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Martin Truex Jr. roars back as he change the course since 2021

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Martin Truex Jr. roars back as he changes the course since 2021

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After missing last year’s playoffs and nearly retiring, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hopes Sunday’s win is a sign of better things to come in 2023

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Martin Truex Jr. showed that he was not quite ready to exit stage left with a late surge to win the second Busch Light Clash held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Last year, Truex had to take the provisional to make it into the feature of the inaugural race at the Coliseum, starting 23rd before settling for a 15th-place finish. That start ended up being a bad omen for the season to come where the 2017 series champion netted zero wins and missed the playoffs completely.

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“We were just God-awful,” Truex said of last year’s event, “We barely made the race, just ran around the back and I spun out by myself on the last lap. It was so bad trying to pass one car.”

Saturday, the Toyota driver flipped the script and was fastest in practice before qualifying mid-pack, placing him sixth for his heat race. Truex’s hopes were low going into today’s events.

“Last night I went to bed thinking today was going to suck, it was going to be a long day,” the New Jersey native quipped. “It was going to be hard to pass and we were starting sixth in our heat on the outside.

“Even if you finished fifth, you’re still going to suck in the race because you’re going to start 20th. So to be able to drive up through the field in the heat was a huge confidence builder.

Martin Truex Jr. roars back as he changes the course since 2021

“I knew after that if we could be smart tonight and stay up front we’d have a shot at it. It’s a big deal. All of these races are hard to win, whether there are points or not. So we’re proud of this one. It’s a big deal.”

Truex took the lead after Ryan Preece dominated coming off of the mid-race break. Truex would end up leading the final 25 laps and surviving multiple late-race cautions. After recording just five warnings in last year’s Clash, this year’s feature would be strung out much further with 16 total alerts for the 150-lap event.

Truex was running up front early when Preece, the newest Stewart Haas Racing driver, powered to the front to lead 46 laps, the most of any driver.

Preece, like Truex, is going into the season with a lot to prove. He returned to the Cup Series this year after losing his ride for JTG Daugherty when the team went from two cars to just one car at the end of the 2021 season.

While viewers at home may’ve been surprised by Preece’s success given his time away from Cup competition, his fellow drivers were not.

“I’m not shocked at all, he’s a great short-track driver,” Truex said of Preece. “I’ve raced with him before and he’s in better equipment now than he’s probably ever been and I’m sure he’s got a really good team.”

A problem with his fuel pump made Preece lose the lead while he started to sink through the field like a rock before regaining speed and ultimately finishing in seventh place.

READ MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sudden Announcement Stirred Reaction

New teammates Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon would finish second and third to complete the first official podium ever — complete with gold, silver, and bronze medals, too — in a NASCAR Cup race. The drivers showed instant chemistry and excitement in the season to come.

“We’ve been working well together this whole weekend, off the track, on the track, and having the opportunity of being able to take care of one another on a couple of those restarts, the 3 [Dillon] would be easy off the corner and give me a gap to be able to get down,” Busch said. “It’s a good omen of great teamwork and good sportsmanship for the two of us. So let’s keep that rolling.”

Dillon agreed, adding how they can build off of each other’s setup and styles.

“I’ve watched Kyle’s data over the years and the way that he approaches the setup of a car,” Dillion commented, “I think we’re pretty close, our Delta will be close.

“It will be nice to build off of that and we’re going to be able to build off of that as we go and find those places that you know we have a good run and where do I need to be setup-wise, compared to him to echo that.”

Hendrick teammates Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson would survive the myriad of restarts and late race attrition to round out the top five.

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Fernando Alonso caught snitching on Max Verstappen

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Fernando Alonso caught snitching on Max Verstappen

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Fernando Alonso took it upon himself to act as a race steward after witnessing Max Verstappen being impeded by Pierre Gasly during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, calling for the Frenchman to be handed a three-place grid penalty. Verstappen was in a league of his own through all three practice sessions in Barcelona with nobody able to get close to the Dutchman.

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That trend continued in qualifying, but Verstappen was still keen to get lap times in to avoid finding himself with any unnecessary concerns. Q1 saw lap times tumble quickly towards the end of the session with drivers like Nico Hulkenberg and Oscar Piastri moving above Verstappen in the timesheet.

The reigning two-time world champion was out on track on a hot lap when he was forced to abort after being caught behind Gasly. Alonso was racing just behind the pair of them at the time and had a clear view of the incident. birds-eye is above

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Fernando Alonso caught snitching on Max Verstappen

“Big impeding on the Alpine on the out-lap to Verstappen,” Alonso said on team radio. “Massive one. I mean into turn four, that will be three places.”

The FIA has shown little mercy in impeding during qualifying with Charles Leclerc punished for a similar incident last week at the Monaco Grand Prix. Gasly is under investigation for two separate incidents having interrupted Carlos Sainz earlier in the session.

READ MORE Hamilton slammed Mercedes team-mate Russell for a “really dangerous” manoeuvre

The Frenchman ended up qualifying fourth but could drop down as low as 10th if he’s handed two three-place grid penalties. That would help out Lewis Hamilton, who would be bumped up to fourth on the grid to put him in the same row as Lando Norris.

Alonso would also benefit from Gasly being slapped with two penalties after a disappointing end to his qualifying session.

The Spaniard suffered floor damage after going off the track into the gravel in Q1. “The damage was worth a couple of tenths, no more than that,” he said.

“The guys did a good job trying to repair it every time we went in the garage. The last lap in Q3 was quite competitive but I also went the damp part in Turn 10, so it was not my best Saturday. Hopefully a good Sunday tomorrow.”

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Kevin Harvick Replacement Emerging

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Kevin Harvick Replacement Emerging

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2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button made his NASCAR Cup Series — and his overall NASCAR — debut in March’s race at Circuit of the Americas, the first of six road course races on the 2023 schedule.

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Button, who drove the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing in this race, is also set to compete for the team in the races at the Chicago Street Course on Sunday, July 2 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Sunday, August 13.

While Button and lead Sky Sports announcer David Croft exchanged some light-hearted comments about NASCAR during the broadcasts at Albert Park Circuit on Australian Grand Prix weekend, the 43-year-old British driver is reportedly considering running the full Cup Series schedule.

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In light of several “road course ringers” competing in select Cup Series road course races, there have been calls for some of them to try the ovals as well, as Button could very well seek out options to do so.

Kevin Harvick Replacement Emerging

 

Could one such option be replacing Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season?

Stewart-Haas Racing already know that they will need to make a driver change for the seventh time in eight offseasons before next year, as the 2014 champion is set to retire and join the Fox Sports broadcast booth once the 2023 season reaches its conclusion.

It seems relatively safe to say that the team’s two Xfinity Series drivers, Riley Herbst and ex-Cup Series driver Cole Custer, are not yet ready to make the jump to the Cup Series, though that could obviously change throughout the year.

Potentially facing somewhat of an identity crisis, given the lack of performance within the four-car team aside from Harvick, could Stewart-Haas Racing take a swing at Button, even if only for one year while their younger drivers continue to develop and/or additional drivers become available?

Another element to consider here is sponsorship. Button’s three-race deal with Rick Ware Racing is backed by Mobil 1, which has a considerably long history with Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, and team co-owner Tony Stewart.

READ MORE Kyle Busch Joins Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Scary Take

With Harvick retiring, longtime partner Busch Beer is set to sponsor a new driver in 2024, and while a formal confirmation hasn’t yet been made, this could leave Stewart-Haas Racing needing to fill a sizable sponsorship gap.

But while it can’t totally be ruled out yet, Jenson Button replacing Kevin Harvick is looking increasingly unlikely for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Josh Berry has recently emerged as the favorite to replace Harvick and is currently in the midst of finalizing a long-term deal with Harvick’s management firm, KHI Management.

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Kyle Busch Joins Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Scary Take

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Kyle Busch Joins Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Scary Take

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The excitement of winning is overwhelming, but the track poses a tricky challenge to attain victory.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to the track on Wednesday to test it out and identify the current challenges. In addressing the drivers, he emphasized that its sharp turns will make the track difficult to conquer. Drivers have already taken note of some issues with the narrowness of the track.

After the Hall of Famer, recently, Kyle Busch, also had the chance to test the track through iRacing. He shared insights about the challenges that drivers will face and highlighted an unusual aspect that he called “weird” of this highly anticipated street race track.

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During Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s test run on the track, he expressed his astonishment, stating that he had never seen a track like this before. One particularly challenging section is at Michigan Avenue, where drivers must apply their brakes and reduce their speed to 40 mph. As they decelerate from 140 mph to 40 mph, there will be a cluster of cars in that area, creating a situation where everyone will be vying for accurate passing opportunities.

Kyle Busch Joins Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Scary Take

Dale Jr. raised concerns about a potential ‘traffic jam’ scenario, explaining, “Drivers are going to force each other into barriers. They’re not going to move over and allow each other the room they’re going to need. There’s gonna be a lot of contested spots where drivers are gonna push each other into walls even unintentionally.”

Similarly, when Kyle Busch tested the track, he noted that the corners were “really, really tight.” Even in the simulator, he addressed it by saying, “You’re coming down this straightaway and there’s another straightaway there, but the ground, the road is separated with a wall in the middle and there’s cones that are blocking off where they don’t want you to go, so I thought that was weird.”

READ MORE Kevin Harvick On NASCAR Penalty

Busch suggested extending the wall, but NASCAR has got a reason behind it. KBM owner addressed the reason by saying, “I’m like, just extend the wall, but maybe they don’t want to extend the wall because they need areas for safety crews to get out. I’m not the scientist on that. It just seemed weird when you’re coming around the corner and you’ve got to miss the end of a wall.”

 

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