Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover

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Here’s what many of the drivers had to say after Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson – WINNER: “I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in Southern California. I was a big Cale Yarborough fan. … To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing. We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport. I was such a fan and it’s been an amazing journey along the way. It was a huge honor to tie him with 3 consecutive championships a few years back and then to be here at 83 wins and a day where things played out in such an awkward and weird fashion, just very happy that we’ve got it done.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “(Johnson) did what he had to do to get the best launch that he did. We were both playing games a little bit. He just took off better than I did. I wasn’t really complaining about the restart. He did a good job. He’s a seven-time champion for a reason. He’s got a golden horseshoe somewhere, and he’s really good at executing. So, I’ve just got to get better at that. We had a dominant car all day. We had a couple of runs where we got off; maybe some bad tires or something. But we were able to rebound from those struggles.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished third: “We had a good day. We had a good car and just got caught by that caution when we pitted and lost our shot at the win. I don’t know that we had the best car, but we had a good car for sure and the 42 (Kyle Larson), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and us – I think we were all so close. Whoever it seemed like got out front was the best, but all in all, you know, it was a good day. Just not the finish we hoped for, but still when you’re this disappointed with third, it speaks volumes about your team and where you’re at and what’s going on. … I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I almost wrecked by myself, so it was a lot of fun. It was a challenge.”

Ryan Newman – Finished fourth: “Yeah, I’m not really sure exactly what happened there off of (Turn) 2. I know (teammate Ty Dillon) washed up, but I don’t know if he kind of hit the fence and came back down into me or I ran into him. It was just so tight. I had another car on my quarter-panel, but either way it was a hard fought top five for our Caterpillar Chevrolet. That was the toughest top five I’ve had in a long time, so we’ve got some work to do.”

Chase Elliott – Finished fifth: “I don’t exactly know what happened between all those guys, but our NAPA Chevy was solid all day. It wasn’t as good as some of those other guys, but we made a lot of gains from I think where we were yesterday. We got up inside the top five there at one point and got stuck back around 10th at one point too.  So, up and down for sure.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – Finished sixth: “I think it was good. Like everything, ups and downs. In the beginning, we were okay and then later on we were pretty bad. We were able to make some adjustments and get back to a top-10. I feel like we had a top-10 car and we ended up right there. I think the entire team is making process and that’s for sure and I’m very proud of that and we just have to keep working and keep moving in the same direction.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished seventh: “Overall a really good day for us. We qualified bad and I had a really hard time overcoming that. The way the pit stalls worked out the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) lost their pit pick and got stuck in-between me and Jimmie (Johnson) and I had to give up a lot of time on pit road just to give him enough room and make sure everybody had enough room.  That was a big challenge and got us behind all day long.  Overall we had a really good car.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished eighth: “We struggled for the most part – hanging out just outside the top-10. Really didn’t have a fast car to speak of. That’s where we qualified, that’s where we practiced and kind of where we raced. Just got to be a little bit faster and we’ve got to work on our setup. We obviously are – we faded quite a bit on the long runs and that definitely hurt us.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished ninth: “We had a good day with our Jimmy John’s Ford. We just got caught under caution and could never make it back up. We had an okay car and just tried to stay out of trouble all day. Long day. A lot going on out there today.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 10th: “A good day for us. We got a bit lucky with staying out at the right time and catching the yellow flags. It’s the stuff that hasn’t been happening for us all year and it’s just nice to catch some breaks today. We weren’t the fastest car today, not sure we were a top-10 car. A lot of times we have been a 10th-place car and weren’t able to get the finish we needed. I’ll take the lucky days anytime I can because there has been plenty of times where it went the other way.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 11th: “I don’t know what happened at the end there were just cars crashing everywhere. Our car really wasn’t very good all day. We ran around 15th to 20th, we got lucky on staying out on a green flag run there and got some track position and I sped on pit road some fricking how. We have had a lot of speeding penalties this year, so I don’t know what is going on with that, but it was a long day. Not any fun at all.”

TY DILLON – Finished 14th: “Really proud of our Germain Racing team. It’s a lifelong dream. To lead laps (27) like that meant a lot to me. We had to restart fourth on old tires and I just think the air off the No. 31 got me a little loose and they left a bunch of sand there off Turn 2 and as soon as I got loose and hit that sand it was all over (the last lap crash).  I feel bad for all the cars that got torn up. … Proud of our effort today. We proved to ourselves as a team that we can run up front with the big boys.”

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “It’s disappointing to have our day end the way it did so late in the race. We overcame a tire issue earlier in the race Our Overton’s team did a great job making our car better all day. I felt that we were headed for a top-20 finish until we had the wreck. I’m glad all the safety stuff worked. That was a hard hit. We’ll learn from it for when we come back here in the fall.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 31st: “It looks like the oil tank cracked right by the fitting. A freak deal. It’s a shame. We needed a good race. We had gotten a little bit behind today and then had the freak deal happen. Not our day.”

Paul Menard – Finished 33rd: On the Lap 343 incident he was involved in: “The No. 37 (Chris Buescher) just got loose and wrecked us.”

Regan Smith – Finished 34th: “What a day! It was fun. We worked hard on the Smithfield Ford all day. They guys did nice job adjusting after we go really loose in the middle of the race. We cut a right-front tire. Maybe too much brake on my part. I’m not really sure. The team did a nice job all week. We struggled early in the week but got me comfortable in the car. It was fun. Just thankful to get the chance to drive this car the last few weeks.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 36th: “I thought we were improving all day. I was really happen how the car was running on the last run. We got the wave around and was going to benefit from it. I’m not sure why the right-front tire let go. We weren’t too aggressive as some of the other guys. That’s just how it goes.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 37th: “I got loose on a restart, it’s my bad as a driver. My bad. We had good speed in our car and just couldn’t finish. You can’t make mistakes out here and we did.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 38th: “Yeah, one of them racing deals. These cars rely so much on aerodynamics. We saw that early with guys being able to stay out on two tires even with a lot of tire wear. I don’t know if it was Kurt’s fault, just one of them racing deals. We line-up double-file and somebody got loose and just took us out. What a bummer. Just one of them racing deals.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 39th: “Our Little Hug Ford was fast and on the move. This track is tough. We saw a few tire issues yesterday after the first run. I’m not sure if I ran over something, we’ll have to take a look at it. I’m looking forward in coming back here in the fall. I feel like we have a good race car and happy with what we learned this weekend.”

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Your guide to 2018 Cup Series paint schemes

Stewart-Haas Racing
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The 2018 NASCAR Cup season is still two months away from its start with the 60th Daytona 500.

But it’s not too early to start brushing yourself up on the various Cup Series paint schemes that will be on track.

Some teams haven’t made many changes to their cars (Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing), while others have completely revamped their looks (Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing).

Here’s your look at all the released paint schemes so far for next season.

This post will be updated.

Jamie McMurray

Brad Keselowski

Source: Lionel Racing

Austin Dillon

 

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

 

Kevin Harvick

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

Trevor Bayne

Roush Fenway Racing
Lionel Racing

Chase Elliott

Lionel Racing

Aric Almirola

Stewart-Haas Racing

Denny Hamlin

Lionel Racing

Ryan Blaney

Team Penske

Ty Dillon

Lionel Racing

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Lionel Racing

Kyle Busch

Lionel Racing

Daniel Suarez

Lionel Racing

Erik Jones

Lionel Racing

Paul Menard

Lionel Racing

Joey Logano

Team Penske
Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing

William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports
Lionel Racing

Ryan Newman

Lionel Racing
Lionel Racing
Richard Childress Racing

Kyle Larson

 

Chip Ganassi Racing

Darrell Wallace Jr.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Jimmie Johnson

Martin Truex Jr.

Getty Images
Lionel Racing

Alex Bowman

Nationwide

John Hunter Nemechek’s Christmas came early with Chip Ganassi Racing ride

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Before this week, John Hunter Nemechek‘s best Christmas gift came about seven years ago.

He received an Allison Legacy car, a 3/4-scale stock car with about 110 HP. He raced it throughout the Southeast, competing at Hickory Motor Speedway and Bowman Gray Stadium and other tracks.

“That’s really the deciding factor of what I wanted to race,” Nemechek told NBC Sports on Thursday. “I wanted to get back in stock cars from motorcross. That was really the first stock car I had ever driven. So it was pretty neat to get that for Christmas.”

Nemechek, the son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek, drove to the series championship in 2012 when he was 15. A year later, he competed in his first two Camping World Truck Series races.

“Without that Allison Legacy car, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now,” said Nemechek.

Nemechek is a few days removed from being named one of the drivers of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series next season. The move comes after he spent the last two seasons competing full-time for his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, with two part-time seasons before that.

The 20-year-old driver will join Kyle Larson in sharing the ride, which boasts the same number that Nemechek’s father raced when he earned his first Cup win in 1999. Then he drove for Felix Sabates, who now a co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It’s definitely up there,” Nemcheck said of where his new ride ranks among the Christmas gifts he’s received. “I’d have to say that it’s definitely up at the top of that list.”

The news of Nemechek’s jump up NASCAR’s ladder came six months after he stood in victory lane at Gateway Motorsports Park in tears on Father’s Day.

NEMCO Motorsports struggled through multiple seasons to attract sponsorship to its No. 8 Chevrolet. By the time Gateway rolled around in June this season, there were doubts the team would be able to make it to the following race at Iowa Speedway.

Having secured a playoff spot at Gateway, Nemechek wound up winning that race too.

Nemechek’s sponsor, Fire Alarm Services, stepped to sponsor him in 12 of the season’s remaining 14 races. He narrowly advanced to the second round of the playoffs before being eliminated.

“Before Gateway it kind of was like a make-or-break season for us in the Truck Series deal,” Nemehcek said. “Not knowing how many races we were going to get to in the full year. That definitely stunk for us. Being able to make it to all those races showed what we can do. I think the (Ganassi) opportunity arose some from that and what we’ve been able to do and show in years passed.”

For two weeks before the announcement, Nemechek kept his news quiet. The rest of the NASCAR world learned he had new plans on Dec. 5, when he posted a black-and-white video on Twitter.

Three days later, he posted a picture of a car underneath a black sheet, saying the news was coming soon.

Even then, some didn’t think he was going to be racing in Xfinity or even Cup.

“There was people saying that I was still going Truck racing even though we posted that picture,” Nemechek said. “I thought that was pretty funny. ”

During his time in the Truck Series, Nemechek managed to earn five wins. With NEMCO Motorsports financial struggles, Nemechek said he never believed his NASCAR career would end in the Truck Series, though “you always have thoughts in the back of your head.”

But winning does solve problems.

“We stayed focused on one goal and that was to run as best as we could and make sure we finish races and win races and the rest will take care of itself,” Nemechek said. “We had some great partners along the way. There’s been a lot of people that have helped me get to this point, from my first ever sponsor when I ran quarter midgets all the way to now with Fire Alarm Services. We didn’t have any speculation whether or not it was going to be an Xfinity ride or whatever it may be. The goal was to keep progressing and now we’re here.”

On Thursday, two days after the news broke (with another black-and-white video), Nemechek celebrated his first Christmas with his new team at Ganassi’s holiday lunch.

Every person Ganassi employees, from NASCAR to IndyCar, was there.

“I can’t even think of the number off the top of my head,” Nemechek said.

It’s a far cry from the team Nemechek has called home for most of his race career. Outside him and his father, NEMCO Motorsports has five full-time employees.

“It’s definitely going to be different getting to know everybody’s name,” Nemechek said. “I’m sure I won’t be able to remember every single name that works here in this building.”

Nemechek’s role will also slightly change with his new employment. His only job will be in the cockpit of the No. 42.

“I definitely loved driving for dad,” Nemechek said. “I loved every second of it. He taught me a lot. He’s given me every opportunity I’ve ever gotten until now. It’s definitely going to be a different transition into not working on the vehicle every day to being focused on one thing and that’s to be a driver. I definitely think there’s going to be some different changes there as far as what I’m focusing on and hopefully that’s going to make me a better driver in the long-run.”

While all the races Nemechek will run next year have not been finalized, he does know when he’ll get to fully enjoy his early Christmas gift.

He’ll hit the track as a Chip Ganassi Racing driver for the first time on Feb. 26 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Rick Ware Racing acquires NASCAR Cup charter for 2018, will also field ‘open’ car

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Rick Ware Racing (RWR) announced Friday that it has acquired a NASCAR Cup Series charter for the 2018 season.

However, RWR did not identify which Cup team it acquired the charter from.

As a result, RWR will be able to compete full-time in the Cup Series with the No. 51, beginning in the 60th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

The team will also field an “open” team – one that will not have a charter and will have to qualify for every race it enters – sporting the No. 52 car number.

In addition to not identifying where it acquired the Cup charter, RWR is not identifying at this time what manufacturer it will field for either car in the upcoming season.

In a media statement, however, it did say that will be both be building and acquiring cars both during the off-season and in-season, including Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Fusions and Toyota Camrys.

The Thomasville, North Carolina-based organization is also increasing the amount of personnel, updating equipment, adding engineering support on and off the road, as well as upgrading its 20,000-square-foot shop.

The team said it will finalize its driver lineup for both the No. 51 and No. 52 “in the immediate future,” it said in a media release.

Six drivers drove a combined 29 races for RWR in the 2017 NASCAR Cup season: Timmy Hill (9 races), B.J. McLeod (8 races), Cody Ware (5), Ray Black Jr. (3), Kyle Weatherman (2) and Josh Bilicki (2).

The team’s two best finishes were both by Hill: a 28th-place showing at the spring race in Kansas, followed the next week by a 29th-place finish at Charlotte.

The team also entered three Camping World Truck races, with 2 starts by Jordan Anderson and one by Spencer Boyd. It also competed in one Xfinity race.

‘Old dog’ Matt Crafton preparing to make USAC Midget debut Saturday night

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Matt Crafton is proving it’s never too late for to try new things in auto racing.

Crafton, the 41-year-old driver for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, will break new ground Saturday night.

It all started a few months ago over dinner with Jack Irving, the director of team and support services at Toyota Racing Development.

“We were just sitting down, having dinner one night a couple of months ago and thought it would be a great idea for me to drive a midget,” Crafton said last Saturday during the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series awards banquet.

“I didn’t think it was too crazy when (Irving) brought it up,” Crafton said. “At that point, it was just casual conversation. I said ‘Yeah, let’s do it’ and he texted (Keith) Kunz to see if it was okay. Two days later, he told me, ‘Okay, pick where you want to go.’”

Crafton chose Saturday night’s USAC Indoor Junior Knepper 55 in DuQuoin, Illinois, as the place to make his midget debut.

He will make it in a car owned by Keith Kunz Motorsports.

On Dec. 6, the two-time Truck Series champion found himself sitting in a midget for the first time, getting fitted for the dirt car.

“About to find out if you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Crafton later tweeted.

But Crafton has already been fine tuning his dirt racing skills over the last five years. Since 2013, the Truck Series has visited Eldora Speedway, the Tony Stewart-owned dirt track in Rossburg, Ohio.

Crafton has been in every Eldora race, but before 2017 his best finish was eighth in the inaugural event.

Before this season, Crafton decided to really figure out dirt racing.

He and his father worked together to rebuild a Modified dirt car and in the downtime between Truck races, Crafton took it racing.

It worked out quickly, with Crafton coming in second in an event at Volusia Speedway Park in February.

Then in July, Crafton triumphed over Stewart Friesen to win the fifth Eldora Dirt Derby.

“It helped a lot,” Crafton said after the race. “Just learning what the track does. In the years past, I didn’t know what I was looking at to be totally honest. Just kept studying and kept studying.”

That Eldora win was the only victory for the No. 88 ThorSport Racing team in 2017, but it put Crafton in the Truck playoffs.

When the prospect of a midget race was raised to him by Irving, the pursuit of a third Truck title kept Crafton from it until the offseason.

“I wouldn’t say the Eldora win propelled any of this … but it’s definitely opened up some more doors,” Crafton said last weekend. “Now, everyone realizes how much I enjoy it and how much of a racer I am and that I love to race.

“I’ll say it again: I’m a racer. There’s a reason why I race dirt races and do everything that I do, and it’s because I want to go out and race anything and everything I possibly can. That’s why I got my own dirt modified, that’s why I got a go-kart … to be able to perfect road courses and that style of racing as well.”

One of Crafton’s teammates in Saturday’s race will be the defending Truck Series champion and dirt veteran Christopher Bell. Crafton’s also received advice from Chase Briscoe, who drove for Brad Keselowski Racing this season.

“(Briscoe) won’t be my teammate, but he sent me some in-car footage of him racing at DuQuoin and I’ve watched it 10 times, just to see what I can learn,” Crafton said. “I mean, you get about four laps, and then you try to race your way into the main event. There’s gonna be a lot of cars there, so it won’t be easy.”

“I talked to Bell this week, and he has a simulator with the midget on it, so I may go over to his house and run the simulator a little bit and see if I can figure out anything there.”

Crafton said he keeps getting pressured to take his dirt experience one step further and compete in January’s Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But Saturday’s 55-lap race comes first.

“I’d love to give (the Chili Bowl) a shot in the future. But we’ll see,” Crafton said. “I’m going out to DuQuoin to have fun; that’s the main goal.”