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What drivers said after the Pure Michigan 400

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Here’s what drivers and a crew chief said after Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Kyle Larson — WINNER: “I was teared up that whole last few laps because I could just feel it. It was finally going to be it. This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We love you guys. We’re going to miss him. We parked it for him, so that’s really cool. We had a lot of work to do for that first third of the race, and got it done. (On final restart) “We both spun our tires really bad. And (Brad Keselowski) pushed me really good. He could have probably pulled underneath me and went by. But he stayed with me and got me the lead. So, thanks to him. I had a lot of fun.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 2nd: “Bummer again here. I hate to let my guys down is the biggest thing. For the second time, this has happened. I made a mistake early on in the race. I asked my guys to bail me out, and they did. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my part again.That’s a couple races in a row in just a few short months here at this place we had a really good car, had an opportunity. That’s one thing I try really hard to do is make the most of opportunities when they’re presented. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of that here both trips. Need to do my restarts a little better. That’s obviously not a strong point, at least here at Michigan. Think about that some, and I guess take the positives. We were strong I felt like as a company today, which was encouraging. Look at that, try to get to Darlington.’’

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 3rd: “It was a typical crazy restart at Michigan here at the end. It is about getting a good launch and push. It looked like Kyle (Larson) got a good launch and maybe something happened to (Chase Elliott). I was able to give him a push, a really hard push, and got sideways there and was able to get the lead. (Larson) just drove away.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 4th: “We were up towards the front most of the day, and some runs were better than others. It is kind of a decent day for us. It is nothing to complain about. I thought we were in a decent spot there that last restart, and it didn’t work out great. Congrats to (Kyle) Larson. That is cool to see a rookie winning. These are the days we need. These are the days this team deserves. We always want to win in Ford’s backyard, but we will go on to Darlington and try to get it done there.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “We just lost the handle there on the last couple of runs. For whatever reason we got really loose in and then after that on the restart we were tight on two tires. Everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Busch Beer Chevrolet did a good job we just didn’t quite have what we need to to win the race today.”

Jimmie Johnson �� Finished 6th: “Just a very good day for all of Hendrick Motorsports. Unfortunately, one of our cars didn’t win today.  We had an issue with some fueling on pit road that dropped us back.  Then I thought I had a right-rear tire going down. To rally back and end up sixth is good. We are working hard, and it’s nice to see the speed showing. There has been a lot of hard work for months and months and months going into this. We didn’t see the consistency in speed that we wanted, but this weekend we’ve had it from day one until now.  It’s going in the right direction.”

Carl Edwards — Finished 7th: “We really struggled badly most of the day. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) did a great job there at the end. Just a little disappointed, I thought we would have been a lot better than that. We’ll just have to regroup, figure it out and talk to our teammates. We’ll figure it out.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 8th: “Well I thought we were going to be better than that in practice. I thought that (Kyle Larson) and our cars were really comparable. An awesome job by him to get his first win here. I had a really good restart at the end and probably finished better than we should have and finished ahead of the guys that we needed to.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 9th: “We just struggled with speed – really a lot of little things. The car was tight then it was loose but really just lacked the speed that the leaders had for the most part. Struggled on restarts a little bit, too, on the bottom lane. Overall, we had about a fifth-place car, and we ended up in the top 10, so not too bad.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “We kind of ended on a down note there. I don’t know. We lost our track position early in the race, which hurt us and then we got our car balance fixed, but it is so hard to pass. To get back up there was challenging. We came back down pit road there at the end to take four (tires) and somehow I guess (Kevin Harvick) car hooked our air gun and send the rear air gun flying, and we lost time in the pits. We were the last car on the lead lap on that last run and got back to 10th so I am proud of the effort this weekend. The pole was nice. We just weren’t as competitive as we were in the spring race. Our car drove the same, everyone just got better.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 12th: “We gave it a battle. We were just lucky with where the yellows fell to maintain our position. Overall, we just couldn’t attack because we were way too loose today. Unfortunate. Everything fell our way at the end to get a nice 12th-place finish, but we’ve got some things we need to iron out, and other things that we need to focus on for the Chase.  We’ve got a couple of weeks here, and we will be at our best come Chase time.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 15th: “That is the best we have been here for sure. We made a lot of gains, and our long run car was really good. Just never could get going on restarts. I couldn’t figure out where I needed to run. That last caution hurt us a lot. Just didn’t get a good restart. I didn’t get to the outside quick enough, and then we were just too loose there. I still should have gotten to the top earlier. I was trying to see what was going to happen, and I didn’t get to the outside quick enough. Just wish I would have got more there. I thought we deserved better than a 15th, but we haven’t been close to being 15th here in three years. It’s definitely a lot of gains there. Overall happy, but just in the short term, disappointed with the finish.” 

Austin Dillon – Finished 16th: “During the race, the car just wasn’t very good on takeoff but we excelled on long runs. We posted some of the fastest lap times of the race at the end of runs. I wish we had a little bit more today but overall, we’re still looking good in the point standings and even stayed out to lead a lap today. Our goal remains the same–to win a race and make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hopefully, we can do that at Darlington Raceway next weekend.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 17th: “Luke Lambert and the Freightliner team definitely improved our Chevy over the course of today’s race.  They worked hard all race long to adjust to the slick conditions that were out there. We raced in the top-16 for the first half of the race but then made big gains to climb into the top-10 and to be honest, that’s really what I was expecting for our finish. On the final restart, we lined up 11th in the low line and it really hurt us. The line stalled and it resulted in a sub-par finishing position. We were a much better car than 17th. I’m looking forward to Darlington Raceway next week. It’s my favorite track so I hope it’s where we can clinch a Chase spot.”

Paul Menard – Finished 18th: “We struggled early on during a run, but this Chevy got significantly better on the longer green flag stints. On that last restart we were just too tight, and fell back a few positions crossing the line in 18th-place. We definitely deserved a top-10 today.  I’m looking forward to Darlington this upcoming weekend, and honoring Al Unser, Jr. with our Valvoline / Menards throwback scheme.”

CREW CHIEF ADAM STEVENS (Kyle Busch) — Finished 19th: “The finishing order makes it look that way, but we actually had a pretty fast car. We ran some really fast laps, but we just got in a bad spot there on the restart and got sucked around and wore off part of our splitter, but even after that, we were one of the probably five or six quickest cars on the racetrack, and just whenever we got in the lucky dog spot, we ran there for I can’t tell you how many laps and just didn’t get a caution. The leaders started lapping cars again, and we just couldn’t catch that caution to get back on the lead lap and really show what we had.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 20th: “We were never the same after that pit stop (where the left rear wasn’t on when the jack was dropped). We made a number of unscheduled stops to try to fix the problem, but the damage was just too severe to overcome.”

Tony Stewart — Finished 21st: “Everyone fought hard today.”

DANICA PATRICK — Finished 23rd: “We were hoping to have a little different outcome today, but it was extremely difficult to gain positions with the long, green runs. I have to thank (crew chief) Billy (Scott) and the guys for their hard work today. It sounds like everyone was having similar issues, and they kept telling me to remain consistent and make the moves for position when I could. I felt like I was racing the same guys all day for the same spots. I might have had a better car timewise, but it was just really difficult to get past some of those guys. We’ll keep working at it and see if we can improve next weekend in Darlington.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 24th: “We’ll rebound from this. We just needed some help through the center of the corner all race long and those long runs really affected us trying to make up track position.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 35th: “I know it isn’t fun opening a hood of a race car that is as hot at it is and trying to work on it. Kudos to my guys for keeping their heads down and working at it and getting it fixed. Usually when you have engine trouble you are along for the ride. It ended up being something a little bit more simple than I guess we originally figured. We got back up and running and made some laps and made a really terrible day into just an OK day. Now we get to go to Darlington, and I am excited for that. I was excited for here. Even with the troubles we had the balance was really good so it is a shame we didn’t really get to participate today.”

Stage points crucial at Las Vegas in Round of 12

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Former champion Brad Keselowski views Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) as the “second most important” to win during the season after the championship race, “because these next two weeks are very difficult to prepare for.”

What’s so difficult about the two races after Las Vegas?

Two-thirds of the Round of 12 are made up of Talladega and the Charlotte Roval: a superspeedway known for its wild multi-car wrecks and a road course that can prove unpredictable.

“The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about is the playoff bonus points and winning in Vegas,” Keselowski said. “The best thing we can do to control our own destiny is to go win Vegas and then Talladega just becomes what it is. It’s the same thing with the Roval, so we’re hopeful to just kind of not have to worry about it that way by scoring a win. If we’re not able to do that, I’d like to get a few more playoff bonus points with stages for those races and that would help a bunch, but, certainly, this round presents a lot of challenges for us.”

If anyone knows the importance of winning early in a round, it’s Keselowski. His victory two weeks ago at Richmond benefitted him in the cutoff race a Bristol when power steering issues resulted in a 34th-place finish.

Chase Elliott, who has won at both Talladega and the Roval in previous seasons, has a similar view to Keselowski.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver said “we would be messing up to already be looking ahead to Talladega,” later adding, “the way I kind of look at it is I’m probably going to crash – I think that’s just the odds.”

Were everything to go right for a driver, they can earn up to 20 stage points in the first two stages of a race.

“So, I think everybody knows how important stages are and what they can mean, especially stage wins,” Elliott said. “Getting that extra bonus point is a huge thing, too. I think everybody knows that and that’s certainly a game that’s been played. I don’t know that it was as much played that very first year that we had (playoff and stage points), but really ever since that first year, I think it has been known and everybody really gets that. And it’s just gotten more and more aggressive.”

Focusing on Vegas is key for Elliott because it’s been a “super hit or miss” track for him. In seven career starts, he has two top fives and four finishes of 26th or worse.

“We’ve crashed a bunch out there (three DNFs) and had some really bad finishes,” Elliott said. “That would be a fantastic opportunity, I think, to have a solid day.”

Kurt Busch noted that you could arguably view Las Vegas as “standard” when it comes to pit strategy and racing. But Busch provided a reminder of what happened earlier this year at Texas Motor Speedway.

“A place like Vegas fits into a track like Texas, as well; where you can change just left side tires like we saw Austin Dillon do to win the Texas race earlier this year,” Busch said. “So, there are all the different strategies and different things playing out.”

The four drivers eliminated after the Round of 16 – William Byron, Cole Custer, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto – scored a combined six stage points. All of them were earned by Byron.

Busch observed that just because four teams have been eliminated from the playoffs doesn’t mean there’s four less cars in the field vying for points.

“There are two Hendrick cars now not in the playoffs, but they’re fast,” Busch said of Byron and Jimmie Johnson. “Same thing with (Joe) Gibbs (Racing). You’ve got the No. 20 car, Erik Jones, not in the playoffs but he’s fast. Those are points that those guys could take away from the contenders that are still left in the situations they’re in. So, you’ve just got to race hard and race smart. There are three ways to get points each and every weekend: Stage 1, Stage 2, and the finish of the race. And, that happens at all the race tracks.”

Of the 12 remaining drivers left in the playoffs, here’s how many stage points they earned in the first round.

Most Stage Points Earned in 2020 Playoffs:

Chase Elliott  – 35
Kevin Harvick – 33
Martin Truex Jr.  – 32
Kyle Busch  – 31
Alex Bowman – 29
Joey Logano  – 28
Denny Hamlin  – 26
Kurt Busch – 22
Austin Dillon – 22
Brad Keselowski – 21
Aric Almirola – 7
Clint Bowyer – 4

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NASCAR fines
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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NASCAR has fined Hendrick Motorsports $100,000 for exceeding the amount of wind tunnel testing allowed this season.

NASCAR also announced that it had deducted 10 hours of wind tunnel testing from the organization for the 2020-21 amount allowed.

Hendrick Motorsports will not appeal the penalty. The team reported the violation to NASCAR.

The Cup Rule Book states in section 5.3.e that organizations are allocated 150 hours to be used on cars through Dec. 31, 2021 with a maximum usage of 70 hours in 2020 and a maximum usage of 90 hours in 2021. NASCAR states that testing hours are defined as billable hours reported by the wind tunnel to NASCAR. The minimum test period is four hours. Wind tunnel testing of Next Gen cars by individual organizations will not be permitted.

The L2 penalty comes with a fine of at least $100,000 and no more than $200,000.

NASCAR also announced two fines for lug nut violations last weekend at Bristol.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chief Bruce Schlicker was fined $5,000 for the No. 10 car of Ross Chastain having one lug nut not safe and secure after the race.

In the Truck Series, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt was fined $2,500 for the No. 19 truck of Derek Kraus having one lug nut not safe and secure after the race.

 

Carson Hocevar to run full Truck schedule in 2021

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Niece Motorsports has signed Carson Hocevar to run the full NASCAR Truck schedule in 2021, the team announced Thursday.

Hocevar, who turns 18 in January, has run five races for the team this season. His best finish this year is 12th at Dover. He’s scheduled to run at Martinsville on Oct. 30.

“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to race fulltime next year with the Niece Motorsports group,” said Hocevar in a statement. “We’ve had some really strong runs in the few starts that we’ve had this season and I am grateful for the chance to continue that next year. I’ve learned so much already this year and know that we will keep improving next year too.”

“Carson has really impressed us this season,” said team owner Al Niece in a statement. “He’s proven his talent – getting into the truck with no track time and really holding his own. We’re thrilled to have him with us fulltime next season and look forward to contending for wins together.”

TikTok to sponsor Ryan Vargas in six Xfinity races

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JD Motorsports
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TikTok is coming to NASCAR.

The popular video sharing app will break into the sport next month as a sponsor of Ryan Vargas in the Xfinity Series.

TikTok has partnered with JD Motorsports to sponsor the 20-year-old Vargas in the final six races of the season, beginning with the Oct. 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“TikTok has provided me with an incredible outlet to reach new fans and demographics through fun and creative content, and I’ve seen the highest growth in followers on TikTok over my other social channels,” Vargas said in a press release. “The opportunity to run the No. 6 TikTok Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the rest of the season is an absolute dream come true. Johnny Davis and the whole JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team took a chance on me last year and I’m excited to bring this amazing TikTok partnership their way. I wouldn’t want to make this partnership a reality anywhere else.”

Vargas has made three Xfinity Series starts this year. His best finish was 13th at Pocono.

The sponsor deal is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month programming.

A native of La Mirada, California, Vargas joined TikTok last year. He is a former member of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity programming and a winner of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer award, which is given to a minority or female driver who displays exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.

The partnership and paint scheme were inspired by a concept scheme by graphic designer Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’.

“Creators of all sizes and backgrounds show up to TikTok with their genuine, authentic selves,” Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing, said in a press release. “Partnering with an iconic brand like NASCAR to sponsor Ryan Vargas on his racing journey is a way for us to continue to support, celebrate and elevate the diverse creators that make our TikTok community what it is today. Ryan is an incredible athlete, and we’re looking forward to cheering him on alongside the rest of the TikTok community!”

According to CNBC in August, TikTok has roughly 100 million monthly users, up nearly 800% from January 2018.

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, has been in national headlines recently after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the United States for national security reasons if it was not sold to an American company. On Sept. 19 he approved a deal for its U.S operations to be operated by Oracle and Walmart.