Denny Hamlin kicked off the 2024 NASCAR schedule by winning the Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.
Hamlin took the lead from Ty Gibbs on Lap 141 and then held off the field in overtime to capture his fourth Clash victory. This marked the second time since 2014 that Hamlin won the pole for the Clash and then went on to win the race.
Kyle Busch finished second in what was his third consecutive podium finish at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Blaney, who started last, finished third. Joey Logano and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
Hamlin’s status for the Clash was in question throughout the offseason after he underwent shoulder surgery in November. He was able to return to the No. 11 Toyota Camry XSE and he used the opportunity to score Joe Gibbs Racing’s 12th Clash win.
It’s just a great momentum boost,” Hamlin told Fox Sports after the win. “It doesn’t do much more than that. I clean off all the trophies every January 1 in the entryway of the house. Now we get to add one pretty quick. So really happy about that.”
The exhibition race ended in overtime after Gibbs, who led a race-high 84 laps, spun with one lap to go. This put Denny Hamlin and Blaney on the front row with Busch and Larson behind them. Once the green flag waved, Hamlin jumped to the lead as Busch dove to the inside.
Hamlin was able to hold onto the lead all the way to the finish line.
The first half of the Busch Light Clash only had two cautions. Todd Gilliland spun into the outside wall on Lap 70 after losing brakes. This ended his night. John Hunter Nemechek then spun on Lap 74 after Corey LaJoie dove to his inside and made contact.
Logano led at the stage break. Kyle Larson took second after taking the field three-wide on the Lap 74 restart.
The intensity ramped up after the stage break, which led to a multi-car incident on Lap 77. Alex Bowman made contact with Tyler Reddick who then hit Bubba Wallace and spun him.
Chase Elliott headed to the garage area under the caution period. He had a broken suspension, which ended his night.
The field restarted on Lap 78 but did not complete a full lap before the caution flew once again. Ross Chastain spun after Michael McDowell dove to the inside of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This took the field three-wide. The contact from Stenhouse sent Chastain spinning.
The final caution occurred on Lap 140. Chastain hit the outside wall and rebounded into McDowell. This contact spun McDowell into the outside wall and erased Gibbs’s lead of more than two seconds. The caution set up the opportunity for Hamlin to take the lead from his teammate.
Who had a good race: Larson started eighth. He finished fifth for the third consecutive time at the LA Memorial Coliseum. … Blaney started last after needing a points provisional to secure a spot in the main event. He finished third after making a late charge. … Busch finished second in his third consecutive podium finish at the LA Memorial Coliseum. … Brad Keselowski made his debut at the LA Memorial Coliseum after missing the 2022 and ’23 Clash races. He finished eighth.
Who had a bad race: Elliott started 14th. He finished 22nd after a mechanical issue. … McDowell was involved in multiple incidents, including one with 10 laps to go. He fell multiple laps behind the leaders. … Justin Haley qualified 10th in his first race with Rick Ware Racing but finished 21st after a mechanical issue. … Gibbs started third and led the most laps with the fastest car. He spun with one lap to go after contact from Kyle Larson.