LOS ANGELES – Hendrick Motorsports kicked off the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season with a pair of top-five finishes and a trio of top-10s in the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum.
Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson came in fourth and fifth, respectively. William Byron placed 10th and Chase Elliott finished 21st.
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Bowman spent the whole race inside the top 10 and the entire second half of the event in the top five in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The 29-year-old driver restarted up on the front row several times against Ryan Preece but couldn’t get around him on the outside.
"There was a couple good restarts from the outside the beginning of the second half of the race. That helped us," Bowman said in explaining how he was able to avoid the chaos that found other drivers. "I think we went from eighth to second there pretty quickly. Obviously that was a big gain for us, and then just kind of got put back a little bit. I had one bad restart from the outside of the front row, and that hurt our finishing position."
This race marked the first weekend of on-track activity for Bowman with new crew chief Blake Harris. The organization's newest crew chief has taken the reins from Greg Ives, who retired at the end of the season.
"I think it went pretty well," Bowman said. "I was nervous a little bit and didn't know what to expect. When you come out of here with fourth, kind of bummed about it, it's a good weekend. I think the whole team is working really well together, and Blake is fitting in really, really well."
Larson worked his way into the top 10 by the race break and was steadily inside the top seven for much of the second half. Over the final 10-lap run, the driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got into the top five for his second straight top-five finish in this event.
"It feels good to get to fifth," Larson said. "I didn't really work my way forward to fifth. It was kind of a battle of attrition."
Much like Bowman, Byron spent the entire race in the top 10. The 25-year-old driver of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 won the fourth and final heat race earlier in the day – leading all 25 laps. He spent much of the first half in the top five and much of the second half in the top seven. His 10th-place finish marked his second top-10 run in as many years at this track.
Elliott raced into the main event by leading all 50 laps of the second last chance qualifier. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native was involved in an early-race incident that led to nose damage on the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Following that, it was a tough rest of the night for Elliott.
Martin Truex Jr. grabbed the win in the 150-lap exhibition event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The unique event featured a race break at Lap 75 and a performance by Wiz Khalifa. Earlier in the day, heat races and last chance qualifiers set the field for the 27-car main event.
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This was the second year the exhibition opener was held with a temporary .25-mile track inside the historic venue. Situated in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, the facility has a storied record of athletic and cultural events. It has played host to two Summer Olympics, two Super Bowls, professional baseball events, and some of the most famous musical artists from around the globe. It currently serves as the home venue for the University of Southern California football team and it is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The 2023 DAYTONA 500 will kick off the points-paying schedule in the Cup Series on Sunday, Feb. 19. Coverage of the race will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).