What drivers said after Duck Commander 500 Sprint Cup race

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Drivers had much to say after Saturday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway:

Kyle Busch – Finished 1st: “As the night progressed, I think the track actually came to us a little bit. Our car got a little bit better. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys made great pit stops all night long. We were struggling in the beginning, we weren’t very good. Our other teammates, they were really fast. Just overall a great night for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Toyota.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Finished 2nd: “I don’t think we could have caught (Kyle Busch). Kyle just kind of got too far out there, and Kyle knows how to hammer down when it matters. We had a great car. We got caught out on pit road there one time with a crash and got the lucky dog. We were in the top three all night. I’m really happy with the Nationwide Chevy. The guys did an amazing job putting a great race car on the track. We’re fast every week. Wins are going to come. We just have to keep doing this, and it’ll be our day one day.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “I’m proud of what my race team did. We may not have had the fastest car, we obviously didn’t have the fastest car, but we executed into a top-three finish, and I’m very proud of my team for that. We had great pit stops and great calls, so everything worked out well. Everyone did their job. That’s kind of been our weak point this year is that we haven’t had the speed, but we haven’t been executing perfectly. Now it seemed like we executed right and we’ve got to work on our speed now.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 4th: “We overcame a lot today. On that first pit stop, everyone was checking up, and I hammered the back of (Kyle Busch). We had to fix damage on the nose, and it wasn’t pretty. There’s a big hole up front, and that couldn’t have been helping us at all. There’s a lot of fight in this Lowe’s team today. I’m thankful for the great equipment and the fight that these guys have because with all the damage and adversity we went through tonight.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 5th: “We’re definitely not satisfied running fifth. I feel like we have a group of guys that are capable of doing that. We’ll keep digging at it. We have a long way to go with a lot of racing to go in the season. We’ll keep working to get where we can roll with those guys.”

MARTIN TRUEX, JR. – Finished 6th: “We just ran out of tires, you know. Made it through (turns) one and two side by side, got to three and just didn’t have the grip. Then we fell back because we were sliding around. Everybody had new tires, we ran under caution for a long time, they keep building air pressure and losing grip. Pretty big disadvantage but can’t say enough about the guys for the race car they brought here and the weekend we had. It hurts. It’s happened a few times to me here. Hurts a little bit, but we’ll get over it, and we’ll move on, and we’ll take the positives out of it tonight.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 8th: “We just battled.  We got behind, got a lap down early again, and we just had to fight back. (On contact with Greg Biffle): “I just caught Greg to pass him and he kind of entered out, so I thought I was going to go under him. Then he started coming down because he wanted the bottom, obviously, and I was like kind of there and hit the brakes and just hit him. I felt really bad because we didn’t really need to do that. I had a hole on entry and then it kind of closed and I should have lifted sooner instead of being that close to him.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 9th: “All through practice, we fought loose conditions. All through the race, we fought tight conditions. We’ve changed a ton of stuff to try to find the balance. We will keep trying to zero in on it. The pit crew had a good stop on the last stop and then I had a good restart, and (that) is what gave us a top 10.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 10th: “Everything from top to bottom wasn’t good. We just battled the car all weekend and never really got it right. A lot of things that everybody wanted to try that we don’t have to try anymore. So, chalk that one up to experience, and we’ll move on to something else and keep trying to get better. That’s really what it was all about was trying to get better. But we definitely struggled with it all weekend.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 15th: “We were hoping that debris caution didn’t happen. We probably could have had a shot at the win there, I think, if it stayed green. We were done pitting.  We were good to the end on gas, and those guys were gonna have to come again. We were on fresh tires, so we went for it and it just didn’t work out unfortunately. I was really happy with my car today and at times we were the fastest car on the track, and that’s all you can ask for, so I’m real happy with that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 16th: “We ran in the top 10 the whole race and didn’t get the finish that this team deserved. They brought a really good car and we were really fast and felt good about our performance, so that’s what we’ve got to look at. It’s just a bummer that we got a little damage there at the end. I didn’t really have a chance after that.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 18th: “It wasn’t as good of a night as we wanted, but we tried some out-of-the-box things trying to be better here for when the Chase comes, which having a win gives us that luxury, but it just didn’t pay off.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 19th: “I haven’t seen (the replay) yet. We were on older tires, and I was trying to get all I could there. It’s part of trying to win a race. We put ourselves in a position to be out front, thinking that two laps wouldn’t mean much, but it did. That’s part of it. The good Lord kept me safe tonight and gave me a good race car. You have to be gracious in defeat. We’ll come back next week with another fast car and hopefully we can do the same thing we did today, and that’s run up front.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 21st: “That’s not the finish we wanted tonight. We struggled a bit early in the race, but Billy (Scott, crew chief) and the guys did a great job of making changes that definitely helped make the car better in the second half.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 25th: “The car was really finicky today and just made it hard to decide what kind of feedback to give. Fortunately, our best adjustment came at the end of the race when it mattered most and we were able to pick up a few spots in the last 50 laps.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 28th: “We made some progress. It was a long night with the rain delays and everything early on, but once we got rolling we were able to keep a pretty good pace. We started working on it and got it a lot closer as we went, so I’m really proud of the guys for that.”

Brian Vickers – Finished 36th: “It was a long day.  That wreck just finally ended it for us. It’s unfortunate. I was really proud of the effort by the guys all weekend. We never really had the car we wanted. We fought hard for it.  … On that green flag stop coming in I got to pit road speed and then (Clint Bowyer) just stopped. I had them locked up, but I had nowhere to go. It was weird. He went to like half pit road speed and I just got into the back of him and locked it up.  I just didn’t see that coming. That put us behind the rest of the night. We were just trying to recover from that.”

GREG BIFFLE – Finished 39th: “I got hit by (Kasey Kahne). I’m not sure what happened. He just got in the back of me and turned me around and got me up in the fence. It’s unfortunate.  We had a decent run going and a pretty good night. We were fighting for the lucky dog to get on the lead lap. We were faster than quite a few of those guys on the lead lap at the back of the field, so it’s unfortunate we didn’t get a chance to race with them.”

 

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.