What drivers said after Kentucky race

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Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “I thought we were dead (with the overtime). I thought we were done. It’s just – this is completely unbelievable. I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so so bad after that. This is sweet redemption.“

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I sped on pit road there early.  At the end of that first stage, so it felt very similar to Texas earlier this year. Didn’t get to qualify, had a pit road penalty at the end of the first stage. Went from the back to the front and then we had scuffs on one run and got the balance off pretty bad, but were able to put stickers on and charge back to the front. The Target Chevy was good. Truex though, never got to see him that last run, he was upwards of 15 seconds ahead of us. That was pretty crazy. He has definitely been the fastest car all year. So, got some work to do, but if we can keep chasing him, I think we can beat him.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 3rd: “I had a really good roll there. Got to the bottom of the No. 77 (Erik Jones) and got far enough up next to him to get underneath him into (Turn) 1 and that got us a couple more spots there which was nice. From where we started the night to where we ended up was a big improvement with our Napa Chevrolet. Happy we could just execute well tonight.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “We were seventh I think before the caution, but good stops, fast car all day. Had a speeding penalty early and was able to rebound from that, so pretty proud of it. Overall pretty good day for our FedEx Camry team. Just got to keep chipping away and keep knocking on the door and our opportunity will come.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 6th: “It was a good night for us. You know we just – we didn’t have the track position all night and it was kind of unfortunate. I think we had a car that probably could’ve ran up with the 78 and the 18 at times. We’re just kind of fighting from behind from all – from our starting spot. Just work from behind with that and finally got some track position at the end for that last restart. I spun the tires some and got split, so it’s unfortunate but it’s a good day for us. A good top 10.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “I had a really good car. We got behind at the start of the last segment. I had a little bit of a slow pit stop and then I don’t know why, it seemed like it was not easy to pass at the beginning, but easier than at the start of that last segment. It was just kind of follow the leader for like 40 laps. But had a really good car on the long run. Had a good strategy there at the end and solid day… just needed a little bit more.”

Joey Logano — Finished 8th: “We got a P8 out of a car that was probably not much better than 13th or 14th. We just have to get faster. The 78 and 18 were just – we aren’t even close. What I am trying to say is that we were really slow and need to get faster. That is the biggest thing. We need to pick up some speed. We just were scrapping, trying to get what we can. The team did a good job at least trying to scrap up something out of it but we just have to get faster than that.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “I guess I just tried to push it too hard on pit road and wound up getting a speeding ticket at the wrong time. Luckily there were only nine cars on the lead lap and we were able to salvage a top-10 finish out of the night.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “It was a long night for sure. I thought we started off okay but we just lost the handling there pretty early and lost track position. I made it worse by speeding. We made a good call to stay out and get some track position back but we were falling off the pace pretty bad. We fought hard and never gave up though and ended up 10th. Not the night you want by any means. We need to go back and try to improve on it a lot. I think we battled back and the finish is not bad for how the night went.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. — Finished 11th: “That was cool. We kept improving. Each and every time on the race track, each and every race. We kept improving, I kept improving. I am getting more and more comfortable with these cars. When we fired off there and ended the race I was like, ‘Hell yeah, we are eighth or ninth!’ I forgot we were a lap down and was like, ‘damn’. I was pumped. It was a good day. I am having a great time in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Hopefully there will be more.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 12th: “Well, it was good. We had some runs that were really good. We had some runs that we were kind of average, but for the most part we had a pretty quick car. We didn’t have anything for (Martin Truex Jr.) and the top five, but I kept all the guys from sixth on back in front of me within sight. Just didn’t really get great track position all night. We were trying a strategy with our pit stops and it was working against us completely. The cautions were coming out at such poor times for us. We needed a couple of those cautions not to come out. It cost us a little bit of track position.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 13th: “Our night wasn’t all the best. We needed to be better. We struggled off the truck. I wasn’t exactly pumped about the handling but we fought hard. We got some track position there and showed some promise and then the start of that last run, those last two runs I was junk. Total junk. I just lost too much track position.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 14th: “Track position was crucial. I would get behind a car and then couldn’t do anything. We will go back to the drawing board and try to improve some more on our intermediate program. We will take the top-15 finish and move on to Loudon which has been a good track for us in the past.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 15th: “We weren’t as good as we needed to be at the start, but by the end of the race, I was honestly wishing we had more laps, because I think we could have had an even better finish tonight. All in all, it was a great result for our team, so we’ll take it and move on to New Hampshire.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 16th: “We just got down a lap early and had to fight hard to get that back. Everybody did a good job to get that. We got back on the lead lap and I felt like we were contending for a, well inside the top 20 there. Kept it clean at the end, a little bit of craziness, but at the end of the night that was okay. Another decent run and something to build off of.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 19th: “It was a long night at Kentucky Speedway, but the Dow team definitely showed they have determination. At one point we were two laps down but we were able to come back onto the lead lap and into the top 15. We tried a little of everything – fuel mileage, big chassis changes, different lines around the track. No one ever gave up. We were able to post the fastest lap times for a few laps but the race leader was just unbelievably fast so I’m not sure what they are doing.”

Paul Menard — Finished 21st: “I have to thank Matt Borland and all of the guys on the No. 27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet. They worked hard on this car all weekend to put us in a position to race. We kept adjusting on it each stop, got the free pass once, took the wave around a couple of times and fought hard. Luckily, we avoided that wreck at the end and brought home a clean race car. We’ll take what we learned tonight and apply it moving forward.”  
Ryan Newman — Finished 22nd: “We struggled on Friday in practice and had to change a motor, forcing us to start from the back tonight. But, we battled back pretty quickly and got the car handling fairly well toward the end of the first stage. Luke Lambert got me the track position I needed with a good pit strategy, but unfortunately our No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy struggled to keep up. At the end during the long green-flag stretch I didn’t have the best handling car, but we’ll use these notes for the next intermediate track race.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 27th: “I sputtered off of Turn 4 and when I looked at the fuel gauge, it was fine. And then it was like everything was welding itself together. I was just trying to nurse it home and it just didn’t quite get all the way back. I think it just shucked the pinion and it had no power after that. It burned up a gear one lap from the finish. I hate that I’m that guy that jukes up the whole system with throwing a yellow with one to go.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 33rd: “After the brake trouble we had early tonight, this GEICO Chevrolet SS team ended up really on a different mission tonight. We made the most of our laps and gained some information for our mile and a half program. If we could come back and run this race again tomorrow, there would be a much better outcome for this team.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 37th: “I hate that that happened. We were making our way forward with our Roush Performance Products Ford and were knocking on the door of the top-10 before we got all that damage. I hate that we won’t get the result we deserve but we will recover and rebound. This team never gives up and we will get after it again next week in New Hampshire.”

Kasey Kahne — Finished 38th: “It was just a restart, I had a run on the No. 6 and I got under him getting into Turn 1 down the front stretch and he just drove over my front end, pretty simple.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 39th:  “I just got in an aero wake and it pulled me around. I knew I was in a bad spot. I was trying to lay up but there is only so much you can lay up here because you get ran over from behind. The air pulled me around. It sucks. I feel bad for everyone on the Miller Lite Ford team and I think I tore up two or three other guys and that sucks for them. I don’t know. It is kind of a tough spot to be in on these tracks where they are kind of one groove. You can’t just lay up every time. You give up too many spots or get ran over from behind. If you drive in with someone close to you the car just spins out. It just sucks but it is what it is. We have to find a way around it and we didn’t today.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 40th: “It’s just dicey on the restarts. But we had a strong Lowe’s Chevrolet. I hate it for the guys that we didn’t get a better finish. The car felt great. I feel like we were probably in the position for a good top five tonight with all things considered. But, the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) got into the corner and he was sideways before we got there. I feel like the car on the outside of him left him some room. But then, talking to Brad inside (the care center), he said he was just sideways before he ever got to the corner. And I thought I almost had him missed. I really thought I had him missed and I just clipped him with my right front. It broke something in the suspension and took me into the fence.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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NASCAR’s preseason non-points race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of racing’s fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway.

The concept was driver vs. driver and car vs. car. No pit stops. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona oval, with speed and drafting skills the only factors in victory.

Originally, the field was made up of pole winners from the previous Cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers in the Clash field, and it also served as incentive for teams to approach qualifying with a bit more intensity. A spot in the Clash the next season meant extra dollars in the bank.

The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, and no more so than last year when it was moved from its forever headquarters, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Over the decades, virtually everything about the race changed in one way or another, including the race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship and title. From 1979-2020, the race was held on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, it moved to Daytona’s road course before departing for the West Coast last season.

Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the Clash:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 2022 — Few races have been as anticipated as last year’s Clash at the Coliseum. After decades in Daytona Beach, NASCAR flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its top drivers and cars on a tiny temporary track inside a football stadium. Joey Logano won, but that was almost a secondary fact. The race was a roaring success, opening the door for NASCAR to ponder similar projects.

2. 2008 — How would Dale Earnhardt Jr. handle his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly — in his first race. Junior led 46 of the 70 laps in winning what then was called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. The biggest action occurred prior to the race in practice as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on — and off — the track. Both were called to the NASCAR trailer, where the incident reportedly accelerated. Both received six-race probations.

3. 2012 — One of the closest finishes in the history of the Clash occurred in a race that produced a rarity — Jeff Gordon’s car on its roof. Kyle Busch and Gordon made contact in Turn 4 on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto his roof. A caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart had the lead on the final lap, but Kyle Busch passed him as they roared down the trioval, winning the race by .013 of a second.

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4. 1984 — A race that stands out in Ricky Rudd’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth Clash, but the video highlights from the day center on Rudd’s 15th-lap crash. He lost control of his car in Turn 4 and turned sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it lifted off the surface and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, very badly damaged. Safety crews removed Rudd from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were swollen such that he had to have them taped open so he could race a few days later in a Daytona 500 qualifier.

5. 1980 — The second Clash was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of Daytona International Speedway’s masters. This time he won in unusual circumstances. An Automobile Racing Club of America race often shared the race day with the Clash, and that was the case in 1980. The ARCA race start was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the featured Clash also on the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision of stopping the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt collected the Clash trophy, the ARCA race concluded.

6. 1994 — Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon would score his first Cup point win later that year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but he also dazzled in the Clash, making a slick three-wide move off Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. He held on to win the race.

7. 2006 — Upstart newcomer Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Clash. Tony Stewart, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had the lead with four laps to go, but a caution stacked the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had issues at Daytona throughout his career, on the restart and won the race.

8. 2004 — This one became the duel of the Dales. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by .157 of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-segment, 70-lap race.

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9. 1979 — The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, drew a lot of attention because of its short length (20 laps) and its big payout ($50,000 to the winner). That paycheck looks small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest per-mile races in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in numerous ways over the years, the first race was limited to Cup pole winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, almost always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the 20 laps and won by about a car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race took only 15 minutes.

10. 2020 — This seemed to be the Clash that nobody would win. Several huge accidents in the closing miles decimated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for the victory. Erik Jones, whose car had major front-end damage from his involvement in one of the accidents, won the race with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was one lap down in another damaged car but drafted behind Jones to push him to the win.

 

 

 

SunnyD to sponsor Kevin Harvick in two races, Riley Herbst in Daytona 500

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Kevin Harvick has picked up a sponsor for the new season, and Riley Herbst has picked up a ride in the Daytona 500.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday that orange drink SunnyD will be the primary sponsor for Harvick’s No. 4 Ford at Darlington Raceway (May 14) and Kansas Speedway (Sept. 10).

SunnyD also will be the sponsor for Herbst as he joins the entry list for the Daytona 500 in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing car. The orange drink also will be an associate sponsor for Herbst in the No. 98 Xfinity car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

The 2023 season will be Harvick’s final year as a full-time Cup driver.

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The Daytona 500 will mark Herbst’s first Cup Series start. The 24-year-old native of Las Vegas has made 109 Xfinity Series starts.

“It’s great to have Riley making his first NASCAR Cup Series start with RWR and be a part of the next step in his career,” said team owner Rick Ware in a statement released by the team.

“As a kid you always dream of being able to race in the Daytona 500, and I’m able to accomplish that with Rick Ware Racing,” Herbst said. “It’s such a big event and for it to be my first Cup start will be a crazy experience.”

 

 

RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing, Hendrick Motorsports announce sponsors

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RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing and Hendrick Motorsports each announced primary sponsorship deals Monday.

King’s Hawaiian, which served as a primary sponsor in three races last year, returns to RFK Racing and Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 car this year. King’s Hawaiian will expand its role and be a primary sponsor for nine races. 

The first race with the sponsor will be this weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. King’s Hawaiian also will be the primary sponsor on Keselowski’s car for Atlanta (March 19), Bristol Dirt (April 9), Kansas (May 7), World Wide Technology Raceway (June 4), Sonoma (June 11), Pocono (July 23), Daytona (Aug. 26) and Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Jockey returns to sponsor the Trackhouse cars of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez for three races each this season with its Made in America Collection.

Jockey will be on the No. 99 car for Suarez at this weekend’s Busch Light Clash, the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9) and  Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Chastain’s No. 1 car will have Jockey as the primary sponsor at Richmond (April 2), Dover (April 30) and Michigan (Aug. 6).

Hooters returns to Hendrick Motorsports and will be the primary sponsor on the No. 9 car of Chase Elliott for the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9), the Chicago street course event (July 2) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 22).

Toyota has ‘irons in the fire’ for expanding its lineup in NASCAR Cup Series for 2024

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Toyota Racing Development is making a renewed push to expand its lineup in the NASCAR Cup Series, and president David Wilson is optimistic about adding new teams for 2024.

“We’ve got some good irons in the fire now,” Wilson told NBC Sports last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. “What was once a very effective strategy to amass our resources across fewer cars, with the marginalization of the areas that we have to play in and the flattening out of the playing field, we definitely need some more help.”

When TRD entered NASCAR’s premier series as a fourth manufacturer 16 years ago, the target was fielding roughly a quarter of the 43-car field. But Toyota’s Cup fleet always has remained in the single digits even as NASCAR shrunk to three manufacturers and a 40-car field.

Last year, there were six full-time Camrys in Cup between Joe Gibbs Racing (four) and 23XI Racing (two). Wilson said “nine to 10 cars is probably our sweet spot with this new car.”

Over the past two years, TRD has talked to teams within NASCAR and at least two potential car owners who had yet to enter racing. Wilson declined to say if Toyota now is focused on existing or new teams but did rule out a Chevrolet or Ford anchor team such as Hendrick Motorsports or Team Penske.

“We’re talking to a lot of the incumbents,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “It’s a very dynamic time right now. If you’re a team, you want to have an association with a manufacturer. Again, even in spite of the new car, the flattening of the playing field, there’s still something about having an alliance and partnership. The good news is there’s a lot of interest. The bad news is you don’t have to worry about Penske or Hendrick.

“So what’s interesting from a fan standpoint, what’s going to continue to drive interest in our sport is the trajectory of some of the smaller organizations. The Tier 2 or 3 and how they get better. And that’s good for the sport, because as we saw last year, the number of teams that won, the number of drivers that won was historically unprecedented.”

The Next Gen made its debut in NASCAR last year with the goal of reducing costs through standardization of the chassis and parts supplied by single-source vendors while also reducing development expenses. While primarily intended to introduce a more cost-effective team business model, the Next Gen also delivered a new era of competitiveness in its inaugural season. The 2022 season tied a modern-era record with 19 race winners, and the Championship 4 breakthrough by Trackhouse Racing (with Ross Chastain) was indicative of a new crop of teams able to contend outside of the traditional powerhouses.

Wilson also believes the Next Gen should allow TRD to pursue more teams without breaking the bank.

“My budget doesn’t extrapolate with added cars, so it’s a matter of allocating the same resource across more cars and not taking away from your current effort,” Wilson said. “But again, that’s more doable now because we’re much more constrained with our wind tunnel time as an example. That’s a resource that we pay, a number of dollars per hour, and NASCAR continues to trim that back. It wouldn’t surprise me in a couple of years if there is no wind tunnel other than for body submissions purposes. They’re being very intentional and thoughtful about trying to keep coming back into areas where the team feel they have to spend or OEMs feel they have to spend.”

Manufacturer investment remains important, though, and Wilson takes some solace (while also gritting his teeth) about the impact Toyota has made in NASCAR.

After a rough debut in 2007, TRD added Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 and also opened a technical center in Salisbury, North Carolina, that helped drive its approach of getting its teams to work closely together.

It’s been an approach adopted by Ford and Chevrolet over the past decade. Ford opened its tech center in Concord several years ago, and General Motors opened a new 130,000-square-foot performance and tech center last year (just down the road from Hendrick Motorsports headquarters) with NASCAR operations overseen by Dr. Eric Warren.

“To suggest that we don’t have areas to work in, all you have to do is look at the monstrosity that General Motors has built in Concord,” Wilson said. “I haven’t been invited to tour it yet, but I have talked to some folks that have been through, and hats off to Eric and the guys there. They’re investing significant resources. Can’t say that I’m not a little envious.

“We cut the ribbon (on the Salisbury facility) in 2008, and it seems like just yesterday. What I love about this world or what I hate about it, if you’re not constantly moving forward, you’re falling behind. I love it that our competitors are re-evaluating how they participate. Not that they’re following our lead, but when we came in the sport, we were the only ones doing it this way. Getting our hands dirty and really participating is material to the return on that investment. I’m glad that there are others doing the same thing, but it does cause us to look forward and look at what we need to do to make sure that we remain competitive.

“It’s competition. It makes all of us better, and I like that side of it. That’s a microcosm of the greater automotive industry. When Toyota came to this country, ultimately we helped the competition indirectly get better because they had something different to compete against. That’s kind of fun.”

Wilson was at Daytona International Speedway last weekend to watch Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus finish third in the GTD Pro category of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.