What drivers said after the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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Beginning with race winner Carl Edwards, here are what some Sprint Cup drivers said about their efforts in Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Carl Edwards – Finished 1st: “Just a real testament to our team – we have really fast race cars. Those restarts are tough, everybody is so good. Kurt (Busch) does an amazing job, I don’t know if his drag racing or something is paying off, but I have to learn what he’s doing. He could get so much grip down on the bottom. Just a lot of fun. Really good day and really proud of my guys; (they were) flawless on pit road. This is such a special place to win and really proud of my team.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 2nd (on how he kept from panicking after falling two laps down at the start): “I turned 40. Quit panicking. It is what it is these days. You know, as I got older, I tried harder to enjoy what I’m doing, and not get really upset and too out of shape when things aren’t going our way. Plus, I know (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and them guys are on the pit box trying everything they can. They’re the only ones I’m going to be able to yell at. So … it doesn’t do any good to be hollering at them or (get) upset or just lose your mind, and the over‑the‑wall guys especially, we don’t really spend a ton of time with the over‑the‑wall guys, and they’re real sensitive. They’re big old guys and athletes, but they’ve got big hearts, too, so you can’t be screaming and coming unglued because they don’t want to work for people like that.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 3rd: “We just battled through it. (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) had trouble at the start, and I was 40th when we started the race. One car at a time. One set of tires at a time. And then we were in great position around Lap 350. We got the lead from (Carl) Edwards for a little bit. And we just kept working on it. And there’s nothing more that I could have gotten out of the car. I’m really happy with the way that everybody worked together. I shouldn’t be happy about finishing 3rd, but I’ll take it. It’s just a great effort.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “I just had a really good Kelley Blue Book/NAPA Chevrolet. The guys brought a fast car here this weekend. Started off a little slow. I didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to on Friday, but we hit on a couple of things right there toward the end of final practice yesterday that we really liked. Fortunately that carried over to today, and I was able to move forward. I hated to have a loose wheel, but stuff happens. The guys did a good job having a good pit stop under green. We only ended up losing two laps, and that gave us a shot to get back. One down, and then trying to get back to the lead lap. It was a long day, but I’m definitely proud of the effort. We’re chipping away, just not close enough.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 5th: “We went through a lot of adversity to get there, but we just didn’t give up. We had a really good race car. That’s what paid off. You can’t come back if you don’t have good race cars, and we’ve got that now. I need to minimize my mistakes going forward, but we were able to make mistakes and get back to a top-five finish. I kept getting on the bottom on restarts every time, but it came back to me at the end. We were able to start on the top those last three, and that’s really what got us in the top five.”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 6th: “This is like a win for us. I apologize for being so emotional, but this is an incredible run. I can’t thank my team enough. My crew chief Gene Nead and everyone on this team for working so hard and busting their tails for me to be able to drive this race car in the Sprint Cup Series. This is such an honor, and I’m so thankful to all the sponsors – Dustless Blasting, Cosmo Motors, Dr Pepper, and I know I’m forgetting people. Thank you to the fans, most importantly. They are so great and so supportive. I’m just really thankful to be here. This was a great day.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 7th: “We had the speed, but it seemed like every restart we were just struggling to make ground on the restart, and by the time you get to two or three spots back, you battle back to where you were, and then the caution would come out again. But there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “It was a good finish, and I’m proud of the finish. We had some luck which helped but proud of the result and good that the 5-hour ENERGY Chevrolet was able to get a top 10 today.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 9th: “We overcame a lot of adversity today between getting a tire rub in one incident and front-nose damage in another. We persevered with a strong WIX Filters Chevrolet. The biggest challenge for us were restarts on the inside line. It was such a disadvantage starting there. We were very fortunate to take the last two on the high side.”

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: “We just figured out every way possible to shoot ourselves in the foot. We just got some mistakes we got to clean up on everyone’s end. Last week, we had a perfect execution race, and we flipped-flopped it this time for some reason. We got to get more consistent. My team knows how to do it. We all know how to do it. It’s frustrating to come to Bristol, your best race track and seems like typical spring Bristol, something goes wrong.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 11th: “It was good until the end. We should have run fifth, easy. The bottom (lane) is terrible here. You can’t go anywhere on the bottom. If you’re lucky enough to restart on the top, then you’ll move forward even if you’re a terrible race car. We had a good race car and got stuck on the bottom for three straight restarts and went backward. That’s pretty disappointing when you know you have a top-five race car. …. That last run when we were running fifth was our best. We could do a lot of stuff.  We got it better throughout the day. Unfortunately it didn’t play out for us.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 12th: “We were up in sixth and those last two restarts we started on the bottomm and that just killed us, but I will say that all day long I started on the top.  Those last two were the only ones where I didn’t, and that’s just luck.  You’re not gonna get the top every time, and the last two I didn’t get it.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 16th: “Every restart, we were on the bottom.  I thought we had a top-five car there at the end with speed, but we just couldn’t break out. Yeah, we never gave up, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 14th: “Considering what we had to deal with, salvaging a 14th-place finish was not all that bad. We had another strong Toyota Camry today, but the finish obviously didn’t match the performance. We were contending and had a fast car. But that loose wheel near the end of the race spoiled an excellent opportunity.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 18th: “It was an eventful day. I had a pit-road speeding penalty and recovered from that and got up towards the front, and then (Kyle Busch) spun out in front of me.  I barely touched somebody, and the front end fell off the car. We keep having that problem on short tracks, so I don’t know what we’ve got to do there, but we drove back up, and the car was really fast. We got up to third and then got a flat tire. We lost two laps on that and fought really hard with the wavearound and (free pass) and got back to the lead lap with like eight to go and passed three cars in the laps we had, and that was our day.  I feel like we were a pretty good car.  I was pretty happy overall with our performance, but we couldn’t get it all to come together. …. The speed is all at the top.  That makes it a one-groove racetrack.  That makes it kind of fun, but also kind of frustrating, because the cars aero-push behind somebody so terrible, that you can’t really keep up with the guy in front of you even when you’re faster in that groove and that’s the only groove there is, so that’s part of the fight.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 19th: “Best car I’ve ever had here for sure. Actually felt like I knew what I was doing around this place. That was pretty cool. I was having a lot of fun. The Gibbs cars were definitely better, but I think we saw a couple of them obviously were right on the borderline of probably having too much camber pushing the limits. Pit-road problem, it’s the little stuff that we have to keep fixing. I honestly think we had a… if you look at the top-five results, I think I was better than most of them. I wasn’t going to beat the No. 19, but depending on where you restart and everything, I think we were pretty good other than that.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 21st: “Lining up there at the end just got us.  We were 14th on the board, and we were lined up 13th or 15th. This track is so line sensitive now, and it’s so hard to pass that there’s not much we could do on the bottom on restarts except try to get to the top and get rolling.  It wasn’t bad.  There’s a lot of hope there.  We had a lot of speed there, and it was fun racing.”

Landon Cassill — Finished 22nd: “Track position is so important. We were good enough to keep it for a while, but we weren’t good enough to drive back up through there, but I don’t think anybody was.  You just needed to have good track position all day, and we had it most of the day. I had a little tangle with (Ty Dillon), and it was just a hard racing deal.  I kind of went over my head a little bit.”
TY DILLON – Finished 25th: “That finish isn’t indicative of how we ran today. I really appreciate how hard these guys worked this weekend, and they really deserved better. It was a great run, but it just didn’t end like it should have.”
Danica Patrick — Finished 27th: “We really just missed it all weekend with our Nature’s Bakery Chevy. We just never hit on anything that seemed to work. We were either tight or loose. We did hit on something there at the end where the car would turn but still not the finish we wanted.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 36th, 40 laps down: “We just keep blowing right front tires, I don’t know why. The first one was a little confusing, I knew I blew a right front, but I thought they were telling me it wasn’t flat so I was a little confused. This one just blew a lot earlier and the angle was a lot worse hitting the wall.”

Surveying key race dates for the 2023 Cup season

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NASCAR Cup Series cars will fire up again Feb. 5 as the 2023 season begins with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, the regular season opens with the Feb. 19 Daytona 500, for decades the curtain-raiser for the Cup Series’ 10-month cross-country marathon.

With only a single week break in mid-June, the Cup schedule visits familiar stops like Darlington, Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega and Dover but adds two new locations that should be highlights of the year — North Wilkesboro and Chicago.

Here’s a look at key races for each month of the season:

February — With all due respect to the unique posture of the Clash at the Coliseum (Feb. 5) and the apparent final race on the 2-mile track at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 26) before it’s converted to a half-mile track, the Daytona 500 won’t be surpassed as a February highlight. Since the winter of 1959, the best stock car racers in the land have gathered on the Atlantic shore to brighten the winter, and the results often are memorable. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon and so many others have starred on Daytona’s high ground, and sometimes even rookies shine (see Austin Cindric’s victory last year).

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy aiming for breakout season

March — The newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway saw its racing radically changed last year with higher banks and straights that are tighter. The track now is considered more in the Daytona/Talladega superspeedway “family” than an intermediate speedway, generating a bit of the unknown for close pack racing. William Byron and Chase Elliott won at AMS last year.

April — Ah, the return to Martinsville (April 16). Despite the rumors, Ross Chastain’s wild last-lap charge in last October’s Martinsville race did not destroy the speedway. Will somebody try to duplicate Chastain’s move this time? Not likely, but no one expected what he did, either.

May — North Wilkesboro Speedway is back. Abandoned by NASCAR in 1996, the track’s revival reaches its peak May 21 when the Cup All-Star Race comes to town, putting Cup cars on one of stock car racing’s oldest tracks for the first time in a quarter century.

June — The June 11 Sonoma road course race will end 17 consecutive weeks of racing for the Cup Series. The schedule’s only break is the following weekend, with racing resuming June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. Sonoma last year opened the door for the first Cup win by Daniel Suarez.

July — The July holiday weekend will offer one of the biggest experiments in the history of NASCAR. For the first time, Cup cars will race through the streets of a major city, in this case Chicago on July 2. If the race is a success, similar events could follow on future schedules.

August — The Aug. 26 race at Daytona is the final chance for drivers to qualify for the playoffs, ratcheting up the tension of the late-summer race considerably.

September — The Cup playoffs open with the Southern 500, making Darlington Raceway a key element in determining which drivers have easier roads in advancing to the next round.

October — The Oct. 29 Martinsville race is the last chance to earn a spot in the Championship Four with a race victory. Christopher Bell did it last year in a zany finish.

November — Phoenix. The desert. Four drivers, four cars and four teams for the championship.

 

Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota

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Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.

 

Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22

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While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.