What Drivers Said after Sunday’s race at Texas

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With their respective tickets now punched through to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks, Kevin Harvick and runner-up Martin Truex Jr. had plenty to say after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

So did a lot of other drivers, especially the remaining five who will fight next week at Phoenix for the final vacancy in Championship 4:

Kevin Harvick – Winner: “This feels so good. We have been qualifying well here and racing well ever since I have been at Stewart-Haas Racing and just never got it to work out to go to victory lane. Today we had to earn it. To be able to pass the 78 car (Martin Truex Jr) for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile at Homestead to race for the championship.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished second: “One of those deals, I think we could have held them off on a clean race track, but the 6 car (Trevor Bayne) is in the damn way every week – that’s pretty normal. … (On clinching a spot in the championship race) It feels great. It feels amazing – that’s what we set out to do this year was to make it to Homestead and fight for the title and we feel like we’re right there. I just can’t wait to get there and get back to work. I wish we could have won today, it would have been a little sweeter going and locking it up in victory lane, but we were off a little bit there at the end.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “The 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) were really fast all day. We had a really good FedEx Camry, just had a couple bad restarts there where I went high, lost my track position and we had to take two (tires) to get that track position back that I lost. Overall, a good day – I mean great points day. We scored a lot of points, but lost positions there with the 4 winning, so we’ll – we’ll just keep digging, keep giving ourselves a shot to win and hopefully next week will be our week.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished fourth: “First run of the day was fun. Everybody was on three-cycle scuffs and we were on stickers. We got to the end, we had a good car when we got to get up through there pretty quick, but just got tight on that last set of tires for some reason. … I’d always draw the outside lane on a restart and lose a couple spots. It’s just hard to overcome that. That was our worst run of the day and it was still pretty competitive, so it was nice to be competitive.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fifth: “We had a pretty good car. Something happened on Lap 1 (collided with Kyle Busch) and basically we started the race last and a lap-and-a-half down. That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth. I’m happy for that. … (You are +19 in points) “I need more than that. I’d feel confident if we were locked in. These races you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next week and hope none of the other guys win. It’s doable, but it’s gonna be a nail biter next week for sure.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished sixth: “Obviously, we need to be really aggressive. We need to go try and win the race. That’s really the only thing we can do, so I’m proud of the effort by the team today. We didn’t start off very good and we got really good towards the middle and had one run where I was super-loose towards the end. I gave up like five spots. I got real loose and that was unfortunate, but we got our car a little bit better at the end. … (What he must do at Phoenix) You pretty much have to go and win the race. That’s all we can do. It’s gonna be hard to point your way in because everyone is running pretty good. We’ll just try to win Phoenix and do the best we can.”

Chase Elliott – Finished eighth: “We weren’t very good all day. Had some good restarts there and was able to get some decent track position at times, just never could hold it, so a frustrating afternoon. … (You have to win at Phoenix, right?) Yeah, I guess. So, we will try our best out there and see what happens.”

Kurt Busch – Finished ninth: “Man, We just still want more. We’re so close to being what we want, but we just still aren’t in that top five group right now. We’ve just got to find a little more. I’m real happy with our effort. We finished in the top-10 after a pit road mishap, so it’s a good day.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “Our Fastenal Ford was solid all day. The guys did a great job making changes overnight. I’m bummed we didn’t get a top 10 but it was still a solid weekend for us overall.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “We were able to grab a couple of stage points at the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2 today, which I am really proud of. We could hit our marks as good as anybody. Speed-wise, we weren’t the fastest car, but we are obviously doing something right because it seems like nobody could keep up behind me. With everyone running such similar speeds today, track position was big. I’m proud of the team for all working together to get this 13th.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 16th: “It was a solid day. We maximized the day for sure strategy-wise and going about it that was the best we could have asked for there. The car just got hot, it was slick, we were just kind of on a razor’s edge. It’s better, we finished, that is better than we did in a month, so we are gaining on it, but to get to the next echelon it’s a big leap. As a team, everybody did all they could, that was a solid weekend, maximized it. We will just continue to dig and figure it out.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 20th: “Texas hasn’t been good to us this year. We struggled since we unloaded off the truck on Friday. We got behind early. We were super loose so between major chassis changes and strategy, we raced back onto the lead lap in Stage 2 but struggled again on the next long green-flag run. We definitely need to pull together and figure out what the 31 needs because the 3 car (Austin Dillon) raced on the lead lap and in the top 10. We’ve obviously made some gains as a team, and we just need to figure out what works for us. On top of that, we had some cooling issues so, as a driver, I was burning up a bit. I’m OK, but it wasn’t fun out there for me at times.”

Paul Menard — Finished 23rd: “First off, I have to thank Daniel Hemric and all of the guys on this No. 27 team for getting this Atlas/Menards Chevrolet set up and ready for me this weekend (while his wife gave birth to their second child). We made some headway at the start of the race but suffered damage to the nose during the first stage. The guys fixed it up as best they could. We kept adjusting on the handling of the car but had to pit under green for a vibration in the final stage. These guys never gave up, and we were able to come out of here with a 23rd-place finish.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 24th: “Texas has been quite the challenge for our team to overcome this year. We didn’t have the day that we wanted, that’s for sure. This team works hard week in and week out, but we just haven’t hit on what we need to at these mile-and-a-half tracks. … We did what we could though and used strategy to get laps back for a stronger finish.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 27th: “We’ve got to figure something out. Kansas was a lot like this. It was just extremely difficult to drive the car and carry entry speed. And then we had a loose wheel and then contact on a restart. We started off in a hole and just kept digging a deeper one as we went. I’m definitely disappointed. And, I honestly just feel bad for my team. These guys are working so hard. And to work this hard and not see any speed go back in the car and have bad results as the last three weeks have been is pretty disappointing. … (Can you win at Phoenix to reach the championship round? “It’s been a good track for us. But this last half of the year has been really weird. In places where we expect to run well and traditionally do, we haven’t. But I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix and we’ll go there and fight as hard as we can. And that’s one thing this team will never do it give up.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 35th: “(Why did you take the car to the garage?) We burnt the hub up on the left-front, so we are going to change the spindle and change the hub and try to get back out there and finish the race. … (You looked like you were en route to a good showing today) Yeah, it wasn’t bad. I mean the car has ran about 11th to 20th all weekend in all the practices and everything. I don’t know, we’ve got to get a little bit better to beat some of them guys up there, but I was having a good time and the car wasn’t too bad.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 36th: “Man, we are plagued with bad luck lately. I think we would have had a top-10 today. Maybe we’ll get a break or two next week in Phoenix.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 37th: “Just can’t really execute, whether it’s bad pit stops or bad luck. It’s frustrating because I know I had the best car and lost track position and that is what happens. You try and move forward and it’s so hard to pass here you try and find some stuff and get in the wall. … (You’ve now had 3 DNFs in a row) I don’t know.  Can’t wait for the last lap at Homestead.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick back at No. 1

NASCAR Power Rankings
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Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Kevin Harvick is the No. 1 driver in this week’s NASCAR rankings.

Martin Truex Jr. held the top spot for just a week before Harvick reclaimed the crown with his series-leading ninth Cup win of the year Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This week’s rankings includes three ties as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Round of 16

Harvick takes his power rankings lead to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the start of the Round of 12.

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has three wins in the last five races: Dover, the Southern 500 and Bristol night race.

2. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 7): Finished seventh at Bristol for his third top 10 in five races. His 11 top fives so far matches his total from each of the last two seasons. He scored a career-high 12 top fives in 2017.

3. (tie) Kyle Busch (Last week No.  9): Finished second in Bristol after he started from the rear due to inspection failures. Has three consecutive top 10s for the first time this season.

3. (tie) Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Followed consecutive third-place finishes with an 11th at Bristol.

5. (tie) Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 1): Finished 24th in Bristol following contact with Denny Hamlin after an unscheduled pit stop.

5. (tie) Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): After winning at Richmond, Keselowski had a rough night in Bristol. He finished 34th due to power steering problems.

7. (tie) Aric Almirola (Last week unranked): Finished fifth in Bristol for his third consecutive top 10 and his fourth in five races.

7. (tie) Clint Bowyer (Last week unranked): Placed sixth in Bristol for his third consecutive top-10 finish and to keep his playoff chances alive.

9. Austin Dillon (Last week No. 3): Placed a respectable 12th to finish the first round after consecutive top fives.

10. Erik Jones (Last week unranked): Placed third in Bristol for his seventh top-five finish of the season and his second in the last three races.

Also receiving votes: Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Silly season features Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan

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NASCAR Silly Season took a twist Monday. A day that started with the announcement that Ross Chastain would drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year ended with the news that Denny Hamlin would co-own a team with Michael Jordan and have Bubba Wallace as the driver in 2021.

As JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full Cup season. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

A team name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a later time.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

No. TBA: Bubba Wallace joins the new team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA great Michael Jordan. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter. Germain Racing will not continue after this season.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that Wood Brothers Racing has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Brad Daugherty: Michael Jordan to NASCAR is ‘huge moment’

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Brad Daugherty calls Michael Jordan’s ownership of a Cup team a “huge moment for NASCAR.”

Jordan and Denny Hamlin will co-own a Cup team next season. Bubba Wallace will be the driver. Jordan will become the first Black majority car owner of a full-time team since Wendell Scott owned and raced cars in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Daugherty, the only Black owner of a full-time Cup team currently, is excited about Jordan’s entrance into NASCAR.

“It’s a big momentum shift for this sport culturally, period,” said Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and an analyst for NBC Sports. “Three years ago, this would have never happened. A year ago, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s the timing. If the timing is right and you have someone like Michael Jordan put his brand and what he’s all about into whatever you are doing, it adds a lot of credibility. I look forward to whatever he can bring to the table to help continue to build NASCAR.”

Daugherty told NBC Sports that Jordan can help the sport reach more people.

“The eyeballs are going to be incredible,” Daugherty said of Jordan’s potential impact. “The opportunity for entrance into the sport will be made more available as far as people being aware of the availability to get involved in NASCAR as a fan or as a business. There’s just so many different areas that will light up just because of who he is and what he represents. His entire legacy creates opportunity for everyone.

“Now, we start talking diversity with what he’s able to do from a corporate standpoint and also just from a legacy standpoint with his brand. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited because I think more people now, more than ever, will take a look at NASCAR with a keen eye and keen interest and be excited about maybe participating as a fan or as a business partner or as someone wanting to learn how to drive a race car or own a race team. The more notoriety the better.”

NASCAR stated Monday: “Michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”

Jordan told The Charlotte Observer on Monday that the deal came together in about 10 days because of the chance to hire Wallace.

“When (Hamlin) told me there was a possibility of getting Bubba Wallace, I’m saying, ‘OK, this is perfect!’” Jordan told The Observer. “If I’m getting involved in NASCAR, then get a Black driver (with) a Black owner.”

For all that Jordan can bring to NASCAR, Daugherty knows that the competition can prove challenging.

“I’m sure he’s committed to next season and we’ll see how that goes and if it goes well, you go beyond that,” Daugherty said. “He had a (Superbike) team for a long time and loved that. He understands it’s a different business model. He’s at the point in his life, he’s like Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick and those guys to where it’s really not a detriment to him financially if he’s not making money. We’ll have to see how much he can stomach because it’s an interesting business model for sure.”

Jordan told The Observer he’s in it to win.

“If I’m investing, if I’m a participant, then I want to win! I don’t want to be out there to be just another car,” Jordan said.

Daugherty looks forward to seeing Jordan, Hamlin and Wallace at the track.

“I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” Daugherty said. “They’re going to be like rock stars.”

Daugherty also looks forward to something else next year.

“Look forward to racing against those guys,” he said, “and trying to kick their butts.”

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

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Germain Racing car owner Bob Germain announced Monday that he has sold the team’s charter and will end the team after this season.

The charter was purchased by a new team that will have Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan as owners and Bubba Wallace as the driver.

Germain said in a statement that the No. 13 team will continue the rest of the season with Ty Dillon as driver.

“Being an owner in NASCAR for the last 16 years has been a thrilling and rewarding adventure,” Germain said in a statement. “From winning two NASCAR Truck Series championships in 2006 and 2010 to competing at the highest level of motorsports in the Cup Series for the last 12 seasons, I have experienced the highs and lows of our sport. I’m extremely proud of what Germain Racing has accomplished at every level and I will be transitioning out of ownership with many memories and friendships. I appreciate the interest and offers made over the last couple of weeks and I am excited to see how the sport continues to grow in the future.

“Thank you to GEICO for their loyalty to Germain Racing for over a decade. It has been a great source of pride for our team to represent their brand on the track. Doug Barnette with Player Management International has facilitated our GEICO relationship since the beginning and I truly appreciate his efforts. Finally, to my employees: building a team camaraderie and creating a family atmosphere has been a highlight of this journey. I will miss each of you.”

Germain pondered a sale when GEICO decided not to renew its contract after this season with the team.  GEICO is one of NASCAR’s Premier Partners, joining Busch Beer, Coca-Cola and Xfinity.

Dillon spoke in late August about the challenges facing single-car teams in Cup.

“The model is very tough right now for single-car teams,” he said. “I’m hoping that NASCAR is going to change it and help on it. But it needs to change for one-car teams to be more successful that haven’t already been at the top level of the sport or have an incredible amount of money to leapfrog into the top spot. If you don’t have three or four teams to spread the wealth with big name sponsors and a lot of money behind the effort, it’s just not a model that’s going to survive long term.”

Hamlin acknowledged the challenge a one-car team can have.

“I do believe that the (ownership) model will hopefully get better,” Hamlin said before last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Do I think it’s fixed? No, I think there is still some work to be done to make the model a viable business. You want a business that everyone wants to be a part of, not the ones that are fleeting. Certainly, I think NASCAR is trying it’s best to make the teams a little more healthy. I think that outlook toward the future is what’s interesting to me.”

Germain Racing is the second team to sell its charter since August. Leavine Family Racing announced it had sold its charter on Aug. 4. Spire Motorsports purchased it and will be a two-car team in 2021.