What drivers said after the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

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Fords dominated Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, with four drivers sitting behind the blue oval winding up in the top-five.

Here’s what many of the drivers in today’s race had to say after the checkered flag:

Joey Logano – Winner: “Coming from the back, being the 300th start and pulling into victory lane, man, that feels good. I drove my guts out there. We ended up with the winning car, something I’m really proud of. … Good, good, it’s nice to finally break through to get a win.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished second: “What we really needed was another 10 more laps, I wish it was the Richmond 410 or 500. … Just getting all those yellows at the end and couldn’t make any of it. Glad for our teammate to get a 1-2. We didn’t get quite all the breaks to fall our way and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “We were competitive and our car drove really good. We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano), they run a little more sideways than what we run and just they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished fourth: “Man, we had to fight hard for this top five. I made a mistake early. I thought we had  car capable of running in the top five a lot. I just got loose into (Turn) 3 and got into the fence and had to play catch-up for there. I was on the splitter. I couldn’t run my fastest lap until about la five or six. As soon as that caution came out I was like, ‘We have to stay (out)’. It worked out for us. Our Ford was really fast. I want to thank the fans for coming out. It was a hot one.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fifth: “We had a good day. This has been a tough race track for us. We ran in the top-five all day and battled up front for the lead off and on. The last three runs we got tight in the center and loose off the corner and couldn’t find anything to make that better. Our Busch Light Ford team did a great job and we just keep knocking off those top-fives and the wins will come.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished sixth: “Yep, I had a really consistent car all day. I didn’t have any problems. It was really a normal race. The cautions at the end helped us on one, and hurt us on one. But overall it was a really good day. I’m super happy for GearWrench. This was their debut in NASCAR and it was awesome to let those people in the suite have a super good day and see all that, so I’m really excited about of performance all year long.”

Ryan Newman, Finished seventh: “It was a good day for this No. 31 team today. We got to lead laps and contend for the race win, so that’s all I can really ask for. I’m just proud of how we were able to improve on our Chevrolet all weekend long. Our car really raced well during the long green flag run; and if the race would have stayed green for the final 50 laps, I think we would have had something for them.”

Kurt Busch – Finished eighth: “We had to drop back and punt. We came down pit road a lap down, in the lucky dog position and just started throwing rubbers and went wholesale on it and made great improvements. We are somehow missing the balance but we were able to make changes today to improve the balance and be competitive enough to get in the mix. We got eighth and that is about as best as we could hope to attain.”

Aric Almirola – Finished ninth: “It was a solid day for us. I am really proud of everybody on the Smithfield Ford Fusion here. We had a good day. We needed that. We typically run well here. This is one of our better tracks. It is great to get a good solid finish here in Richmond, Virginia, Smithfield headquarters aren’t far away and we had a lot of friends and family of employees at the race. It was a solid top-10 and I am really proud of the effort today.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 10th: “We were going to finish about tenth either way. We just weren’t that good today. Just one of those days where you battle all day and hope to get a top 10 and we barely did that. Got some work to do for next time but all in all it’s a – wish we were better.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 11th: “I just have to try to figure out if I just didn’t hear it being told to me or if it wasn’t told to me. I just feel terrible, obviously. Man, I’m surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just body slammed him into the wall and I could have easily not heard the clear or something else happened. I don’t know, but that’s the last thing you want to have happen with a teammate.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – Finished 12th: “I think it was okay. The first half of the race it was very tough. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s just so difficult. You get behind one or two adjustments and then you get a lap down or two laps down and it’s very difficult to recover that. Luckily we got a lot of cautions right there at the end and I was able to overcome those laps down that I was down. Very proud of the team. They never give up. They were working hard on the race to try to make it better. I just feel like we have to work hard in the first third – first half – of the race to try to stay with the rest of the guys.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 13th: “This was a hard-fought 13th. We were really tight all race long rolling through the center but I am extremely proud of everyone on this team. We never gave up all race long and got ourselves another top-15 finish. We’ll take it. It’s nice being this consistent every week. We’ll keep building on this and get after it again next week in Talladega.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “No doubt we’re disappointed. We were going to have a top-10 and maybe a top-five today. Everyone is trying hard. Car was good, and we had great pit stops today.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 17th: “We made some good steps throughout the race. We took a big chance there at the end, we had some good strategy and we got us a couple of positions out of it. We just fought tight in the center all day and just kind of a characteristic of this race track it is just part of it. We will keep working on it and not a bad day overall.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 18th: “We were just off to start the race, but the guys made changes all day in an effort to make the Code 3 Associates Ford handle better. The car was just way too tight in the center of the corner. The penalty definitely didn’t help matters, but we still came home with the best finish we’ve had in a while, so we’ll take it and move on to Talladega.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 20th: “I wish we would have stayed out on that last pit stop. That was my call to pit and it didn’t work out for us this time. The No. 17 car was right with us and he stayed out and ended up finishing fourth. Our AAA Chevrolet was fast during portions of the race but during other portions of the race we struggled with handling. Overall we had a lot of obstacles to overcome today and we worked hard as a team so I am proud of our efforts.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 24th: “We just never really hit on anything and I thought we were going to salvage a decent day there by just luck and then kind of the way everything worked forward and just got in trouble there at the end and it hurt too much.”

Paul Menard – Finished 25th: “Today was a challenge for sure. That was the loosest race car I think I’ve ever driven. Matt Borland did a good job making calls for adjustments throughout the race. We also had great pit strategy which helped us end on the lead lap. Borland took a risk hoping for a caution and we stayed out during green-flag pit stops. That paid off when the yellow flag came out and we were able to pit, then took the wave around during the next yellow flag. That allowed this team to get back on the lead lap, where we ultimately crossed the finish line in 25th.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 26th: “I’m so proud of this team. We really had a fast race car today. There’s no question. I hate it that we ended up damaged there at the end. I’m not sure how I could’ve avoided what happened there but the Chevy was really fast and we were able to gain some stage points today. Next week is the GEICO 500 at Talladega and I’m sure we are all looking forward to getting there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 30th: “Jimmie didn’t know the car was there (his crash with Jimmie Johnson). … It wasn’t a great day. We made a lot of adjustments. That last run, I was pretty happy. Obviously, we were trying a wild strategy to stay out. … Just terrible luck. I don’t know what to do. We were probably going to finish between 10th and 15th today. Not all that awesome, but we just had terrible luck.”

Erik Jones – Finished 38th: “I don’t know what happened. I guess they were three-wide. I was on top and just got ran into the fence right on lap one and that’s unfortunate. I mean, it’s 400 laps – I just wish there was a little bit more patience at times. It’s frustrating – I was just trying to get this race going and work. We’re racing hard, so it’s a bummer, you know? We cut a left front, couple of laps later out in the wall and our day is over. Those guys get to keep racing, so it sucks, but we just have to move on.”

We’ll continue to update as driver quotes come in to our desk. Please check back soon.

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Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.