Denny Hamlin Starts The Year By Beating Your Favorite Driver

Zero times NASCAR Cup Series champion Denny Hamlin started the 2024 campaign by taking the win at the NASCAR Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

In a race with little at stake, and a No. 11 car that did not appear to be at its very best, Hamlin took the pole then got aggressive with Joey Logano on the first lap. Hamlin then outraced and ultimately out-finished Kyle Busch. Afterwards, Hamlin couldn’t resist his usual dig, speaking to the sparse crowd: “You know I beat your favorite driver again, right?”

“I don’t know what (this race) means,” Hamlin said in his post-victory interview. Although, certainly it means more than just another opportunity to play the villain. Hamlin confessed that he clears out the trophies lining the entryway of his palatial home every January as incentive to keep winning. “Now we get to add one (a new trophy) pretty quick,” he remarked.

A Rushed Open to the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series

With little at stake in the opening exhibition race, and a massive “pineapple express” rainstorm threatening, NASCAR made the quick decision to run the Clash on Saturday night instead of Sunday, as scheduled. The short track at the Coliseum did its job, offering up a number of battles, even if there weren’t many fans in the stands.

Drivers were certainly pleased with the decision by NASCAR to hurriedly move the race from Sunday to Saturday night. Though the decision was made only four hours before the race start, guaranteeing  few fans. It was nonetheless a necessary call. Downpours and likely flooding in the Los Angeles area appeared certain to cause havoc, and not just on Sunday. There was a good chance that if NASCAR didn’t bump the Clash up to Saturday, it might not take place till Wednesday. That would have left only a week till qualifying at Daytona.

NEWS: The #BuschLightClash will be held tonight, Saturday, at 8 PM ET on FS1, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The NASCAR Mexico Series race will follow tonight’s event. pic.twitter.com/QOuOy3Quka

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 3, 2024

Clash at the Coliseum 5 Fast Facts

 Another silver medal for Kyle Busch. “I felt like I had a better car than the 11,” Busch said after the race, but he nevertheless wound up in second, well behind Hamlin. Busch has now finished second twice (and third once) at the LA Coliseum.
Ryan Blaney Saturday Night Special. Last year’s NASCAR Cup Series champion needed a provisional to qualify, but patient driving ultimately led to Blaney finishing a surprising third.
Fast Turn by NASCAR. Drivers did not want to be stuck in California. The Los Angeles Coliseum is built for football, not racing. But NASCAR and Coliseum officials made the quick call to move the Clash to Saturday, and the track delivered. Good job all around.
No tears for Ty Gibbs. Gibbs was in contention for much of the race, leading for 84 laps, the most of any driver, but faded near the end, finishing 18th. “I just overdrove the corner and got wrecked after that,” Gibbs said. Gibbs also had a earlier tussle with Joey Logano at the restart. Logano confronted Gibbs after the race, but Gibbs chalked it up to cold tires, mostly. “I ran him up, but if you go back and look at the replay, the 12 kind of chucks him out of the way, too,” Gibbs said. Despite the poor finish, Gibbs agreed it was a “good showing” for the team.
Some Heartache Tonight. No points, but a short track, a rushed start time, and some ongoing bad blood helped to deliver a few good bits of drama. During the break, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went over to have words with John Hunter Nemechek. Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace had a minor skirmish. Ross Chastain connected with Tyler Reddick after the checkered flag. Plus, the Gibbs – Logano drama. All in all, the annual Clash at the Coliseum was a fun way to spend a Saturday night.

@KyleLarsonRacin doesn’t hesitate in admitting he retaliated against @BubbaWallace on the final lap of the season-opening exhibition Clash at the Coliseum. pic.twitter.com/u2bMqZkSFJ

— Kyle Dalton (@kdsportswriter) February 4, 2024

 

Ross Chastain turned Tyler Reddick after the race. What they said afterward: pic.twitter.com/cNQxE2f2XG

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 4, 2024

 

An exchange of words after the race. pic.twitter.com/Gt3AFy0EER

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 4, 2024

 

“He’s just mad that I ran him up”

Ty Gibbs on the on track and post race incident with Joey Logano:

📸 @m_massie22 pic.twitter.com/GVWF0t8G6R

— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) February 4, 2024

The Daytona 500 runs in 2 weeks.

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