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What Sprint Cup drivers said after the Chase race at Talladega

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Joey Logano won the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, advancing to the Round of 8 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Here’s what the field of drivers had to say about their results at Talladega:

JOEY LOGANO – Winner:  “It’s never a layup here at Talladega. It’s always close. You never get a big lead … (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that. We got that track position and just hung onto it. I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well. Kevin (Harvick) did a good job with that, which ultimately got us all a great finish. It was fun racing there at the end. I was really confused. I didn’t know what lane to pick coming to the last restart, but I knew Kevin had a lot of experience in these situations and is great at speedway racing, so he did a good job of pushing me out. And then had to defend the top lane with Brian Scott. So a couple of Fords out front here at Talladega is pretty cool.”

BRIAN SCOTT – Finished 2nd: “A good finish always helps. It helps with the team. It helps with the guys at the shop, the morale. Just trying to get any bit of a bright spot in this year has been difficult. I think that this is by far the brightest spot that we’ve had in a really challenging 2016 for Richard Petty Motorsports. I don’t know. I guess the results and what this does for us going forward is yet to be determined. But just proud. I mean, the guys have worked hard all year. They’ve deserved a lot better finishes than we’ve given them. Just proud to deliver a good, solid top five, to do my job behind the wheel to give us a shot at the win. Just have a good day for Richard Petty Motorsports.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 3rd: “We needed some things to fall our way if we didn’t win the race. Today things fell our way. The last lap, we went out and earned it. I think back all the years that I’ve been doing this, honestly, 11 years. Of course, you remember all the bad beats that you have … But for me I really truly believe this is the first really great fortune that we had in a Chase in my 11‑year career. Things just happened well for us. We went out there and we did our jobs. It was very tough to be able to run against guys that had a lot of teammates up front. I knew that was going to be a problem for us all day. But we were able to have just enough there at the end to get past the 41 and get in.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “We were battling hard and had a great run. Our car just wanted to go to the front today. There were a few times I made a mistake and got shuffled back about 15th or so. We just worked our way back up and had good pit stops. This effort today just felt like that total team effort. The pressure is here, but we are going to get stronger and better as this Chase goes on. I’m really excited about this restrictor-plate car heading to Daytona next spring.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 5th: “Our Zest Ford was fast all weekend and qualified well. We lost some track position and it took us really all race to get it back, which was a struggle. We got in position there at the end. I really wanted to restart on the top. I thought if I could restart on the top we may have had a shot at winning the race, but being on the bottom our car wasn’t as good. I’m definitely thankful to get a top five out of it. It’s cool to see a Ford move on to the next round with Joey (Logano). It was a bummer for Brad (Keselowski), but, all in all, it was a really good weekend. We’ll try to keep gaining on it on these speedways.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 7th: “Yeah, the final laps everybody is just pushing and shoving and then (Kurt Busch) cleaned the side of our car out after the checkered flag. I don’t really understand that, but all in all the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet team did a great job and didn’t have a scratch on it until then. That is pretty good for Talladega.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 9th: “Yeah, it’s really close. I guess it wasn’t our day to (advance in the Chase). It wasn’t planned for us to do that. We tried. We didn’t really have enough speed all day to do much. I’m proud of my guys and all my teammates helped me as much as they could. We just couldn’t get another spot. We got a couple there at the end on the last little straight, but the No. 43 (Aric Almirola) was the car we needed and it didn’t work out.”

A.J. Allmendinger: Finished 10th: “The car is going to roll back onto the hauler so that is probably our best superspeedway effort so far this year. Just kind of sat in the back there and bided our time. When it was time to go, got a good line on the bottom there and it kind of got us back up to the lead pack there. From there it was just trying to hold the guys off. I thought we were going to be pretty good there coming to the checkered and I think the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got kind of left out and lost all of his momentum, so I had to check up just a little bit. It cost us a couple of spots, but it rolls and a top 10 that is what we can do here.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “We had a strong Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion all day. I could have made better decisions in lane selection there toward the end but you never know how that’s going to work out. It’s too bad Brad didn’t get to finish. We tried to give him as much help as we could there when he was leading.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th: “We were trying to be as aggressive we could and try to make stuff happen. It’s tough to do as you get back in the pack and try to make your way through the pack. It just takes time. There’s definitely a lot of power in numbers. We’re disappointed that we came up short. The NAPA team has been fighting hard the past few weeks. We’ve had some awesome racecars. It’s unfortunate to come up short.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 17th: “We just couldn’t get any help when we needed it. I was doing all I can to move forward but we just needed some drafting help. Our AdvoCare Ford felt good today but we just didn’t get a chance to go race for the win there in the end.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 22nd: “It feels great to finish at one of these places. It’s what we wanted to do, just finish one of these things and come out with a decent finish. We were just jammed up there and the track wasn’t as racy as a lot of people were hoping, and we weren’t able to gain any speed. It was a good attempt and I’m proud of the effort that everybody put in. It felt good to be able to drive under the checkered flag at the end.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 23rd: “Yeah, excited about the three tracks that are coming up. They are great for us historically. I hope they continue to be great tracks for us as we look for our seventh championship. Not the day we wanted here, we were certainly trying to work with the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) and help them. Didn’t get the finish that we were really after, but big picture we are going to a great race track next weekend and just have some fun.”

Ryan Reed – Finished 26th in Sprint Cup debut: “Today meant so much to me. I truly hope I was able to earn some respect out there. We always want a better finish than 26th, but with no mistakes and not a scratch on the car, we’ll take that here at Talladega.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 28th: “It goes against everything you ever want to do as a race car driver. You want to go try to win races, so I think it’s just kind of an unintended consequence of the way – being the cutoff race and the way the Chase works. You can’t afford to go up there and get wrecked and not have a chance to race for a championship, so it was just kind of the cards we were dealt and we had to play them. I don’t think any of us had any fun and none of us enjoyed, but it was just what we had to do to make sure we got to Martinsville and trying to race four more weeks and hopefully have a shot at the four of us trying to race for a championship.”

Carl Edwards – Finished 29th: “Stressful, stressful, stressful – that was the other word of the day. We don’t like to race like that, but it’s like Matt (Kenseth) said, it’s the hand you’re dealt. You don’t want to give it up and we played it right. I’m going to go get a rotisserie chicken sandwich and move on to Martinsville. I’m really excited to go there. Awesome that Denny (Hamlin) made it in too, he really raced his guts out too. I don’t know if he’ll give me as much advice as he did last time, but hopefully we can talk with him and I really want to get that win at Martinsville and advance.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 30th: “It’s frustrating, but to have a dull day today it’s certainly going to make for a heck of a lot more exciting days down the road. You have to look at it as you have to take the good with the bad sometimes, no different in that sort of scenario. Today was one of those having to ride around bad type days, but the reward is being able to race on and go into the next round and have a chance to race for another championship.”

Brad KeselowskiFinished 38th (DNF, engine):  “Something let go. I’m not sure exactly what, but it’s unfortunate. We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and that kind of ended our day. It was a lot of fun to be leading at Talladega. I really like this track. It’s been good to us and there are a lot of great fans here today. We were doing the best we could to make a show of it and have some fun and lead some laps and just happy and proud to have a fast car.”

Casey Mears – Finished 39th (DNF, crash): “I think we were probably about five (laps) away from pitting I think it was. At that point we just kind of move down to the bottom and were waiting for the cycle of pit stops to come around and something happened with the No. 16 (Greg Biffle). I couldn’t tell out of the corner of my eye, I thought maybe he got clipped on the outside and then it swung him back into whoever was below him. We were just cruising along there and all of a sudden just got taken out; a pretty hard hit to the inside wall. I felt like I had a car that had pretty good speed. It was a matter of kind of being up there inside that top 10 or 15 when it really counted to make a move.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 40th (DNF, engine): “It’s been a roller coaster (Chase) that’s for sure. I wish we could have done a better job at Kansas and Charlotte and maybe had a free pass coming here. That certainly would have been big knowing the circumstances, but we did the best we could. We have a great team and we’ve had a great season and we’re going to go out and try to win the rest of the races and see what we can do.”

Richard Petty Motorsports following the footsteps of Furniture Row

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WELCOME, N.C. – All of the noise at Richard Petty Motorsports’ cozy new home on a recent Friday afternoon was coming from behind a short wall in the corner.

Several No. 43 cars were parked on the shop floor in various states of inactivity and incompletion, but the “Fusion” on the front bumper betrayed they were last year’s models.

Drew Blickensderfer, RPM’s crew chief, didn’t seem concerned as he cast a smile toward the source of the noise – a specialized fabrication department that could be the key to solving a championship-tested equation.

Less space and fewer people can equal better results.

“We have shrank quite a bit,” Blickensderfer said. “Right now, we’re bare bones, but we have the people we need to go racing and performance-wise to go racing.

“To grow into a Furniture Row, or a model similar to that, we need to get that (fabrication department) up and running.”

As RPM makes significant structural changes – switching to Chevrolet, aligning with Richard Childress Racing, shuttering its body-hanging staff – no one is expecting a quantum leap in performance for a team that finished 24th in the 2017 owner standings.

But an improvement to a top-20 car with long-term winning potential is expected, and the model is the reigning team in NASCAR’s premier series.

In winning the 2017 title with Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing has excelled by taking Joe Gibbs Racing chassis and optimizing the accompanying suspension parts and pieces through precision engineering and manufacturing.

RPM hopes to mirror the process through its reorganized fab department, which will have the same equipment from its previous home but with a more laser-targeted focus.

“If we can get that up and running, we’d be better off in the long run,” Blickensderfer said. “And that’s the ultimate goal is to be able to take a car from Richard Childress Racing and develop and work on it and ultimately have a better product for Sunday.”

RPM has traversed various paths toward competitiveness in recent seasons.

In 2014, the team was receiving chassis from Roush Fenway Racing but hanging its own bodies when it made the playoffs with Aric Almirola via a win at Daytona International Speedway. In 2015, RPM added chassis building to its workload but stumbled. Last year, it returned to hanging bodies on chassis supplied by Roush Fenway.

This year, RPM relocated from a 65,000-square-foot shop in Mooresville to a 20,000-square-foot space adjacent to RCR, which will deliver cars from its base just down the hill.

On arrival at RPM, all that is needed is interior (such as driver’s seat, steering wheel and column, air boxes and gear coolers) and mechanical work.

“Basically, it comes as a shell, the chassis with a body on it,” Blickensderfer said. “We do the wiring, the plumbing, the suspension parts, front and rear. Basically, all the parts you would bolt on.”

The change has allowed RPM to run leaner because there’s less work to be done on bodies. After employing about 80 last year (with 60 working on cars), RPM will have about 40 employees in 2018 with roughly 25 working on cars (about a half-dozen of those crew members will stay in the shop for assembly while the team is on the road, and RCR will supply the team’s pit crew).

The staff reduction will allow RPM to reallocate some funding toward R&D (after making zero trips to a wind tunnel last year).

Blickensderfer said the alliance with RCR should provide an aerodynamic foundation that will allow fine-tuning to have a greater impact. Last year, RPM “did a really good job of putting stuff that drove well under our race cars” but still faced the aerodynamic limitations of the Roush chassis.

“The thing that really creates speed on cars is the body and aero,” Blickensderfer said. “You can have the wrong springs in your car and mess up the other stuff a little bit, and you’d still be fast, at least in portions of the race. If you get all the springs right, and your aero is terrible, you still might be only a 20th-place car. That’s just the reality of it. The thing that is the most expensive to develop, create and implement is the aero stuff.

“So that’s why the big teams, they have all the wind tunnel data, and you’re racing against teams that are just developing faster than you can even produce cars. That’s why you’ve got to jump on board with them to get some of their information, or you’re going to be watching them coming behind you ready to lap you.”

With consolidation among chassis and engine builders an overarching trend in NASCAR for the past decade, alliances have become more prevalent. Besides RPM, Germain Racing and JTG Daugherty also have similar arrangements.

But few have made it work as well as Furniture Row, which made the championship round in 2015 through an RCR alliance before switching to JGR and Toyota the next season. Relying on the setups and strategies of crew chief Cole Pearn, Truex consistently outran JGR’s fleet of four Camrys in 2017 with a series-high eight victories and 19 stage wins – despite a few hundred fewer employees working at its Denver location.

“You step back and say, ‘How come no one else has been successful in that model?’ and you look at what Furniture Row has done with their model,” Blickensderfer said. “They still do some stuff in-house. So we pay RCR for an engineering agreement and to get cars from them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t develop ourselves. So you’d only be better off if you get extra money, you can start developing things yourself.

“Get all (the alliance team’s) information. Dump yours on top of it. You can’t help but get better in the long run that way. That’s what Cole and those guys have done. That’s the model that I would think the JTGs, the RPMs, the Germains, companies of this size, that’s what we need to strive to do is use that model to build up into that next level of race team.”

Though RPM will benefit from RCR’s aerodynamic R&D and assembly line capability, some of the information will be transferred the other way, too.

“They’re incorporating some of the stuff we had in our race cars into theirs that they think is going to make them better,” Blickensderfer said. “Before they put the body on it, we can change the brake system and do what we want, which eventually they’re going to do. And that saves us both time to make sure we have the best product.”

RPM took delivery of its first Camaro late last week for the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Its hauler will be on the road Jan. 26 to Nevada, leaving about a week to finish preparing and setting up the car.

“That’s not all that tight of a timeframe,” Blickensderfer said. “What will happen in the future when we start racing is we’ll get a car two to three weeks before the event, and when we come in on a Monday morning after an event, the next week’s car is on the setup plate ready to go, so there’s only about a day’s worth of work we have to do to it.”

RPM has put its surface plates and other tools in cold storage, keeping open the option to revert to hanging bodies. But with the sponsorship landscape scarce, it makes such autonomy more difficult.

“If you could do everything yourself, you’d be better off, because then nobody gets your information,” Blickensderfer said. “But if (RCR) can take the money they’re developing cars with, and we can take the money we’re getting to develop cars and combine it, I think we all end up better. When there is less money in the pot to grab, the more of us that can throw the money in, the better we’ll be.”

Danica Patrick has a Daytona 500 team: Premium Motorsports

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The first piece of the “Danica Double” has been fully confirmed.

According to the Associated Press, Danica Patrick will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Premium Motorsports in next month’s Daytona 500. The AP reported that the car will be locked into the field through a charter and will receive engineering support from Richard Childress Racing.

Patrick entered NASCAR driving the No. 7 for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series from 2010-12. For the Feb. 18 race, she also will be reunited with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who helped guide Patrick to her career-best NASCAR finish of fourth in a 2011 Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The car will be sponsored by GoDaddy, which announced last week that it would sponsor Patrick in both this year’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. Patrick has yet to reveal which team she will drive for in the Indy 500, which will conclude her racing career.

She already has made history in both events.

As a rookie in 2005, she became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 before taking fourth (and became the highest-finishing female in the race’s history with a third in 2009).

In the 2013 Daytona 500, she became the first woman to win the pole position and lead a race in NASCAR’s premier series.

New details of road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, North Carolina — The Sept. 30 Cup race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course will be on a slightly altered 2.28-mile circuit.

The race, which airs on NBC, will serve as the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs. It is the first road course race in the 14-year history of the playoffs.

The alterations shorten the original 2.4-mile, 13-turn layout of the circuit. The track is now 2.28 miles and 17 turns after the removal of two of the last three infield turns. There will be more than 35 feet of elevation changes between Roval Turn 4 – the lowest point in the track – and Roval Turn 9, the highest point.

A chicane has also been added to the backstretch right before the entrance of Turn 3 of the oval. The track is adding 440 temporary rumble strips.

The distance for the race will be announced at a later date.

NASCAR held a test on the road course last October with Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Hemric and Jamie McMurray. Busch suggested the elimination of those turns in order to “speed up the track.”

“There are a lot of slow sections with Turns 5, 6 and 7,” Busch said. “Those are good rhythmic corners. … (But) a 3,500-pound car going 35 mph too many times isn’t too exciting.”

Truex was part of Monday’s presentation and gave his thoughts on the change.

“The lap times were so long that we were going to be looking at a race that was, I don’t even know how many hours,” Truex said. “Way too long. Basically taking out those two turns cut out quite a bit of lap time off the laps. It’s more so like a regular road course like Watkins Glen … we’ll be in kind of that realm.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that the race could be held at night if pushed back for various reasons. The race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

“We’re working with the track who we believe will have something in place,” O’Donnell said. “Goodyear will be ready with rain tires if we had to make some adjustments.’’

There will be a Goodyear tire test in March and an open test for Cup teams in July.

O’Donnell said NASCAR is “comfortable” with the current layout of the course and that no changes are expected to be made following the tests.

NASCAR on NBC analysts Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton took a few laps around the new layout and shared their thoughts on Facebook Live.

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ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

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