What Drivers Said after Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway

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Kyle Busch – Winner: “It’s been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today. … We didn’t really outsmart anyone today, we just kind of played our race and our own strategy and thought about it a little differently than others and it worked out for us.”

Kevin Harvick – finished second: “Kyle (Busch) had the class of the field all weekend. His car was really, really fast. He got the pole. Got the win. Pretty much just charged through the field. We definitely have a little bit of work to do. I feel like we got closer and closer. I feel like we raced around all the Toyotas all day. Just proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford.”

Martin Truex Jr. — finished third: “It wasn’t the right strategy, but I think we still had a shot at it if we hadn’t got caught up there at the end in traffic so bad. Just kept catching lapped cars in the wrong spots and that cost us second without a doubt. I don’t know if we could have beat Kyle (Busch), he was really, really fast there at the end and we were off there at the end.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fifth: “A strategy day for sure. Our car was okay. I thought we had the best strategy out there, we just needed a little bit more speed.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: “It was a big pit strategy day for sure and you know that going into a race like this. Our car was good all weekend. We unloaded a fast car. This is the best car that we’ve unloaded in quite some time. A little bit different build. Hopefully this is what we’re looking for, what I’m looking for and build on this.”

Erik Jones — finished eighth: “It was okay, just up and down, just needed track position most of the day and then got behind, had a loose wheel and put us way behind. Just had to work back from that. The SiriusXM Camry had good speed, but just the handling wasn’t great all day – rear grip really. We made some adjustments throughout the day and just have to keep working at it.”

Chase Elliott – finished 10th: “Our race was alright.  I made a mistake, thought I had a flat tire and pretty much ruined our day.”

Kasey Kahne – finished 11th: “We had a strong car, just track position was tough. … (On his run-in with Jimmie Johnson) Jimmie was high and everybody was going by him on the inside. I followed the next car and I was like way lower than where the groove is and he still hit me. I thought maybe he couldn’t steer because he had a problem or like something was flat because he obviously spun right after that. So, I’m not exactly sure what happened to him.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – finished 12th: “Man, I don’t know where the speed is that the front three or four have and they’ve got it every week. We don’t have that and we are not going to find it in that garage on Friday or Saturday. If we don’t show up with it, we ain’t going to find it. That is somewhere in the shop … so we will have to keep working back there.”

Kurt Busch – finished 13th: “I thought we did a good job on strategy based off the pace of our car. We were just kind of welded to 15th-place all day. We weren’t close enough to gamble and pit while it was under green conditions and the Stage breaks. We just kept chipping away at it. Restarts for us were 50-50; some were good, some were bad. Overall, we experimented with some suspension and we know not to do that again.”

Ryan Newman — finished 14th: “Our Caterpillar Chevrolet was loose in Turn 1 and tight in Turn 3 for most of the race. We had some pit strategy scenarios and we chose to go for the stage points in Stage 2 which was good for our team. But I found with our overall handling, our speed was in line with the six to seven cars in front of us and when you are all running equal, it’s tough to pass. We definitely have improved our race package from when we raced here in the spring. I’m happy to see our team starting to make the turn for a change to have a strong run during the Playoffs.”

Danica Patrick — finished 15th: “The Code 3 Associates Ford team did a great job today getting us another top-15. We have really gained some consistency over the past few weekends. I think we’re going to put together more top-15s and top-10s this season as long as we can stay out of trouble and finish the race.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 16th: “This is probably one of the best cars I’ve had at Pocono. We should’ve had a better finish today but the pit-road speeding penalty cost us. Overall we had a good weekend and will keep learning in these final races before the playoffs.”

Paul Menard — finished 19th: “We had our work cut out for us from the opening laps here at Pocono Raceway. When they wrecked ahead of us on the first lap, I got into the back of another car and it damaged the nose and hood on the Moen/Menards Chevrolet. The guys in the pits worked on it each stop and finally got it fixed up to where it wasn’t an issue. Thanks to my team, we were able to earn a top-20 finish. They kept fighting and never gave up.”

Trevor Bayne — finished 20th: “We were just really tight at the end. As each run got longer the handling would shift more and more toward being tight on the exit of the corners. But I want thank all of my guys for their hard work this weekend. We’ll rebound from this next week in Watkins Glen. We got a top-10 there last year and I’m confident that we can unload another fast AdvoCare Ford when we get there next week.”

Austin Dillon — finished 21st: “We got off on the wrong foot today that’s for sure. It’s one of those situations where we were at the wrong place at the wrong time. We got hit from behind on Lap 1. I hate if for our American Ethanol team but they pulled together and worked hard to make the repairs so we didn’t lose any laps. This weekend was a challenge from the get-go, but we are by no means giving up. We keep improving on our cars and it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing better results.”

Kyle Larson – finished 33rd: “I had a drive shaft break. I don’t know if it was my doing or what, but I didn’t change my motion up or anything like that. I thought it was fairly normal from what I did and everything just shattered when I got into third gear. Yeah, a little disappointing because our Energizer Chevy was pretty good today.  I thought we had a top five car for sure.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON – finished 35th: “It’s just hard racing. … I was in the outside lane and losing some spots. I think the No. 5 washed-up into me and kind of finished me off over there in Turn 3. It’s definitely not the day we wanted to have but I don’t think either one of those situations were intentional by any stretch. It’s just a bummer day for this whole Lowe’s team and we’ll get our Chevy ready for next week and go do it again.”

Aric Almirola – finished 38th: “(What happened on the first lap crash?) I have no idea. Our Smithfield Ford Fusion was really good to start off there. I had passed about seven cars the first two corners. I was making a lot of progress and then we got to Turn 3 and everybody just stacked up. I saw some smoke. I saw some cars stopped. I got piled in from behind and just drove into the accident. I haven’t seen a replay and have no idea what caused the wreck. Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap. Not our day.”

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IndyCar driver Conor Daly to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500

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Conor Daly, who competes full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, will seek to make his first Daytona 500 this month with The Money Team Racing, the Cup program owned by boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather.

The team also announced Tuesday plans for Daly to race in up to six additional Cup races this year as his schedule allows. Daly’s No. 50 car at Daytona will be sponsored by BITNILE.com, a digital marketplace launching March 1. Among the Cup races Daly is scheduled to run: Circuit of the Americas (March 26) and the Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13, a day after the IndyCar race there).

“The Money Team Racing shocked the world by making the Daytona 500 last year, and I believe in this team and know we will prepare a great car for this year’s race,” Mayweather said in a statement. “Like a fighter who’s always ready to face the best, Conor has the courage to buckle into this beast without any practice and put that car into the field. Conor is like a hungry fighter and my kind of guy. I sure wouldn’t bet against him.”

Daly will be among at least six drivers vying for four spots in the Daytona 500 for cars without charters. Others seeking to make the Daytona 500 will be seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Legacy Motor Club), Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing) and Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports).

“I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to attempt to run in the Daytona 500,” Daly said in a statement. “It is the most prestigious race in NASCAR and to have the chance to compete in it is truly an honor. I am also excited to be running the entire IndyCar Series season and select NASCAR Cup events. I am looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to get behind the wheel of whatever BITNILE.com race car, boat, dune buggy or vehicle they ask me to drive. Bring it on.”

Daly has made 97 IndyCar starts, dating back to 2013. He made his Cup debut at the Charlotte Roval last year, placing 34th for The Money Team Racing. He has one Xfinity start and two Craftsman Truck Series starts.

 

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

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LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo and behold, there you go, he wrecks me. Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

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After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

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While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

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Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.

 

 

Winners and losers from the Clash at the Coliseum

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the non-points race that opened the NASCAR season:

WINNERS

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex limped through a frustrating 2022 season, going winless and contemplating writing “finish” to his driving career. But he decided late in the year to make another run, and that choice paid big dividends Sunday as he put Joe Gibbs Racing in victory lane.

Richard Childress Racing — RCR opened the season with power, putting Austin Dillon in second and newcomer Kyle Busch in third. The new teammates even enjoyed some late-race collaboration, Busch backing off a second-place battle to give Dillon a chance to make a run at eventual winner Truex.

Ryan Preece — Preece, given a shot in the offseason at a full-time ride in Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, showed strength in his first outing, leading 43 laps before electrical issues dropped him to seventh.

Bubba Wallace — Wallace held the lead at the halfway point and totaled 40 laps in first but was drop-kicked by Austin Dillon late in the race and finished 22nd.

LOSERS

Chase Elliott — It was a lost weekend for the former Cup champion. Elliott was lapped during the race, failed to lead a lap and finished 21st.

Ty Gibbs — Suspension problems parked Gibbs after 81 laps, and he finished next-to-last a day after his car caught fire in practice.

Michael McDowell — McDowell was involved in several on-track incidents during the evening and finished 24th after running out of fuel, along with teammate Todd Gilliland.