What drivers had to say after Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 in Atlanta

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Here’s what several drivers had to say after Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

Kyle Busch, 3rd: “Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys did a great job. What else could I say? They fought hard to battle back from being at the tail end (at the start of the race) and got a good points day out of it. So we’ll go on next week and go to Vegas and see if we can’t score a win in the hometown.”

Kurt Busch, 4th: “It was hard driving with the lower downforce. We had a really good car short-run speed; we just didn’t have it on the long-run speed. That is sometimes what happens to a pole-sitting car. You are feeling confident like ‘Hey alright’, but we were just too aggressive on the tires.”

Carl Edwards, 5th: “This is real racing. We’re driving hard. You can see the guys out here just digging for everything they’re worth. I’m worn out. That’s a tough race and just a lot of fun. … Atlanta, don’t ever pave this place, it’s a perfect race track. I hope the fans enjoyed the show.”

Kevin Harvick, 6th: “We had issues about the last three runs. I had to start driving the car different. It just required a little bit different handling. And then we had a slow pit stop there. We got way behind and the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was way out front and I had to drive the car really hard and got the right rear burned up. We just didn’t execute today but everybody hung in there all day and we’ll keep at it.”

Martin Truex Jr., 7th: “I feel like we’ve started the season stronger than we ended last season. That’s exciting for all of us. They guys worked hard over the off-season to get ready. They deserve it and everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) has really helped us along, helped us get off the ground strong and can’t thank them enough for that. Lot of exciting stuff going on and looking forward to going to Vegas next weekend, a place that’s been good to us the last couple years, and see if we can’t get to victory lane.”

Chase Elliott, 8th: “It was a solid day. I felt like on pit road, everything, Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made good adjustments, the race went smooth. Obviously, not a lot of restarts, so a lot of it was green flag runs, which was different. That is something that you don’t see a ton of. Like I said, just happy that we finished today. Better than last week.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick on Chase Elliott: “Chase impressed me today about as much as I’ve ever seen a young driver drive in a race with a low downforce car that he’s never been able to experience in a race before when he’s having to race Kyle Busch and the guys he was racing, Brad (Keselowski), all day long, never make a mistake, just as cool on the radio as any seasoned driver, getting great feedback. I am really excited about that young man in the future.”

Brad Keselowski, 9th: “We seemed to have real good short-run speed, but not very good long-run speed and we didn’t get a lot of short runs. The ones we did, we were able to drive to the front and that was a lot of fun. It was beautiful weather and a beautiful day for racing. That race felt like I was in 1975.  That was kind of awesome.  I should grow my sideburns out after that one. … I loved the way the cars drive.  I understand that it takes more than my opinion to make the sport go round, but I thought it was awesome.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10th: “All in all, I’m really happy with all the hard work that these guys put in. It’s only one weekend. I hope to get consistent with that and I’m looking forward to going to Vegas next week. … I thought (the low downforce package) was great. The tires being softer, Goodyear did a great job with the tires falling off a lot. It played a big role in the race. Cars would pass me early in the run, and I’d come back and get them late in the run. That’s really all you can ask for when you talk about racing, a racetrack and tires. It felt really good.”

Joey Logano, 12th: “That pass-through penalty is what set us down one lap and when you have green flag runs that are a couple hundred laps long, it never gives you an opportunity to get the lucky dog to get back on the lead lap. One mistake cost us a possible top-five finish and it felt like every bit of a top-five car, and maybe even better than that. I’m just frustrated with myself after that one because we don’t make mistakes very often on this 22 team and, I guess, for making a mistake and having a 12th-place finish isn’t that bad, but it kind of hurts when you know you had a better car.”

Aric Almirola, 15th: “This was certainly not the finish that we had hoped for. … We ran in the Top-20 all afternoon, and we had a competitive car. It was disappointing to have a wreck on the last lap, especially with how hard our team worked, but I know that we’ll be able to bounce back next week in Las Vegas.”

Ryan Blaney, 25th: “We were gonna run 13th to 15th, which would have been an OK day. … I didn’t know what happened initially (on last-lap accident), but I guess (Aric Almirola) got a big run off the top and I was inside (Ty Dillon) and got tagged in the back. That’s what they’re telling me and, unfortunately, that sent me around, which kind of stinks. We were just trying to salvage a decent day out of it and it just stinks to run all those laps and then get wrecked at the end of a race.”

Chris Buescher, 28th: “We had a long day. It was a long race. It changed a lot throughout every run, but all the guys worked really hard to try to improve this thing and get better as we go. I learned a lot along the way and I’ve got plenty to learn from for next time. It’s not the finish we wanted, but we keep getting better.”

Landon Cassill, 36th: “(On last-lap wreck) “They just kind of wrecked in front of me. I had the car slowed down to where I felt like I was going the pace of the wreck. It wasn’t clear in front of me yet, but it was gonna be because it looked like he was gonna go to the bottom and somebody hit me from behind. It was a frustrating way to end the day because it was a handful anyways. At that point, we did have a position to race for, but you didn’t want to risk anything. We just wanted to bring it home in one piece and we didn’t get to do that. I hate having a tore up race car, but maybe it will give us an opportunity to take a look at it and see what we can do to make it better.”

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Stage points crucial at Las Vegas in Round of 12

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Former champion Brad Keselowski views Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) as the “second most important” to win during the season after the championship race, “because these next two weeks are very difficult to prepare for.”

What’s so difficult about the two races after Las Vegas?

Two-thirds of the Round of 12 are made up of Talladega and the Charlotte Roval: a superspeedway known for its wild multi-car wrecks and a road course that can prove unpredictable.

“The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about is the playoff bonus points and winning in Vegas,” Keselowski said. “The best thing we can do to control our own destiny is to go win Vegas and then Talladega just becomes what it is. It’s the same thing with the Roval, so we’re hopeful to just kind of not have to worry about it that way by scoring a win. If we’re not able to do that, I’d like to get a few more playoff bonus points with stages for those races and that would help a bunch, but, certainly, this round presents a lot of challenges for us.”

If anyone knows the importance of winning early in a round, it’s Keselowski. His victory two weeks ago at Richmond benefitted him in the cutoff race a Bristol when power steering issues resulted in a 34th-place finish.

Chase Elliott, who has won at both Talladega and the Roval in previous seasons, has a similar view to Keselowski.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver said “we would be messing up to already be looking ahead to Talladega,” later adding, “the way I kind of look at it is I’m probably going to crash – I think that’s just the odds.”

Were everything to go right for a driver, they can earn up to 20 stage points in the first two stages of a race.

“So, I think everybody knows how important stages are and what they can mean, especially stage wins,” Elliott said. “Getting that extra bonus point is a huge thing, too. I think everybody knows that and that’s certainly a game that’s been played. I don’t know that it was as much played that very first year that we had (playoff and stage points), but really ever since that first year, I think it has been known and everybody really gets that. And it’s just gotten more and more aggressive.”

Focusing on Vegas is key for Elliott because it’s been a “super hit or miss” track for him. In seven career starts, he has two top fives and four finishes of 26th or worse.

“We’ve crashed a bunch out there (three DNFs) and had some really bad finishes,” Elliott said. “That would be a fantastic opportunity, I think, to have a solid day.”

Kurt Busch noted that you could arguably view Las Vegas as “standard” when it comes to pit strategy and racing. But Busch provided a reminder of what happened earlier this year at Texas Motor Speedway.

“A place like Vegas fits into a track like Texas, as well; where you can change just left side tires like we saw Austin Dillon do to win the Texas race earlier this year,” Busch said. “So, there are all the different strategies and different things playing out.”

The four drivers eliminated after the Round of 16 – William Byron, Cole Custer, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto – scored a combined six stage points. All of them were earned by Byron.

Busch observed that just because four teams have been eliminated from the playoffs doesn’t mean there’s four less cars in the field vying for points.

“There are two Hendrick cars now not in the playoffs, but they’re fast,” Busch said of Byron and Jimmie Johnson. “Same thing with (Joe) Gibbs (Racing). You’ve got the No. 20 car, Erik Jones, not in the playoffs but he’s fast. Those are points that those guys could take away from the contenders that are still left in the situations they’re in. So, you’ve just got to race hard and race smart. There are three ways to get points each and every weekend: Stage 1, Stage 2, and the finish of the race. And, that happens at all the race tracks.”

Of the 12 remaining drivers left in the playoffs, here’s how many stage points they earned in the first round.

Most Stage Points Earned in 2020 Playoffs:

Chase Elliott  – 35
Kevin Harvick – 33
Martin Truex Jr.  – 32
Kyle Busch  – 31
Alex Bowman – 29
Joey Logano  – 28
Denny Hamlin  – 26
Kurt Busch – 22
Austin Dillon – 22
Brad Keselowski – 21
Aric Almirola – 7
Clint Bowyer – 4

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NASCAR fines
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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NASCAR has fined Hendrick Motorsports $100,000 for exceeding the amount of wind tunnel testing allowed this season.

NASCAR also announced that it had deducted 10 hours of wind tunnel testing from the organization for the 2020-21 amount allowed.

Hendrick Motorsports will not appeal the penalty. The team reported the violation to NASCAR.

The Cup Rule Book states in section 5.3.e that organizations are allocated 150 hours to be used on cars through Dec. 31, 2021 with a maximum usage of 70 hours in 2020 and a maximum usage of 90 hours in 2021. NASCAR states that testing hours are defined as billable hours reported by the wind tunnel to NASCAR. The minimum test period is four hours. Wind tunnel testing of Next Gen cars by individual organizations will not be permitted.

The L2 penalty comes with a fine of at least $100,000 and no more than $200,000.

NASCAR also announced two fines for lug nut violations last weekend at Bristol.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chief Bruce Schlicker was fined $5,000 for the No. 10 car of Ross Chastain having one lug nut not safe and secure after the race.

In the Truck Series, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt was fined $2,500 for the No. 19 truck of Derek Kraus having one lug nut not safe and secure after the race.

 

Carson Hocevar to run full Truck schedule in 2021

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Niece Motorsports has signed Carson Hocevar to run the full NASCAR Truck schedule in 2021, the team announced Thursday.

Hocevar, who turns 18 in January, has run five races for the team this season. His best finish this year is 12th at Dover. He’s scheduled to run at Martinsville on Oct. 30.

“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to race fulltime next year with the Niece Motorsports group,” said Hocevar in a statement. “We’ve had some really strong runs in the few starts that we’ve had this season and I am grateful for the chance to continue that next year. I’ve learned so much already this year and know that we will keep improving next year too.”

“Carson has really impressed us this season,” said team owner Al Niece in a statement. “He’s proven his talent – getting into the truck with no track time and really holding his own. We’re thrilled to have him with us fulltime next season and look forward to contending for wins together.”

TikTok to sponsor Ryan Vargas in six Xfinity races

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JD Motorsports
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TikTok is coming to NASCAR.

The popular video sharing app will break into the sport next month as a sponsor of Ryan Vargas in the Xfinity Series.

TikTok has partnered with JD Motorsports to sponsor the 20-year-old Vargas in the final six races of the season, beginning with the Oct. 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“TikTok has provided me with an incredible outlet to reach new fans and demographics through fun and creative content, and I’ve seen the highest growth in followers on TikTok over my other social channels,” Vargas said in a press release. “The opportunity to run the No. 6 TikTok Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the rest of the season is an absolute dream come true. Johnny Davis and the whole JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team took a chance on me last year and I’m excited to bring this amazing TikTok partnership their way. I wouldn’t want to make this partnership a reality anywhere else.”

Vargas has made three Xfinity Series starts this year. His best finish was 13th at Pocono.

The sponsor deal is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month programming.

A native of La Mirada, California, Vargas joined TikTok last year. He is a former member of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity programming and a winner of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer award, which is given to a minority or female driver who displays exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.

The partnership and paint scheme were inspired by a concept scheme by graphic designer Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’.

“Creators of all sizes and backgrounds show up to TikTok with their genuine, authentic selves,” Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing, said in a press release. “Partnering with an iconic brand like NASCAR to sponsor Ryan Vargas on his racing journey is a way for us to continue to support, celebrate and elevate the diverse creators that make our TikTok community what it is today. Ryan is an incredible athlete, and we’re looking forward to cheering him on alongside the rest of the TikTok community!”

According to CNBC in August, TikTok has roughly 100 million monthly users, up nearly 800% from January 2018.

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, has been in national headlines recently after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the United States for national security reasons if it was not sold to an American company. On Sept. 19 he approved a deal for its U.S operations to be operated by Oracle and Walmart.