(Getty Images)

What drivers said after Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Here’s what several drivers and one crew chief had to say after Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Brad Keselowski, finished 1st: “This is really, really great. It seemed like there were plenty of challenges, whether it was pit road or the weather or cautions. They threw everything they had at us today but this team was too strong and we were able to fight them off and get to victory lane.”

Joey Logano, 2nd: “Congratulations to Brad and also for Team Penske getting a 1-2 finish. That is what we set out to do every week. I am proud of what we did. Gosh, we finished second so many times, Daytona and qualifying. We will go get them next week. … I know we are only three races in, but I am getting antsy (for a win). We have good speed in our cars, we will be alright.”

Jimmie Johnson, 3rd: “Track position was pretty important. The series of events leading up to that last restart kind of had us deeper in track position than we needed to be for the win. We still got a third, which is good, but those top three or four cars were pretty equal. It was just real hard to get there and get inside of somebody. I was impressed Keselowski) was able to sit behind (Logano) that long and finally get by and not wear his stuff out in the process. But, decent day for us all-in-all.”

Kyle Busch, 4th: “We struggled really, really bad all weekend, we were horrible. That’s not at all where we should have finished considering how it started. It was a good day. It wasn’t a win, but we were doing a good job doing what we need to do to keep top-fiving it and the wins will come. … If I were to grade our weekend, for progress it’s an A-plus, but for being as bad as we were and ending up right there it would probably be a B or B-minus.”

Austin Dillon, 5th: “We killed ourselves today. To come back to a fifth, I’m blessed and the good Lord was looking out for us. The cautions fell right. We really have to pick it up as a group, me included, on pit road. It was disappointing because we had such a fast race car. At one point in time we were way faster than the leader. We just put ourselves behind. But, we had a shot there at the end and if we were good enough to win we would have done it. We have a little more work to do. I think a win is in the future, though.”

Ryan Blaney, 6th: “This was really satisfying. It was a good day for us. We needed a good finish after last week, and it is nice to go out here and we all had fast cars. Congrats to the 2 team, they did a great job coming back from that speeding penalty and made a great call at the end. Good job by them and good job by our team.”

Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, 7th: “We had a good car overall. Everybody did a good job most of the day. We had a bad pit stop and got us behind and then kind of turned our whole day around from there. We couldn’t come close to making it on fuel there at the end like (Keselowski) and (Logano), so we didn’t have any option, but to come down and top it off again and put tires on it. Just got to get better. We have given them away the past two weeks and just have to do a better job.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., 8th: “The one thing that I really like (about the new low downforce package) is I can drive up to guys with that little spoiler on the back, I’m not really stuck behind people like we used to be. A lot of the drivers are wanting to keep going in this direction and even further. I wasn’t really so sure about that, but now I feel like that might be a good move to go even less downforce. I don’t know if the blade needs to get shorter, but these things are sealed off on the ground. There’s a lot we could do to the bodies and stuff to take some downforce out of them. I’m sure NASCAR is looking at that. We can’t just keep taking the blade off, but we could probably take a little of an inch off and not really tell the difference.”

Kurt Busch, 9th: “We fought hard. Driver made a couple of mistakes on a restart and speeding on pit road. We just had to battle, battle, battle and just never got into a good rhythm. We just felt like we were battling from behind.”

Martin Truex Jr., 11th: “We just didn’t have it today. We could have used another caution close to the end. The car wasn’t right and it was sure disappointing to see those other cars get by me. An 11th-place finish is nothing to brag about or nothing to get depressed about. It just wasn’t our day. We’ll move on to Phoenix and hopefully be more competitive.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 12th: “I put my guys behind when I sped on pit road with only 100 to go. That was tough to battle back from and Nick (Sandler) made a great pit call and took the wave around and we ended up catching a caution and we fought back really hard there. I thought we were a 10-12th place car all day, so to come home 12th after a mistake by me, I am really happy with that. We have to make sure we don’t make those mistakes so we have shots at top-five finishes. If not for that mistake, we could have been really good there at the end. All in all I am really happy.”

AJ Allmendinger, 14th: “Hard fought day. … At the end there I thought we were decent, the best we had been all day, just nowhere to go. We took what could have been a really bad day and really put us way behind to start the year and salvaged a decent day out of it. Not totally happy, but I think we are making gains. The car has speed in it, just a little bit off. It’s just frustrating. I just got us behind. We weren’t great, but we had gotten the gap to kind of get in that safe zone where we could make our own day out of it and I put us behind.”

Carl Edwards, 18th: “Our day was okay. I still don’t know exactly what happened (with his accident). I got hit and it would have been alright I think if I would have stayed out instead of come in. I thought the car was more damaged, so I came and had to start in the back. Overall, I thought we recovered really well.”

Matt Kenseth, 37th: “I have no idea, honestly. I went into turn one and I wasn’t really hardly turning yet and just spun out before I had any idea what happened. I don’t know.”

Chase Elliott, 38th: “Just disappointed. What a fast race car. I appreciate everybody working hard. I feel like we made a lot of gains this weekend. Just a terrible job on my behalf. That is pitiful. We have run three races and finished one. Just a bad job on my end. I ought to know better to miss a wreck like that.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR releases Cup rules packages for 2021

Leave a comment

NASCAR announced Thursday its rules package slate for the 2021 Cup Series season, a day after next year’s schedule was unveiled.

For returning tracks to the 36-race schedule, the rules are largely unchanged save for Darlington Raceway.

Cup teams will use the 750 horsepower, low downforce race package at the 1.366-mile track. It’s the package that’s been used this season on road courses and short tracks. Nashville Superspeedway, the 1.333-mile track being added in 2021, will use the same package.

The packages for the other new race tracks – Road America, Circuit of the Americas and the Indy road course – have not been decided on.

“We constantly review the race packages to try to put on the best possible racing for our fans,” John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice Presiden of Innovation and Racing Development said in a media release. “When he brought in the short track / road course package this season, Darlington was not part of it due to its unique size. We’ve been evaluating data from both race packages, as well as feedback from drivers, teams and OEMs and feel that the 750 hp / low downforce package best fits the track.”

Other rule changes include:

  • Teams are restricted to 150 restricted computational fluid dynamics runs per calendar month.
  • Teams must compete in a minimum of 16 points events with a short block sealed engine (up from 13).

Click here for the rule packages for each Cup race in 2021.

Team Penske looks to extend Talladega dominance amid 2020 woes

Leave a comment

If there’s one thing Talladega Superspeedway is known for, it’s chaos.

But for as much chaos as the 2.66-mile track can provide, Talladega has another quality it produces: consistency in Victory Lane.

In the 2010s and up through the June Cup race, the consistency has been produced by Team Penske.

Since May 2012, Penske drivers have won nine of 17 races. Brad Keselowski has four of his five Talladega wins, Joey Logano has three and Ryan Blaney has won each of the last two races by .007 seconds.

The other eight races were won by Roush Fenway Racing (two wins), Hendrick Motorsports (two), Front Row Motorsports (one), Chip Ganassi Racing (one), Stewart-Haas Racing (one) and Joe Gibbs Racing (one).

When it comes to races like this weekend’s playoff event (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), one would expect even more chaos and less consistency among winners.

You’d be wrong on the latter.

Penske’s three drivers have combined to win five of the last six Talladega playoff races. The winner of the sixth race was Aric Almirola in the 2018 playoff race.

Last week Keselowski observed how races at superspeedways have “ebbs and flows” with them currently resembling “a MAVTV demo derby just a little faster.”

On Thursday, the 2012 Cup champion credited Team Penske having a “great” driver lineup with its ability to win in a form of racing that’s constantly evolving.

“I think we have the strongest driver lineup in Cup right now,” Keselowski said. “I know that’s probably arguable and it’s completely subjective. That’s played to our favorite tracks like the plate tracks and we’re going to continue to try and leverage it.”

While Blaney has enjoyed recent success at Talladega with his two victories, Keselowski looks to re-establish his winning ways at the track he has five victories, the most among active drivers.

After winning the 2017 playoff race, he has five consecutive finishes of 13th or worse, including two DNFs for wrecks.

“It’s been up and down for me,” Keselowski said. “The last few races have probably been down. Last fall I thought we were going to win the race with two or three (laps) to go. We were making the pass for the lead and the next thing I know we’re all wrecked. It’s a love-hate affair with that track for sure and hopefully we’ll love it. I feel like we’re due for a good finish there.”

Keselowski enters Sunday’s race after miserable outings in the last two playoff races. He finished 34th at Bristol (power steering problems) and 13th at Las Vegas.

Talladega could be the relief Keselowski’s teammates are looking for as well.

Blaney, who was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 16, hasn’t had a top-five finish in the last nine races. Logano, while he has two top fives in the playoffs (third at Darlington and Richmond), hasn’t won since the March race at Phoenix. That was the last race before the COVID-19 shutdown.

Keselowski said “it is a bit strange” that Team Penske can view Talladega as a track where it can turn its season around.

“We haven’t been where we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, there’s no doubt about that,” Keselowski said. “The mile-and-a-halfs and road courses have been a weak spot for us. The superspeedways and short tracks have been a strong spot for us. Thankfully we have the superspeedway this weekend and couple of short tracks coming up in the next round (Martinsville).

“We need to kind of maximize out strengths and minimize our weaknesses. This weekend is certainly looking like a strength for us. We have high expectations.”

Kaz Grala subs for Natalie Decker in Talladega Truck race

Kaz Grala
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Natalie Decker has not been medically cleared to compete in Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega (1 p.m. ET on FS1) and will be replaced by Kaz Grala in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet the team announced Thursday.

Decker withdrew from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas after she was not medically cleared shortly before the race. She was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker tweeted Saturday that she was flying home where “more tests (would be) run so they can further evaluate and diagnose.”

No further details about Decker’s condition have been announced.

“We are thankful that Kaz is able to fill in for Natalie this weekend and appreciate him working with our team,” team general manager Cody Efaw said in a press release. “We wish Natalie the best as she works to be as healthy as possible to return to racing.”

Grala will make his first Truck Series start since 2017. He has 32 career starts in the series, including one win in the 2017 season-opening race at Daytona.

He drove in Austin Dillon’s place earlier this year in the Cup race on the Daytona road course after Dillon tested positive for COVID-19.

“My thoughts will be with Natalie this weekend as I wish her a quick recovery,” Grala said in a press release. “I know she loves the restrictor-plate races, so I feel bad that she’ll have to miss this one, but I hope I can give her something to cheer for on Saturday. 

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a Truck, but the superspeedway races have been very good to me in the past, so I’m really hoping to be able to go grab a win for Niece Motorsports at Talladega.”

FanVision closes due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Leave a comment

FanVision Entertainment, the company that produces video devices used by race fans at NASCAR events, has ceased operations due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news was announced in a statement from Racing Electronics, the company which sold and supported FanVision devices at NASCAR tracks through a license with FanVision Entertainment.

Racing Electronics, which is owned by NASCAR, can no longer sell or support the devices.

“We recognize this news will be met with disappointment by motorsports fans across the country who utilized FanVision’s products as part of their at-track experience,” Racing Electronics president Chad Willis said in a statement.

“To help fans and industry members transition to Racing Electronics products, we are working with existing FanVision device owners to solve their race day needs. When Racing Electronics returns to the track, fans and industry members will have access to all the sounds that make racing so special.”