What drivers said after Michigan race

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Kyle Larson — Winner: “It was an awesome finish for us. Kind of a struggle all day, honestly. I felt like we were ‑ I was good and I could find clean air on my car, but any time I’d get any bit of dirty air or any bit of the wake from the car in front of me, I’d get extremely loose, even when I wasn’t close to anybody. We definitely didn’t have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting, probably even harder than we did in those other two wins. Caught a caution at the right time there to line up eighth on fresh tires, got to fifth, and then edged in front of Chase for fourth as the caution was coming out, and that allowed me to line up behind Martin (Truex Jr.) and get a good restart. I was running a few different options through my head under that red flag of what to do, and that one was one of them, and it played out exactly how I had hoped. Yeah, so this win feels amazing to steal one in a way. My other three wins, I felt like we had the first or second-best car, but today at times I didn’t think we were a top-10 car. But to get the win that way is awesome.

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I just tried to do something a little different there with (Kyle) Larson behind me, but when he hit me, I went and I spun the tires. They just got too cold under that red flag and not enough time to get them warmed up. Our car generally took a few laps all day to get warm, but while we had enough caution laps I could kind of keep heat in the tires. Just spun them a bit and he got a run and there was no way he was going to go around me on the bottom with all that stuff down there, and I just went into (Turn) 1 and spun the tires because they were so cold. It’s one of those deals, sometimes these things don’t work out. I’m proud of everybody on the team, they did a great job today and we had a really fast race car again. Proud of that, and I hate I didn’t get it done for those guys and all our fans out there, but all in all it’s a good day. Michigan has just been tough. We’ve been fast here, we just can’t get that ‘W,’ but we’re fast here and we’ll learn from it.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I thought we could get a good enough restart where we could at least battle through (Turns) 1 and 2 and hopefully make something happen into (Turn) 3. Unfortunately that didn’t work out, both of us couldn’t get going – Martin (Truex Jr.) was spinning his tires and I was spinning my tires. He got a push from (Kyle Larson) and he passed us both. It’s unfortunate; I thought it was going to be a Furniture Row one-two either way it was going to work out.’’

Ryan Newman – Finished 4th: “It was just a good run for the Velveeta Shells & Cheese Chevrolet. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) did a great job making the call for us to stay out and caught the break there with (Joey Logano‘s flat) tire. We got a couple of good restarts and make it a little bit out of nothing. We were challenged all day and struggled a little bit.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 5th: “That’s what we needed. Man, if it stayed green, we had another shot like Indy to hold off (Martin Truex Jr.), but we had a caution at the wrong time. I got a great restart and pushed (Kyle Larson) to the lead. I went for it in Turn 3 and it didn’t stick. It got massive loose and ended up fifth. Third and fifth, that’s not a big difference. If I went home thinking I should have gone for it in three, I would be kicking my butt. But it’s a great day for our team. We needed this to recover a little bit.” 

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “Wild. We had a tire go down early and put us off sequence early on and this team did a good job today.  They played the strategy right and worked hard. We had to fix the car. We had a hole in the nose at one point from debris through one of the crashes. Fought hard all day long, to be able to get to here right now, that is a really cool finish. Really proud of this team.” 

Austin Dillon – Finished 7th: “We have come a long freaking way in the last couple of weeks. The car was very drivable throughout the race.  We just needed a little more speed to really get after it, but we made good pit strategy and adjusted the car well.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 8th: “I think we need a little work and need to get caught up here in a hurry.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I had a great car all day long.  I think we would have finished third or fourth without the random caution at the end. That just put us back to 14th and we got back to ninth on the restart, but a really good day for our car, really good day.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 11th: “We were solid today, but we didn’t do anything right, and we didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll pull together and work hard for next week in Bristol.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 12th: “The bottom lane was not really the preferred lane all weekend in Trucks or Cup or anything, and I restarted on the bottom lane and just couldn’t get going. Brad (Keselowski) got to my inside, and I got stuck in the middle and it was just kind of a dogfight after that. I would have gave anything to restart 10th instead of ninth, but it is what it is.  It was a solid day for us. We worked on it all weekend and got it better and better, and the best we had it was right there in the race. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 13th: “We were just terrible loose when the sun came out, and then the strategy just went the wrong way and we wound up a lap down.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 14th: “Well, it was alright. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible. Just ain’t had the car just right the way we need it for the race. I think at times we needed track position and we might have been able to run in the top five, but I didn’t know a lot of guys that really passed many people. It was really pretty even out there competition wise. We weren’t like losing a chunk of time to all them guy, I mean I could see them, but just I don’t know what we’ve got to do.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 15th: “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. We had a fast car and things just didn’t work out. We have fast cars every week and that gives us something to look forward to. There were some things going on in the car that made me think something might let go, but fortunately that didn’t happen.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 17th: “The team did a good job. We executed in qualifying and all of those things, and we really made the most out of everything we had today, it just didn’t come out our way. It just didn’t come together there at the end, but it was nice to lead a bunch of laps. That was good and something I was really proud of, but I just didn’t have enough to really run with the 77 (Erik Jones) and the 78 (Truex). We tried a little strategy to kind of get something out of it, but the way it all played out I ended up getting the bottom lane on the restarts and getting absolutely swallowed. We tried. We put in as much effort as we could. We knew we didn’t have as much as those two, but we gave it 100 percent effort, and I was really proud of my team for that.” 

Ty Dillon – Finished 21st: “The balance of our GEICO Chevy felt a lot better yesterday in practice than it did today, but we were able to bring the car to us with some wedge adjustments. We had a fast race car there toward the end. The strategy was to go long on fuel mileage in the final stage of the race and it worked great. We were able to pit for four fresh tires and fuel and get a decent finish at the end of the day.’’

Danica Patrick — Finished 22nd: “We just weren’t as good as we needed to be today. Then the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford was just too loose there at the end, and we weren’t able to make up any ground on that last restart.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 25th: “We needed to have a solid race with a good finish. We haven’t had one in a while. It was really, really loose the whole (race) and the speed came when we tightened it up, but to start the race, it was really, really loose. I think if we get that balance right to start the race in the future, then we won’t get behind at all.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished 28th: “The speed wasn’t there. We were a little better and obviously in qualifying our cars are good, but we just couldn’t hang with the Toyotas up front there. Those two cars there – really the Furniture Row cars is what I should say. They’re just lights-out fast. The fastest car didn’t win the race, I can tell you that much for sure. We had a flat tire. I don’t know why we had a flat tire, but maybe we ran something over.’’

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “Our balance was OK at times during the race, but the strategy just didn’t work into our favor. We’ve been really fortunate this year to have good strategy during the stages and with no cautions those first two stages we got a little behind, and then tried to short-pit there at the end and the caution came out that cost us a lap or so. That’s one of those days when you don’t have a lot of attrition, not many cautions, and you just have an average race car and we kind of paid the price.”

Paul Menard – Finished 34th: “We were fighting hard on that late restart to get the free pass and we got caught up with Michael McDowell off Turn 2. I was able to drive the Dutch Boy / Menards Chevrolet back to Matt Borland and the crew, but the damage to the nose knocked the oil cooler back and we had to push it back to the garage.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ — Finished 37th: “I was very, very tight and I was just trying to hold my line. I think (Kasey Kahne) – he was passing me obviously and he went up a little too soon for me. I was trying to give him some room, but actually I got out of the throttle at that point, but I don’t know if he was told it was already time to go up – I don’t know. It’s just unfortunate because we came from a streak of top (10s) and now this is going to be the end of it. We’re going to regroup and come back stronger next week.”

KASEY KAHNE — Finished 38th: Daniel (Suarez) was going backwards and I was going by and I ran the bottom. I expected we could be close off the corner, and I was just coming off and then we hit. So, I don’t know. I expected to run side-by-side down the backstretch, but not give a lot of room, because you don’t. Nobody does. But I was making the pass and I don’t know how we hit. Ruined it. It’s over.”

 

 

Erik Jones will not return to Joe Gibbs Racing after 2020

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Erik Jones will not return to Joe Gibbs Racing after this season, the team announced Thursday night.

“We appreciate all Erik has done for Joe Gibbs Racing over the past several years,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He joined us as a teenager and has accomplished so much in his time here and we remain focused on the remainder of this season and earning him a spot in the playoffs.”

Said Jones: “I greatly appreciate the opportunity that JGR provided me with over the last four years and I wish the team nothing but success and good fortune,” said Jones. “JGR gave me a solid foundation from which to go out and compete at the highest level and I look forward to building on that in the years to come.”

Jones’ one-year contract with JGR expires after this season. The departure of the 24-year-old Jones clears the way for 25-year-old Cup rookie Christopher Bell to join JGR next season. In its announcement Thursday night, JGR did not indicate who will replace Jones, although that is expected to be Bell.

Bell’s status was in question for next season with Leavine Family Racing’s announcement this week that it has been sold. The new owner has not been announced and an alliance with Toyota is not expected.

Toyota Racing Development has invested significantly in Bell, guiding him through dirt track racing, the Truck Series, Xfinity Seres and now Cup. Jones also has been a TRD development driver, competing for the Toyota in the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series.

Jones has two wins in 131 Cup starts heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway, his home track. His Cup wins came at Daytona (July 2018) and Darlington (Sept. 2019). He is the only driver in NASCAR history to be rookie of the year in Truck, Xfinity and Cup. He also won the Truck title in his first season in that series.

Bell has made 20 Cup starts with a best finish of fourth at the first Pocono race in June. He won the 2017 Truck title and set the Xfinity rookie record for wins with seven in 2018.

In a statement, Ed Laukes, Group Vice President, Marketing, Toyota Motor North America, said: “Erik has been an incredible friend to Toyota throughout the last eight years. We’ve become close not only to Erik, but to his entire family. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve cried together and we’ve supported each other through it all. Unfortunately, the time has come that we have to part ways from a competitive standpoint. We know Erik will continue to do great things in this sport and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors. We will certainly continue to follow his career and will be there to congratulate him as he continues to succeed.”

Toyota exec ‘not throwing in the towel’ on keeping Christopher Bell

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The announcement by Leavine Family Racing earlier this week that it had been sold puts Christopher Bell‘s Cup career in “immediate peril,” according to Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson.

Wilson made his comments about Bell’s future Wednesday night to Claire B. Lang on “Dialed In” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“The immediate impact is to Christopher Bell,” Wilson said. “Christopher Bell, who is certainly one of our development drivers and somebody that we have invested a lot in over the years, it puts him in immediate peril. … We don’t know yet if we can recover, having to go out, it’s the first of August and this has been a relatively recent development. But to go out in this climate, in this environment, and to try to put together a partnership with no time and the demands required of that partnership from a sponsorship perspective, are just very difficult.”

Bell, a rookie, drives Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Toyota. Leavine Family Racing is one of three teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing and Gaunt Brothers Racing, that receives support from Toyota.

While the identity of who bought LFR has not been disclosed, Wilson said “It’s doubtful that there’s a plausible solution” that sees Toyota’s current deal with the No. 95 team continuing with the new ownership next year.

“I think this is widely known, part of the partnership, part of the way LFR worked was a technical alliance, a hardware reliance on Joe Gibbs Racing,” Wilson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Those cars are leased, they’re not owned by Bob (Leavine) and the team. Those go back to Joe Gibbs Racing. What I can tell you is that as soon as we became aware of this problem, Joe and I have been working very closely, very aggressively, every day. It’s what’s keeping me awake every night right now, trying to figure out if we can adapt, if we can come up with a bridge to get us another year down the road.”

Bell has been a Toyota development driver his entire NASCAR career, including two full-time seasons in the Truck Series at Kyle Busch Motorsports and two full-time Xfinity Series seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing.

A winner of 16 Xfinity races, Bell joined Leavine Family Racing in part due to JGR’s stable of drivers being full in the Cup Series. Erik Jones, who drives the No. 20 Toyota, is in a contract year. That car could be driven by Bell in 2021.

But Wilson acknowledged Bell could not be in a Toyota come 2021.

“In the end, if we can’t, the collective we, Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing or a new Toyota affiliated team, if we cannot find a solution for Christopher then he’s got to do what he’s got to do,” Wilson said. “We are, again, very invested in Christopher. We’re not throwing in the towel, we are being very aggressive. I’ve been very candid in the past, probably overly so, to the effect that Christopher Bell is going to be in a Toyota for years and years and years to come. That has been our intention. That remains our intention. I would say today, stay tuned. It’s very late, but we’re working on it and we should have something to share between ourselves and Joe Gibbs Racing in the very near future.

NASCAR announces new method for setting starting lineups

NASCAR starting lineups
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NASCAR announced Thursday a new way of establishing starting lineups and pit selection order for races beginning with next weekend’s events on the Daytona road course.

NASCAR will use three competition-based performance metrics, replacing the random draw procedure that has been in place for a majority of races since NASCAR returned to racing in May.

More: NASCAR to introduce choose rule starting at Michigan

More: Starting lineup for Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan

Owner points position and the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race will be weighted and averaged to establish the starting order. Points position will be weighted at 35%, finishing position at 50% and fastest race lap at 15%.

When the playoffs begin, playoff cars will fill the top starting positions. In the Round of 16, the top 16 starting positions will be playoff cars; in the Round of 12, the top 12 starting positions will be playoff cars; and so on.

“The random draw has served us well during the return to racing, but it is important that starting lineups are based on performance as we approach the playoffs,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said in a press release. “The entire industry is aligned on implementing a competition-based system to determine the starting lineup and pit selection order.”

Team Penske driver Joey Logano said Thursday that the formula “makes sense.”

“It’s maybe a little bit more confusing than what I would have gone with,” Logano said. “If they end up going with the process that has been talked about here, just for the race fans I feel like it’s confusing, but, outside of that, so it’s fair and I guess that’s all that matters. It’s fair and I’m sure that’s probably what the fans care about the most. If all of us competitors can agree that it’s a fair way to set the lineup, I don’t think any fan is really gonna care how it happened as long as we all feel like you earned your starting position, just like we used to.

“You used to earn your starting position by qualifying. Well, now you’re going to earn your starting position by three different ways, whether it’s lap time or finishing points position – those type of things. You’ve earned every one of those spots, so although it’s confusing it’s fair.”

NASCAR to introduce choose rule starting at Michigan

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NASCAR announced Thursday it will implement the choose rule starting with this weekend’s races at Michigan International Speedway.

The Truck Series races Friday (6 p.m. ET on FS1) and the Cup Series holds a doubleheader, racing Saturday (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The choose rule allows drivers to pick which lane they restart when a race resumes from a caution, with drivers able to secure better track position or restart in the preferred lane. It will be used in all races except those held on road courses and superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega).

With the Xfinity Series competing at Road America this weekend and on the Daytona road course next weekend, the choose rule won’t be used by the series until its Aug. 22-23 races at Dover.

The rule made its NASCAR national series debut in the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway and was warmly received by drivers.

Drivers chose their lanes on the lap before the restart when they drove to the right or left of an orange cone symbol painted on the track just beyond the start-finish line.

“Considering feedback from teams, drivers and fans, NASCAR has implemented these changes to enhance competition as we approach the playoffs,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, in a press release. “We received nothing but positive comments from the drivers on the choose rule following the All-Star Race, and felt it was an important addition to the restart procedure.

“I think the choose rule’s been needed for a long time,” Chase Elliott said after winning the All-Star Race. “I think it should be that way every week. I don’t think there’s really a reason to not have it. There’s no reason to me why you shouldn’t have the choice or you should be automatically told where you’re going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage, just based on where you come off pit road. Life ain’t fair I guess, but just makes way more sense to put it in our hands and it either works out for you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s your own fault and not luck of the draw and where you come off pit road.”

When asked about the choose rule Thursday, Joey Logano was enthusiastic.

“Finally,” Logano said. “I’ve been looking for this for years. I’ve brought it up in meetings for years and to see it kind of come into action at Bristol is something that I thought went really smooth. It was kind of exciting and interesting to see the decisions that drivers made and it was different every time. If you do that at Bristol, what’s it look like at Michigan?  … There’s a lot of questions that kind of come along with that on what it is and there might be some races where it looks identical to what it is right now where third is on the inside and fourth is on the outside. That can happen. .. It definitely adds another piece to the strategy and even more importantly it has everyone not doing the whole stopping at the end of pit road and letting a car go by because, for one, it’s not safe to stop at the end of pit road for anyone jumping over the wall and having cars swerve like that.

“But, two, that’s not racing. The goal should be in front of whatever car is in front of you, not let one go at the end of pit road so you can have the outside lane or the inside lane. That’s backwards. You don’t want to do that, so we can get past that. Every time we’d try to count cars like that someone would have a penalty anyway, so it never worked for me. You’d always let one go and then the car in front of you has an uncontrolled or a speeding penalty and you’re like,’ C’mon!’ So, it gets rid of all that. That’s nice.”