What drivers said after Martinsville

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What drivers said after the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the opening race of the third round of playoffs.

Kyle Busch – Winner: “Awesome to get to victory lane here at Martinsville. You know, I wanted to win Charlotte, Martinsville and Homestead and that’ll make us this year’s champions, so we’ve got one more. Just wanted to say our guys did an awesome job preparing this car. We weren’t the best all day, but we put ourselves in the right spots there at the end and there was kind of chaos ensuing and none of it was our fault, we just came out on the right end of the stick. Can’t say enough about NOS Energy Drinks, Cessna, DVX Sunglasses. My son Brexton’s at home, he’s not here with us this weekend, so want to say hey to him, we’ll see you later tonight buddy. Looking forward to going to Homestead.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “You know, to run second here is awesome. I think we had a fifth- or sixth-place car all day long. We couldn’t quite get better than that, but I’m really proud of that effort for everybody – for all our guys. So we fought hard all day, we didn’t give up and we had a shot at it there (on) the last lap. Got inside of Kyle (Busch), just couldn’t get the power down off of (Turn) 4. I didn’t want to be the one to knock him out-of-the-way for the win. Maybe I should have, but I don’t know. Those guys kept knocking each other out-of-the-way up there in the front, I’m not sure that’s the way to do it.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 3rd: “It seems we’ve been struggling here lately trying to get some consistency in there to say the least, but fell back and got back up through them. Then we had some more trouble and we’d gain some and lose some, gain some and lose some and we finally got there at the end. I wish they would have got into each other one more time and I just went ahead and finished the last one off if it was down to one, but it’s just a product of that situation. Those guys are racing for a lot, there’s a lot on the line and you know on a green-white-checker at a place like this all hell is gonna break loose. The only thing I can say is why we don’t race at night is beyond me here.  You should definitely utilize those lights for something other than a green-white-checkered because it’s pretty damn cool under the lights.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 4th: “I just knew I got in the corner and he was inside me and we had contact. I haven’t seen anymore of that to really have any clarity to it. The track is just real slick on the restarts for everybody. You saw that. It takes about five laps for anyone to get going or more, especially the leader, but there was a lot of hard fighting here because it’s a short track. That’s what short tracks are kind of about is rooting and gauging. You try not to take anybody out, but you’ve got to sometimes rub a little bit.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 5th: “Four races to go at Martinsville, playoff time and everybody is trying to get everything they can. It was a crazy finish. But for us our goal was to score stage points. I think we scored (four) stage points and got a top-five. My goal was a top 10. The goal was to not lose it today. I’m really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing. They built this car in two weeks after our test. We were way more competitive here. And as you look at the results, they show it. We have bent up fenders but it looks like the whole field does.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 7th: “Well (Chase Elliott) said I wrecked him and obviously, you know Ray Charles saw that. Obviously it wasn’t intentional, I wanted to move him out of the way and there was just not enough grip on the race track for him to save it. There’s no difference, he washed the 2 (Brad Keselowski) up the race track as well. I mean, we can play favorites with who we want. Unfortunately, this is a ticket to Homestead at stake.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 8th: “I felt the first half of our day was pretty good. We lost a lot of handle in the second half after the second stage and really were struggling. On short runs I thought we were OK for 20 laps or so, but the last handful of restarts were just pandemonium. It was pretty ridiculous with everyone wrecking each other and running into each other. I thought we were gonna make it through the last one, but we just kind of got caught up off of four in all that stuff.  At least we salvaged a decent day.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 11th: “Yeah, we ran pretty good there toward the end of the race.  I liked the car.  We were sitting there on that long run saving the rear tires.  If it would have went green we were going to get a bunch of cars.  But, just had that caution when the No. 66 (Carl Long) blew the tire, so we had to run hard for the rest of the race.  But, man I can’t believe how everybody crossed the finish line.  I ain’t seen nothing like that … I don’t know if I ever have seen it.  Trying to think back.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that.  There was a wreck one time at Richmond before they ever reconfigured it in the Xfinity race on the front straightaway in like 1982… that is the only thing I ever seen like it.  But, crazy finish.  Decent run.  I think that is, let’s see, 12th place is our worst finish in the last six weeks, pretty decent for us this year.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “We were just terrible all day.  Oh, what a bummer.  We had high hopes for this weekend.  Man, it just didn’t turn out so well.  So, we scored some points here and there.  We will go to the next one and try to get more.”

Joey Logano – Finished 24th: “I was passing the 24 (Chase Elliott). I had a good run on him and the 18 (Kyle Busch) sent it three-wide. I tried to give him room and he slid up. I don’t know. I have to watch the replay, but he slid up and got up in the left rear and cut it down.”

CHASE ELLIOTT – Finished 27th: “We had a great car today and we had an opportunity. We had a good restart there at the end and felt like I was doing what I needed to do. And I can’t control (Denny Hamlin’s) decisions and whatever the hell that was. We’re on to Texas.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 30th: “Our No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS was just a bit tight in the center of the corners tonight, but the crew made some good adjustments for that. We were able to run competitive speeds during the long green flag runs. Unfortunately, it was an uphill battle for us after we had the early problems. We knocked a hole in the left front and sustained some left rear damage when we were part of the first caution, then we ended up getting a flat left rear tire. We were never able to get all those laps back.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 37th: “I just got tight up off (Turn) 2 and got into a lapper’s left-rear and I just spun really quick and hit the inside wall. Another Martinsville for us. I’ve got to figure out how to get around this place. I suck here.”

Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.

 

Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona

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In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”

 

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

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Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”