Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman all failed to advance to the main event in the Clash at the Coliseum as chaos erupted in the heat and qualifier races Sunday, producing some surprising results.

The final 50-lap qualifier on the temporary 0.25-mile oval took more than 30 minutes to complete and was interrupted by seven caution periods and a red flag.

Ty Dillon took the checkered flag but was later penalized by NASCAR for jumping the final restart (after already serving a black flag penalty during the race for jumping another restart).


That awarded the last three transfer spots to Ryan Preece, Bubba Wallace and rookie Harrison Burton — all of whom were involved in yellow flags during the final race to set the 23-car main event of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

Busch and Bowman both were eliminated in earlier wrecks, and Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford ran outside the top three throughout. Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric also was knocked out of the main event with a fifth.

“I just got put in a bad spot on one of the restarts,” Busch, who was making his debut in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing, told Fox Sports. “You’re in a vulnerable spot. We needed to transfer, we needed to start off strong and we did not. But just disappointed we’re not in the A main. We’re racing hard in the Coliseum, this is what it’s all about. NASCAR did a good job putting this all together.”

Keseloswski’s RFK Racing teammate, Chris Buescher, also failed to make the main event.

Advancing to the main event was no sure thing for some other big names, too. Denny Hamlin locked in by winning the first Last Chance Qualifier, advancing along with Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger.

“There’s going to be a lot of laps and a lot of attrition, so we’ll see what happens” in the main event, Hamlin told Fox Sports.

It was smooth sailing at the front of the 25-lap preliminary races as pole-sitters Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley and Joey Logano won their respective heats.

Others who advanced to the main event with top-four finishes in the heats — Heat 1: Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; Ryan Blaney. Heat 2: Chase Briscoe, Austin Dillon, Cole Custer. Heat 3: William Byron, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott. Heat 4: Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Erik Jones.

After starting fifth in Heat 1, Hamlin was in a transfer spot for much of the first heat before getting moved by Stenhouse for third and then Blaney for fourth. That moved Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota into the 25-lap last chance qualifier.

“You kind of got to put the bumper to him,” Blaney told Fox Sports. “Me and Ricky and Denny had a great race going. Luckily we’re locked in and hopefully, the fans enjoyed it, and that’s just a little preview of what’s to come as we see more and more racing today.”

For the first time since cars hit the track Saturday, the caution flag flew twice during the fourth heat and again during the first Last Chance Qualifier as Aric Almirola was eliminated in a crash after getting bumped in the right rear by Todd Gilliland.

“That was a bigger hit than I expected as slow as we’re going here,” Almirola told Fox Sports. “We had a decent start and we were moving forward, and (Gilliland) just destroyed us. (He) just drove in there a mile and tore us up.”

Among others who failed to advance: Ross Chastain, Cody Ware, Todd Gilliland, Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Landon Cassill and B.J. McLeod.


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