What Drivers Said after 3rd Cup playoff race at Dover

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Kyle Busch was like a cop in Chase Elliott’s mirror.

The more Elliott tried to get away in the closing laps, the closer Busch got until finally overtaking Elliott with two laps to go in the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

It was Busch’s second consecutive win in the playoffs and denied Elliott his first career Cup win.

Twelve of the original 16 playoff contenders now advance to the start of the second round of the playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s what Busch, Elliott and other drivers had to say after Sunday’s race:

Kyle Busch – Winner: “I think the biggest thing there at the end was just having a little bit fewer, fresher lap tires than Chase (Elliott) did and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough when I got close. I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lap cars in front of him, so I think the lap cars actually helped us with that one, but overall just a great day for us. … (Now) we’ve got to win Charlotte. Apparently, I haven’t won there before, so I need to go get that win and check that one off the list and that will put us into the next round and we’ll go from there.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 2nd: “I’m just so disappointed in myself. Golly, I couldn’t have had it any easier. It ran green from the stage break all the way to the end. And, I gave it away. I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “We had a very competitive car today.  The car was good, we just kind of fought track position and I wish I had done a better job on Friday and got us up in that front three sooner. It was so tough to pass, I think whoever came off pit road or had control of a restart was really in the catbird seat. But, a great day for our Lowe’s Chevy. These banked tracks seem to suit us much better than a lot of the flat we saw during the summer. Usually, if you run well at Dover, you run well at Charlotte, so we are excited to go to next week as well.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 4th: “Struggled all day a little bit, but guys worked hard and we never quit and just stayed after it – come home fourth. Thought maybe we should have been second or third, but that last run just really went away on us. It is what it is, but I look forward to Charlotte next week and see if we can keep this thing going.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 5th: “It was a really good race. I won that second stage and was the leader off pit road and then my engine was kind of struggling firing up when I would cycle the engine and cool it down under yellows. It just didn’t re-fire that one time and had to restart fifth and fell back to sixth. Kind of hard to pass when I got back there. I couldn’t really move up the race track because I would be in dirty air. We short pitted, got to third, but fell back and finished fifth. I felt like if I could have restarted the leader I probably would have had a shot to win like the No. 24 (Chase Elliott), but once I had to restart on the inside of the third row I was kind of done unless I had a caution, which there wasn’t any left the rest of the race.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 6th: “We had a really good car today. That first caution didn’t help, and that put us a lap down. We battled back pretty well. We seemed to have our balance shift in waves today. First it’s too tight, then too loose, then back again. It wasn’t a win, but it was a good day.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 7th: “I told (Ryan Blaney) last night I would just take a top 10 after the year that I have had. I know the car was good enough to run in the top five and we showed that at certain points in the race and certain points of the weekend too. … It (his best finish since Sonoma) feels good. This team is really a good team and we have just had a lot of odd misfortune and we have ill-prepared ourselves at times. When the car is good, it seems like we have some bad luck. Then there are weekends where we just can’t get the car right. It’s been a pretty down year but hopefully this weekend is the start of some more good runs. I think we will end this thing strong and I am excited. I am optimistic that our performance is on the uptick and we will see how it works out for next week.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 8th: “(My day) was good. It was consistent solid top-10. I think it’s pretty much all we had and then we got stuck in the race caution and that’s part of it. It worked out well in the end with a decent result.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I’m pleased. I feel like and I said it on media day that we have run about eighth all year long, so if we just did what we had done all year long that we would be fine. Had a great car today. Got behind in qualifying, but recovered well and we were a little safe on our strategy, but man, had a great car again.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “Qualified 16th. Had some pretty good strategy running long and caught the yellow cycle. Had a good pit stop that put us in position to win the first stage, which was good. Then we cycled back to sixth the next two rounds and fought really hard from there to just keep track position. We were holding on to sixth or seventh most of the race and at the end we tried to a little bit of strategy and it just didn’t quite work out.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 11th: “(Our race) sucked. We were just never very good, then I sped on pit road and got to the back and then just couldn’t go anywhere, so, it wasn’t good for us. We weren’t real competitive and then I made that mistake and could never overcome it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 12th: “The SiriusXM Toyota was always way too tight firing off regardless of what we did. Just a frustrating day. I had to chase it up the hill in the turns all day. It was like I was skiing on the track all day. Just frustrating. Somehow we were able to salvage a 12th-place finish out of it.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 13th, eliminated from playoffs: “We just weren’t good enough, as simple as that. We didn’t have a fast-enough race car, we didn’t have the right strategy. We qualified better, that was a plus, but these first three races were a challenge for us. It seemed like everybody else stepped up their game and we didn’t.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 14th, eliminated from playoffs: “Just track position was one of the biggest challenges for us. It was just tough. We didn’t pass really well, but had a pretty decent car, but it was a bit of a struggle to pass guys that were running the same speed, so we just kind of ran in that spot and tried to use some strategy to get up. It seemed to really work, but then on the long end of it, it didn’t work out.  Darien (Grubb, crew chief) did a good job.  The guys worked hard and that was the best we could do.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 16th, eliminated from playoffs: “It started off pretty good. We were headed to the front and were really good on that first long run. We pitted and the caution came out. That was pretty much it. (Ricky) Stenhouse getting those stage points; we were better than him all day. It would have come down between me and the No. 31 (Ryan Newman). We decided we had to run long right there to see if a caution would come out and put everybody a lap down to get us on the same strategy Stenhouse got his points on. It stinks.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 18th: “We’d hoped to get a top-15 run today, but it just didn’t work out in the end. We needed just a little bit more, but overall it was a solid day for the Warriors in Pink Ford team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 19th: “The feeling is lucky really. We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turning point of the day. Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. … We have to run better. We have to bring faster race cars to the track because what we are bringing to the track right now is not nearly fast enough. All in all it is positive momentum that we did make it to the second round.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 20th: “Yeah, disappointed in the way that I drove all through this playoff run. I was driving at 101 percent, trying to get every ounce of speed out of it. It just never had a flow for three races. We might have finished 10th here today. The wreck last week really put us in a hole. We needed a perfect day today and playoff stage points. We just really never did well in Stage 1 and I thought that it might be our Achilles heel. If we add up the numbers (that’s) probably where it was. I can’t fault anybody. We ran hard. We gave it everything we had. … Winning the Daytona 500, you always see the jinx that happens afterwards. We experienced it. There’s a lot that goes on with it. My car never had the handle in it this year where I was always loose in, tight on exit. Loose in, tight on exit. I don’t know why we had that so bad this year.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 23rd: “It is definitely not the day we wanted and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good. At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end. It figures. We got the car better and then just had to kind of ride around the last 60 laps or so. That stunk. The main goal is to transfer and I think the second round is really good for us. I am really excited about that. I am excited to get to Charlotte.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “Today was a battle. I just want to thank all my guys on this Roush Fenway team for their work this weekend. We will move on from today and get ready for some racing at home this week in Charlotte.”

Paul Menard – Finished 26th: “This Richmond/Menards Chevrolet fired off pretty decent to start the race. It hugged the center okay, but we couldn’t go anywhere in traffic. We were in a decent place and hit pit road for some solid adjustments, but when that caution came out in the middle of green flag stops it hurt us pretty bad. Track position was key and we were stuck laps down and forced to take the wave around and get on a different strategy. You can’t predict cautions and we were just on the wrong side of that deal today.”

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