What NASCAR drivers said after wild GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

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There was a lot to be said following the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Here’s what most of the Sprint Cup field thought about its day, which saw Brad Keselowski come away with his fourth win at the track.

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 1st: “The last three or four restarts before (final restart), the high lane had went and as the leader a lot of it is out of your control. You need the cars behind you to push and a couple of them they did and a couple they didn’t. That’s just part of racing and there was nobody at fault with that. We actually lost the lead and got a better run. Jamie McMurray behind me gave me a great push and then Kyle Busch gave me a push that was big to clear the 41 and without those two I couldn’t have made it to the front, so thank you to them. It’s Talladega. This is my fourth win here. I never thought I’d win at Talladega four times and I’m super-pumped. This is awesome.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 2nd: “It was some moves that you made that were just lucky and just trying to get through some of the holes that were there and that were forming and guys bumping and banging each other, pushing all around and everything and trying to get the most out of what we had with our Skittles Camry. You know, second’s not bad. I think the quota of three cars on their lids today is a little high, but its racing.”

Austin DillonFinished 3rd: “My guys, man. It’s a testament to my guys. They work their butts off. They never panicked today. We’ve panicked a lot this year on certain problems and today was smooth and calm and they handled the situations that they were put through and it was a great race for us.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY — Finished 4th: “I was really fortunate. I was only caught-up in one of the wrecks. And I don’t know exactly what happened in the other two. Honestly, I don’t even know what happened in mine. I was so lucky that I got hit in the back and I spun to the bottom, but it didn’t tear-up the front-end. It didn’t tear the splitter up. And I don’t know that my car was faster afterwards, but it didn’t seem to hurt it any.”

Chase ElliottFinished 5th: “You can’t have a good day unless you finish. Just trying to focus in on that. Obviously it got a little wild. For us, we just tried to keep that in mind and make it to the end.”

Clint BowyerFinished 7th: “Man we had a decent shot at it today. We were able to stay out of trouble all day and that’s what you have to do to be there at the end. Proud of the effort and we will take a top 10 today.”

Kurt BuschFinished 8th: “Just didn’t get the best final restart. It’s like a roulette wheel on restarts and how you get a run and who is there pushing and how the line is going to form and stay together. Just feel bad. My guys deserve to win. They built me a great car, the put me in position to win and I didn’t deliver for them. It was a great day with the Monster Energy colors on board, hoping to get into Victory Lane for them, we just didn’t quite get it done.”

Ryan Blaney Finished 9th: “It was a good day. We felt like earlier in the race I couldn’t pick a lane that was worth a dang. We kept going backwards. Hopefully this turns around for us. There was one run before we got in that wreck where we got up through there into the top-10. I think we got to fifth actually again and then lost spots on the last pit stop. We got in that wreck too. They did a good job fixing it. It ran fine after that. I didn’t want to see that last caution. I thought we were set up good to go to the end there and I wanted to keep digging. Everyone bailed to the top and I didn’t have a lot of help on the bottom.”

Trevor BayneFinished 10th: “We were on the bottom on that last restart and when they all went to the top, I might as well just be driving out of the rearview mirror trying not to get run over. We pushed the 41 to a really good start. I think he might have cleared the 2 and I had help from the 21 but I think the damage on the 21 deterred some help. They all went to the top and we ended up 10th. I thought we had a great race car. I am proud of what my guys brought to the track this weekend but we finished 10th.”

Martin Truex Jr. —  Finished 13th: “We ran a good portion of the race in the top 10 and a number of laps in second, but something always seemed to come up to stall our progress. This is Talladega and you have to drive with your head on and put your car in holes that it will fit into. Not much else to say except we’re looking forward to Kansas next week. That was one race we should have won last year.”

Kevin HarvickFinished 15th: “Landon Cassill trying to cause a wreck for the last 40 laps and he finally got it done there at the end. It was just unfortunate for our Busch Trophy Can Chevrolet. We just got shuffled out there and in a pretty big wreck there at the end. But all-in-all it was an okay day. We led some laps and ran up front; just got shuffled out when the No. 20 and don’t remember who else. We got back there and racing where we didn’t need to be racing and got crashed. We still finished, it is just torn up.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Finished 16th: “The nose damage that we got in that earlier wreck punctured our radiator which is why we had to keep coming to pit-road to add water late in the race. On that last restart, we were on the high side and we were moving forward. It’s unfortunate but it’s just a product of superspeedway racing.”

Michael McDowellFinished 21st: “We were in position there to have a top 10 and we just got caught up in a wreck.  Not sure exactly what happened, just got hit from behind, ran into the No. 10 and she spun.  It was just one of those chain reaction deals.  I will have to go back and see.  Everyone did good, the Thrivent Financial Chevrolet was up front, got some TV time, was running hard, unfortunately, we didn’t get the finish.”

Jimmie JohnsonFinished 22nd: “It’s Talladega, plate racing. Handling wasn’t a big issue. We could all run in the throttle hard and it really just came down to aggression from behind the wheel from behind the wheel, from everything that I saw it created all the madness.”

Matt KensethFinished 23rd: “We got behind a little bit there and I went to pass the 22 (Joey Logano) and he ran me off the race track and lost four or five spots and then got us back there where we didn’t want to be. I don’t know, somebody must have gotten turned out of the top lane and just collected me. I was just going straight and saw a car come from the right side and cleaned our clock.”

Danica PatrickFinished 24th: “I mean I’m okay. I got an X-Ray so that was a concern. Just taking a deep breath. I hit my foot pretty hard and hit my arm pretty hard. I have hit the inside wall at a superspeedway I think like four times how, and that was the hardest. You know these races are just….I get the running close and pushing. But the No. 95 was just drilling me every time. There is a high likelihood that he can take himself out. I’m all about bumping, and pushing and being close but when you hit people with a certain amount of momentum, it is a problem. I can’t quite remember exactly what started it. I know I got drilled from behind and turned sideways and hello wall.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 25th: “It’s unfortunate. We had a pretty decent car. I wouldn’t say it was the fastest car out there. It took us all day to get towards the front, but we positioned ourselves well at the end there with around 20 to go up there in the front row and in the lead. I was proud of what our Shell/Pennzoil team did. We worked hard all day, but unfortunately didn’t end up as well as we’d like to two days in a row. A couple big hits, so I can’t wait to get out of this place.”

Ryan NewmanFinished 28th: “We did what we needed to do. We raced a strategy we felt comfortable with. We dodged as many accidents as we could. We made the move when it was time to go and got caught up in the big wreck. The Caterpillar Chevrolet raced up into the top 10 and when we were wrecked, the team did the best they could to get us back out so we could finish the race.”

Carl EdwardsFinished 35th: “Definitely sorry to the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) guys for getting their car involved in that. We had something torn up there, drove down into Turn 1 and I just felt the right front fall down and that was it. You’re kind of just along for the ride.”

Kasey KahneFinished 39th: “Guys were being aggressive and it felt like it was late in the race the whole race. That first run was as wide-open as I’ve had it. As I remember it in a while at times of the first run, probably three-quarters of that first run. It was pretty wild how all that went down, but we had a good car. It was going to be a strong race if we just stayed out of trouble.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR. — Finished 40th: “Yeah, I feel good. It was pretty hard. I don’t know. I think Carl (Edwards) hit harder. He had a longer way to go to get the fence than I did. That is why I was riding up there in case anything happened to our car we wouldn’t have far to go before we hit anything. I was in a pretty good spot to withstand something like that.”

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

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LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo and behold, there you go, he wrecks me. Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

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After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

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While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

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Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.

 

 

Winners and losers from the Clash at the Coliseum

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the non-points race that opened the NASCAR season:

WINNERS

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex limped through a frustrating 2022 season, going winless and contemplating writing “finish” to his driving career. But he decided late in the year to make another run, and that choice paid big dividends Sunday as he put Joe Gibbs Racing in victory lane.

Richard Childress Racing — RCR opened the season with power, putting Austin Dillon in second and newcomer Kyle Busch in third. The new teammates even enjoyed some late-race collaboration, Busch backing off a second-place battle to give Dillon a chance to make a run at eventual winner Truex.

Ryan Preece — Preece, given a shot in the offseason at a full-time ride in Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, showed strength in his first outing, leading 43 laps before electrical issues dropped him to seventh.

Bubba Wallace — Wallace held the lead at the halfway point and totaled 40 laps in first but was drop-kicked by Austin Dillon late in the race and finished 22nd.

LOSERS

Chase Elliott — It was a lost weekend for the former Cup champion. Elliott was lapped during the race, failed to lead a lap and finished 21st.

Ty Gibbs — Suspension problems parked Gibbs after 81 laps, and he finished next-to-last a day after his car caught fire in practice.

Michael McDowell — McDowell was involved in several on-track incidents during the evening and finished 24th after running out of fuel, along with teammate Todd Gilliland.

Long: Drivers make their point clear on Clash at the Coliseum

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LOS ANGELES — So what to do with the Clash at the Coliseum?

The second edition of this exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showcased beating, banging and 16 cautions in a 150-lap race won by Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday night.

A year remains on NASCAR’s three-year contract with the Coliseum — NASCAR holds the option for next year — and it seems all but certain Cup cars will be back next year.

With Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen saying Saturday that his track will not host a NASCAR event in 2024 while being converted from a 2-mile speedway to a half-mile track, the Los Angeles area would be without a NASCAR race if the Clash did not return.

NASCAR is not likely to leave the nation’s No. 2 TV market without a race. 

A question this weekend was if the Clash would become a points race next year to replace the Auto Club Speedway date and allow NASCAR to have a new venue for the Clash.

“I think they should put (the Coliseum race) in the playoffs, personally. That would be perfect,” Denny Hamlin said straight faced after Sunday’s race before breaking into a smile to show he was speaking sarcastically.

Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano was emphatic in his response.

“No,” Logano said, shaking his head Sunday night. “We can’t do that.”

Why?

“You’re going to fit 40 cars out there? We can’t even make a caution lap without the pace car bumping the last-place car.”

Logano smiled as he spoke — then again he often smiles as he talks. He was not speaking sarcastically as Hamlin showed with his smile. Logano’s grin was part of a passionate defense.

“No. You can’t do that,” Logano continued of why a points race at the Coliseum is a bad idea. “That’d be dumb.”

Even in a celebratory mood after his first victory in NASCAR in more than a year, Truex was clear about his feelings of making the Clash a points race.

“Why would you screw it up,” he said, “and make it a points race?”

Just because drivers don’t like something doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

But much would have to happen to make this event a points race.

Those familiar with the charter agreement between teams and NASCAR told NBC Sports that they weren’t sure that the language in the agreement would permit a points race at such a venue. With the charter system guaranteeing all 36 teams a spot in a race, it’s not feasible to run so many cars on this small track. Only 27 cars ran in Sunday’s Clash. That almost seemed too many.

Should there be a way to make this event a points race without all 36 running in the main event, there are other issues. 

The purse would have to significantly increase. NASCAR stated that the purse for Sunday’s Clash was $2.085 million. Last year’s championship race at Phoenix had a purse of $10.5 million. The purse for last year’s Cup race at Watkins Glen was $6.6 million. The purse for last year’s race at Nashville Superspeedway was $8.065 million.

If NASCAR made the Clash a points race, then the purse would be expected to fall in line with other points races. Of course, there still would be the logistics. 

But is it worth it to try to make an event something it doesn’t need to be?

While the attendance appeared to be a little less than the estimated 50,000 for last year’s race, it wasn’t enough of a drop to warrant abandoning this event. Is a points race at the Coliseum going to increase the attendance significantly? No.

Just bring this event back next year as is.

“I think it’s good for what it is,” Logano said. “It’s a non-points race. I think we need to go back to maybe only four cars (instead of five) transferring from the heat (races) … there’s just too many cars (on the track). I think that’s part of the issue as well.”

Then, to make sure he got his point across about if next year’s Coliseum race should be a points race, Logano said: “A points-paying race. No. I’ll be the first to raise my hand that’s a very bad idea.” 

But it’s possible 2024 could be the final year for this event at the Coliseum. 

If Auto Club Speedway’s conversion to a short track can be done in time to be on the 2025 schedule, then the Los Angeles region would have a short track and NASCAR could move the Clash to a new area to reach more fans.

That’s part of the goal this new dynamic NASCAR, which has moved Cup races to different venues in the last couple of years and will run its first street course race in July in Chicago. 

While NASCAR has made such changes, making the race at the Coliseum a points race serves no purpose. Just listen to the drivers.