What drivers said after Michigan race

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Drivers had plenty to say after Sunday’s race on how the race went for them and what they thought of the new aero package.

Joey Logano — Winner: “What a great race car. What a fun race, racing with Chase (Elliott) and Kyle Larson. It is fun to see the young guys up there racing. I am not alone up there as a young guy anymore. (On aero package) It was not good in traffic and not really good by myself either. The cars didn’t have much grip and there was a lot of sliding around. Catching the traffic at the right time and knowing which lanes work best for you and understanding the cars that you are racing. We had plenty of opportunity to see what others cars were good on restarts, and you kind of keep that mental notebook as you go.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 2nd: “I had another fantastic car.  My guys have been doing a really good job the past few weeks, and we’ve been just trying to give it all we can get to get one of these things. Had another fantastic opportunity today, and I feel like definitely messed that one up for my guys. You can’t do dumb stuff and expect to win. That’s just the way life is. (What was your mistake) Just putting it in the correct gear would be a good start.’’

KYLE LARSON — Finished 3rd: “It was a solid run for us.  We’ve been consistent as we’ve been in the last year and a half anyways, so it’s nice to be running up front and getting closer to a win I feel like.  Still got some work to do, but it is nice when we can get a package like this thrown at us just a few weeks before the race, and our guys at the shop and here at the racetrack can look at engineering data and come up with a good piece.  Thanks to them, and hopefully we can build on this and try and get a win in my home state (Sonoma, California is the next race in two weeks).’’

Brad Keselowski — Finished 4th: “I am not sure the new package was everything we wanted it to be, but it is a step in the right direction as far as putting the drivers in control of the racing but not in reducing the aero stuff we wanted. I guess we have to think about it a little. I think it is important to remember that these race cars have three dimensions to them. They have downforce, sideforce and drag, and this is only a downforce reduction. It is a big chunk, but I think we probably should think about the sideforce now a little bit because that hasn’t been tuned down at all. A lot of smart people will go back to the board and try to learn from today. I think it is an improvement but not the step we were looking for.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “I got loose on the restart where we restarted third. We were able to overcome some missed-timed cautions again. It seems like the weekend of cautions; that’s what got us in our starting spot, anyway. But all-in-all, everybody kept their heads up and kept digging, and we got a good finish out of it.”

Carl Edwards — Finished 6th: “Man, I was hoping for a caution there at the end and we got it. Then I had a pretty ugly restart. It’s tough out there today and the restarts were really tough. Once the cars got strung out a little bit, we were a little bit free in spots, but overall the guys did a great job. (On the aero package) “This is a work in progress. I applaud NASCAR for taking downforce away and the speeds are still so high because the surface is good and the Goodyear tires are good and everybody is working hard on their cars. They just keep working in this direction and we’re going to keep having better and better races. Those restarts, as crazy as they were, they were actually kind of fun.”

Tony Stewart — Finished 7th: “I am tickled to death with these guys. That is the kind of weekend I’ve been looking for all year out of this group. Today is proof that we can do it. I would rather have this than win a race and run 15th to 20th the next week. From start to finish all weekend it’s been solid, and that is what we are looking for right now. (On aero package) “I love it. I absolutely love it. The package is good. The aero package is starting to catch up now. The whole equation to this to make it all where everybody wants it to be are tires and aero. Up to this point Goodyear has been way ahead of NASCAR. NASCAR is finally catching up. So, now we are getting the split between the two groups closed up. The good thing is Goodyear is primed and ready to do all the stuff they need to do. They have been waiting on NASCAR. It’s coming around. It may not be perfect yet, but it is more than definitely going in the right direction for sure.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 8th: “We are a little disappointed we thought we had enough speed to have a shot to win. Obviously, it wasn’t all there, but never really got track position we needed. I thought that first restart was good, and we got to running fifth there, but the caution came out when we had pitted and we did not get in front of Jimmie (Johnson) before the caution came out, so that hurt us. But, I’m proud of my guys they made some good adjustments to get us back in the game. I don’t know what people thought of the package, but it was pretty hard to pass because you were really free. I kind of had that feeling. Everybody has wanted to go that way, but there is only so far, and we are not all Superman out there, so downforce is king.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 12th: “It just wasn’t our day, a tough one for sure. Leading and having a spin out like that with a lapped car definitely hurt our chances. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Clint and I talked after the race and there were no hard feelings. Just one of those racing deals.”

Kasey Kahne — Finished 13th: “It was a tough day. It was tough to restart. I mean I restarted between 15th and 24th all day long. Everybody is aggressive and moving around. It’s pretty wild, pretty tough, but our car was decent at times. It was really good at times and then other times I couldn’t figure it out.  It was a tough race. (On aero package) “You just have a lot of driving to do. I don’t think my car was as good as some. When my car was good there were runs where it felt really good and I really enjoyed it. I thought you had to drive it and I thought you could still find speed and move around.  When my car wasn’t as good on entry I was struggling. That would have been the same as any other three or four packages we have had at Michigan in the last couple of years.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 15th “That was a long day. The thing was sliding around like crazy. It was a tough race, and track position was huge. I had my hands full, that is for sure. We got a decent 15th-place finish out of it, but we didn’t run there all day, so we have some work to do for next time.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 17th: “I didn’t even get loose with someone to my outside. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) just came across my nose super fast and it completely took all the traction off my car and I slid all the way to the fence. It was the damnedest thing. That’s never happened to me before.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 21st: “We had an OK day. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t awful either. We’ll take the off-weekend to recharge and dig deep to try and do better moving forward.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 24th: “The car had speed throughout most of the race and I was able to race inside the top 20. We gained a lot of positions on the restarts, which are important to capitalize on at tracks like Michigan. We probably could have been a little better on pit road with a few stops in the middle of the race and in the end, it probably would have helped to take fresh tires during the last caution, but hindsight is always 20-20. This biggest plus from today was we stayed out of trouble, kept the car clean and finished on the lead lap.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. — Finished 29th: “We blew a tire there at the end. Our day wasn’t great. It went OK. We got good track position and stayed up there all day, it was just bad luck there at the end getting a flat because we didn’t get the finish that we deserved. I thought this was a better race package though. Everyone was running closer, which makes for better racing, so I think it was good.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 33rd: “There was no smoke inside the car and usually if you’re going to have a cut tire there’s going to be smoke at some point. Everything looked all clear and for it to go that long before it cut – I don’t know if it’s that or we ran over something that cut. Had a top-three car all day, just restarts were awful and couldn’t get through (turn) one without losing eight spots on every restart. Just a tough day, but still proud of the effort and the speed that we had. (On the aero package) “I think it’s a good package. I think it definitely could be tweaked a little bit. I think that this thing is biased a little more off the rear than the front is so either take some more front off – that would be my guess is to take a little more front downforce away, but I think overall we’ve got something good here that is fun. Track position is a bear out there, every driver is going to talk about that, but it’s not because of the wake I think. There’s something with this left side tire that is very, very hard that makes it difficult and the tires aren’t slowing up as much as we’ve seen in the past so I think those two combinations is making it tough to pass.”

A.J. Allmendinger — Finished 38th: “I think (Dale Earnhardt) Junior got hit, and I was on the outside of him, and that was it. It was kind of weird back there. I’m not really sure what kind of car we had. I thought in clean air we weren’t too bad, but I guess a lot of people could say that. Just not a lot of fun racing there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 39th: “We were in the middle there and the No. 34 (Chris Buescher) ran into the left-rear quarter panel and knocked us in the fence. He must have just lost the nose of his car. I hate it, but you try to take care of each other out there. We all try to race hard and I wish he would have taken better care of us. We had good speed, we just needed to continue to work on getting our track position and we were doing that.

Kyle Busch — Finished 40th: “At least I had a 30-lap warning that it was coming. It had been shaking pretty bad and going south for a while and it had been building its own heat. It’s unfortunate, not just today, but man the last four races have been really, really bad. It’s a good thing we started off the season as good as we did with a lot of top-fives and we had three wins so it got us a good start and a good foundation, but we have to get this luck turned around and get going in the right direction and get ourselves back to where we feel we need to be.”

 

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.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”