What drivers said after Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard

Getty Images
5 Comments

From the race to the heat to the wrecks, drivers had a lot to say after Sunday’s Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here are some of their comments:

Kyle Busch – Winner: “No, I guess I didn’t. I hoped it would be like that and be that good. This Skittles Camry was awesome; I can’t thank everyone from Skittles enough and everyone from M&M’s and their 75th anniversary year this season with us. Of course, Interstate Batteries. This Toyota was awesome today; it was just so fast and able to get out front and stay out front. Not even some of my teammates could challenge. This thing was hooked up and on rails. I can’t say enough about Sprint and everything they’ve done for our sport. Of course the fans – thank everyone for being here and everyone watching on TV – you guys are awesome. We appreciate all of our partners at Joe Gibbs Racing. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys are a phenomenal group, and I’m proud to be with them. It’s fun to come out here and have such a dominant piece at Indy. They don’t come along often, so I was just hoping I didn’t screw it up.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 2nd: “It didn’t seem like it (if he had anything late in the race for teammate Kyle Busch). We never got in front of him all day, and the clean air is always really big here. It was a great day for our Dollar General Camry. We did not have a good Friday, did not have a good Saturday and pretty respectable Sunday. We were pretty competitive all day, just never got quite to the lead to see what we had.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “It says a lot (rallying back to finish 3rd). We’ve been working really hard to get our cars where they need to be. We’re still not happy, but we’re getting closer. I’m very proud of the effort today. Unfortunately, a mistake on my part in that second segment, trying to get in the pits I got dinged for speeding and then rallied from like 24th back. So, I’m just very proud of this race team, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and I’m very proud to run this red car and represent all the men and women who work in Lowe’s stores all around the country. We got third, but I wish we would have gotten a win.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 4th: “(Our race) was great, our FedEx Camry was great it got through traffic well as you saw going back to 20th with that penalty and driving to the front. Proud of the effort by our whole FedEx Camry team. It’s disappointing to just get a top-five. We had aspirations to come here and win. Like I said, you have to be perfect in every part of the race team, especially on race day to win these races, especially track position races, and we just had one big mistake on pit road, and we at least came back and got a top-five.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 5th: “I don’t know that I was expecting much more than a top five, really. I didn’t know we’d have that speed in our car. And we were probably a fifth or seventh-place car. But I was able to get some good restarts there at the end. It was just a solid day for the whole Target team. The Energizer Chevy was good from the start, which helps. We qualified good for once, and it was just a solid weekend. It was a good one.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 6th: “Yeah, I thought I had a flat tire, and the car was just really tight.  I am kind of disappointed there at the end; I was in a pretty good spot and on the restart the pace car was consistently going way too slow.  It’s unfortunate they can’t correct small problems like that.  I just couldn’t get going and got the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) in front of us and wound up on the outside and then we were just treading water from there.  But, all-in-all everybody did a good job, we are definitely off a little bit.”

Joey Logano – Finished 7th: “It just was not good (his last restart) I had a decent restart the first time, and the second one I probably had just as good of a restart, but the 20 got underneath me and I was kind of stuck from that point and kind of fell into the clutches of the tires behind me. I was trying to stay down and be where I needed to be to get in front of them, but they just kept turning underneath me. I hate that we finished seventh, but it’s probably where we deserved to finish from a speed point of view. I thought our execution went very well today to give us an opportunity to win, but we couldn’t quite get it done when it mattered.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 8th: “They were wrecking all over the place on those restarts and that was costly for us. Our Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was fast all day, but being caught in the outside lane for those restarts at the end really hurt our chances.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 9th: “Solid day.  We struggled getting track position. We had one of the fastest cars during the middle of the race. We really had to work hard to get up through there.  Restarts … we struggle man. I got to get going on those restarts.  I tried something on that last one, but it hurt me a little bit. I was able to get a bunch of it back and finish kind of where we were supposed to finish. I’m proud of my guys. We can keep working on this and see what we can do going forward. Good points day, too.”

Tony Stewart – Finished 11th: “When we got the checkered, we just didn’t want to come in quite yet. I wanted to run one more lap, and Jeff was around us. Before that last green run, I told my spotter to go get his spotter and said after this thing is over, we needed to go a lap around here together because it’s likely the last time we’ll get both a chance to do that. I couldn’t think of a better guy to share that with than Jeff … This has been the most relaxing Brickyard I’ve ever had and probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the Brickyard. It was nice to win those two races, but it was stressful to do it. We really enjoyed it, had a lot of fun from start to finish … (As for his finish) I really did the team wrong here.  I got a penalty on the last stop, and that is a green flag stop that turned into a yellow and got us a lap down.  But we fought and got our lap back. So, fought back and got something respectable out of this.  Didn’t leave anything out there.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 12th: “It wasn’t a bad day. This was definitely our best Indy performance across the board – qualifying, practices, the race. We still have a lot of work to do. We know where we need to work, we just have to make sure we get that and I think it will translate to all of the other racetracks we go to. The flatter race tracks we struggle at, so at Pocono next week we can hopefully get some ideas to help with turn two and turn three because that’s the biggest key for us is to get our car through the corner and off. I felt good with everybody on entry and through the center I just need to get a little bit better, but it was nice to come home with the Sunny D Ford in 12th.”

Jeff Gordon – Finished 13th: “Better than last year, it didn’t go very well and it was a fight, wow. The challenge to be out there against the best, especially on those restarts – I got my butt kicked on those restarts and it’s embarrassing – while I was filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and I hope he’s doing well, but I need a fill-in on restarts. … I’m going to need some practice on restarts for Pocono (next week’s race, where he’ll also fill in for Earnhardt). On one hand, I’m relieved that this is over. On the other hand, I would have liked it to go a little better. And a thank you to Tony Stewart, it meant a lot to me that he wanted me to make that last lap with him. … (Is Pocono his last race) “Whew!  It it’s this hot, I hope so!  My thing is that I can’t wait to talk to Dale Junior and debrief him on how today went and see how he’s doing. I want him in the car as soon as possible.  I’m too old to be doing this stuff. But to come here and do this race and finish a decent 13th, I think I can do better next week for him and then we’ll just go from there.

Chris Buescher – Finished 14th: “It was a good finish for us. We had a couple things finally go our way and stayed out of the wrecks in front of us. It is nice to have a little bit of luck and decent speed. We worked hard this weekend and got it close. It got better through the weekend and it is my first time in a Cup car here at Indy so we will definitely take that finish.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 17th: “It was a long, hard day. We just weren’t quite as fast as the Gibbs’ cars, but we were competitive.  I had a shot at it at the end when we came in and put tires on, but got caught up when the 19 spun out.  I thought we actually had a shot at winning it and kind of stealing one on tires, but when that wreck happened it took away any shot we had.  There was too much damage, but that’s just part of it.  There was nowhere to go, but that’s definitely not the result we wanted for sure.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 18th: “We had pretty good restarts throughout the race, but just real tight and we never really could get it out of it except after the tires would wear out it would free up just off tires getting hotter.  We were just tight all day.”

Carl Edwards – Finished 35th: “It felt like I just got tight. Got down there, and whoever was on the outside of me. If indeed that’s what happened, I apologize. That’s pretty frustrating. I don’t know if I came down or they came up, but it felt like I got in there and scrubbed that right front. I was having a lot of trouble the first corner on the outside. I thought it would stick when went down there. It’s hard for everyone who got caught up in it. That’s tough.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 36th: “I didn’t really see much (his wreck). I unfortunately got back there, and I didn’t see who got together. I thought I was by it and then the 31 spun out and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I’ll have to rewatch it on replay, but it stinks. I thought we had a decent car. We kind of put ourselves in a hole and we were trying to fight back from that and this just made a bad day worse. We’ll just go to Pocono next week and try to get better.”

David Ragan – Finished 37th: “We just blew a left rear tire and slapped the wall. We were okay. We never just could get the track position. I felt like we had a top-25 car. We raced there in the mid-to-high 20s and just without a lot of cautions – a lot of opportunities to work on our race car – we were just kind of stuck. It’s really hard to pass here and felt like our Brandeis Toyota was okay. We could race around some decent cars, but just never could have the track position to really see what we could do. … Ran over something and cut a tire on the front straightaway. Tried to get it slowed down and just couldn’t slow it down quick enough.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 38th: “The No. 6 car (Trevor Bayne) was just kind of slow off Turn 4. I was trying to time it. He was just kind of in the way, so I just tried to time it a little bit and make the pass. I just nicked him as I went by with my right-front. Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it and evidently it poked a hole in the radiator when it did it. Barely had any damage to the car so I’m not sure why it got the radiator so bad, but lost water pressure and it blew up. … I think there are positives. I think we can get the back of our cars really good when we focus on that. Got to keep working on the front of the car. It would have been fun. I was finally having fun there working on the race car.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 39th: “We blew a right-front tire and went straight into the fence. We were either real loose or real tight, and we just couldn’t get the balance right. We’ve just got to get them to turn a little better. … I don’t know what happened.  The right-front went down at the end of the straightaway.  That’s the worst possible place, but unfortunately, it happened. We were a little bit tight on that run, and it’s just toast.” … (The heat) wasn’t that bad, really. I was doing pretty good.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023

0 Comments

Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing

0 Comments

Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.

 

Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona

0 Comments

In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”

 

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

0 Comments

Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”