Austin Dillon on tribute to Lane Frost and his brother’s ‘upset’ reaction to Daytona crash

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After climbing from the wreckage of his No. 3 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Dillon put his own spin on informing the crowd of his well-being.

Rather than the standard wave acknowledging the support of fans, Dillon made a dual motion with his hands, which he explained Tuesday was a tribute to legendary bull rider Lane Frost.

“He’s probably one of the best bull riders of all time,” Dillon said. “After we won the (Xfinity) race Saturday night, I thought it was a cool tribute to him to kind of start doing that and just embrace it because he was one of my heroes.

“Sunday after the wreck, I thought it was appropriate because that was a pretty wild ride.  I had actually texted one of my buddies.  He’s a bull rider.  His name is Luke Snyder, and he had texted and asked if I was all right and everything.  I said, ‘Yeah, man, screw riding bulls.’  But he’s like, ‘I don’t know about that.  Maybe screw racing.’ and I said, ‘No, I love what I do. ‘

“But it’s fun to kind of look back at the way I have now because that was a really crazy wreck and just got to thank NASCAR and the good Lord above for taking good care of me.  They did a great job to make our car safe, and I’m here today talking to you guys and feeling pretty good.”

Dillon said he spent much of Monday looking at photos and replays of the airborne crash, which tore down a 60-foot section of the Daytona catchfence.

“I checked out a little bit of everything,” he said. “I looked at photos, I looked at fans’ videos on YouTube. I’ve looked at a little bit of everything, like I said.  At first after getting through the infield care center, I didn’t know if I wanted to watch it.  After I took a shower, cooled down, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, let’s start watching them.’

“I watched a lot of videos, and just watching it in live speed, it is violent looking.  It’s a wicked crash.  When you see the fence, the thing just blows apart.  But for me, I think it kind of set in when I got to talk to my brother (Ty).  I already got into the infield care center, I was pretty much fine.  I wasn’t shaken, and I was just kind of telling my parents, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK,’ and talking to them.  You could see how upset they were, and I hadn’t seen the real footage of the wreck.  I knew it was bad but I didn’t know how bad.

“When I talked to my brother, it was was another level because he was upset, and hearing him on the phone upset, it was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have to watch this,’ because he’s a tough guy, and to hear him be upset about it and worried about me, it was like, all right, I need to look at this wreck.”

During a Tuesday teleconference with the national media, Dillon addressed several topics related to his wild ride at Daytona.

On the nature of restrictor-plate racing in the wake of disparaging comments by teammate Ryan Newman:

       I have to make my own opinion, first of all, and I have a lot of respect for everybody at NASCAR and the drivers.  Going through something like that, there’s other drivers that have gone through wrecks similar.  This is probably one of the most violent ones, obviously, and I feel like my opinion was I’m here today talking to you guys, and right now my groin is a little sore, my tailbone is a little sore, but other than that, my head and my neck, which is the most important part to me, I have no headache, I have ‑‑ my traps are like a little sore just from tightening up before the wreck, you know, making sure I was tight when I hit the car so I wasn’t too relaxed when I hit the fence.

But I think it’s pretty impressive to see how far we’ve come after learning from other wrecks, the black box that NASCAR takes and looks at to see the impacts and how far we’ve come to change the different chassis bars in the car to strengthen the roof.  The roof looked like the cage itself held up well.  The catchfence did its job.  It kicked things back into the track where we needed to.

A lot of things have innovated to make everybody still safe today.  Luckily the fans are all in good shape.  We’re obviously going to probably enhance more safety after this, and we’ll keep developing as our sport grows, and I think NASCAR has got the people there to do that.

I will definitely be another advocate for safety myself.  If I can help them in any way, I’ll do that.  But I’m just happy to be in the position I am.  I’ve had worse injuries playing football growing up and stuff like that.”

On how his team handled the aftermath:

           I came to the shop yesterday, talked to a few different people.  I talked to my interior guy that kind of bolts everything in.  I think that’s probably one of the worst fears for a guy that does interior is the safety of the driver.  It’s what his main focus is, and I went and thanked him this morning as soon as I got here for keeping all the bolts tight, doing his job.

Different guys you see are shaken up more by it, but they’re proud of their work and glad it was safe and that I’m safe and we get to go race this weekend at Kentucky.

On if the involvement of the No. 3 in a Daytona crash was unsettling because of its link to Dale Earnhardt (killed in the 2001 Daytona 500):

          Yeah, I haven’t talked to a lot of people about that.  Had a few different questions about it, but the way I look at it is I think from what I’ve learned from those crashes, for instance, what happened to Dale, our sport has taken a whole turn of 360 degrees, and it’s all about safety, and we’ve been able to learn from our mistakes in the past, and that’s what you have to do.  You have to learn from history and develop and innovate new ways to make our sport safe, and technology has come a long way.

The safety, from the Dow foam in the car and everything, every little bit goes a long way.  I think just what we’ve been able to do to look at a horrific crash like that and be able to develop from it, and we’ll develop from this one just like we have in the past.

On if having fans injured for the third time in three years at Daytona tarnishes the track:

           I sure hope not.  I think that just adds to what it is at Daytona in some way.  I think when you go there, you’re going to see some wild and crazy things happen.  It seems like there’s always a story line at Daytona, no matter if it comes from qualifying, practice, race, there’s always going to be a story line there.  I don’t know what it is, there’s something magical about the place.  Things happen there.  For me, I think we just keep developing our sport into new ways.

You can’t blame things on Daytona.  I feel like it’s a racetrack that has done its job to put on good races.  We just have to keep developing to keep our stands safer, our drivers safer, and do what we can as a sport to develop and bring new technology, like I said, to keep it safe.

But for me, I think you can’t tarnish Daytona.  For me even after wrecking like that, I got to experience one of the greatest things in winning there the night before that, and it’s a part of it, and I still had a good finish on Sunday.  I finished seventh.  That was pretty cool.

It’s a wild place that you have lots of up and downs and you have to be able to ride them and have a good attitude going into it.

On grandfather Richard Childress’ reaction:

         Yeah, I think I just ‑‑ going back to watching it in live speed, I think it was way worse for everyone at home watching and for him watching it.  He had a good view of the wreck.  And then also, the worst part for family members is you want to let them know you’re okay after a wreck through the radio because they’re listening, and the radio cord had ripped or something had ripped to make it ‑‑ I could hear them but they couldn’t hear me, so it was one of those deals where I knew they were upset and I felt bad because I couldn’t get to them.  The steering wheel had done its job, it kind of had released and was up in the roof.  I grabbed it and pulled it back to me and keyed the mic to let them know I was okay, but they weren’t able to hear anything.  It was just kind of a ‑‑ I was saying I’m okay, I’m okay, but it wasn’t going through, and I could hear in their voice how scared they were, and they were saying, Talk to me, Buddy, talk to me, and I couldn’t respond to them, so that was a time for them I’m sure it was just painful because they didn’t know how good I was.  Luckily the guys had gotten there fast enough, gave everybody the thumbs up to let them know that I was fine.

On if future crashes can be prevented:

            I think we can do some things to prevent these accidents for sure.  I think we need to, and we can.  And that’s why I said that they’ve taken the car to NASCAR and they’ll look at the car and figure out ways to keep them on the ground.  I think we’re trying to keep them from getting in the air, and we’ll do what we can.

The way the racing is set up now, it prevents ‑‑ it doesn’t prevent, it breeds these kind of wrecks.  It’s three‑wide pack racing, and at Daytona it’s tighter than Talladega, there’s less room.  I think if you’re at Talladega, this wreck might not happen because it’s a little bit wider.  But it’s just a part of the racing that we’re in right now.

I think we can do things to help slow down some of the wrecks and might keep us from catching air, but we’ll just have to see the direction that NASCAR goes, and maybe they’ll ask the drivers their opinions, and we can give them a good opinion to kind of go together to make the racing still stay the same.  I feel like we can create good racing because up until that wreck we had some really good racing Monday morning, but I think the wreck kind of tarnished a great race.

We’ll work and develop ways to make it where we’re not flying through the air.

On rival team members coming to his aid:

            The first guy that got to my guy was the GEICO crew from Casey Mears’ team, and it was kind of funny, I almost laughed. Because when he first got to my car, I thought it was Casey Mears.  I was like, ‘How did Casey Mears get out of his car and get to me that quick?’ because it felt like six seconds, seven seconds before the first crew had got there, and it sounded like Casey and had the same GEICO suit and everything.  I was like, man, Casey got here fast.  That’s crazy.

But it was one of the crew members there.  And I couldn’t ‑‑ there was someone on the right side, but I couldn’t tell who it was, and it was obviously Junior’s crew.  But it was cool to see all those guys get there.  Some of my guys even got there and they were pretty far down pit road to get to me, and it was special to have those guys get there.

On his speed during the crash:

       I’ve heard numbers.  I don’t know ‑‑ I don’t have factual information.  I heard 198 from one of my friends.  I’d say you’re anywhere between 190 and 198 is probably accurate.  But I don’t have a true reading.  I will give you that when I have factual information to tell me how fast we were going.

 

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report

Chase Briscoe scores 8th Xfinity win of year with Las Vegas triumph

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Chase Briscoe met a preseason goal of winning eight races with his victory in Saturday night’s Xfinity playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe, who also won at Las Vegas in February, advances to the second round.

Briscoe dominated, winning both stages on the way to his second consecutive victory and eighth of the year. He led 164 of 200 laps.

“Awesome car,” Briscoe said on the radio of the car that also won at this 1.5-mile speedway earlier this year. “Can’t say enough, awesome car.”

Gragson said of Briscoe’s car on NBCSN: “Lot of race cars out here and one space shuttle.”

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished second and was followed by JR Motorsports teammates Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg placed fifth.

Austin Cindric placed sixth and was followed by Michael Annett, Anthony Alfredo, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley.

Briscoe’s eight wins through 27 races ties him with Jack Ingram and Sam Ard for the most wins by non-Cup drivers through 27 races in a season. Ard and Ingram both did it in 1984. Briscoe’s eight wins ties him with Carl Edwards for most wins by a Ford driver in a season in the Xfinity Series. Edwards accomplished the feat in 2011.

“I knew this team was fully capable of achieving that and even more,” Briscoe told NBCSN of winning eight races this year. “I just can’t say thank you enough to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everyone that lets me drive these race cars. It has been an unbelievable season and we still have a lot, six more wins that we can try to get and a championship. That is what we are going to try to do. I am so happy to start the playoffs like this. After the last couple weeks we had, to go to Bristol and win and now here is a pretty good way to start our playoffs.”

The 25-year-old Briscoe does not know where he’ll run next season. He has a year left on his contract with Ford.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Sieg’s fifth-place finish is his fifth top five of the season, the most he’s had in a season. … Runner-up Noah Gragson has finished in the top six in all four of his Xfinity Las Vegas starts. He did it by overcoming a bloody nose during the race. At one point, he put roll bar padding up his nose to clog it. … Daniel Hemric had finished 24th or worse in four of his last five starts before Saturday’s race. He finished third at Las Vegas.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers. It’s his first finish outside the top 10 at a 1.5-mile speedway this season.

NEXT: The series races Oct. 3 at Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) in the middle race of the opening round of the playoffs.