Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover

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Here’s what many of the drivers had to say after Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson – WINNER: “I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in Southern California. I was a big Cale Yarborough fan. … To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing. We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport. I was such a fan and it’s been an amazing journey along the way. It was a huge honor to tie him with 3 consecutive championships a few years back and then to be here at 83 wins and a day where things played out in such an awkward and weird fashion, just very happy that we’ve got it done.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “(Johnson) did what he had to do to get the best launch that he did. We were both playing games a little bit. He just took off better than I did. I wasn’t really complaining about the restart. He did a good job. He’s a seven-time champion for a reason. He’s got a golden horseshoe somewhere, and he’s really good at executing. So, I’ve just got to get better at that. We had a dominant car all day. We had a couple of runs where we got off; maybe some bad tires or something. But we were able to rebound from those struggles.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished third: “We had a good day. We had a good car and just got caught by that caution when we pitted and lost our shot at the win. I don’t know that we had the best car, but we had a good car for sure and the 42 (Kyle Larson), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and us – I think we were all so close. Whoever it seemed like got out front was the best, but all in all, you know, it was a good day. Just not the finish we hoped for, but still when you’re this disappointed with third, it speaks volumes about your team and where you’re at and what’s going on. … I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I almost wrecked by myself, so it was a lot of fun. It was a challenge.”

Ryan Newman – Finished fourth: “Yeah, I’m not really sure exactly what happened there off of (Turn) 2. I know (teammate Ty Dillon) washed up, but I don’t know if he kind of hit the fence and came back down into me or I ran into him. It was just so tight. I had another car on my quarter-panel, but either way it was a hard fought top five for our Caterpillar Chevrolet. That was the toughest top five I’ve had in a long time, so we’ve got some work to do.”

Chase Elliott – Finished fifth: “I don’t exactly know what happened between all those guys, but our NAPA Chevy was solid all day. It wasn’t as good as some of those other guys, but we made a lot of gains from I think where we were yesterday. We got up inside the top five there at one point and got stuck back around 10th at one point too.  So, up and down for sure.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – Finished sixth: “I think it was good. Like everything, ups and downs. In the beginning, we were okay and then later on we were pretty bad. We were able to make some adjustments and get back to a top-10. I feel like we had a top-10 car and we ended up right there. I think the entire team is making process and that’s for sure and I’m very proud of that and we just have to keep working and keep moving in the same direction.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished seventh: “Overall a really good day for us. We qualified bad and I had a really hard time overcoming that. The way the pit stalls worked out the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) lost their pit pick and got stuck in-between me and Jimmie (Johnson) and I had to give up a lot of time on pit road just to give him enough room and make sure everybody had enough room.  That was a big challenge and got us behind all day long.  Overall we had a really good car.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished eighth: “We struggled for the most part – hanging out just outside the top-10. Really didn’t have a fast car to speak of. That’s where we qualified, that’s where we practiced and kind of where we raced. Just got to be a little bit faster and we’ve got to work on our setup. We obviously are – we faded quite a bit on the long runs and that definitely hurt us.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished ninth: “We had a good day with our Jimmy John’s Ford. We just got caught under caution and could never make it back up. We had an okay car and just tried to stay out of trouble all day. Long day. A lot going on out there today.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 10th: “A good day for us. We got a bit lucky with staying out at the right time and catching the yellow flags. It’s the stuff that hasn’t been happening for us all year and it’s just nice to catch some breaks today. We weren’t the fastest car today, not sure we were a top-10 car. A lot of times we have been a 10th-place car and weren’t able to get the finish we needed. I’ll take the lucky days anytime I can because there has been plenty of times where it went the other way.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 11th: “I don’t know what happened at the end there were just cars crashing everywhere. Our car really wasn’t very good all day. We ran around 15th to 20th, we got lucky on staying out on a green flag run there and got some track position and I sped on pit road some fricking how. We have had a lot of speeding penalties this year, so I don’t know what is going on with that, but it was a long day. Not any fun at all.”

TY DILLON – Finished 14th: “Really proud of our Germain Racing team. It’s a lifelong dream. To lead laps (27) like that meant a lot to me. We had to restart fourth on old tires and I just think the air off the No. 31 got me a little loose and they left a bunch of sand there off Turn 2 and as soon as I got loose and hit that sand it was all over (the last lap crash).  I feel bad for all the cars that got torn up. … Proud of our effort today. We proved to ourselves as a team that we can run up front with the big boys.”

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “It’s disappointing to have our day end the way it did so late in the race. We overcame a tire issue earlier in the race Our Overton’s team did a great job making our car better all day. I felt that we were headed for a top-20 finish until we had the wreck. I’m glad all the safety stuff worked. That was a hard hit. We’ll learn from it for when we come back here in the fall.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 31st: “It looks like the oil tank cracked right by the fitting. A freak deal. It’s a shame. We needed a good race. We had gotten a little bit behind today and then had the freak deal happen. Not our day.”

Paul Menard – Finished 33rd: On the Lap 343 incident he was involved in: “The No. 37 (Chris Buescher) just got loose and wrecked us.”

Regan Smith – Finished 34th: “What a day! It was fun. We worked hard on the Smithfield Ford all day. They guys did nice job adjusting after we go really loose in the middle of the race. We cut a right-front tire. Maybe too much brake on my part. I’m not really sure. The team did a nice job all week. We struggled early in the week but got me comfortable in the car. It was fun. Just thankful to get the chance to drive this car the last few weeks.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 36th: “I thought we were improving all day. I was really happen how the car was running on the last run. We got the wave around and was going to benefit from it. I’m not sure why the right-front tire let go. We weren’t too aggressive as some of the other guys. That’s just how it goes.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 37th: “I got loose on a restart, it’s my bad as a driver. My bad. We had good speed in our car and just couldn’t finish. You can’t make mistakes out here and we did.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 38th: “Yeah, one of them racing deals. These cars rely so much on aerodynamics. We saw that early with guys being able to stay out on two tires even with a lot of tire wear. I don’t know if it was Kurt’s fault, just one of them racing deals. We line-up double-file and somebody got loose and just took us out. What a bummer. Just one of them racing deals.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 39th: “Our Little Hug Ford was fast and on the move. This track is tough. We saw a few tire issues yesterday after the first run. I’m not sure if I ran over something, we’ll have to take a look at it. I’m looking forward in coming back here in the fall. I feel like we have a good race car and happy with what we learned this weekend.”

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Where are they now? Scott Riggs races with son, Layne

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Scott Riggs, who raced for 15 years in NASCAR’s top three national series, now is guiding the racing career of his 20-year-old son, Layne.

And things are going well.

Layne won this year’s NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model championship, scoring 16 wins in 43 starts and edging former series champion Peyton Sellers by four points for the title.

Riggs thus became the youngest champion in Weekly Series history.

“It all started when Layne was 10 years old, mostly just something to entertain him and to have some fun,” Scott told NBC Sports. “But it’s turned into a full-fledged job. My life and plate have been full.”

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes

The Riggs family’s race shop is located in Bahama, North Carolina, Riggs’ home base during his NASCAR career. Scott describes himself as the “truck driver, spotter, crew chief and in-shop mechanic.”

“I am very tired,” he said.

The team, which depends on volunteers, didn’t plan to race in so many events this season, but when Layne started the year with a string of victories, it made sense to chase the national championship and give him a chance to be the youngest winner ever.

“To chase it that hard and be that close and then to win it, it was very exhausting,” Scott said. “It was a very big relief to finish the year.”

Success on short tracks resulted in Layne racing in three Camping World Truck Series events this year with Halmar Racing. He had a best finish of seventh at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in his series debut.

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Scott Riggs ended his NASCAR driving career in 2014 in the Truck Series. He won five Truck races and four Xfinity races and ran 208 Cup races without a win. He made his Truck debut in 1999, moved to Xfinity in 2002 (winning Rookie of the Year) and then to Cup in 2004.

Riggs, now 51, raced in the Cup Series from 2004-13 with stops at MB2 Motorsports and with teams owned by Gene Haas, Tommy Baldwin and Ray Evernham, among others. He had four top-five finishes.

“I think I was very fortunate and the timing was right for me to move up through the ranks and get so many good opportunities,” Riggs said. “I raced late models for a long time, and then all of a sudden I got the opportunity to get in a truck. Won some races and poles and won races and poles in Xfinity.”

MORE: Jody Ridley’s upset for the ages

He ran out of chances in Cup as team models shifted, including some downsizing and mergers.

“I felt like I couldn’t get an opportunity that I had worked for and earned,” Riggs said. “It was hard for me. I was bitter for a year or so. But I look back, and a realization came over me that I was fortunate to have that time with my kids when they were at the right ages. I got to watch them do their things and just be the dad I wanted to be — not being gone four out of every seven days racing.

“I don’t think I’d have the relationship I have today with my kids if I had had a longer time in the sport.”

 

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

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The best quotes from drivers and others involved in NASCAR competition often come in the heat of the moment — after a crash or a close finish or a controversial decision by officials.

NASCAR’s history is filled with memorable quotes from drivers who won races to drivers who watched wins slip away to officials caught in a moment of history.

Here’s a look at 10 that stand out:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. “I didn’t mean to turn him around. I meant to rattle his cage, though.” — Dale Earnhardt, describing how he didn’t mean to wreck Terry Labonte after he wrecked Labonte on the last lap at Bristol Motor Speedway to win the Aug. 28, 1999 race.

2. “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass. There’s no way to get around that.” — Kevin Harvick, Feb. 21, 2010, offering his opinion on why Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team won so many races after Johnson outran him to win at Auto Club Speedway.

MORE: An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley wins at Dover

3. “It’s a stump-puller.” — Sterling Marlin, emphasizing the strength of his engine after he won the Daytona 500 Feb. 19, 1995.

4. “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.” — Joey Logano, talking about Kevin Harvick after they were involved in a late-race crash at Pocono Raceway June 6, 2010. Harvick’s wife, DeLana, often wore a firesuit similar to those worn by team members during races.

5. “Do you have a brother?” — Ward Burton, responding to a reporter who asked if it was tougher to finish second because the race winner was his brother, Jeff, March 7, 1999 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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6. “I couldn’t hear him. He’s got that little yap-yap mouth. I couldn’t tell what he was saying.” — Ricky Rudd, commenting on what Kevin Harvick said to him after they wrecked at Richmond Raceway, Sept. 6, 2003.

7. “We can’t race with tears in our eyes.” — team owner Robert Yates, explaining why his team would not participate in the next week’s race after its driver, Davey Allison, was killed in a helicopter crash, July 1993.

8. “He’d have to toast everyone with milk.” — Dale Earnhardt, commenting on the celebratory drink choice Jeff Gordon might make if he ever won the Cup championship. After he won the 1995 Cup title, Gordon followed through, toasting his championship with a glass of milk at the awards banquet.

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9. “You know they say there’s talkers and doers. I’ve done this twice.” — Tony Stewart, winning the pre-race trash-talk contest with Carl Edwards prior to the 2011 race for the championship. Stewart had won the title in 2002 and 2005 and notched another over Edwards in 2011.

10. “This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I’ve ever personally had to make, but after the accident in Turn 4 of the Daytona 500 we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” — NASCAR President Mike Helton, confirming Earnhardt’s death at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 18, 2001.

Honorable mentions: David Pearson, after being told that Richard Petty had said Pearson was the best driver he ever raced against: “I agree with him.” … CBS broadcaster Ken Squier, calling the famous finish of the 1979 Daytona 500: “And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers, overflowing. They are angry. They know they have lost. And what a bitter defeat.” … NASCAR founder Bill France, providing a unique ending to a pre-race prayer after temporarily forgetting to use Amen: “Sincerely, Bill France.”

Snowball Derby entry list includes NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck drivers

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Four Cup drivers are among those entered for Sunday’s 55th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

The Cup drivers entered are former series champion Brad Keselowski, playoff competitor William Byron, two-time Southern 500 winner Erik Jones and incoming Cup rookie Noah Gragson, who advanced to the Xfinity title race this year.

Also entered: Josh Berry, who competed in the Xfinity championship race this year, and Ty Majeski, who competed in the Truck championship race this year.

Majeski won the 2020 Snowball Derby. Gragson won the race in 2018. Jones won the event in 2012 and ’13.

Others entered include:

Chandler Smith, who won the 2021 Snowball Derby and will drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2023, is listed on the entry list but stated on social media he will not be competing.

The Snowball Derby is among the more prestigious Super Late Model races on the calendar and coming after the NASCAR season makes it easier for more Cup, Xfinity and Truck competitors to take part in the event.

Qualifying takes place Saturday. The Snowball Derby is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Sunday. Racing America will stream Sunday’s race for $49.99. A three-day viewing pass can be purchased for $74.99.

 

 

An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley’s 1981 victory at Dover

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NASCAR’s history is sprinkled with upsets, from unlikely winners riding the Talladega draft to short tracks that yielded unexpected wins when favored leaders crashed on the final lap.

Survey the list of surprise winners over the decades, and Jody Ridley’s name likely will stand out.

On May 17, 1981, two days shy of his 39th birthday, Ridley won a 500-mile race at Dover Motor Speedway in Delaware. It was the only victory of Ridley’s Cup career and the only win scored by Virginia team owner Junie Donlavey, who participated in the Cup Series for 45 years, with 863 starts.

Donlavey’s team was perpetually underfunded, and his drivers often raced with tired, overused engines and tires that had too many laps. He survived with a mostly volunteer crew and enough sponsorship to carry him from race to race. Rival drivers and team owners considered Donlavey one of the most popular residents of NASCAR garage areas across those many years, but he rarely had the chance to reach for victory lane.

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On that spring day at Dover, one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks, everything fell the right way. Many of the tour’s leading drivers parked with engine or overheating problems, and the day’s best car – the Wood Brothers entry driven by Neil Bonnett — was sidelined with an engine issue late in the race after leading 404 laps.

Ridley, running a steady race, benefited from an unusual day at Dover. The race had only two cautions, and the final 471 laps of 500 were run under green-flag conditions. A general lack of cautions prevented top teams from changing tires frequently, putting Ridley, who was used to running tires longer than normal, on better footing.

When Cale Yarborough left the race with engine trouble 20 laps from the finish, Ridley inherited the lead — he had been two laps down to Yarborough — and led the rest of the way. He won by 22 seconds over Bobby Allison, who was the only other driver on the lead lap. Dale Earnhardt finished third, a lap down. Illustrating the problems experienced by many in the field — not an unusual result in those days — was the fact that the fourth-place driver, D.K. Ulrich, was nine laps off the lead pace.

Ridley drove into Victory Lane for the first time, much to the delight of Donlavey’s crew.

“Junie took it all in stride,” Ridley, now 80, told NBC Sports. “He wasn’t as excited as the team guys were. Junie was the type of guy who didn’t want to cash in on other people’s bad luck. He kind of felt sorry for the guys who blew up. That’s just the way he was.

“For me, it was the highlight of my career. Once I got into Cup racing, I knew we probably wouldn’t do much winning because we didn’t have the equipment. It was icing on the cake to win that one.”

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Jody’s son Anthony, then 22 years old, was listening to the race via radio in Chatsworth, Georgia, where the family lived.

“I was upstairs at my girlfriend’s house, and I think I bounced all over the upstairs and then floated down to the first floor,” Anthony said. “It was all pretty cool. Dad called home. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t get real excited about anything, but he was happy.”

The win paid $22,560. Ridley’s cut from the check (40 percent, generally standard in those days) was $9,024, a nice payday but not Ridley’s biggest in Cup. He would win more for finishing in the top 10 in the Daytona 500.

“We were having a good day,” Ridley said, “but I never thought about winning it. We just didn’t have the cars. But we stayed in the hunt, and the other teams couldn’t get too many new tires, and Junie had put a different gear in the car. Normally he would put in a taller gear and drop the RPMs down (to protect the engine), and you couldn’t keep up. For some reason that day, he didn’t. And it paid off.”

Before joining the Cup tour full time in 1980 at age 37, Ridley had established himself as one of the top short-track drivers in the country. Across the South, at top Eastern Seaboard tracks and into the Midwest, a visit by Ridley usually meant a tough night for the locals.

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Ridley’s older brother, Biddle, and Anthony kept the Ridley short-track cars running.

“We did all that together for 36 years,” said Anthony, who started changing tires during pit stops at the age of 14. “It was how we made a living, but trying to feed three families out of a race car is tough.”

Ridley still lives in Chatsworth, where his 1981 victory was a sports highlight for years.

“He can’t hear well, but he’s still tough as a pine knot,” Anthony said.