What drivers said after Richmond race

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Here’s what several drivers had to say after Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

Denny Hamlin — Winner: “I’ll tell you, our cars were really running well.  (Crew chief Mike Wheeler) and the whole group just gave me a great car. Really got it tuned in there the last half of the race. Just good restarts, finally everything just kind of worked well for us all day. I didn’t think staying out was the right thing to do, but great call there.’’

Kyle Larson— Finished 2nd: “It felt like a video game on rookie mode, having fresh tires like that. That was fun. Our Target car was probably a eighth to tenth car most of the race. I was really good on short runs. I could pass a few cars every restart which really helped us. It seemed like we could never get the race going there at the end of the race, which helped us. Fun, fun last restart, get all the way to second. I thought I could get to fourth, but second was a little bit better, so that was great. I had a blast there during the last couple laps.’’

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “We’ve got a lot of momentum.  We’ve got a lot of confidence.  We’ve just got a great team.  We’ve got everything going the way we need it to right now.  Tonight we overcame a few mistakes, one by me speeding on pit road, and we had a pit gun issue on one of our pit stops and lost a bunch of spots. We overcame all that, we kept our head in the game and worked hard and in the end had a shot at it again, so that was good.  But I can’t say enough about our whole team, everybody in Denver, everybody at TRD, everybody at Toyota and everybody at Gibbs, the alliance we have is working great. All the drivers working together. I know there’s five of us, we can’t all five make the race at Homestead, but we’re going to try to get at least four of them there, so we’ll see what we can do.’’

Brad Keselowski — Finished 4th: “I just missed a shift and ruined Matt (Kenseth’s) day. I can understand. I didn’t hear what he had to say. But I can understand why he’s upset. He deserves to be upset. I made a mistake, and it was kind of crappy for everyone. But hopefully he’ll accept the apology. I certainly don’t want to miss a shift for myself let alone him, and when I got into the corner, I just missed the corner.  I was trying to get it in gear and missed the corner and got him, and it looks like it must have cut his tire down, so apologies to him and his team. That’s not what anybody wants to see, including myself.’’

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “This was definitely a battle of a weekend. But these are the weekends that you have to be able to figure out as you get through the next 10 weeks, and as bad as we thought everything was to come out of here with a top‑five finish really shows the character of the team. Really the last month just makes me really excited, the performance of the cars, all top‑five finishes, and then tonight really having a good night on pit road with all the pit stops and to battle back from my mistake of speeding penalty on pit road, and everybody just kept working at it, and those are the kind of things that you have to do, because what you are getting ready to step into the next 10 weeks is a lot of pressure. You’re going to have to adapt to some sort of issues or problems as you get into these next 10 weeks and figure out how to make something out of it. We’ve been there and we’ve done that. We’ve won. We’ve finished second. We’ve won races. We’ve had our backs against the wall. We feel like we know what to expect, and that is to expect the unexpected.’’

Kasey Kahne — Finished 6th: “I wanted to win, but Denny was a good bit better than we were. We got up there because of the right pit call. We got on tires at the right time and got by those guys and then when they pitted they were too far behind us to get us back. It worked out. I think we would have run fourth at best. We ended up sixth with that final restart. It was a good effort by our Farmers Insurance team, just not good enough.’’

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “I feel better about our chances this year versus last year. I felt like last year headed into the Chase we didn’t really have anything in our pocket as far as a little bit better cars. I did a Chicago test, different chassis, some different stuff on our car, and we thought that was not a huge improvement, but a bigger improvement than where we’ve been and I feel like right now we have cars that are capable of winning, so I look forward to getting there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 8th: “Just lots of fun all night long with the way we got to lead a little bit. We were off sequence a little early on and then it seemed like how are we supposed to balance out how many sets of tires do we have left? What do the other guys have for tires? That is really what created the excitement of the guys passing, the guys trying to preserve their position. It felt great to race three-wide at a short track and everybody gave each other room. I was impressed with the show from inside the cockpit. I hope the fans were as well.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 9th: “I thought there was way too many yellows. It was kind of crazy the way the race played out and guys having to save tires there towards the end when we used up most of our allotments there early on. But it was interesting, too, because you had guys that were up front, guys who would go to the back and flip‑flop on tire strategy. I thought it was an interesting race for sure from our perspective, maybe too interesting on our front, but we made the most of it tonight and just didn’t get in the right lane there on that restart.’’

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: “It was a long night, just like everybody else. We had a good long run car and not a good short run car. It took us 10-15 laps to start clicking them off and then we were really fast but it was just too late. Those cautions were coming out like every 15 laps. Every time we got going a caution would come out. Overall we were a lot better than what we were in the spring, at least on the long run. The way the race played out with tires and short runs it just didn’t play in our favor.”

Jimmie Johnson – FINISHED 11th: “Tonight was a scrappy race. We had trouble early and it seemed like everybody in the field started having trouble. I think we had two run in’s with the wall, damage on the left side from some racing incidents and kept it straight and somehow finished 11th. It was a long night. I’m glad our guys kept our heads in the game and were able to almost get a top 10 out of it.”

Austin Dillon – FINISHED 13th: “I’m just proud of our effort, our team, everything we went through this year. We shouldn’t have been in this situation. We had good enough cars to not have to be in this situation, but, hey, we were in a tight situation down to the end. Especially, with the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) up there near the end, but we were racing the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) all night, we did our job, we stayed in that buffer. I’m proud to be here. I’m just excited. The stress level is off of me. I’m not going to take stress into the Chase. I’m going to go have fun and try to win, look at it with no pressure situation.”

 Trevor Bayne – Finished 14th: “We tried. You have to go for it every way you can. The cool box went out on like Lap 20 so that was a long night of melting down inside the car. We had a fast race car but it didn’t play out strategy-wise like we needed it to. I am really proud of my guys and the car they brought this weekend. It was a car that if it was put in the right situation could have won the race. We had a really good long run car tonight but it didn’t matter tonight because there were so many short runs it just killed us.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 19th: “I just think we have to first off be thankful that we were able to get in tonight after the night we had. I can’t thank my guys for working as hard as they did. I’ve never had to go through ‑‑ I’m sure they haven’t, either, all the stuff we went through tonight, so hats off to them, fixing our car multiple times. I appreciate our 3M NAPA group for doing that and we’re excited about these next 10. We have to go in with the mentality that we can give ourselves a chance at Homestead, and if not then we should have let the next one in.’’

Chris Buescher — Finished 24th: “It’s obviously a big night for Front Row Motorsports and Bob Jenkins for a small team like we are to be able to pull it off and get that win at Pocono and find ourselves in the Chase right now. It’s pretty special. It was a crazy race. I can’t believe how many cautions we had. We got involved in one of the accidents, had a tire go down, just a very eventful day. Just so proud to be here. Everything worked out the way we needed it to to pull this night off the way we needed to. It’s hard going that slow. When we were finally making progress and getting the car balanced better. We were to the point where we felt like we could start driving forward, and they said, we don’t need to. There was just no risk at this point.’’

Ryan Newman — Finished 28th: “The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) cut across my nose into Turn 1 and I got into him after that, but he’d already chopped into me and messed up my line and I clipped him a little bit coming off of (Turn) 2; but he just cut across my nose. Going down the back straightaway there, I guess he thought he was in a sprint car again; did not know how to control his anger. We’ll keep fighting like we always do. It’s just unfortunate not to end the way we wanted to. It’s just disappointing that you’ve got somebody old like that, that should be retired the way he drives. It’s just ridiculous.”

TONY STEWART — Finished 33rd: “I want to say I’m wasting a spot because it worked last time (referring to feelings before 2011 Chase he won). Who knows what’s going to happen? What you do up to the start of the Chase really doesn’t mean anything, obviously — 2011 is proof of that. We’ll get started next week at Chicago, and all I care about right now is getting ready for Chicago and running through Sunday at Chicago. Once we get through that, I’ll worry about week 2. This is a stressful 10 weeks and you take it one week at a time.  That’s what we did in ’11, and it worked.’’

Matt Kenseth — Finished 38th: “It looks like Brad (Keselowski) missed a shift or something and then he just had his angle all wrong and drove into the corner three car lengths too far because he didn’t want to lose his spot and he cleaned me out and knocked the fender down on a tire and we ended up blowing a tire and wrecking.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 39th: “(On early accident) I don’t really know what happened to be honest with you. I thought I was clear. It looked like we were clear and could get down. (Trevor Bayne) got us in the left rear pretty good and it eventually cut our rear tire down. I don’t know. I have to see it but I thought I was clear and he didn’t think the same way. It is an unfortunate race deal. They were telling me we were clear. Apparently (Bayne)  just came up and got us in the rear. It was probably a stubborn headed thing by both of us. I should know better than that. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to run to see where our car was going to go. That is the most unfortunate part about this. We didn’t even give ourselves a shot at it. That is something I will have regret about. All we can do is go on to Chicago and try to do better there.”

Darlington celebrates NASCAR’s 70th birthday by revealing 4th throwback weekend details

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Darlington Raceway on Thursday celebrated the 70th birthday of NASCAR in a big way, announcing details for the fourth annual NASCAR throwback weekend.

The track revealed the 2018 edition of the throwback weekend will celebrate “Seven Decades of NASCAR,” to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the legendary 1.366-mile track.

The weekend will include the Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

NASCAR held its first of several organizational meetings on Dec. 14, 1947, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. That ultimately led to the official formation of NASCAR on Feb. 21, 1948.

The throwback weekend will honor and feature highlights of some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history over its first 70 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Darlington Raceway and the NASCAR industry to celebrate the sport over a seven decade period during our 2018 throwback weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in a media release.

“We have been era specific the past three years,” Tharp added, “so we felt it was important to recognize the 70th anniversary of NASCAR with our ‘Seven Decades of NASCAR’ celebration next season and give the teams, sanctioning body and others a wider brush to paint a picture capturing memorable moments we might not have celebrated in year’s past.”

Memorable moments to be celebrated include several that took place at Darlington itself, including Ned Jarrett’s record-setting 14-lap victory in the 1965 Southern 500, Ricky Craven’s record-setting photo finish win over Kurt Busch in 2003, and Jimmie Johnson’s 2012 Southern 500 win, which gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory, among others.

Cup winners of the first three throwback weekends have been Carl Edwards (2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2016) and Denny Hamlin (2017).

As has been the case for the first three throwback weekends, the track will once again issue commemorative tickets for the Southern 500.

“We have produced commemorative tickets for our fans every year of the throwback program, which is an important part of our platform,” Tharp said. “We appreciate how much the fans have supported Darlington Raceway and want them to walk away from our weekend with a special keepsake that recognizes our rich history and honors the stars of our sport.”

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, McDowell replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.