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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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Xfinity crew chief Chris Gabehart penalized $5,000 for loose lug nut at Indy

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NASCAR has issued one penalty resulting from last weekend’s races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday.

Gabehart was penalized for violating Sections 10.4 and 10.9 of the NASCAR Rule Book covering Tires and Wheels: Lug nut(s) not properly installed at the conclusion of the Lilly Diabetes 250.

There were no other penalties related to last weekend’s Xfinity or NASCAR Cup races in Indianapolis or the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

Richard Childress Racing to announce plans for a third Cup team ‘at a later date’

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With Paul Menard and his family’s home improvement chain sponsorship on the move to Wood Brothers Racing for 2018, Richard Childress Racing has a major funding gap to address.

Menards has adorned the No. 27 Chevrolet for RCR for seven consecutive Cup seasons and is among the last full-season sponsors in NASCAR’s premier series. It assuredly is the most lucrative of RCR’s sponsorships.

Though the team is committed to fielding Chevys for Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon next season, the impending departure of Menard leaves questions about whether RCR will remain a three-car team in 2018.

In a statement Wednesday morning, team chairman and CEO Richard Childress said the team “will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

Here’s the full statement from Childress:

Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.

Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.

We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.

 

Paul Menard will move to the Wood Brothers for 2018 season

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Paul Menard will join Wood Brothers Racing next season, the team announced Wednesday. He will replace Ryan Blaney, who will move after this season to run a third Cup car for Team Penske.

Menards will sponsor the car in 22 races. Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced later. The technical alliance between Team Penske and the Wood Brothers will continue.

“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” said co-owner Eddie Wood in a statement. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins. Paul is not only a great driver with a lot of experience in the Cup Series, but he’s great with partners, which is a big part of what we do these days. We are looking forward to finishing out this season with Ryan (Blaney), going for more wins and maybe even a championship, and continuing that with Paul in 2018.”

Said Menard: “I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but to get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do. I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”

Also, Menard will run a handful of Xfinity races for Team Penske next year.

Menard had been with Richard Childress Racing since 2011, scoring his lone Cup victory — the 2011 Brickyard 400 — with the organization.

Menard’s best finish in the points with the organization was 14th in 2015. He is 23rd in the points with no wins, two top fives and three top-10 finishes this season.

The move marks the fourth organization the 36-year-old Menard has raced full-time for in his Cup career. He drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 2007-08, Yates Racing from 2009-10 and Childress since.

Car owner Richard Childress issued a statement:

“Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.
“Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.
“We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

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Ryan Blaney to join Team Penske in 2018

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Ryan Blaney will move to Team Penske and drive a third Cup car for that organization, the team announced Wednesday.

Blaney will drive the No. 12 Ford in 2018 and has signed a multi-year contract extension.

“For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” said team owner Roger Penske.  “We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”

MORE: Paul Menard to take over Wood Brothers ride in 2018

Blaney, who won at Pocono in June, is 12th in the standings. He has seven top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season.

“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, North Carolina, in a statement. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”

The 23-year-old Blaney first signed with Team Penske in 2012. He has raced for Wood Brothers Racing, which is aligned with Team Penske, since 2015. He ran about half the 2015 season and has done the full season the past two years for the organization.

This marks the first time since 2010 that Team Penske has fielded three full-time entries. It did so that season with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.

With adding a third car, Team Penske will need to acquire a charter for that car.

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