LOL: The lighter side of Tony Stewart’s retirement announcement

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Throughout his NASCAR career, Tony Stewart has been one of the best when it comes to giving colorful – and sometimes off-color (like when he’s ticked off at another driver) – quotes.

And Clint Bowyer has certainly had his share of zingers and funny one-liners.

Despite the seriousness of Wednesday’s announcement that Stewart will retire after the 2016 season and Bowyer will replace him in 2017, they both held true to form with a number of great comments.

Here’s some of the best from Stewart and then Bowyer.

Tony Stewart quotes:

How will NASCAR react to his retirement: “The great thing is I’m not going anywhere. NASCAR is probably going to be the most disappointed of everybody today because they aren’t getting rid of me. They have to deal with me as an owner. There’s still the opportunity to get fined and there’s still the opportunity to be put on probation, just like always, just from a different capacity than now.”

What will 2016 be like for him: “This added year is not just a ride-it-out year. This is we’re going to gouge our eyes out and do everything we can to win races and win another championship. I’m looking forward to that.”

His future plans after NASCAR: “And we’ve got one more thing before I let Gene (co-owner Gene Haas) talk. A lot of you probably were here yesterday or some of you might have been here for the press conference here in the same room yesterday for Gene’s Formula 1 announcement. The one variable he left out, I know it was just probably a miscue, but he announced his full-time driver next year in the F1 car. He didn’t announce his second driver for the F1 team, and you’re looking at him.”

On who will replace him in the No. 14 Chevrolet: “We’re bringing Harry Gant out of retirement. His hair still looks immaculate, but another guy that has immaculate hair and a great personality and has a very similar background to mine and passion for motorsports outside of NASCAR is the guy that’s going to take over the No. 14 Chevrolet, and that’s Clint Bowyer.”

More on Bowyer: “We’re probably going to have a hard time working together and communicating with each other. We probably won’t have any fun racing.”

How will Stewart’s hero, A.J. Foyt, react to his retirement announcement: “He’s probably going to yell at me like he normally does when I call him. I’m sure I’m going to get a bunch of grief over this.”

On whether he was joking about going F1 racing: “Who said I was joking?”

What does he want to remember about being the only driver to win championships in both IndyCar and NASCAR: “As much as I can because every time I crash I seem to forget more stuff.”

He threatened to quit numerous times in his career. What made him finally decide to do so: “There were days I felt like a dealer at the end of my shift at a blackjack table and clapped my hands and was able to turn around and walk out of the building. That was the emotion talking on those days.”

On the discussions he had with himself about retiring: “I’ve learned a lot about myself. There’s a lot of personalities in my head I’ve had to talk to lately. It’s been like a chat room.”

Does he want a retirement tour like Jeff Gordon: “Okay, let’s establish this right now: I will not be coming to the media center every week to talk about it. You can save your gifts. I’ve got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don’t have to give me one. … I think what the tracks and the fans have done for Jeff Gordon is very fitting, and I know Jeff doesn’t want it to be a retirement tour.  I don’t think I’ve looked at it as a retirement tour.  I think what everybody has done is shown their respect for what he’s done for the sport of auto racing and for Cup and what he has done for motorsports as a whole. I’m not really that kind of guy. I’m content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans.  They can just send me a note from the track president and say, ‘Hey, thank you,’ and that’ll be sufficient for me.”

Will he miss the media: “If you guys miss me that bad, you guys can send me text messages and say we really miss you in the media center.”

Will he spend more time in his hometown of Columbus, Ind.: “I don’t want to sound like a softy because I’m not, but I like fall and I like being home when the leaves change. I don’t like long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners and all that, but I do like watching the leaves change at home, so I am looking forward to that.”

Will you ever race again in the Indianapolis 500: “No.”

On whether he’ll still pay occasional “visits” to the NASCAR hauler after he becomes a full-time owner: “I think there’s a really good possibility I’ll get invited to the trailer like I used to years ago. I see that being very realistic. If you go in the trailer and you see my name embroidered on a chair you’ll know I’m thinking the same way. I made sure to send Helton and O’Donnell messages this week and say, listen, don’t get too excited about this because I’m taking a suit and helmet off but I’m still going to be at the track harassing everybody, so nobody is getting a free pass now.”

On memories of his first Sprint Cup win at Richmond in 1999: “I was skinnier, I didn’t have any gray hair. I mean, I remember it being one of the coolest races, I thought, at that point in my life. I was racing Dale Sr., Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and those were the six guys consistently throughout that race that I got to race, and to be able to just — we had a great car that night.  We led 333 of the 400 laps, and to race that group of those six guys and beat them, I mean, that was when I felt like I truly belonged in the sport that night.”

On what he’ll do at races once he stops driving: “I’ll be wherever they want me. Wherever I’m going to be the biggest asset, that’s where I’ll be. If I’m not going to be an asset, I’ll hang around the backstretch and have fun and go sightseeing.”


Clint Bowyer quotes:

To Stewart: “Damn, I’m glad that you decided to retire and open this seat up for me.”

On what he thought when he first heard Stewart was going to retire: “Definitely when I heard that that seat was open, I was on board. They didn’t have to call me.”

On how fortunate he is to get this opportunity, especially with this season’s highs and lows, including Michael Waltrip Racing shutting its doors at season’s end: “I don’t think I got fired; it just went away and somehow you landed in a way better situation. Do you ever hear that term when you fall in a pile of cow manure and come out smelling like roses?  That’s exactly what this is for me.”

(To which Stewart added, I don’t know if that’s going to be the quote of the day or not. I can see that being the headline. Somebody has got to use that as a headline tonight. I’ve got to read that somewhere.”)

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Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)