What drivers said after Michigan race

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Kyle Larson — Winner: “It was an awesome finish for us. Kind of a struggle all day, honestly. I felt like we were ‑ I was good and I could find clean air on my car, but any time I’d get any bit of dirty air or any bit of the wake from the car in front of me, I’d get extremely loose, even when I wasn’t close to anybody. We definitely didn’t have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting, probably even harder than we did in those other two wins. Caught a caution at the right time there to line up eighth on fresh tires, got to fifth, and then edged in front of Chase for fourth as the caution was coming out, and that allowed me to line up behind Martin (Truex Jr.) and get a good restart. I was running a few different options through my head under that red flag of what to do, and that one was one of them, and it played out exactly how I had hoped. Yeah, so this win feels amazing to steal one in a way. My other three wins, I felt like we had the first or second-best car, but today at times I didn’t think we were a top-10 car. But to get the win that way is awesome.

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I just tried to do something a little different there with (Kyle) Larson behind me, but when he hit me, I went and I spun the tires. They just got too cold under that red flag and not enough time to get them warmed up. Our car generally took a few laps all day to get warm, but while we had enough caution laps I could kind of keep heat in the tires. Just spun them a bit and he got a run and there was no way he was going to go around me on the bottom with all that stuff down there, and I just went into (Turn) 1 and spun the tires because they were so cold. It’s one of those deals, sometimes these things don’t work out. I’m proud of everybody on the team, they did a great job today and we had a really fast race car again. Proud of that, and I hate I didn’t get it done for those guys and all our fans out there, but all in all it’s a good day. Michigan has just been tough. We’ve been fast here, we just can’t get that ‘W,’ but we’re fast here and we’ll learn from it.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I thought we could get a good enough restart where we could at least battle through (Turns) 1 and 2 and hopefully make something happen into (Turn) 3. Unfortunately that didn’t work out, both of us couldn’t get going – Martin (Truex Jr.) was spinning his tires and I was spinning my tires. He got a push from (Kyle Larson) and he passed us both. It’s unfortunate; I thought it was going to be a Furniture Row one-two either way it was going to work out.’’

Ryan Newman – Finished 4th: “It was just a good run for the Velveeta Shells & Cheese Chevrolet. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) did a great job making the call for us to stay out and caught the break there with (Joey Logano‘s flat) tire. We got a couple of good restarts and make it a little bit out of nothing. We were challenged all day and struggled a little bit.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 5th: “That’s what we needed. Man, if it stayed green, we had another shot like Indy to hold off (Martin Truex Jr.), but we had a caution at the wrong time. I got a great restart and pushed (Kyle Larson) to the lead. I went for it in Turn 3 and it didn’t stick. It got massive loose and ended up fifth. Third and fifth, that’s not a big difference. If I went home thinking I should have gone for it in three, I would be kicking my butt. But it’s a great day for our team. We needed this to recover a little bit.” 

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “Wild. We had a tire go down early and put us off sequence early on and this team did a good job today.  They played the strategy right and worked hard. We had to fix the car. We had a hole in the nose at one point from debris through one of the crashes. Fought hard all day long, to be able to get to here right now, that is a really cool finish. Really proud of this team.” 

Austin Dillon – Finished 7th: “We have come a long freaking way in the last couple of weeks. The car was very drivable throughout the race.  We just needed a little more speed to really get after it, but we made good pit strategy and adjusted the car well.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 8th: “I think we need a little work and need to get caught up here in a hurry.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I had a great car all day long.  I think we would have finished third or fourth without the random caution at the end. That just put us back to 14th and we got back to ninth on the restart, but a really good day for our car, really good day.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 11th: “We were solid today, but we didn’t do anything right, and we didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll pull together and work hard for next week in Bristol.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 12th: “The bottom lane was not really the preferred lane all weekend in Trucks or Cup or anything, and I restarted on the bottom lane and just couldn’t get going. Brad (Keselowski) got to my inside, and I got stuck in the middle and it was just kind of a dogfight after that. I would have gave anything to restart 10th instead of ninth, but it is what it is.  It was a solid day for us. We worked on it all weekend and got it better and better, and the best we had it was right there in the race. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 13th: “We were just terrible loose when the sun came out, and then the strategy just went the wrong way and we wound up a lap down.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 14th: “Well, it was alright. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible. Just ain’t had the car just right the way we need it for the race. I think at times we needed track position and we might have been able to run in the top five, but I didn’t know a lot of guys that really passed many people. It was really pretty even out there competition wise. We weren’t like losing a chunk of time to all them guy, I mean I could see them, but just I don’t know what we’ve got to do.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 15th: “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. We had a fast car and things just didn’t work out. We have fast cars every week and that gives us something to look forward to. There were some things going on in the car that made me think something might let go, but fortunately that didn’t happen.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 17th: “The team did a good job. We executed in qualifying and all of those things, and we really made the most out of everything we had today, it just didn’t come out our way. It just didn’t come together there at the end, but it was nice to lead a bunch of laps. That was good and something I was really proud of, but I just didn’t have enough to really run with the 77 (Erik Jones) and the 78 (Truex). We tried a little strategy to kind of get something out of it, but the way it all played out I ended up getting the bottom lane on the restarts and getting absolutely swallowed. We tried. We put in as much effort as we could. We knew we didn’t have as much as those two, but we gave it 100 percent effort, and I was really proud of my team for that.” 

Ty Dillon – Finished 21st: “The balance of our GEICO Chevy felt a lot better yesterday in practice than it did today, but we were able to bring the car to us with some wedge adjustments. We had a fast race car there toward the end. The strategy was to go long on fuel mileage in the final stage of the race and it worked great. We were able to pit for four fresh tires and fuel and get a decent finish at the end of the day.’’

Danica Patrick — Finished 22nd: “We just weren’t as good as we needed to be today. Then the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford was just too loose there at the end, and we weren’t able to make up any ground on that last restart.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 25th: “We needed to have a solid race with a good finish. We haven’t had one in a while. It was really, really loose the whole (race) and the speed came when we tightened it up, but to start the race, it was really, really loose. I think if we get that balance right to start the race in the future, then we won’t get behind at all.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished 28th: “The speed wasn’t there. We were a little better and obviously in qualifying our cars are good, but we just couldn’t hang with the Toyotas up front there. Those two cars there – really the Furniture Row cars is what I should say. They’re just lights-out fast. The fastest car didn’t win the race, I can tell you that much for sure. We had a flat tire. I don’t know why we had a flat tire, but maybe we ran something over.’’

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “Our balance was OK at times during the race, but the strategy just didn’t work into our favor. We’ve been really fortunate this year to have good strategy during the stages and with no cautions those first two stages we got a little behind, and then tried to short-pit there at the end and the caution came out that cost us a lap or so. That’s one of those days when you don’t have a lot of attrition, not many cautions, and you just have an average race car and we kind of paid the price.”

Paul Menard – Finished 34th: “We were fighting hard on that late restart to get the free pass and we got caught up with Michael McDowell off Turn 2. I was able to drive the Dutch Boy / Menards Chevrolet back to Matt Borland and the crew, but the damage to the nose knocked the oil cooler back and we had to push it back to the garage.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ — Finished 37th: “I was very, very tight and I was just trying to hold my line. I think (Kasey Kahne) – he was passing me obviously and he went up a little too soon for me. I was trying to give him some room, but actually I got out of the throttle at that point, but I don’t know if he was told it was already time to go up – I don’t know. It’s just unfortunate because we came from a streak of top (10s) and now this is going to be the end of it. We’re going to regroup and come back stronger next week.”

KASEY KAHNE — Finished 38th: Daniel (Suarez) was going backwards and I was going by and I ran the bottom. I expected we could be close off the corner, and I was just coming off and then we hit. So, I don’t know. I expected to run side-by-side down the backstretch, but not give a lot of room, because you don’t. Nobody does. But I was making the pass and I don’t know how we hit. Ruined it. It’s over.”

 

 

Ben Rhodes’ crew chief suspended one race, fined for inspection violation at Daytona

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NASCAR has suspended ThorSport Racing crew chief Eddie Troconis for one race and fined him for a post-race inspection violation at Daytona.

Troconis was suspended and fined $5,000 after the rear of the No. 41 Ford of Ben Rhodes was found to be too low after Friday night’s race.

The L1 penalty also comes with the loss of 10 driver and owner points.

ThorSport had no comment regarding a possible appeal or substitute for Troconis.

Rhodes finished fourth in the race after starting 24th. The finish will not count toward playoff eligibility if a tiebreaker is needed.

Troconis is in his second season working with Rhodes.

NASCAR did not issue any other penalties.

Cole Custer to make Cup debut at Las Vegas

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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Cole Custer will make his Cup debut with Rick Ware Racing in the March 4 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the team confirmed Wednesday.

The 20-year-old Custer, who is in his second full season in the Xfinity Series, will drive the No. 51 car. That car has a charter and is guaranteed a starting spot. Custer took part in the Cup test at Las Vegas last month.

Haas Automation will be Custer’s sponsor.

“This is a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series,” Custer said in a team release. “I can’t thank Rick Ware Racing and Haas Automation enough for the opportunity to race at Las Vegas. It’s going to be a new experience for me, but I feel that we can have a productive day by completing all the laps and seeing the checkered flag.”

Custer has two career starts at Las Vegas. He placed third in the 2016 Camping World Truck Series race and was 11th in last year’s Xfinity race.

Custer will drive a Ford for Rick Ware Racing. Justin Marks drove for Rick Ware Racing in the Daytona 500 when the team fielded a Chevrolet. Harrison Rhodes will make his Cup debut this weekend in Atlanta for the team. That car also will be a Chevrolet.

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Austin Dillon reunited with boy who gave him lucky penny

Photo: Richard Childress Racing
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In the midst of a whirlwind following his Daytona 500 victory, Austin Dillon received a surprise.

On Wednesday morning, Dillon was reunited with the boy who gave him the lucky penny that was glued to the dashboard of his No. 3 Chevrolet on Sunday.

Dillon met the boy, named Jordan Wade, at an autograph session prior to the Advance Auto Parts Clash. He gave Jordan a signed hat to replace the Ford hat Jordan was wearing.

The next day, the two encountered each other at the fence around the Cup Series garage, where Jordan presented Dillon with the penny.

In his post-race press conference, Dillon said he hoped to somehow meet Jordan the next day at the track. Instead, Richard Childress Racing managed to track him down and surprised Dillon back at RCR’s headquarters in Welcome, North Carolina.

Jordan met Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr., who finished second in the Daytona 500.

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Catching up with racing’s ‘Hat Man’: The incomparable legacy of Bill Brodrick

Photo courtesy ISC Images & Archives
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It would not be a stretch to say Bill Brodrick has been in victory lane more than any other person in history. And yet he never competed in, nor won, even one race.

At hundreds of races from 1969-97 – primarily NASCAR Cup and IndyCar events – Brodrick was an imposing figure in victory lane, standing alongside the likes of numerous future NASCAR Hall of Famers such as Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and David Pearson after they won races.

It wasn’t hard to miss him. He stood 6-foot-3 and had a wrestler’s body, along with flaming and flowing long red hair and a Grizzly Adams-like beard.

He was known as “Red,” “the Victory Lane Ringmaster,” “Big Bill” or simply “Bill.” But what was really his calling card, and the nickname that made him famous, was “the Hat Man.”

He was the ringmaster of victory lane. He ran the postrace celebration like a business, deciding who’d greet the winner first and the subsequent pecking order, so to speak. He’d direct the race queens who typically kissed the winner and when. He also directed photographers where to set up and when to shoot. He arranged how TV would cover the celebration and made sure the networks had the best camera angles and the first interviews.

NASCAR car owner Banjo Matthews (left) talks with UNOCAL publicist Bill Brodrick at a NASCAR event in 1980. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives)

But Brodrick’s biggest claim to fame was how, in almost military-like precision, he got the driver and crew members of the winning team to change hats nearly every 30 seconds or so to allow photographers to take shots for different sponsors.

If Dale Earnhardt won, Brodrick passed out GM Goodwrench hats, Union 76 hats and many more to accommodate almost every sponsor on the winning car. If Richard Petty won, Brodrick passed out STP hats, Union 76 hats, and so forth until every sponsor was represented in victory lane photos. It’s where the famous “hat dance” got its name, courtesy of Brodrick.

“I’m tall, am a big guy, and I had long hair and I had a beard,” he said. “That persona is what stuck in people’s minds. When I realized that, I wasn’t about to get rid of my beard and long hair. I still have it. I haven’t changed much, except for a few more lines in my forehead. People still come up to me and say, ‘Hi, Hat Man, how are you doing?’ That persona is what made me what I was to the fans and viewers.

“Being The Hat Man was my trademark. In fact, I had ‘The Hat Man’ trademarked for a number of years so nobody could come along and steal ‘The Hat Man’ name away from me.

“Television is what made people recognize me. I never expected it. It just happened. I was there and for what I was doing, I’d be on camera, and people would recognize me and see me with the drivers.”

Photo: Bill Brodrick

A former sportswriter and radio host in his native Cincinnati, Brodrick went to work on Jan. 1, 1969 for Union Oil in California (also known as UNOCAL) as PR director for its worldwide racing division. Four days later, he was in Daytona for timing tests, and with that began the legacy of “The Hat Man.”

Since Union Oil’s Union 76 was the official fuel for NASCAR, IndyCar and other series during much of his tenure, Brodrick was a man in constant motion, going from Daytona to Indianapolis to Le Mans and more. He often spent 200 days on the road in any given year.

These days, Brodrick, 79, lives in retirement in Algonquin, Illinois. Due to medical issues, he doesn’t travel much anymore, but he still keeps up with racing and fondly recalls the good old days with an excitement that seems as if they almost happened just yesterday.

Brodrick was friends with everyone back in the day. He used to hang out with David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Al Unser (Sr. and Jr.), A.J. Foyt and countless others during some of their most successful years in racing.

Even though he’s been gone from racetracks for 20 years, he hasn’t been forgotten. He still gets several letters and trading cards to autograph from fans.

Brodrick still gets trading cards he was featured on from fans seeking his autograph, even this one, which had his last name misspelled.

And yes, he’s still recognized as “The Hat Man.”

“It doesn’t happen like it used to, where everywhere you’d go, especially at race time, in airports and all that kind of stuff, but it still happens,” he said. “I’m flattered for what I get.”

Not surprisingly, Brodrick has a ton of stories to tell. He’s thought about writing a book, but “I’d have to change all the names to protect the guilty,” he says with a laugh.

“I’ve done so much in my career that has enabled me to travel the world and participate in all kinds of events,” Brodrick said. “I ran in the Cannonball Run, was in the Great American Race, we sponsored some vehicles. I helped out for 20 years at the Super Bowl, too.”

Here’s a few of Brodrick’s other favorite stories:

“The drivers were all my favorites,” he said. “David Pearson and I got along well and were good friends. Dan Gurney was one of my favorites as both a driver and a car owner, a real gentleman and great to work with.

“I also got along real well with Bobby Allison. Bobby would like to drown me with champagne. Whenever Bobby would win a race, I knew I was in trouble. We’d go to Mass on Sunday morning before we’d go to the racetrack – we are both Catholic – and he’d say to me, ‘I’m going to get you today, Brodrick.’ And I’d tell him, ‘I hope so, Bobby.’”

Brodrick had a special relationship with both Petty and Earnhardt.

“They were super guys and total opposites in victory lane,” Brodrick said. “Richard was the

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison “gets” Bill Brodrick with champagne after a win. (Photo: Charlie Morgan)

quintessential pro.

“Whenever Richard won, I’d have a cup of milk ready for him. He wanted a cup of milk because Richard had a bad stomach. He only has half a stomach; he had the other half removed at one time. I’d have a cup of milk for him, and he’d also want a couple aspirins until he got the Goody’s sponsorship, and then I’d have to have a couple of Goody’s for him and he’d drink his milk (before he met the press).

“Then he’d say, ‘Okay, Bill, let’s let them cats get their pictures.’ He’d go over and give them what they want. He was great to work with.

“Probably the best time I had with Richard was his 200th win at Daytona in July 1984 when President Reagan was there. That was such a memorable day.

“And then there was Ernie Irvan’s win at Loudon in 1996 after he was seriously injured in a crash. There was Alan Kulwicki’s first win at Phoenix in 1988. There was also Darrell Waltrip when he won Daytona in 1989 and did his funky little dance, what’d they call it, ‘the Icky Shuffle?’ There just were so many good memories and stories over the years.”

But Earnhardt, well, he was kind of a different story.

Brodrick was in victory lane for most of Dale Earnhardt’s wins. Photo: Getty Images

“He always wanted to do everything his way,” Brodrick recalled. “I’d ask him to do something and he’d say, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ But actually, he was pulling my chain. The first thing he’d always say to me is, ‘Brodrick, where’s the champagne?’ I told him he’d get the champagne when we were done because he’d love to spray the photographers and people in victory lane. If there was a race where I didn’t have any when he won, he was not a happy camper. That was Dale’s big deal in victory lane.

“If there wasn’t any champagne, he was just his ornery, contrary self. He could be gruff and rough, but he’d give me that wink and smile, and you knew he was just being hard with you.”

And then there was Pearson.

“I used to fly down to Spartanburg (South Carolina, where Pearson lived), I’d meet David and then we’d drive together to Darlington,” Brodrick said. “There’s a restaurant at the Darlington Raceway that’s called the ‘Speedway Grill.’ They had and I heard still have the greatest hamburger steak and French fries in the world.

“One day, we were going to a race, and we were running late, we had to be there by noon, and I told him there’s no way he was going to make it on time. This was back when the speed limit was 55 mph. There’s a town near the track about 20 miles from Darlington where a four-lane highway begins. There’s a state highway patrol office there, so we were passing that office when a highway patrolman pulled out in front of us and proceeded to go exactly 55 mph heading to Darlington.

“Pearson was going crazy behind the wheel because he knows he can’t pass the cop. We had a bet who was going to pay for lunch. Pearson was very frugal with his money. He could make a buffalo scream off a nickel. The cop was also going to Darlington. Of course, I won, we didn’t get there by noon and Pearson had to buy lunch and boy, was he ticked. That’s one of my favorite stories of my career.”

But even with enough stories to last another lifetime, one thing stands out above all in Brodrick’s mind.

“What I miss the most is the camaraderie and fellowship we had in the old days when I was working,” he said. “I thank God every day that I was able to spend time when the sport (NASCAR) was in its heyday. We were very fortunate to be doing what we were doing when we were doing it. That’s what I liked.”

Brodrick was six weeks shy of 30 years with Union Oil when the company was sold, putting him into a forced retirement earlier than he would have liked.

Just like that, the racing, the travel, the thousands of drivers, crew chiefs, team owners, sanctioning body officials and even fans he came to know was gone – as was his “Hat Man” alter ego.

Bill Brodrick today (Photo courtesy Bill Brodrick)

The abrupt end took Brodrick by surprise, but he tried to make the best of it. He decided to open a bar in Algonquin called “Tavern At The Bridge,” because it was located on the Fox River.

The bar became a repository of all kinds of racing memorabilia, mostly from Brodrick’s collection of items he gained during his career. It also attracted thousands of race fans who wanted to see the “Hat Man” behind the bar.

“I put 40 years of racing experience to good use, and I bought a tavern,” he laughs. “I kept it for 11 years and I’ve never worked so hard in all my life.

“My whole life was in racing and motorsports, and I got paid to do my hobby. Then I went to work and worked almost 24 hours a day. I found out what it was to own a business and be responsible for people.

“The economy turned bad in 2008, and I turned it over to my son and was finally able to get out of the business. It was a lot of fun and we met a lot of people, but boy, that was work after all the years of going to races.”

Brodrick still keeps up with racing, particularly NASCAR, IndyCar and sports car racing, even though his health issues – primarily arthritis in his back – prevent him from even going to nearby tracks such as Chicagoland Speedway or Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Still, a day doesn’t go by that Brodrick isn’t reminded of all the things he’s experienced.

“For almost 30 years, I had the greatest job in the world,” he said. “I met so many great people, was at so many great races, saw so much racing history in the making.”

And right there in the middle was the one and only ‘Hat Man.’”

Bill welcomes emails from fans and past motorsports acquaintances. His address is: WilliamBrodrick@aol.com. Also, click here for his website.

Follow @JerryBonkowski