What drivers said after Southern 500

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “To win in the Flying 11 and to win the Xfinity race, to win the Cup race, both in very exciting fashion was a great feeling, and tonight through the adversity of missing the pit road and coming back. We had great strategy, a fast car, and it all just worked out in the end. I was hoping it would. Otherwise I would have looked pretty silly after the race trying to explain why we lost. You know, it’s just I think a lot of that came from Truex beating us on a green flag sequence earlier in the day, and so I pushed it a little bit more on pit entry, and I didn’t want it to happen again, and I just pushed it a little bit too much. Kind of a rookie move, but also just trying to optimize everything, and it was just we got our car better as soon as it turned into night. We kept getting the car better, kept making adjustments and kept working on it, and we had something we could win with.’’

Kyle Busch — Finished 2nd: “It was a really good effort for us, really good race for us. I certainly wish that we could have kept pace with (Denny Hamlin) a little bit longer. We were right there with him for a long time, longer than we had all night long in that final stint. But he got through a couple lap cars a little quicker than I did, and then they got side by side and then I got sucked into the fence, and after that it just wasn’t the same, so we just had to try to bide our time and just come home in one piece or nobody was coming behind us, so we just had to ‑ I think we had a seven‑second gap or something behind us so we had a long ways to give up, so we just did that, and (Hamlin) was just the car of the day and class of the field, so congratulations to those guys.  We saw it here in practice on Friday, and I was hoping we could hang with them there a little bit more, but I think I made too many adjustments to our car and got us out of place there for the last two stints.’’

Kurt Busch – Finished 3rd: “It was good pit strategy. I was hoping for one more yellow. If there was a yellow with 30 to go, we were a really good car on short run speed. That was the longest run at the end and those guys caught us on their fresher tires, but just to be in position to win the Southern 500 is great. I didn’t quite get the job done, but third is really nice for a big, marquee race. The 78 was fast and those other Toyotas came in there. I thought that I was going to do it for our Fords. We didn’t quite get the job done. To be in position to win the Southern 500, I just want to get a shout out all the fans. It’s a fun weekend to be here on Labor Day weekend.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 4th: “I’m just really proud of this team for bringing out this Dale Earnhardt scheme out and making it run good like that… it means a lot to me and all the RCR guys. That long run was like torture; those guys were coming on (newer) tires so we had to be really smooth and it worked out for us.”

Erik Jones — Finished 5th: “I lost brakes completely for a minute then they came back. I’ve never had an issue like that before, but turned out to be a really good night for us – top-five night. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) did a really nice job with running a really nice strategy there at the end and getting us back in contention and I was hoping we just were going to run in the top 10 and to get a top-five out of it is really good. So our car was good in the day, but when the sun went down we just kind of lost the handle and couldn’t really ever get back and everybody was fighting grip obviously.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 7th: “We had a pretty good car and a couple of bad pit stops. We had one great pit stop, but just never got the track position that we needed for the short run to be able to show what we were capable of on the long run.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 8th: “It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car. I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night.  I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on. It’s unfortunate we blew the tire, but really proud of everybody on this team for an amazing season so far, and to lock up the regular season points is a huge accomplishment for us, for our team. I feel like we’ve come a long way in just a few years together and continue to climb.’’

Jamie McMurray – Finished 10th: “Well, we had a fan go out that cools the rear end and so we had to come in and work on that. We went to the back, but we could still only get back to about like, I think we got up to sixth in the first stage and then ran somewhere between sixth and 10th or sixth and 12th and we finished 10th.  So, probably didn’t really hurt our night.  A lot of long green flag runs and we weren’t very good on the short run, but we were really good at the end of a run. So, that kind of worked out to our favor.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 11th: “We just weren’t very good all day and really just as an organization really struggled, so we need to step up. This is the time of year to get it going and it was a hard-fought night. I thought we made the very most of what we had and some days that’s all you can do.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “Our car had respectable short-run speed and then it would just get so loose. With all the long runs, that really didn’t work out well for us, and I actually blew a tire with like 20 laps to go. Fortunately, was on my way into pit lane or almost to where I could turn into pit lane. I got lucky and I was able to get back out there on tires and drive back up to 12th, but blew a tire at the absolute right time if you are going to blow one and got to pit lane.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 13th: “It was a good day. My first Southern 500, I enjoy it. I love this race track. I just love when you come to a track and the tires get worn out and you’ve got to be patient. And you’ve got to treat that throttle pedal like an egg and you can really make a lot of difference on a long run. That was what we were able to do tonight with our GEICO Chevy. I’m just proud of the guys. We had a good piece in practice and it was nice just to have a really solid weekend. When you add in the honor of representing a race car from years past that was driven by Johnny Rutherford and fielded by Smokey Yunick – it really adds to the great night for our GEICO team here at Darlington. Good momentum going back to Richmond another track that we ran really well at. Excited for the end of this year.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 15th: “We just weren’t where we wanted to be at the end of the race. I was just kind of holding on and we were going to probably run 10th or 12th and I got to trying a little bit too hard and brushed the wall. I ended up probably hurting our car a little bit and we finished 15th.  (Crew chief Paul Wolfe) made a good call at the end there to get us into 15th when we probably could have been worse than that, so I was proud of that effort.  We just need to be faster.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 17th: “Well, an eventful, very long race at Darlington. Awesome to have Cheerios on board in our Patty Moise throwback. Overall, just a tough start. Kind of knew that the daylight was going to be difficult Then, as the night fell, I feel like we made some gains on it and got it a little better by the end and was able to move around. I think that is all you can ask for is to make steady improvements through the day. We got a decent finish out of it. I wanted a little bit more, but not bad.”

Joey Logano – Finished 18th: “It’s pretty simple (of needing to win Richmond next week to make the playoffs). You could almost write an article without talking to me. We just didn’t have the speed today. The team executed really well. Our pit crew was super-fast and we had a car that was good on the long run sometimes, but never good on the short run. And then at the end, it was horrible on the long run, so we just never really got the balance right. We were good in the day, but when we got to night time all hell broke loose for us. We’re on to the next one.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 20th: “We were just really loose, and we couldn’t make any ground.  I thought at times during the race we had a decent car. I thought we had maybe a 15th-place car, but the longer the run we’d just get really loose. We’ll learn from it and keep on going.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. — Finished 22nd: “They pulled me over because I’ve got some loose lug nuts on the right rear. Had a really bad vibration that last run and there was a bunch of them loose on the right-rear. They must have just kind of had a screw up. It wasn’t intentional. They wouldn’t leave two loose like that when they are not even tight up on the wheel. So, something must have happened on the pit stop because those guys have been great all night. Just had a really bad vibration, came in and got tires, we had a flat at the very end. Twelfth to 15th is where we all ran and I’m not too disappointed because we sat there and ran right with our teammates all night.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 31st: “It was the most frustrating race. I hit the fence early and that was a huge mistake on my part. I don’t know what I was doing. I got tight behind a car and I was kind of offset and I couldn’t see the wall, and I just should have been smarter and lifted. We clawed back from two laps down to get back on the lead lap, which was great. They did a good job. Then we lost a cylinder or something going on in the engine.” 

Clint Bowyer — finished 40th: “It just blew up. It’s a pretty inopportune time to have it happen, but it’s never a good time. Doug Yates and all the guys over at his shop do such a good of bringing us reliable, good horsepower and it was just my time. It was my turn and there isn’t much you can do about it. Obviously, the way the playoffs look right now, we’re not out of this thing. We’ve still got a good race track coming up for us. We’ll just go there and do the best we can and put all the cards on the table over there.”

 

Carson Hocevar to run full Truck schedule in 2021

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Niece Motorsports has signed Carson Hocevar to run the full NASCAR Truck schedule in 2021, the team announced Thursday.

Hocevar, who turns 18 in January, has run five races for the team this season. His best finish this year is 12th at Dover. He’s scheduled to run at Martinsville on Oct. 30.

“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to race fulltime next year with the Niece Motorsports group,” said Hocevar in a statement. “We’ve had some really strong runs in the few starts that we’ve had this season and I am grateful for the chance to continue that next year. I’ve learned so much already this year and know that we will keep improving next year too.”

“Carson has really impressed us this season,” said team owner Al Niece in a statement. “He’s proven his talent – getting into the truck with no track time and really holding his own. We’re thrilled to have him with us fulltime next season and look forward to contending for wins together.”

TikTok to sponsor Ryan Vargas in six Xfinity races

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JD Motorsports
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TikTok is coming to NASCAR.

The popular video sharing app will break into the sport next month as a sponsor of Ryan Vargas in the Xfinity Series.

TikTok has partnered with JD Motorsports to sponsor the 20-year-old Vargas in the final six races of the season, beginning with the Oct. 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“TikTok has provided me with an incredible outlet to reach new fans and demographics through fun and creative content, and I’ve seen the highest growth in followers on TikTok over my other social channels,” Vargas said in a press release. “The opportunity to run the No. 6 TikTok Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the rest of the season is an absolute dream come true. Johnny Davis and the whole JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team took a chance on me last year and I’m excited to bring this amazing TikTok partnership their way. I wouldn’t want to make this partnership a reality anywhere else.”

Vargas has made three Xfinity Series starts this year. His best finish was 13th at Pocono.

The sponsor deal is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month programming.

A native of La Mirada, California, Vargas joined TikTok last year. He is a former member of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity programming and a winner of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer award, which is given to a minority or female driver who displays exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.

The partnership and paint scheme were inspired by a concept scheme by graphic designer Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’.

“Creators of all sizes and backgrounds show up to TikTok with their genuine, authentic selves,” Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing, said in a press release. “Partnering with an iconic brand like NASCAR to sponsor Ryan Vargas on his racing journey is a way for us to continue to support, celebrate and elevate the diverse creators that make our TikTok community what it is today. Ryan is an incredible athlete, and we’re looking forward to cheering him on alongside the rest of the TikTok community!”

According to CNBC in August, TikTok has roughly 100 million monthly users, up nearly 800% from January 2018.

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, has been in national headlines recently after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the United States for national security reasons if it was not sold to an American company. On Sept. 19 he approved a deal for its U.S operations to be operated by Oracle and Walmart.

Las Vegas weekend schedule

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NASCAR’s postseason continues with the Las Vegas weekend schedule, as the Cup Series begins the Round of 12.

In addition to Cup, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the Xfinity Series’ playoff opener and the second race of the Truck Series’ opening round.

More: Kevin Harvick on pole for Cup race

Here is the Las Vegas weekend schedule:

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 25

Noon – 2 p.m. ET – Truck Series haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

2 p.m. – Truck Series garage opens

2 – 8 p.m. – Truck Series garage access screening in progress

2:30 – 3 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m.  – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

8:50 p.m. – Truck Series drivers report to vehicles

9 p.m.- Truck Series race; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Truck Series haulers exit

 

Saturday, Sept 26.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

1 p.m. – Xfinity garage opens

1 – 6:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access screening in progress

5 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m. – Cup driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

7:20 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity race; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

9:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers exit

10:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. – Cup haulers enter

 

Sunday, Sept. 27

Noon – Cup garage opens

Noon – 6 p.m.  – Cup garage access screening in progress

6:50 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

7 p.m. – Cup race; 267 laps/400.5 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.