NASCAR’s Next Generation: Dalton Sargeant

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Dalton Sargeant has 45 minutes to spare and he has to eat lunch at some point.

The 17-year-old driver is between classes at Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when he speaks with NASCAR Talk.

He has just left math class and when the bell rings next he will be in government class. His favorite class is geography.

“The teacher is pretty lenient on everybody since we’re all seniors,” Sargeant says.

It was in math class last semester when Sargeant received a call from NASCAR about being part of the NASCAR Next program, which is aimed at spotlighting the sport’s emerging stars.

Without a word, Sargeant looked at a number he didn’t recognize and left the room.

He would discuss the next chapter of an unorthodox racing career that began by racing go-karts in the parking lot at Homestead-Miami Speedway and open-wheel cars in Europe for two years. Now he’s learning the stock-car racing ropes on the K&N Pro Series East circuit for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks while dabbling in the Camping World Truck Series, making his debut at Bristol Motor Speedway last month and finishing 10th.

This Q&A had been edited and condensed.

 

during a game against the at Globe Life Park in Arlington on August 27, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. The Texas Rangers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1.
Dalton Sargeant in the K&N Pro Series East

NASCAR TALK: You raced at Bristol a few months before your first Truck race in the K&N Pro Series East. How does Bristol drive differently in those series?

DALTON SARGEANT: One thing with the Truck compared to the K&N car is that the Truck is on radial tires, so it reacts a lot differently. It has a lot more grip, so you’re able to carry a lot more speed through the corners, which is a really cool experience. It’s a really fast track and absolutely a blast. Another great experience about running in the Truck series was I got to race against guys like Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch, and I got to learn a lot running around those guys and going in there with the trucks I was a lot more prepared than when I had gone there in the K&N car for the first time.

NT: Was it a difficult decision to move to Europe?

DS: It was easy.

NT: What made it easy?

DS: Just a desire to pursue a Formula One career made the decision easy. I desired that career path a lot, really. I didn’t have a problem whatsoever moving there.

NT: You lived in Europe for a little over two years. That’s not the usual route that stock car drivers take. What led to that?

DS: In the stock car industry you have to be living in Charlotte (N.C). It’s the same way in F1, you have to be living over in Europe. So it was really important. I went over there and I lived in Switzerland for two-and-a-half years. I was running karts as well as an open-wheel formula car, single-seaters and learning as much as I could. At the end of the day, I just didn’t have as much fun with it as I thought I was going to have and just didn’t enjoy it. So I decided to make the switch back to the U.S. and go stock-car racing, and I’ve loved it ever since.

NT: How would you compare the racing culture there to that in the Southeastern United States?

DS: It’s honestly a lot different. Everything over there, I’m not saying NASCAR is not advanced, they look at data acquisition a lot more than in the K&N series and Truck series and what we do. At the same time, it seems NASCAR is really advancing in some of that stuff. Another thing that was pretty difficult was the language barrier. I raced for two Italian teams over there, so I did have to pick up the language somewhat as well as them working with me on their English.

It was complicated but it was a good learning experience. It taught me a lot, and I think it was a positive move for me, not just for racing, but my life in general to be able to go over there and live there for a few years.

NT: Where in Switzerland did you live?

DS: I lived in Lugano, it’s a city about an hour north of Milan.

NT: Were you living there by yourself or were you there with family?

DS: I was there with my mother (Madelyn) and my brother (Logan). I attended an American school there in Switzerland for my first two years of high school. We didn’t really race much in Switzerland, we traveled around a lot, back and forth. My father was there somewhat as well. We just traveled around whether it was racing in Italy, England or wherever.

NT: What was your favorite place to visit?

DS: I definitely liked Rome a lot. It was a cool city, always busy. Whenever we had a race around Rome, I would try to swing by and the culture there is really cool.

NT: In Europe what was your favorite track to race?

DS: I would have to say my favorite Formula car track was probably Barcelona (Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya). It’s just really high speed, it was one of the larger tracks I had been on. Just a lot of fast sweeping corners and it was a really cool track. The track itself kind of nurtured a lot of tough competition.

NT: From that style of racing, have you learned anything that has helped you in your return to American racing?

DS: When I moved back from Switzerland and made the transition to stock cars, the passing’s a little different and you have a lot more side-by-side racing on the ovals than what you have on road courses in Formula cars. At the same time, it taught me quite a few unique techniques that some of these stock car drivers don’t know.

NT: Like what?

DS: Some of the techniques while braking as well as in the road course racing you have a lot of different styles of wheel control. You have tight hairpins (turns) as well as fast sweeping corners. Being able to make different transitions on the wheel throughout the race depending on the different lines that you take.

NT: How much of a culture shock was that for you going over there and when you came back, did it feel like you missed a lot?

DS: No, not really. I knew what I was going to be facing when I moved over there. I knew the expectations, and at the same time, when I came back I had almost gotten homesick within the three years, so to be able to come back was kind of a good feeling for myself.

Previous Q&A’s:

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).