What Cup drivers said after New Hampshire playoff race

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What drivers said after the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch – Winner: “It was just a great day for our team and for the 18 team we were able to execute all day long and we did everything right. We did everything we were supposed to do and that’s where you end up when we’re able to do those things and it was a great race up front too with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) there. The 20 (Matt Kenseth) was there for a little. I think he was a little better on that long run that one time, but overall we had some really good short-run speed there at the end. We were able to get out front there and kind of set the field because – set the pace – and that was what we needed to do today.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “I felt like on really long runs I was fairly equal to those guys in front of me. But, on the short run there, I could get pointed to the exit, but I couldn’t get the throttle down. I’d get loose. So, he just was really good. I think the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) was also really good, but he had his trouble. The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) was also good. We were next best. So, we finished second again (eighth time) with our Target Chevy. That’s a lot of second-place finishes this year, but I’m fine with second. Top fives will get us to Homestead.”

MATT KENSETH – Finished third: “We were decent on the long run, just really struggled getting through the gears and getting through (Turns) 1 and 2, and that really hurt us at the end, obviously, with all those short runs and restarts at the end.  I thought we had a third‑place car most of the day.  I thought the 78 (Martin Truex) and 18 (Kyle Busch) were better.  If I had the track position, I felt like I could do okay with them on the long run, but short run they’d get away from me pretty far, and it was hard to make that distance back up.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fourth: “It was great execution.  The pit crew was really solid today and a pretty good setup too.  Paul Wolfe and the engineers did a good job putting the right stuff under the car.  I felt like we were where we needed to be to win and to run up front with the pit crew and the setup, just kind of lacking a little bit with aero stuff to keep up, but this type of track aerodynamics are a little less important and I felt like it helped us run a little bit higher this week.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. – Finished fifth: “I could not see anything and I was just approaching the smoke and I’m like, ‘Oh no, where am I going to go?’ I mean, literally I couldn’t see anything and my spotter said go low. By then, it was kind of too late and I was already like to the smoke and I couldn’t commit. I just kind of like just kept slowing down and the 33 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) just came by me on the outside and hit me and spun me down through there, so just unfortunate, you know? We were coming to the green-white-checkered to win the second stage, which would have been another bonus point, which would be helpful and, of course, you know we had damage and had to fight from the back of the pack the rest of the day, so proud of our effort to run fifth after all that, but it definitely hurt our day.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished seventh: “It really wasn’t a strategy race.  We just kept digging and were just off a little bit.  The same cars are kicking everybody’s butt every week.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished ninth: “We were kind of in that fifth to 10th range all day and we ended up with a decent finish. We worked hard on this race track. It definitely has not been one of my best, but it’s nice to see a decent run here. We finished OK and go on to a place like Dover, where we run pretty decent.  Hopefully, we can survive next week and move on.”

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: “We worked our way up into the top 14 or 15 the first run from last and that was the highlight, and then we just kind of stayed right there around 10th the rest of the day and finished there.  I don’t know, you can say if we started a little closer to the front we could hold a few of them off, but we’re just not fast enough really.  I sound like a broken record, but we’re just not fast enough.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 13th: “We fight. This 31 team never gives up. After a rough week at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend, we rallied and turned in a respectable performance today. I wasn’t sure how good we would be because we had two tough days of practice here.  I was happy to see us race into the top 10 in Stage 3. Everyone on this team turned in a solid performance, made gains and now we’re just one point out of the Round of 12. Dover is a good track for us so we’ll keep fighting.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 14th: “We had a lug nut not on our last pit stop on the left-front, so when I went to leave the box I had to stop and back up and put a lug nut on, so I fell from fifth to 15th or something and then just stuck in traffic and couldn’t go anywhere.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 15th: “I think it went as expected. It was a struggle for us all weekend.  I told my guys I felt like we were in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather all week. We just couldn’t find speed, couldn’t find the handle on the car. We made a lot of adjustments for today and was surprisingly a little bit better than we were in practice. I didn’t think we were as capable of a car to finish where we did, but we did what we needed and had some good breaks and some good pit stops and ended up gaining some points. That was our goal, so I feel really good about that. I’d say we’ve had two sub-par weeks and we’re still in this thing, so we’ll regroup and get focused and go to Dover.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 18th: “Billy (Scott) made a good call to wave around, and then we got the free pass, which put us back on the lead lap, and we were able to gain some ground there at the end. Overall though, the Code 3 Associates Ford was just too tight most of the day.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 19th: “We had a decent Chevrolet Accessories SS today but I think that long red flag hurt us. We had a little bit of front end damage, and the brakes getting hot and then cooling down during the red flag certainly did not help. We’re 13th in points now heading into the cut off race, so our goals for Dover are to go out and have a good race. We’ll see where we end up, and hope for the best.”

Paul Menard – Finished 20th: “Everyone on this team fought hard and never gave up today. The SYLVANIA/Menards Chevrolet handled well throughout the weekend, we just got behind on track position and couldn’t really make it up. We had a close call on the backstretch when they wrecked ahead of me and blocked the track. We thought we should have been in the free pass position. I slowed to avoid the wreck, was not involved at all, but for some reason NASCAR determined we were not the free pass. We finally raced back onto the lead lap during the last caution which was a good way to end the race.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 22nd: “We have had some hurdles this weekend in New Hampshire but we were able to make the most of what we had. The backup (car) rolled off the trailer pretty decent especially considering we had no practice laps in it. The GEICO pit crew took a big swing at it under the first stage break caution and we didn’t have to do a lot more to it. It was still a bit too tight but we were able to work with it and learn a lot today.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “We kept fighting all race long today. We will keep digging and get ready for next week in Dover. I want to thank all my guys on this AdvoCare Ford for their hard work this weekend. Today wasn’t the result we were looking for but we will rebound next week and look for a solid run in Dover.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 35th: “Something broke.  I think they said track bar, but that is all I know, I didn’t talk to Darien (Grubb, crew chief). But, that is what he had said while we were in the garage.  We were working hard.  We got really loose that first run and then got control of the car.  And then it was really tough to pass, but we worked our way back up and were passing for 12th when that happened. …  I think we had a top-10 car if the restarts went the right way.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 36th: “I know as I got sideways there I tried to get thing whoa’d down and pointed in the right direction and it snapped back the other way.  I tried to lock it down and it was too far up across the race track.  I knew I was probably worse off at that particular point, so once it turned back right and I was in trouble I should have just tried to keep it left, but I couldn’t really tell where I was with all the smoke and everything that was happening, but just got hit from behind and spun out.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 37th:  “I don’t know what to say.  It’s tough when you’re running where we were.  We were just trying to limp it to the end of stage two and I heard, ‘Car spinning off of two’ in my ear.  I saw smoke up ahead.  A lot of times they’ll come back up, and I tried to leave the high side or the low side and then, boom, as soon as the smoke cleared I’m looking at Harvick’s door, my teammate.  We’re both running for the Playoffs and it’s a shame that the handling is off and we’re both running where we were, but we were still going to fight all the way to the end, but now we don’t have a chance.  I cannot understand the bad luck that we’re having.”

2019 Cup Series paint schemes

Chip Ganassi Racing
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We’re less than a month away from the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.

That means teams are slowly starting to reveal the cars Cup Series drivers will be race throughout the season.

Here’s a look at paint schemes that have been confirmed so far. This post will continue to be updated.

No. 00 – Landon Cassill

No. 1 – Kurt Busch

 

No. 3 – Austin Dillon

Dillon’s Daytona 500 car celebrating Richard Childress Racing’s 50th anniversary.

Lionel Racing

 

No. 4 – Kevin Harvick

 

Stewart-Haas Racing
Hunt Brothers Pizza Twitter

No. 6 – Ryan Newman

Roush Fenway Racing

No. 8 – Daniel Hemric

The car Hemric will race in the Daytona 500 honoring Richard Childress Racing’s 50th anniversary.

RCR
RCR
RCR

No. 9 – Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports

No. 10 – Aric Almirola

 

No. 14 – Clint Bowyer

Stewart Haas Racing
Stewart-Haas Racing

 

No. 17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

Roush Fenway Racing

 

Sunny D Racing

No. 18 – Kyle Busch

Lionel Racing

No. 19 – Martin Truex Jr. 

Martin Truex Jr. Twitter

No. 24 – William Byron

Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports

No. 32 – Corey LaJoie

Go Fas Racing

No. 40 – Jamie McMurray

McMurray is scheduled to make one start so far in 2019 as part of a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports.

No. 42 – Kyle Larson

Chip Ganassi Racing

No. 43 – Bubba Wallace

No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports

No. 88 – Alex Bowman

Hendrick Motorsports

 

Hendrick Motorsports
Hendrick Motorsports

No. 95 – Matt DiBenedetto

Leavine Family Racing

‘How can we be upset?’: Ross Chastain discusses losing Ganassi ride, hopeful future

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Ross Chastain received word of the events “out west,” he knew the loss of his full-time Xfinity Series ride with Chip Ganassi Racing was “inevitable.”

The events were the Dec. 18 dual raids by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in California on the headquarters of DC Solar, Ganassi’s primary Xfinity sponsor, and the home of the company’s CEO, Jeff Carpoff.

Seventeen days later, Ganassi made it official. The biggest opportunity of Chastain’s NASCAR career was gone roughly two months after it had been announced because of a lack of sponsorship.

Chastain, who turned 26 in December, made his first public appearance in a month on Friday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. There, he announced plans to compete part time for Niece Motorsports in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, beginning with the season opener at Daytona.

“Early on there was a couple of dark days following everything that went down. I’m not going to shy away from it,” Chastain told reporters before later clarifying himself. “It wasn’t dark, that’s probably going to come across wrong when you write it down now that I think about that. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression, but it was a big deal.

“(The Carpoffs) did a lot for me. They changed my life. I’ll forever be thankful for them and Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (Sabates) … and everybody involved with CGR and all the people in the office, they still stand behind me. I’m still tied to them. I’m still working for them.”

Chastain said he hasn’t been in contact with the Carpoffs since the FBI raids.

“Chip and (Chief Operating Officer) Doug Duchardt, they tried everything they could to keep that deal going,” Chastain said. “Talked to Chip back and forth throughout the process … it was going to affect so many people and so many mechanics and crew guys on that, including me.

“He knew that, and it affected him. He was the ultimate loser here in Charlotte for it. Nobody wanted it to happen, man. We think we know what we could accomplish or what we were going to shoot for and the cards that were laying out on the table of what we could do in 2019, but it’s just not how it was intended to happen.”

While he won’t be driving the No. 42 for CGR in 2019, he’s still under contract with the team and said Ganassi himself calls “every now and then to make sure I’m doing OK.”

So what did Chastain do during a holiday season where his career was upended through no fault of his own?

He went home.

Chastain spent Christmas and New Years clearing his head on his family’s watermelon farm in Alva, Florida.

“Spent a lot of time at the farm on a tractor,” Chastain said. “Leaving my phone in the truck. Get on the tractor and a couple of days of that will make you appreciate the life I do get to live, and I knew I wasn’t done racing. I was just going to change my schedule for this year. Family was really good.  It kind of made us all even closer.”

The time was also spent reflecting on everything that has transpired in the last half-year.

“If you would have told me six months ago, right, that I was going to drive for Chip Ganassi, I was going to win a race (at Las Vegas), I was going to finish second in a race (at Richmond) and I was going to crash – for the win – in a race (at Darlington) with a very high-profile driver (Kevin Harvick) and he was going to say a bunch of bad things about me and I was going to come back the next race in that car and win? I would have told you you were crazy. …

“We talked through all that and realized ‘Man, what we would have given six months ago to have all this happen,'” Chastain said. “‘How can we be upset?'”

While Chastain had been silent, including on social media, since the day before the raids, other NASCAR drivers have been in touch with him. That includes Elliott Sadler, who tweeted about Chastain on Jan. 7 after talking with him.

“Elliott has probably been the biggest one through all this,” Chastain said. “I don’t get along with many drivers. Me and him connect on a lot of things. … He was just like, ‘Yeah, it’s terrible, but you’re going to get through it. You have a future,’ and that’s what he kept saying.

“He said he’s been here long enough to see it. It’s going to work out. You’ve just got to believe. I was already back on track, digging on this year when I talked to Elliott, and he sent that tweet out. His biggest thing was ‘Just believe. Know it’s going to work out. I’ve seen this before. Nobody could see this coming. You didn’t do anything wrong.’ It’s head down and dig.

“He’s been really instrumental in staying on me to make sure I’m doing that.”

When it comes to who Chastain will dig deep for in races this year, Chastain said there are restrictions Ganassi has on whom he can compete for that are still being worked out.

His deal with Niece Motorsports, who he made three starts for last year, was not a result of the Ganassi closure and had been in the works for months. He’ll share the No. 45 Chevrolet with Reid Wilson.

In addition to his truck ride, Chastain plans to compete full time in Cup with Premium Motorsports in the No. 15 Chevrolet while declaring for points in the Xfinity Series.

That way he can compete in any Xfinity and Truck races in the playoffs, when all Cup drivers are banned from competition in those series.

Chastain did not reveal who he has “handshakes galore” with in the Xfinity Series, but he plans to compete in all three points races at Daytona in February. He does anticipate racing at some point this season with JD Motorsports, the Xfinity team he raced full time for from 2015-2017 and all but three races in 2018.

“However many races we end up at, we’ll be great,” Chastain said. “I’m getting to run, getting paid to drive in NASCAR and that was my dream growing up.”

Despite having multiple opportunities to race this season, the question was raised whether last year’s feel-good story has been set back in a way that could harm his hopes of marketing himself for a top-tier ride after 2019.

“People are going to think what they want to think if it set me back or not,” Chastain said. “We’re writing our own story for how this is going to work out.”

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Chad Knaus admits he’ll likely think he’s still with Jimmie Johnson’s team when season begins

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For perhaps the first few races of the 2019 Cup season, Chad Knaus may need a road map of both the garage area and pit road as a reminder he’s no longer with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, but rather in his new role as crew chief of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team with driver William Byron.

“Look, I had 18 years of working on that 48 car, so I guarantee I’m going to walk into the wrong transporter,” Knaus said Friday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint.” “At some point, I’m probably going to key up the radio and start to say ‘Jimmie,’ by accident.”

He then added with a laugh: “I may look at the 48 as it rolls down the front straightaway periodically and get confused, but hell, I’m getting old, so I get confused anyhow. So, that’s just going to be part of life.”

After 17 seasons with Jimmie Johnson, Knaus will be on the pit box of the No. 24 and with driver William Byron in 2019.

Knaus admits regularly referring to Johnson, with whom he won a NASCAR record-tying seven championships and 83 races in 612 starts together, is a hard habit to break..

“As we’re going through and setting rosters and doing our car lineups and what not, I’ve caught myself no less than at least 1,500 times, saying ‘On the 48, we want this,’” Knaus said. “It’s definitely a reality.

“But quite frankly, it’s a good thing. I’ve always been a 24 guy at heart, always. All the really productive years of my career began when I came to Hendrick Motorsports and began working with Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham back in 1993.

“To be able to wear that badge again is really exciting to me. It’s really kind of a homecoming for me. I’ve always had that passion for the 24 and always been a fan of that. So I’m excited to be back and be a part of it.”

As for working with Byron, Knaus admits it will be an interesting change, with Knaus being more of an old-school crew chief, while Byron is more of a new-age race car driver.

“The ability is there (but) it’s definitely different,” he said. “When you get yourselves into positions of a guy like myself or Ray (Evernham) … in the contemporary term of mechanical engineer, being very good at algebra, algorithms, material properties and things of that nature, you have to dig in deeper.

“The days that have come in by old school racer knowledge to really make things happen have kind of passed us to a degree. But, and the big but is, that isn’t necessarily what makes a good crew chief nowadays. What does make a good crew chief nowadays is to be able to come up with is good practical racer knowledge and convey that to the people that can make things happen.

“That’s kind of how I’ve started to approach things over the last couple years and it’s starting to show fruit from my perspective. So yeah, there are things you can do. The one thing that has remained consistent is we’re trying to get from the start/finish line back to the start/finish line as fast as you possibly can. That is a fundamental problem in our sport. And if you can do that, faster than anybody else, you’re going to be successful.”

While Knaus admits he’ll miss working with Johnson, the challenge of working with Byron has reinvigorated him.

“It’s definitely lit a fire back in me that I wouldn’t say died, but maybe helps transforms me into a more aggressive approach, which is definitely what we need,” Knaus said.

As for Daytona, Knaus can see Johnson win his third 500 — and a lot more with new crew chief Kevin Meendering.

Knaus says it would be “awesome” if Johnson can win a third Daytona 500, but also has high goals for Byron, as well.

“Jimmie Johnson’s going to go out there and win races with Kevin Meendering, period, 100 percent,” Knaus said. “Is he going to win the Daytona 500? I sure as heck hope so. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

“I love Jimmie like a brother. I hadn’t seen him since the end of last season. We saw each other at the shop two days ago and we gave each other a big old hug. My goal and our goal at Hendrick Motorsports is to have four teams that are capable of going out there and battling for wins and are in a position to battle for championships every single race and every single year. I feel that William has the ability to do that.”

While he’s not putting any pressure on Byron, Knaus definitely has Johnson-like goals for his young driver.

“The goal is to win the Daytona 500 and sit on the pole and win the 150 and we’re the fastest in practice and led every lap,” Knaus said. “That’s the goal. But the reality is it’s going to take a little time.”

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Jamie McMurray to race in Daytona 500 with Spire Motorsports

Spire Motorsports
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Spire Motorsports announced Friday that 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray will drive the No. 40 car in this year’s Daytona 500.

The Chevrolet Camaro will have branding from Bass Pro Shops, McDonald’s and Cessna, which have all had an affiliation with McMurray. The effort will be done in partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.

“The Daytona 500 is the one race that every NASCAR driver would want to win,” McMurray said in a statement from the team. “For the rest of your life you get to be introduced or recognized as a Daytona 500 champion. I’m excited to have the opportunity to potentially be a two-time winner of the race and it would mean so much to celebrate one more win with all of the great partners that have been with me for so many years.”

Spire Motorsports is a new entry to the Cup Series this year. Spire Sports + Entertainment executives Jeff Dickerson and TJ Puchyr purchased the charter from Furniture Row Racing after last season. The team will field the No. 77 the rest of the season but is using the No. 40 for this race. That’s the car number McMurray drove at the beginning of his Cup career in 2002. The charter ensures McMurray a starting spot in the 500.

The team also announced that Joe Garone, who was President of Furniture Row Racing, will have that same role for this team, which will be based in Mooresville, North Carolina.

McMurray completed his 16th season last year. Kurt Busch is taking over the No. 1 ride McMurray had the past nine seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray has seven career Cup victories. McMurray is one of three drivers to have won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season, joining Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jimmie Johnson (2006). McMurray accomplished the feat in 2010.

McMurray will be a Fox Sports analyst this year and have a role at Chip Ganassi Racing.