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What drivers said after Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

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Here’s what most of the 21 drivers in the first of two Can-Am Duel races had to say after Thursday night’s race:

Chase Elliott (winner): “Just a great way to start the season. I know it’s just a Duel win. We wished it counted towards the playoffs. We would rather it be on Sunday, but at the same time it means a lot to me and means a lot to our team. … We didn’t say one word about points before the race. We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around. I think sometimes you ride around and you don’t know what your car is like and if it’s going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble riding around. We took chances and it worked out, so I’m excited for Sunday.”

MORE: Chase Elliott wins first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

MORE: Results from Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

Jamie McMurray (finished 2nd): “I went home (after the Clash race) and watched a lot of video on Monday, of some of the cars I thought were really good, to see how they were getting runs and how they were doing restarts. And, this car just had a little more speed in it and was able to suck-up a lot better than our other car. The balance was a little bit better. … I got hung out a couple of times and I was able to maintain and come back in at around fifth. So, it’s a really good car. I’m proud of our guys and glad that it’s still in one piece.”

Kevin Harvick (3rd): “We got there, but we just didn’t clear the 24. … We’ve got a couple things we need to work on before the 500, but, all in all, I’m pretty happy with no practice and still building our notebook on all these Fords.  We’ve still got plenty of speed, so that’s a good thing. … We got some points and that’s a good thing. … We didn’t get to victory lane like we wanted to, but still okay.”

Brad Keselowski (4th): “We had a good night. We knew the 24 car (race winner Chase Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn’t shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, that’s part of it. I could have taken a few more risks. We’re going to work on some things that make that possible.”

Matt Kenseth (5th): “It was pretty good. We got in a lot of different situations out there. I felt like we had pretty decent speed. Wish we would’ve finished better but it was a productive race and didn’t get wrecked and got in a lot of different spots and kind of got a pretty good feel for what we’ve got.”

Trevor Bayne (6th): “My car felt really good tonight. It pushed like crazy and it runs the bottom better than any car I’ve ever really had here. It’s funny seeing all the Fords now. There are more out there with the 4 (Harvick) and the Stewart-Haas guys, but they seemed strong tonight. The RPM car, our Roush Fenway cars, Penske cars, Stewart-Haas cars — all the Fords are just fast, so it was fun sticking together and pushing up through there with the 4 and Joey (Logano) pushing me there at the end. I thought if we could have gotten the bottom lane rolling there at the end we had a shot at a top-three finish or so, but it was a good day and we raced hard, so it was a lot of fun.”

Martin Truex Jr. (7th): “Without a doubt it was more aggressive than I expected. I thought it was just as aggressive as the Clash on Sunday. That’s really saying something when you’re talking about a non-points race and everybody going for the win compared to a qualifying race, so Sunday is going to be a wild one for sure with the sun is out. Guys had their hands full tonight. I can’t imagine what Sunday is going to be like. It should be a lot of fun. We’re going to have to work on handling a little bit tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get a bunch of cars out there to do that with.”

Aric Almirola (8th): “It was a good run for us. I think that our Smithfield Ford Fusion had good speed in it. We mixed it up there a bit. I thought we had better car, I just couldn’t make the moves when I wanted to. We’ll find some more speed in our car. All in all it was a decent race for us. I think we have good momentum heading into the Daytona 500. We have good speed in our car. Our car drove well. We’ll just tune on it and find some more speed.”

Joey Logano (9th): “I was just talking with Todd (Gordon) and trying to figure out where our mistakes were tonight. I made a few on the race track. I was up there toward the front and made a move and lost everything I had gained. That one sucked on my part. We also had a loose wheel and need to understand why we had that. We had a couple of mistakes we need to clean up. Besides that, we learned some stuff tonight.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th): “I was really hoping that outside line would have got going. The front couple of cars just kept getting held back some. We were just in line and I was hoping with Kevin (Harvick) leading, it seemed like he had a strong car qualifying and stuff, but it just wasn’t as strong as the 24. I thought the 2 was a little bit better leading than the 4 was, but we were just riding in line behind the 43 (Aric Almirola). I thought the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was just gonna keep trying to get that line to go and they got checked up and he jumped to the outside, and then we were stuck in the middle.  I just kept trying to push the 43, but we weren’t going anywhere.”

Landon Cassill (15th): “Not much changed other than the fact we got in the back and couldn’t back up to the front. I tried to get behind the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) there at the end, but it was blocked up front and we couldn’t go anywhere. It was kind of like gridlock, but I feel like my car is fast and faster than what we had last year, for sure. I’d like to get it handling a little bit better. I wanted to get up front and it did. I felt like it wasn’t handling quite as good at the end of the race as it did at the beginning for sure, but the holes just opening up for me and I was able to get up there.  I just wanted to try and hold that track position if I could.”

Chris Buescher (16th): “I am glad it was clean. That was my biggest worry was coming into this one and tearing up our Daytona 500 car. I’m glad to get out of here without a scratch on it. We can take the Cottonelle Mega Roll Chevrolet to the next one, which is the big one, the one that means something. Unfortunately, didn’t get any bonus points out of it, but was pretty happy with what we got.”

Corey LaJoie (18th): “Every kid in a race car dreams of racing in a Daytona 500 and I get to do that on Sunday. I really do feel bad about Reed (Sorenson). I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him. … Man, you come here idolizing Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., all of these guys. I’m fans of all of these guys and I get to race all of them on Sunday. It’s amazing. The big man has got a plan. I’m excited to get up there and dice it up.”

Paul Menard (20th): “We had a good run and I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) kind of came up to shoot the middle and I was kind of side drafting and we just came together. I’m not really sure what happened. Good run with the Peak/Menards Chevy, it was tight, but fast all day long. We could get some momentum, just couldn’t do much once we got towards the front.  I’m proud of my guys. Shook some rust off from the off-season.  We will be ready for the (Daytona) 500.”

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My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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