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


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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Dr. Diandra: How level is the playing field after 50 Next Gen races?


Last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 marks 50 Next Gen races. The 2022 season produced 19 different winners, including a few first-career wins. Let’s see what the data say about how level the playing field is now.

I’m comparing the first 50 Next Gen races (the 2022 season plus the first 14 races of 2023) to the 2020 season and the first 14 races of 2021. I selected those two sets of races to produce roughly the same types of tracks. I focus on top-10 finishes as a metric for performance. Below, I show the top-10 finishes for the 13 drivers who ran for the same team over the periods in question.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars, limited to drivers who ran for the same team the entire time.

Because some drivers missed races, I compare top-10 rates: the number of top-10 finishes divided by the number of races run. The graph below shows changes in top-10 rates for the drivers who fared the worst with the Next Gen car.

A graph showing drivers who have done better in the next-gen car than the Gen-6 car.

Six drivers had double-digit losses in their top-10 rates. Kevin Harvick had the largest drop, with 74% top-10 finishes in the Gen-6 sample but only 46% top-10 finishes in the first 50 Next Gen races.

Kyle Larson didn’t qualify for the graph because he ran only four races in 2020. I thought it notable, however, that despite moving from the now-defunct Chip Ganassi NASCAR team to Hendrick Motorsports, Larson’s top-10 rate fell from 66.7% to 48.0%.

The next graph shows the corresponding data for drivers who improved their finishes in the Next Gen car. This graph again includes only drivers who stayed with the same team.

A graph showing the drivers who have fewer top-10 finishes in the Next Gen car than the Gen-6 car

Alex Bowman had a marginal gain, but he missed six races this year. Therefore, his percent change value is less robust than other drivers’ numbers.

Expanding the field

I added drivers who changed teams to the dataset and highlighted them in gray.

A table comparing top-10 rates for drivers in the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars

A couple notes on the new additions:

  • Brad Keselowski had the largest loss in top-10 rate of any driver, but that may be more attributable to his move from Team Penske to RFK Motorsports rather than to the Next Gen car.
  • Christopher Bell moved from Leavine Family Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. His improvement is likely overestimated due to equipment quality differences.
  • Erik Jones stayed even, but that’s after moving from JGR (13 top-10 finishes in 2020) to Richard Petty Motorsports (six top 10s in 2021.) I view that change as a net positive.

At the end of last season, I presented the tentative hypothesis that older drivers had a harder time adapting to the Next Gen car. Less practice time mitigated their experience dialing in a car so that it was to their liking given specific track conditions.

But something else leaps out from this analysis.

Is the playing field tilting again?

Michael McDowell is not Harvick-level old, but he will turn 39 this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 35. Both have improved with the Next Gen Car. Chase Elliott (27 years old) and William Byron (25) aren’t old, either, but their top-10 rates have gone down.

Drivers running for the best-funded teams earned fewer top-10 finishes while drivers from less-funded teams (mostly) gained those finishes.

Trackhouse Racing and 23XI — two of the newest teams — account for much of the gains in top-10 finishes. Ross Chastain isn’t listed in the table because he didn’t have full-time Cup Series rides in 2020 or 2021. His 9.1% top-10 rate in that period is with lower-level equipment. He earned 27 top-10 finishes in the first 50 races (54%) with the Next Gen car.

This analysis suggests that age isn’t the only relevant variable. One interpretation of the data thus far is that the Next Gen (and its associated rules changes) eliminated the advantage well-funded teams built up over years of racing the Gen-5 and Gen-6 cars.

The question now is whether that leveling effect is wearing off. Even though parts are the same, more money means being able to hire the best people and buying more expensive computers for engineering simulations.

Compare the first 14 races of 2022 to the first 14 of 2023.

  • Last year at this time, 23XI and Trackhouse Racing had each won two races. This year, they combine for one win.
  • It took Byron eight races to win his second race of the year in 2022. This year, he won the third and fourth races of the year. Plus, he’s already won his third race this year.
  • Aside from Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win, this year’s surprise winners — Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney — are both from major teams.

We’re only 14 races into the 2023 season. There’s not enough data to determine the relative importance of age versus building a notebook for predicting success in the Next Gen car.

But this is perhaps the most important question. The Next Gen car leveled the playing field last year.

Will it stay level?

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.