look at the replay the 12 [of Blaney] kind of chucks him out of the way, too,” Gibbs said. “It is just hard racing there at the end. This place is really hard to get your tires warm once the caution comes out — as you could see, everyone was sliding around, so I just got in there deep and washed up into him.
“We just got all tangled up after that.”
Ty Gibbs speaks on Joey Logano’s frustration after the Clash
Chastain, Reddick Tangle
After the race, Ross Chastain turned Tyler Reddick as they tangled near the end of the race.
“I felt like when that last wreck happened, he just drove through us,” Chastain said. “Everybody ran into everybody.
“I got into [Michael] McDowell and hooked him. … I just felt like at the end that Tyler took advantage of the wreck ahead and pushed his way through.”
Reddick said he wasn’t sure which contact Chastain was angry about.
“I ran into the back of him getting into the corner, … but after that, cars from the bottom just came in there and cleaned all of us out,” he said.
“I don’t know which part of it he is mad about — I guess I’ll have to go talk to him about it.”
‘He just drove through us’ – Ross Chastain on issues with Tyler Reddick at the Clash
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.
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