Hamlin wins moved-up exhibition Clash in L.A.


LOS ANGELES — Denny Hamlin, who wasn’t even sure he’d be healed from offseason shoulder surgery in time to compete in the Clash at the Coliseum, won the Saturday night exhibition that NASCAR hurried into a one-day show to avoid a dangerous “Pineapple Express” storm headed toward California.

Hamlin, in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, started from the pole and led 59 of the 151 laps. But his teammate Ty Gibbs controlled a large portion of the race until a late caution set up a restart with 10 laps remaining.

Hamlin got the lead on the restart and was about to win until Gibbs crashed on the last lap to send the race into overtime. Hamlin then got a jump on reigning NASCAR champion Ryan Blaney on the restart for the win.

Kyle Busch finished second in a Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

NASCAR only planned to run heat races Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the main event scheduled for Sunday. But with heavy rains and flooding expected, NASCAR eliminated the heats, set the field of 23 by practice speeds, and started the race just 30 minutes after qualifying.

A planned “halftime” performance by Machine Gun Kelly was canceled.

NASCAR about midday Saturday made the decision to run the Clash Saturday night out of concerns for inclement weather. The decision was widely applauded by drivers.

“It’s one of the most logical decisions we’ve made as an industry, potentially ever,” driver Chase Elliott said.

Hamlin, the first driver to hint on social media that the race might be moved up a day, applauded the decision, calling it a “W” for NASCAR.

The NASCAR Mexico Series race was scheduled to follow for a doubleheader. Spectators on Saturday were already being admitted for free and seating was general admission.

NASCAR said it would contact Sunday ticket holders and prepaid parking will be fully refunded.

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