What drivers said after Watkins Glen race

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Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER: “It means a lot to be in victory lane here at this race track. I’ve been coming here a long time and feel like we’ve been close and had a few slip away from us, but really excited. I just kept listening to (crew chief Cole Pearn). He said, ‘We need to slow down more. We need to slow down more.’ It’s the hardest thing in the world to do to slow down and let those guys pass you for the lead thinking that when you figure out that you have enough fuel to make it you can try to step up your pace again and they’re just going to do the same. You never know what strategy everybody is on. You don’t know how much gas they have or are saving. It’s so tough. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do just to slow down that much and watch those guys drive away. But, just Cole Pearn man, that’s his job and I trust him and everything he says.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 2nd: “I’m second happiest. Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win.  Honestly, I don’t even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it’s been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here. I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6. I was like, ‘man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.’’

Daniel Suarez — Finished 3rd: “I feel like it was a good weekend. You know, we made a lot of progress from the first practice to second practice to qualifying and then to the race. You know, I’m very happy for the third-place (finish) and for the result and for the overall race, but very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there and you are just cruising to try to save fuel because you don’t really know how much fuel you have left.’’

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “Yeah it was a great run for our FedEx Freight team. The Camrys were fast, all of them were today and just had to milk the fuel as much as we could there at the end and make it on fuel. Great run for us. Another fourth-place finish – I don’t know how many that is this year but definitely been ringing them off.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 5th:  “Yeah, that’s that hard thing. When you have them there at arm’s reach you want to go for it. That’s the win that will put you into the (playoffs) right there in front of you. But if you run out of gas that’s the dagger that will knock you out for good. It’s the right thing. We just have to keep knocking on the door.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “We ran hard on every single lap today and hit every turn flawlessly. We did a great job.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 8th: “I stumbled down the back coming to two to go, so we wouldn’t have made it. It stinks. I wish I would have saved earlier like (Truex) did. I pushed hard and thought we were better to go on gas than they were. They did a good job saving. I could have done better. If I would have started saving sooner I think we would have made it. You never know. I am pretty proud of the effort. We got up front at the beginning of the day and stayed there pretty much all day. I thought our strategy was right and we had a good race car. Things just didn’t work out for us. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 9th: “Of course you always want more when you come here, at least I do. We had a tough weekend, and we fought hard. The car wasn’t very good on the first run, and we made some better changes. Got it better. Got it pretty competitive there. I just really struggled in traffic. I got behind Jimmie (Johnson), and tore up the tires. Once I got by him it was actually not too bad. From there it was just fuel saving. Don’t really know how much you have. I tried to save, I felt like I saved a lot. Maybe a little too much.”

Erik Jones — Finished 10th: “It was okay. I had brake issues all day long and it was kind of the biggest fight for us. Just could never quite get in the corner like we needed to so kind of fought that. The car was good. I thought we had a top-10 car, maybe a top-five car had circumstances played out. I had a bad stop and got boxed in behind (Aric Almirola), so it just didn’t quite get the finish that we wanted.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 11th: “Really proud of this Scott Products Chevrolet team. They worked really hard and put us in the right position with good strategy. We had good speed at times, our early run speed, I was really happy with it. It fell off a little bit harder than we would like, but to come home P11 here at The Glen it was pretty good!”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 15th: “I was going into the corner and I had the 47 (Allmendinger) behind me and when I got into the corner the 18 (Kyle Busch) next to me. My spotter called it but we were already in the corner. It was too much for me to avoid. We got into each other and that hurt everybody. All I know is I went in the corner and the 47 was the car behind me and I got to the corner and somewhere the 18 came up and he was behind the 47. I don’t know how he got there or what all transpired. I was already to the corner and unable to do anything by then.”

Paul Menard — Finished 18th: “Our day was full of hurdles, but we were able to overcome thanks to all the guys on this Dutch Boy / Menards team. We found a fluid leak in qualifying and had to change the rear gear before the race, which meant we had to start from the rear of the field. The car had speed, but we had a lug nut guard that cut the valve stem on the right rear and led to a flat tire. The guys were able to get it fixed, but there was a bit of a vibration in the rear for the rest of the race. We had solid fuel mileage all day, I was able to save some over that last run and we were able to make it to the end without stopping.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 19th: “Our day definitely improved from where we started. We had some brake and power steering issues at the very start, but I was able to keep it underneath me until we could bring our GEICO Chevy in during the first stage break. By the time we got to the final stage, we had the car handling exactly how I needed it. Fuel mileage games are always tricky, but everyone has to do their part. The engineers have to do the math, I have to back down my entries and the spotters have to tell me who I’m racing in fuel-saving mode and who is packed full coming up behind me. It’s a team effort, and we all did our jobs today to get it home with fuel in the tank and a top-20 finish.”

Joey Logano — Finished 24th: “Best-case scenario we were going to finish top 10, which does nothing for us. A top xfive or a win is the only thing that is going to help us, so we went for it by pitting and putting four tires on and hoping to get a caution and maybe cycle ahead of cars with new tires. Unfortunately, it went green all the way and we didn’t get a good finish. We need to win the next few races here.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 25th: “Overall, we had a pretty solid handling Caterpillar Chevrolet. We just lacked track position and it kept us from making a serious run to the front. With that said, we adapted our strategy and (crew chief Luke Lambert) said we were a lap to the good on fuel. Saving here is pretty hard to do but we felt confident we were going to make it. I ran out with three laps to go. We’re scratching our heads right now trying to figure out where we came up short. The guys were going back to the garage to measure everything. It’s really unfortunate. I can’t really say we were good or bad today. Things didn’t go our way.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 26th: “We just didn’t have the speed we needed in our No. 3 Dow STEM Chevrolet today. Our handling was a little off throughout the day today. I was too loose in essess and had trouble getting through the bus stop. We gambled on our fuel strategy when we pitted under that final caution, knowing we’d have to save to avoid being one lap short. I saved as much as I could by doing things like short-shifting, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough this time and we ran out with just two laps to go. We’ll learn from this though and be better next time.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. — Finished 37th: “We had a problem with the valve train and we can’t fix it. It’s been a really difficult week. We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car at Sonoma, so I was kind of looking forward to coming here. But, the guys worked really hard. We changed this car inside and out twice this weekend. And, we had made it better and we were kind of hanging in there. I think we had a shot at maybe a top 20 at best. But man, we showed up and we were about four seconds off.”

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NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”