What drivers said after Texas race

Leave a comment

Comments from drivers after Sunday’s NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson – Winner: “I guess I remembered how to drive; and I guess this team remembered how to do it! I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day. Oh, it was hot in there. I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “I think if I could have got by Joey with maybe five to go, I think I could have, I definitely would have caught Jimmie.  Passing him is obviously another story.  But I would have at least had a couple opportunities to get behind him and work there behind him and try and get by. I made a mistake there on the first pit stop and clipped too many boxes. I turned in way early. I probably clipped a couple before the 11 box. But yeah, I was disappointed in myself then because I feel like our car was really, really good the beginning part of the race and probably could have drove up to the lead and maybe controlled the race from then on.  So, you never know.’’

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “That is (crew chief Todd Gordon’s) top three there. He did a good job giving us a shot to win. I tried to hold off (Jimmie Johnson), he was just faster. There is nothing to say besides that. I was in the clean and had the clean air and he was still faster behind me. Once he passed me, my car kind of came to me a little bit and I was able to run him back down a little bit. If he had made a mistake, I was going to be there. He was loose, I could tell, then all of a sudden he wasn’t loose any more. He must have lowered his track bar or something and he drove away again. My car started falling off like it did all day. I needed a 15-lap run instead of a 30-lap run. We just have to get faster. We weren’t fast and that is why we didn’t win.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “I think the racing was better than it could have been. The track did a great job getting the race track ready. It could have been like it was all day Friday and were able to get that second groove coming in. I think we overachieved today. The only chance we had today was to have clean air. Our car was very sensitive to the track and two tires. I was able to run out front, and I could go okay then, but in traffic I really struggled off the corner.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.,– Finished 5th: “I felt like we were pretty good and we ran with the cars, (Martin Truex Jr.) and the guys that have been really fast. I think (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano) have been really the class of the field. I saw those guys weaving after the race and downshifting hard to reset their housing, so we have to figure out what they are doing and see if we can’t make it better.’’

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 6th: “We just kind of seemed stuck in that fifth- or sixth-place range for most of the race. We were fighting a few things and got a little better there at the end and maybe had a little bit more in the tank there if there was a little bit of time left, but we just ran out of laps.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 7th: “We had a really good car. I knew from like lap two or three on I was just able to turn a little better in (Turns) 1 and 2 than the guys I was in front of. We didn’t fall off very much. That was key today because we had some long green-flag runs. So, very proud of everybody both Ganassi cars ran great again today. We got a little bit behind when we stayed out on Stage 2 and got a little bit behind in the pits and then I had a really bad restart, so we played make-up the rest of the day.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Finished 8th: “It was an up-and-down race – track position was everything. We had a good car at times, and we struggled at times. The track was really, really difficult and the tires were definitely a challenge. It seemed like every time we put a set on, the car was a little different. We weren’t good on restarts and short runs and we’d lose all our track position that took us so long to get. Overall, it was a decent day, but needed to be better on short runs for sure.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 9th: “Had a good car, just didn’t get back up through the field as well as I would have liked to that second time. Good effort, just not good enough.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 10th: “We didn’t have any mistakes. We didn’t have to battle too hard on the handling. We may have tried to stay out to get points in segment two and might have hurt us in the long run. We had to build all our spots back the second half of the race. (Jimmie Johnson) was on the same sequence as us and he is the race winner. I would say we did good today. I know we can do better. I am happy about a top-10. Now we will go to some of our favorite short tracks.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: That was a tough day for everyone. Like a lot of folks, we just couldn’t get the handling right today. We’ll take 11th and enjoy the off-weekend, then head to Bristol.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “That last pit stop was pretty discouraging. We got back in that third debris caution. I don’t know what it was there at the end of segment two and that made everybody have split strategies and we got in the back and couldn’t pass anybody. It was terrible to try to pass people. We made our way up to seventh or eighth and then pitted, and I got into our box too long and we were wedged in between two cars. I was over the line by a few inches. That sucked. I put us in that hole. We probably should have stayed out looking back on it but that is easy to do. If you had asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said we would win two stages and have one of the fastest cars. They made really good changes this morning and that definitely says a lot.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 13th: I am so proud of the effort of my guys. To get another top-15 finish out of a backup car that we were able to actually get unloaded, and practice laps on during a 50-minute session, is just a testament to the dedication of this team. I’m really happy we were able to come away from here with another consistent finish. We will take this into the off-weekend and get after it again at home in Bristol.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 14th: “We struggled with handling in stage two but were able to bounce back in stage three. We were definitely better on the longer run so that last caution hurt us, but overall it was a good day for our entire Roush Fenway Racing organization.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 21st: “Our finish definitely did not define our day. We had a really fast Scott Products Chevrolet all weekend. It was really disappointing to be involved in the incident on pit road, but we had the speed we needed to get us back in the top 10. Unfortunately, after the end of the second stage, we had a loose wheel and that completely killed our momentum and we had to spend the second half of the race fighting for the Lucky Dog. I’m really proud of my No. 37 Scott Products team. They dug all weekend and worked really hard to get a fast car, and we’ll keep using that momentum and working on 1.5-mile program.”

Erik Jones — Finished 22nd: “Just need to get better for next time. There’s nothing we can really take and nothing that will apply to next time. Just need to get our stuff better and have a better car for next time.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 24th: “The TaxAct Ford was pretty good in the middle of the second stage, and we were able to pick up a few spots, but then it just started getting looser and looser. The team made good adjustments to help tighten the car up, but then it would start getting loose again as we got into the run. I hate we got a penalty there toward the end that cost us a bunch of spots.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 26th: Today was just not our day. This new track surface was definitely a challenge and it seemed like we never really got our car to where we wanted it to be. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) and the guys did all they could to try and fix the balance of our No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, but it always seemed like we were just too tight. With the new configuration, Turns 3 and 4 were a struggle to get through without being super tight. I think we definitely learned something for when we come back here in the fall, but overall today was not the finish we wanted. We’ll take the off weekend to reset and get ready for Bristol in two weeks.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 33rd: As soon as I made a pace lap before the race I could feel something was broken. We had to go into the garage and make repairs before we could even start the race. Man, it just sucks. Everyone knows you’ll have days like that over the course of a 38-race season but no one wants that ever. We worked hard the entire race just trying to make up laps and gain positions. The Dow Energy and Water Chevrolet really was fast today, we just didn’t get a chance to show it.”

Paul Menard — Finished 36th: We went into this weekend with the mindset that we have not raced here before. You could say we threw out all the notebooks on Texas. We found speed throughout practice on Friday and Saturday with Matt Borland making good adjustments. Today we just couldn’t put it all together. We had a setback when the insulation came off the wiring to our battery and a spark caused the car to lose power. Once we were in the garage, the guys hustled and got us back out on track as quickly as they could. We’ll regroup in the off week and come back strong in Bristol.” 

NASCAR’s Saturday schedule for Martinsville Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A busy day is scheduled for NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway with the Camping World Truck Series race followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Cup race.

Here’s the full schedule for day with TV and radio info.

All times are Eastern

7 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. — Truck garage opens

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. — Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. — Alpha Energy Solutions 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Without NASCAR ride, Blake Koch devoting energy to helping younger drivers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Blake Koch‘s son Carter is 5, but he’s already developed some understanding of how NASCAR works.

“All he’s ever known is me as a race car driver,” Koch tells NBC Sports. “He’s smart enough to know now that when Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. retired and Matt Kenseth retired and Danica (Patrick) retired, he now knows what retirement means.”

At some point since last November, Koch had to explain to Carter why he wasn’t competing in 2018.

“He’s like, ‘Dad, are you retired?'” Koch says. “I was like, ‘No, buddy, I just lost my sponsor.'”

Koch is four months removed from his last start in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series.

After two years racing full-time for the team, he was replaced by Ryan Truex, who brought sponsorship with him. Koch was left without a ride after making 213 starts in the Xfinity Series since 2009.

Koch has heard many of the same questions since November.

Are you done racing? Are you still trying to get sponsors? What are you doing?

“My answer is no, I’m not done racing,” Koch answers. “I can’t be done racing.”

At 32 and with 229 national NASCAR starts on his resume, Koch was left with two options when the 2017 season ended.

“Sit around and feel sorry for myself and read all the support and the tweets and let it (allow me) to think that an opportunity should come to me or go out and make something happen and have fun and utilize my resources and knowledge,” Koch says.

He decided he wasn’t going to pursue any ride this season. But Koch is not going anywhere.

In addition to a weekly appearance on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub,” Koch wanted to try his hand as a driver mentor, helping young NASCAR drivers develop with the knowledge he’s accrued the last decade.

Koch jokes that his love of helping people may have been one of his “downfalls as a driver.”

“I helped other drivers,” Koch says. “If someone asked me what I was doing or about the race, I told them my honest opinion because I actually liked helping.”

Koch also observed a lack of people in similar roles in NASCAR.

“Every other sport has a coach or someone to lean on or someone on your side. Golfers, quarterbacks, everybody does. Except for NASCAR drivers,” Koch says. “Even Supercross racers have trainers and coaches and people making them better and better. But in our sport, it was just nonexistent, because there were no drivers that would retire and still want to be at the racetrack helping other drivers.”

Before committing to the idea, he went to former NASCAR driver Josh Wise for advice. Wise works with Chip Ganassi Racing helping their drivers.

“I did pick Josh’s brain a little bit on if he was happy doing it, if he missed being in a car and all that kind of stuff,” Koch says. “He still had the adrenaline rush, he loved what he was doing. … He saw results from the work he’s putting in. … You don’t want to do something and feel like there’s no results behind it and you don’t want to do something if you don’t think it’s going to be fun or rewarding.”

Through Chris Biby, a driver manager, Koch was connected with Matt Tifft, who joined Richard Childress Racing this season after a year with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s also begun working with Truck Series driver Myatt Snider.

Koch and Tifft did not interact much last year, aside from greetings at driver introductions.

Their first real conversation came over a meal at Hickory Tavern in Huntersville, North Carolina.  Now they talk almost every day.

Koch didn’t officially begin his role helping out Tifft until after the season opener at Daytona.

“What I try to be for Matt Tifft is everything I’ve always wanted,” Koch says. “Confidence is key. It’s a big part of going fast, being confident in yourself. I believe that comes from hard work.

“I knew I had that feeling, and that’s something I implemented into Matt’s weekly routine, that when he shows up to the racetrack he knows he’s been working harder than every single person out there, and he’s more prepared than anyone out there. Then you have a little extra pep in your step when you’re walking in the garage.”

Koch says a “very small portion” of the work he does with his drivers is at the track. Most of his “two cents” comes between Monday and Friday.

On Sunday nights, he sets a schedule for Tifft and Snider, what to do with their workout program, race prep and what to work on in the simulator in addition to general notes for the race weekend.

Tifft says Koch is “very particular about every single thing” he’s doing.

“I set up specific workouts for him to do throughout the week and I tweaked his nutrition a little bit,” Koch says. “But he was already pretty disciplined with his nutrition. I set a checklist of things he needs to know every single week before he gets to the racetrack. Small details, even little things like garage flow. … When you get to the race track, the only thing you should have to think about is hitting your marks and running in a perfect line and focusing on your task at hand, not the other small details that are just cluttering your mind.”

Through roughly four weeks of working with Tifft and Snider, Koch has found the same satisfaction that Wise has in his role with Ganassi.

“When this opportunity came across to work with Matt, I could still race,” Koch says. “You have that competition, the adrenaline because you feel like you’re invested in part of it and I could help them out. It kind of helped fulfill the desire I had for helping people and helping someone make the best of their opportunity. I know how difficult it is to get an opportunity in this sport. When someone has that opportunity, I love nothing more than to see them maximize it. That’s what keeps me excited.”

Working with the two young drivers also keeps Koch on his toes in the case an offer materializes from a team.

“It absolutely helps,” Koch says. “I have to stay in shape and constantly watch, read and study data and work as hard as I was, probably working harder now than I was when I was driving. Because I have the accountability of Matt Tifft and Myatt Snider. Those guys are starting to push me harder in the gym, too. I have to get stronger. You can’t have your athletes stronger than the coach. I got to step up my game.”

Koch isn’t done adding things to his work life.

He plans to launch a new business in May, which he works on in the afternoons following his morning workout.

Koch isn’t giving away any details on that business will entail.

“The reason I started it is back when I was racing, if I poured as much effort and passion and hard work into my own business and product that I did into everybody else’s I’d be in a much better position right now,” Koch says. “I’ve learned a lot, about business and marketing and how to create a successful company, especially being friends with Matt Kaulig and seeing Leaf Filter grow over the years, I came up with an idea that I know people need and use and want, and I’m going to supply that to people here very soon.”

In the meantime, with the Xfinity Series off the next two weekends and Koch not making the trip to Texas Motor Speedway, he will spend his weekends nurturing his son’s dirt bike career. Carter competed in his first race last weekend.

“He was begging for it,” Koch says of the dirt bike. “I wanted to get him in a go kart or something a little safer but he’s just about as hardheaded and stubborn as I am.”

A Driver’s Drive: Darrell Wallace Jr. aggressive and confident

1 Comment

Returning to the site of his first Camping World Truck Series win provided a great opportunity for Darrell Wallace Jr. to reflect on his meteoric rise through the NASCAR ranks in the week’s edition of “A Driver’s Drive”.

Finishing second in the Daytona 500 put his name in the record book as the highest finishing African-American driver and raised expectations about Wallace’s potential at the Cup level.

Martinsville is going to raise another challenge to see if he can live up to that potential without stepping over the line. Wallace earned his first victory in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions on this track in the 2013 Kroger 200. He backed that up with another win in the same race the following year. Those victories add to his confidence and possibly his aggression on the bullring.

“Looking back on stats and what not, you’ll see that I’m one of the most aggressive guys coming up through the ranks,” Wallace said.

On Sunday, Wallace will need to temper that aggression if he wants to score another top-10 in Cup competition.

For more on what Wallace says, watch the video above.

Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports extend relationship though 2022

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Axalta and Hendrick Motorsports announced a four-year extension of their relationship through 2022, continuing a 26-year partnership.

Axalta, a supplier of liquid and powder coatings, will serve as a 25-race primary sponsor of Hendrick over the next two years. Axalta will sponsor Alex Bowman (15 races in 2018 and 12 races in 2019) and William Byron (10 races in 2018 and 13 races in 2019).

Schedules for the 2020-2022 seasons will be announced at a later date.

Hendrick’s deal with NAPA was recently extended through 2020.

Axalta, formerly known as DuPont, has been with Hendrick since November 1992 when it sponsored Jeff Gordon in his first Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon went on to win four Cup titles with Axalta as his primary sponsor.

Last May, Axalta opened a 36,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center on the HMS campus outside Charlotte, North Carolina, to enable customers to train and be part of a full racing experience.

“We are so proud of our partnership with Axalta,” said Rick Hendrick in a press release. “Their long-term commitment to our organization and our sport as a whole has been unbelievable. They are constantly innovating and investing to keep the program fresh, enhance the experience for their customers and ultimately drive value for their business. Projects like the Customer Experience Center on our campus are unprecedented and reinforce the strength of our relationship. We’ve worked together for more than a quarter of a century, and I believe it’s just the beginning.”