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What Drivers Said after Monday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Monday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway:

Clint Bowyer – WINNER: “This is a place where I’ve gotten so close. I wanted to win this grandfather clock so bad. … We got so close back in 2012. …  For whatever reason, it felt right driving up here. … I told (son Cash) this morning, I was like, ‘Damn it, we’ve got to get our picture in victory lane.’ He told me he wanted a checkered flag. Let me tell you something, Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, to give this old dog a fresh chance and fresh blood with a new opportunity. Finally, to get the 14 in victory lane is just a weight off the shoulders. It’s been a long time. You start to question if you can get it done or not. To have it come at this place meant a lot. … This place is an acquired taste. When I first got here I was a duck out of water just like everybody else that starts here at first. I learned from Jimmie Johnson and learned from Jeff Gordon, sometimes the hard way, but nonetheless I learned over the years and finally put it to good use. To keep Kyle Busch, one of the best in the business behind you in those closing laps, the nerves were through the roof. It’s unbelievable how it all came true and to have everybody here.”

KYLE BUSCH – Finished 2nd: “We have to keep executing and doing a good job. That’s what we’re doing right now, it’s just not working our way. The M&M’s Caramel Camry was really close today. It wasn’t as good in practice. I thought we were better today than we were in practice, so that’s an improvement. … I was not expecting the 14 (Clint Bowyer) as one of those guys that was going to stay there and be one we had to race for the win. It’s funny. All of our finishes, for as good as we are in second place, as far ahead as we are of third, the leader is that far ahead of us. It seems like we’re kind of on our own island but then we get beat by somebody else on their own island. All is good, we just have to keep going.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 3rd: “It was a good showing for us, for sure. I think the track tightened up a good bit there towards the end and we just got a little bit behind. Congrats to Clint for winning that race. It was fun racing with him for a bit, but for us to come out of here and lead a bunch of laps, win a stage and run third here at Martinsville – where I usually run terrible – that says a lot about this team and the preparation that they did getting ready for this race. That’s nice to have, we just need to be a little bit better.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 4th: “It’s just so cool to see (Bowyer win a race). He’s worked so hard through a lot and has had a couple of tough seasons. And now he’s obviously with a great team. They have started the year off strong. He’s always been strong here at Martinsville. I know this place is special to him and it’s really cool to see him win today. … It’s cool to see him win with his kid here and everything. I couldn’t imagine the emotion he has right now. … It was definitely a difficult day for us – we struggled early, the second stage we really, really got bad and fell backwards, dropped like a rock. I think we barely stayed on the lead lap at the end of that second segment. … We made a bunch of (adjustments) and got better on the long run and made it back to the front of the field. … You never know how it’s going to go, but I’m proud of my guys for sticking with it. We were all pretty frustrated early on trying to figure it out, just kept our heads down and kept digging and came home with a great finish.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 5th: “I didn’t mess it up today. We had a good car and saw how fast the SHR cars can be with the right driver in them here. This hasn’t been one of my better spots, but everything today went reasonably well and we were able to get Clint to Victory Lane and it was a good day for our Jimmy John’s/Busch Ford. … It’s been a long road for (Bowyer) and I’m really, really proud of him and (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and everybody for sticking with it because you could see that they had potential and they could do things that were gonna be good, so they just needed to get that year under their belt and have it right.”

Joey Logano – Finished 6th: “At the start of the race we may have made some bad changes over the snow break and weren’t really good compared to where we were in practice. The team made some good adjustments and got to the end there and were probably a third-place car, but it was too little, too late to get back up there; I drove back up to sixth. I was catching up to fifth and wanted a top-five stat because it at least sounds a little better than sixth, but we’ve been kind of stuck there in sixth or seventh no matter where we’re at right now, so we’ve got to find a little bit more speed. I’m proud of the fight and proud of everyone that keeps building these good, solid, consistent cars. Pit road is always consistent, so that’s nice. We’ve just got to go a little faster.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 7th: “It’s frustrating to say we are looking for a seventh, but much better than we have been the last couple of weeks and just happy for all my guys. They have worked really hard all off season and all year. We haven’t had the results we wanted, so to come here and finish stronger is definitely a step in the right direction. We’ve got a long way to go, but we are headed the right way. … We know we are off, but everybody is just real motivated and working harder. It’s a lot of guys that have won a lot of races and they want to get back to that winning feeling. So, they are all working really hard and got the best in the business back at the shop working to get better.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 8th: “It was just a solid day. We were just missing just a little bit to go up there and run with the best of them. The last set of tires didn’t agree with the car, the car was bouncing around a lot. It’s unfortunate that our last set of tires were our worst, but that happens. We still got a top 10 out it, ran in the top 10 all day and was able to start 25th and pass a lot of cars. Solid day, what we needed at one of our better racetracks. These are the places we know that we have a better chance at and we have to take advantage of it. So, I would say I’m okay with eighth, I wish we could have got a little bit more at the end of the race there, but a solid day all around.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 9th: “I thought our last run was way better than what we had had before that.  But, we were just way too far off there for the majority of the day to expect that you are going to catch up by the end.  We have some work to do.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “I tore up the car a little bit on the nose and bent up the splitter and the car wasn’t quite the same after that. I just made a mistake there.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 12th: “He (Harvick) just got to me and I think bumped me three or four times. And then I was just bumping him back and he brake-checked me. I probably shouldn’t have brake-checked him in the first place. They were just some light bumps here and then slammed on the brakes here. So, classy. … We still have to work on a few things but this is definitely a step in the right direction from where we’ve been in the past couple of races here. Really happy with the FedEx Camry. We didn’t get a good finish like we probably deserved but all-in-all, a decent day. No mistakes. We’ll keep building from this.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 14th: “I worked all day to get my track position back after the first mistake, and then I made another. But our Mobil 1 Ford Fusion was fast, and while we needed to roll the corner a bit better all day, we still had a solid run. All of our finishes at Stewart-Haas have been solid this year, really showing that Mobil 1 oil technology performs on the track and Mobil 1 Annual Protection can do the same for our fans at home.”

Erik Jones – Finished 17th: “Martinsville is kind of a tough place for myself. Kind of ran where we thought would. Wanted to run better but we struggled a little bit all weekend. Just didn’t have the forward drive. Hopefully, it’ll be a little bit better for the fall (race at Martinsville) and finish toward the top 10.”

William Byron – Finished 20th: “The first couple of runs I thought we were decent.  Fifty lap runs seemed to be kind of our money spot, we needed a lot of 50-lap runs.  I think that once we got into the run we struggled a little bit and towards the end we kind of managed.  We just needed a couple of more short runs to kind of be able to gain some spots, but not bad.  Not what we wanted by far, but this is a fun racetrack and hopefully come back stronger in the fall.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 21st: “The long run was good, the short runs we struggle a little bit. We had a brake fan issue there that kept flipping the breaker, so I’m not sure if we got something stuck in it, but we didn’t have a whole lot of brakes left to challenge at the end. I don’t think it cost us a whole lot, maybe a couple spots, but every point matters. We still haven’t reached our potential, but we’re close to the Top 20, so not bad.”

David Ragan – Finished 25th: “We just started off way too slow. Our car wouldn’t roll the center and didn’t have good forward drive, so it made for a real long day. We raced hard and we just never caught any lucky breaks and we couldn’t make our car better, so we’ll definitely have to go back to the drawing board before the fall.”

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Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

NASCAR issued the following statement.

“Though he may have never turned a lap or a wrench, few captured the essence of our sport through his work more than Sam Bass. He was a consistent presence in the NASCAR garage, and his ever-present smile and endearing personality welcomed all. Though we have lost a member of the NASCAR family, his legend will continue in his art – all of which illustrated the greatness of our sport and the talent of a true friend.”

Michael McDowell leads final Daytona 500 practice

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Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell was fastest in the final practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox).

McDowell and his No. 34 Ford recorded nine laps and a top speed of 191.440 mph.

The top five was completed by Ty Dillon (191.432 mph), pole-sitter William Byron (191.339), Alex Bowman (191.278) and Daniel Hemric (190.921).

Only 20 cars made at least one lap in the session.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 16 and was 11th on the speed chart at 189.741 mph.

Of four drivers to make a 10-lap run, Bowman had the best average at 190.334 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Jeffrey Earnhardt honors grandfather Dale Earnhardt with helmet design

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Xfinity Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt is honoring the “GOAT” in his family with a helmet he’s debuting this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The “GOAT” – or “Greatest of All-Time” – is his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

The helmet, which you can see below, bears an image of the seven-time Cup champion riding a horse while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.

Next to the image is the text, “Just a goat on his horse!”

Earnhardt will have the helmet today as he starts on the front row of the Xfinity Series season opener (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

It is the first of nine Xfinity races he’ll start for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning in Xfinity

Today’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the 2019 season today with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 38-car field will feature defending series champion Tyler Reddick, who seeks to become the first driver to defend his Xfinity championship since Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won in 2011 and repeated in 2012.

Here’s how today’s pre-race schedule looks:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Drew Patey, VIP Partner of the NASCAR Racing Experience, at 2:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:49 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 2:10 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:30 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The National Anthem will be at 2:31 p.m. and sung by Gina Marie Incandela.

DISTANCE: The race is 120 laps (300 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at MRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 74 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick won last year’s season-opening race. He started 11th and led 11 laps en route to the victory.

TO THE REAR: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick will start from the rear after changing a tire with an air leak. Max Tullman also will start from the rear for a tire change. Jeremy Clements, unapproved adjustments.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.