What drivers said after second race of Chase at New Hampshire

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Here’s what drivers had to say after the second race of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

Kevin Harvick – winner: “Man, that worked out really good. The car was pretty good on the restarts. Once we got clean air there at the end, it wound up being really good up front. I’m just really proud of our team. They did a great job. … (Not needing to worry about winning next week at Dover) it’s definitely going to be nice. One of our main goals this year was to not stretch ourselves out so bad. I feel like the performance of the car and the things that we’re doing are good enough to be competitive, and we just need to not make mistakes and go from there.”

Matt Kenseth – finished second: “We were pretty good today. These guys did a good job. … (As for Dover) you always want to win. I thought we had a top-two or three car today, but we didn’t win. They put me in position to do that, and I let them down there so I feel bad about that. We ran good last week, and we ran decent today too so we’ll just go to Dover and try to race them there.” 

Kyle Busch – finished third: “If it wasn’t for those last couple of cautions, I thought maybe we had an opportunity to chase those guys down under green and pass them for the win. It wasn’t meant to be. … We made the most of it at least at the end and didn’t lose spots. We were able to maintain our position and come out of here with a decent day. Excited about the opportunity to finish third and having a good points cushion. You can’t take any of that for granted. You have to focus on what’s ahead and the big picture and the task at hand, which is to have another good, solid week next week at Dover.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fourth: “It was just a really great finish to kind of just a so-so day. It takes a team effort to do that as well, and that’s part of this sport, and my guys did a great job. … We weren’t near as fast as we wanted to be, but great execution on pit road, great execution with the pit calls and then the last few restarts went our way with being in the right lane on the restarts, which is so, so important on these double-file restarts, but also just staying out of trouble. We’re not as fast as we want to be. We almost went a lap down at one point, but we kept our head down and got through it.”

Kurt Busch – finished fifth: “We had everything thrown at us, even the kitchen sink at one point. I feel like the way that this team and everybody felt like we needed to have a solid finish, but you just can’t ask for it. It felt like we were up against the odds, and then the car ran great. Really proud of the overnight adjustments and what we did better this time around than when we raced here last time was restarts.  I think that showed that Stewart-Haas Racing, we went to work on that. Kevin (Harvick) got the win today, real happy for him, and we got a great top five.”

Carl Edwards – finished sixth: “I’m really happy to be sixth. I’m frustrated obviously because I felt like we should have been better, but at the end of the day, there for a minute it looked really bad. There was one point when people were smoking in front of us, and I thought we were going to get caught up in a wreck in the back of the pack. I’m happy with the result. We just have to keep moving forward. This is a constant push to make it to the next round, and I didn’t quit, and I’m proud of that. … I feel pretty good about Dover. Anything can happen, but there’s no better race for us to be a cutoff race. That’s a good track for me and for this team.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished seventh: “Final restart was not good for us. Final two really weren’t. You know, we’d raced with Matt (Kenseth) so hard for the lead there for such a long time that I just kind of burned my tires up and then really had trouble getting going on those last two restarts, lost a few spots. It was unfortunate to have a car that good all day long and then come home seventh, but all in all, it was a fun day. We led a lot of laps, and the team did a great job all weekend, so it was another good weekend for us, and we’ll go on to Dover and see if we can’t finish the deal off there.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished eighth: “The second half of the race, there was one run we were off and lost some track position and had to rally back from that. Those quick cautions at the end, if you were on tires you were ‘Superman,’ if you weren’t on tires, you were getting run over. It was just a chaotic close to the race. I’m glad to finish in the top 10 with this Lowe’s Chevrolet, and we will go on to Dover.”

Kyle Larson – finished 10th: “(It was) better than where I have been here the last couple of years, so that is good. Just a solid, consistent day, we got off there halfway through the race and lost some track position. We were good on just short runs, then would be bad in the middle of the run and then I would be pretty decent again there at the end of the run. We took two tires there late and needed it to go green. I probably would have finished seventh or eighth. We had some cautions there and was just able to kind of hold on for 10th.”

Joey Logano – finished 11th: “I’m proud of the ‘never quit’ attitude. We’re resilient. We just need to start a little bit faster. We can’t lose that many spots at the beginning of the race and expect to battle back every time. We did what we had to do. We almost got a top 10 out of something that we ran around 20th all day, so at least we got something out of it. We just need to go faster than that.”

Jeremy Bullins, crew chief for Ryan Blaney – finished 12: “We learned some things with our last couple of adjustments that woke our car up and got us going a little bit. Ryan and the team kept digging all day, and to walk away with another good finish is something we can be proud of. We have a lot of positive things happening right now and need to take advantage of them the next eight weeks.”

Chase Elliott – finished 13th: “I had a good car, and the cautions didn’t fall our way. … (On Dover) I feel like it’s a upcoming race, and we need to do a better job.”

Mike Wheeler, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, finished 15th: “The race was a little more eventful than we were hoping for. Ended up having a pretty good car there toward the end about that last 100 laps or so. Unfortunately, we had a pit road penalty – two stops in the end that got us really far behind and just got kind of shuffled out of the mix on a couple restarts and finished about five to 10 spots worse than we should have but still alive. … (Now on to Dover) Hit the restart button and try again. Dover is a decent track for Denny. He hasn’t had a win there yet but has had some good runs, and hopefully we can have another good run there.”

Austin Dillon – finished 16th: “Truthfully, that was a heck of a fight, and we are only five points out going into Dover, and we struggled all week long. We fought hard. I never gave in, never gave up, our team never gave up. They did a heck of a pit stop there to put us in a (free pass) position, just to gain us some more points. A bunch of them guys are just right there. Now we go to Dover, and we’ve given ourselves a shot. We’ve just got to go run good there; got something new that we think is going to help us there. I’m looking forward to it. Just a whale of a fight by the guys.”

Danica Patrick – finished 18th: “We definitely didn’t need that final caution. We had a really strong run going before it came out, but it is what it is. My Nature’s Bakery team did a great job on pit road all day and helped make the car better as the race progressed.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 24th: “We struggled this weekend. At times our Fastenal Ford handled great but we just lacked speed. It’s definitely not the performance we wanted but we will go back and look at everything and bring something different next year. We need to take the next eight races and build off them going into the off season.”

Chris Buescher – finished 30th: “We’re just trying to get speed out of all of our cars. It was a tough day. We tried really hard with our Love’s Fusion. We put a lot of effort into it and we’ll just keep digging and trying to get it better.  We just have to keep plugging along. … That’s pretty much our situation (must win at Dover).. Dover is a really good race track.  I like that place a lot. We had a good finish for us there earlier this season, so we’ll go there and see what we can do to get a win and try to move on to the second round of the Chase.”

Trevor Bayne – finished 38th: “I thought I had a tire go down. I don’t know what else it could have been. I hadn’t been loose into (Turn 3) all day, and all of a sudden, it just jumped out. We had some right-side damage on that run. I don’t know at this point. The right rear looks up, but it just got really loose in, and I backed it into the wall. It was a hard hit.”

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2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

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The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season brought something new (a race inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!) and something old (a win by the No. 43!) and a lot in-between.

In many ways, it was one of NASCAR’s best seasons. There were new winners, the Next Gen car kicked up competition a bit and there was a race finish (see the Ross Chastain file) like none other in the history of the sport.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The name game

There were downsides, too: The safety of the new car came under fire (figuratively and literally, as wheel-well flames ended more than a few rides), drivers’ seasons were interrupted or ended because of hard wrecks and some races were less than stellar.

Looking back over the February-to-November marathon, some races stand out:

Rocking the City of Angels – Despite the naysayers, the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was a roaring success. A platter of questions, including whether the purpose-built track inside the stadium would hold up under heavy stock cars and generate good racing, awaited as teams rolled into LA. The racing wasn’t sensational, but it was good, and there were no problems with the track. A huge crowd showed up, and NASCAR left town with many ideas, having proven that it could run a race on a temporary track inside a large stadium. It has escaped no one’s notice that there are many other large stadiums in the country – and, by the way, outside it.

Wiggling at Watkins Glen – The venerable New York road course produced another hot finish as teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott battled for the win. Larson forced Elliott out of the main groove and took the lead for good with five laps remaining. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it’s what I had to do to get the win,” Larson said. Elliott didn’t publicly criticize Larson, but it was clear he wasn’t pleased with Larson’s move.

MORE: Fighting knights and pie in the sky

Six hundred miles, and then some – The long history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 600-mile race has produced some great competition – and some races that prompted long naps. This year’s was one of the craziest and, by the way, the longest. The race went to two overtimes, finally ending after 413 laps and 619.5 miles, making it the longest race in NASCAR’s 75 years. The winner – perhaps most accurately described as the survivor – was Denny Hamlin, who outran teammate Kyle Busch over the final two laps.

The King is back…but where is he? – The Cup playoffs opened at Darlington Raceway with the storied Southern 500, but the playoffs took a back seat to other storylines. Erik Jones scored an upset win in Richard Petty’s No. 43, marking the iconic car’s first victory since 2014. Petty, however, missed the Victory Lane festivities. He and Dale Inman, the No. 43’s former crew chief, left the race early for the drive home to North Carolina. The long night held several incidents, including one involving Kevin Harvick, who criticized NASCAR after his car caught fire, uttering his now-infamous diatribe about what he called “crappy-ass parts.”

No watermelon, but a lotta juiceThe finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway generated international interest. Christopher Bell won in a must-win situation to advance in the playoffs, but the post-race spotlight was on Ross Chastain, who rode the outside wall through the final two turns at speeds rarely seen on the short track and finished fourth, good enough to stay in the championship hunt. Chastain’s remarkable move drew comment from observers outside NASCAR, including Formula 1 drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 5: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

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The end of the season provides a chance to look back and each year I go through the photos on my phone and find those that show the highs and lows of a sport that goes from February to November. 

Here are some of the photos that stood out for me:

1. Daytona 500 

Although the time spent in Daytona Beach, Florida, has shrunk in recent years with a more compact track schedule, the intensity remains. As do the emotions. 

Cup rookie Austin Cindric accomplished “a racer’s dream” in winning the Daytona 500, accomplishing something in his second attempt that took Darrell Waltrip 17 times and Dale Earnhardt 20 times to accomplish.

Cindric blocked teammate Ryan Blaney coming to the finish line and beat Bubba Wallace by half a car length. 

It was the second time Bubba Wallace had finished runner-up in this race. Unlike 2018, when Wallace was excited with finishing second, Wallace felt no such emotion this time. 

“2018 was awesome,” Wallace said of his runner-up result in the Daytona 500. “2022 was not awesome.

“I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time in 2018. This one being that close, it’s like a gut punch.”

The photos that stand out to me are of the picture of Cindric’s car covered in red, white and blue confetti before going through post-race inspection and the disappointment Wallace wore on pit road after the race.

Austin Cindric‘s car after winning the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

A dejected Bubba Wallace after finishing second in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

2. Road America 

The Cup Series is not returning to the Wisconsin road course after two years there. Instead, this race will be replaced by the Chicago street course event in 2023.

This past season’s race was memorable. Tyler Reddick scored his first career Cup win on July 3. Nine days later came the announcement that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing in 2024 (That timetable moved up to 2023 after RCR signed Kyle Busch to replace Reddick in the No. 8.).

Among the special moments from the Road America race was Austin Cindric walking the length of pit road to victory lane to congratulate Reddick.

Austin Cindric hugs Tyler Reddick in victory lane at Road America on July 3, 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Walking with Cindric, I asked him why he was making the trip to see Reddick.

“I think of anyone in the field, he probably deserves that win more than anybody else,” Cindric told me. “I think he’s put himself in position. He’s a really likable guy, and I feel like you can see how hard he works. 

“I’ve seen him mature as a driver and a person and as a friend and a father. It’s cool to see somebody you’re close to go through that.”

When Cindric arrived in victory lane, he walked up to Reddick and gave his friend a bearhug, lifting Reddick well off the ground.

In all the excitement, Reddick’s son, Beau, was not impressed. He was sound asleep in victory lane.

Tyler Reddick’s son Beau sleeps in victory lane after his father’s first Cup win in July 2022 at Road America. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Special moments

One never knows what you’ll come across in a season that stretches so long through the calendar. 

These are a few such moments that proved special for one reason or the other.

As storm clouds gathered over Daytona International Speedway in February, the sun was settling, creating a sky both ominous and spectacular. The photo captures that scene as Cole Custer walks through the garage. After this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was replacing Custer with Ryan Preece in the No. 41 Cup car and that Custer would run in the Xfinity Series for the team.

Cole Custer walks under an ominous sky at Daytona in February 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo that stands out to me comes from the Clash at the Coliseum. There were so many questions about the exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, such as if the specially built track would withstand the rigors of cars, what would the debut of the Next Gen car be like and would fans really be interested in such an event.

The track held up. So did most of the cars and the fans came. While not a sellout, more than 50,000 people attended the event and NASCAR noted that many had not purchased tickets to a NASCAR event before. The event was a success.

What stood out to me was the lines of people waiting to buy souvenirs the day of the race. In some places, lines stretched well away from the merchandise trailers. 

Fans stand in line for merchandise at the Clash at the Coliseum in Feb. 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Sometimes you never know what you’ll see at at event. At an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Inman and Ray Evernham all stood together. That is 18 Cup championships (eight by Inman, seven by Petty and three by Evernham).

NASCAR Hall of Famers Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Dale Inman at the NASCAR Hall in April 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

4. New winners 

This season saw five first-time Cup winners: Austin Cindric (Daytona 500 in February), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix in March), Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas in April), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma in June) and Tyler Reddick (Road America in July).

I caught this scene of Suarez alone in his thoughts in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway in his first race since that Sonoma victory.

Daniel Suarez at Nashville Superspeedway in June 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

5. Martinsville

Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the playoff race was stunning. Needing two positions to advance to the championship race, Chastain put his car into fifth gear, planted his car against the wall in Turn 3, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his Chevrolet around the final two turns while he floored the throttle.

Amazingly, it worked. He passed five cars and earned a spot in the championship. Although he didn’t win the Cup title, Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

As I was leaving the infield late that Sunday night. I stopped to take a picture of the wall and the marks Chastain’s car had left on its remarkable charge.

Turn 4 wall after Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the October 2022 race. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Dr. Diandra: 2022 accidents steady, spins up 200%

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Cautions were up in 2022 despite fewer stage-end and competition cautions of any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the numbers focuses on the causes (and causers) of cautions.

Cautions

I divide cautions into those that are planned — like competition and stage-end breaks — and so-called ‘natural’ cautions. Natural cautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquid on track and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions are the most total cautions since 2014. That’s despite only 73 planned cautions, the fewest since stage racing started.

A stacked bar chart showing the planned and natural cautions from 2013 to 2022

The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions relative to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. That’s the most natural cautions since 2016.

Causes

Caution classification is subjective. Obviously, a car spinning is a spin and cars colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident happens at a stage break, do you record the caution as an accident or a stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more blown tires and wheels coming off cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris cautions, others as accidents.

To me, a blown tire seems fundamentally different from a stray car part on the track.

The myriad tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 cautions. I added three additional caution categories: wheel issues, fire and tire issues.

Tire issues were so labeled only if a blown tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that blow because of contact with the wall or flat spotting aren’t included. If I couldn’t tell for sure that the blown tire came first, I left the caution in its original category.

My re-categorization complicates comparing cautions by category to previous years. That concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The table below compares my breakdown of cautions with NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit that I’m not totally objective, either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

A table comparing breakdowns of cautions

The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the number of spins this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin statistics are a good argument that they’ve gotten their wish.

Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls

I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of the questions about differentiating between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all the spins, all the accidents and all the stalls.

And remember: being involved in an incident doesn’t imply that driver caused the incident.

The graph below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stalls

Remember also that this count doesn’t include wheel or tire issues. A driver crashing because a tire blew is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led in caution-causing incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch comes in third in total incidents, and first in spins with seven. For comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver evaded incidents entirely. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron tallied six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell came in at eight each.

Cautions by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. Its 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time, too.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition cautions because planned cautions don’t depend on race length.

The Bristol dirt race’s 14 cautions were the third highest total after the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’s 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

A vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 miles of racing

That gives the Bristol dirt race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol dirt race was also at the top of the list with 7.4 total cautions per 100 miles of racing.

Bristol’s asphalt race had the second-most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4  The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superspeedways?

The only superspeedway race in the top-10 cautions-per-100-miles graph is the second Atlanta race. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways claim more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents for an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars were involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is larger than the number of cars racing.

The fall Talladega race comes in second in terms of wreckage per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race ties with the Bristol asphalt race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage-break cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and the Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We normally use cautions as a proxy to count accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident causes a caution — especially at road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, some wheels came off on pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were a lot more spins that didn’t bring out cautions.

Next week, I’ll tell you all about those.

Front Row Motorsports Cup teams to have new crew chiefs in 2023

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Both Front Row Motorsports Cup teams will have new crew chiefs in 2023, the team announced Wednesay.

Travis Peterson will be the crew chief for the No. 34 car that has been driven by Michael McDowell. Peterson replaces Blake Harris, who will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman in 2023 at Hendrick Motorsports.

Peterson, 31, has been a race engineer. He spent the past five seasons at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He worked with drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth during that time. Peterson previously served as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and also at JR Motorsports.

“I think there are a lot of people in the NASCAR garage who are noticing what Front Row Motorsports has accomplished with the new car and their truck program,” Peterson said in a statement from the team.

“This is an opportunity to come into a winning and championship organization and help take that next step of getting more wins in the Cup Series and be in the playoffs. I’m ready to get to work. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a crew chief, and now I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Front Row Motorsports also announced Wednesday that Seth Barbour, who had been the crew chief for the No. 38 driven by Todd Gilliland, has been named as the organization’s technical director. Barbour will oversee all track engineering and car preparation processes for the Front Row Motorsports Cup cars.

A new crew chief for the No. 38 team will be announced later.

Also, Ryan Bergenty, car chief for the No. 34 team, has been promoted to performance director and will oversee all body and chassis assembly for all Front Row Motorsports entries.

“The past two seasons Front Row Motorsports has seen success and we’re taking the next steps forward,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement.

“We know that Travis is a person that can immediately come in, take the baton, and continue to move the No. 34 team to the front. We also made several changes internally to help with car preparation and engineering for all our race cars and trucks. Our final piece is finding a new leader for the No. 38 team. We’re confident that with these changes that we’ll be even better next season.”

Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup for next season. Both McDowell and Gilliland have said they plan to be back with the organization.