What drivers said after Pocono race

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Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “Getting a good restart overall was good. Once we could get clear in Turn 1 (on the final restart), we had a fast enough car in clean air that we could hold them off. Those restarts are always nerve-wracking. You never know who can get a push from behind and get a run on you. We were close to (Kyle) Larson on that last one and that could have made it a lot more difficult. Luckily, had great horsepower from TRD and I was able to get out front and make it happen.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I actually liked that the (Martin Truex Jr.) tried to pull down and block me a little bit because it messed his angle up to the corner (on the final restart). I knew he would have to slow down a little more on entry, and I was hoping I could get close enough to him to get him loose. Which I did, but I also got kind of loose behind him. So I just had to tuck back in line on exit and then had to try and fight off (Kyle Busch) and (Kevin Harvick) behind me. I was just trying to stay lower than them on exit to get them tight. I am happy we finished second because we were probably a sixth- or seventh-place car today and to finish better than where you run is always a good thing.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 3rd: “Just real unfortunate there that once we all thought we had that caution that brought us all down pit road for what we thought was the final stop of the day, we got tires, we beat everybody off pit road and was in control of the restart and then in control of the race when we were leading there, and all of a sudden about 10, 11 laps into that run, there was a caution in Turn 1 for what looked to me to be a shoe booty.  Somebody took their booty off, I guess, and chucked it out their window. That was kind of weird that we saw a caution for that, but safety comes first, so that just kind of derailed our strategy, if you will, and we lost this race last year on not pitting in that situation and getting beat by tires, and so we pitted this year for tires and got beat by those that didn’t pit.”

 KEVIN HARVICK — Finished 4th: “We had a good car all day, just came down to really losing control of the race on the last pit stop. Really not pitting or pitting didn’t really seem to matter. We lost control to the 18 (Kyle Busch) and wound up losing a couple more spots on the restart starting on the inside, and that was the end of the day. Car was fast and everybody did a great job, it just didn’t work out.

Ryan Blaney — Finished 6th: “It was a really hard day. We didn’t start out very good and worked on it really hard. I thought we were about a fourth- or fifth-place car and we were running fifth there when the caution came out. That jumbled everyone up and we came in and put two on it and my car didn’t really drive that good on two tires. We ended up sixth. I thought we were better than a couple cars that finished in front of us. We worked on it pretty hard all day and to make gains like we did through the day is a positive.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 7th: “Man, this is a really challenging place, and I have run so bad here for six years. I just came here with an open mind and told myself I was going to study up and pay attention to what all three of my teammates did and try to learn and try to improve every practice. Qualifying we had whatever snafu we had with that set of tires and it got us set way behind starting 34th, but the guys brought me an incredible race car. I finally figured this place out I feel like.’’

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 8th: “My guys kept fighting all day long. That was a hard-fought eighth place finish. We just need to keep improving, but we’re slowly chipping away at it.”

Joey Logano — Finished 9th: “We just didn’t get the gas tank full on the first stop and ended up running out of gas and then we had to pit while the pits were closed and went down a lap and then there just weren’t any cautions to get the lap back. Once we did it was just too late. We finished ninth and at least we got back up there some but I feel like we should have finished top five with the car we had. We just shot ourselves in the foot a little bit today.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 10th: “We had a good car, I felt like it was much better than where we finished. I didn’t do a very good job on that last restart. With old tires we fell back and had to put on tires and I had too much ground to make up.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 12th: “Considering the handling issues we fought throughout the weekend, leaving here with a 12th-place finish in the Dow Camaro ZL1 isn’t too bad. Turn 3 was a challenge for us during practice, and continued to be during the race. We decided to use pit strategy to make up track position, which I felt like we needed more than handling adjustments. We stayed out longer in Stage 2 than anyone else and took two tires when we finally came in for our stop. Our Camaro ZL1 handled the best when we took two tires at a time. For the rest of the race, we tried to use that to our advantage, which got us into the top 10 during the final couple of restarts. We just couldn’t hold that spot long enough to make it to the checkered flag.”  

Matt Kenseth — Finished 13th: “It was a struggle all day for us. I felt like we got fortunate at the end with some pit strategy by Matt (Puccia) and some cautions that got us back in position to finish 13th but we didn’t run that well. I feel like we made a small amount of headway today but we still have a bunch of work to do.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 14th: “Overall it was a tough weekend. We couldn’t really get a balance on our car. We were loose throughout all the practices and then really tight in the race. We managed to finish a lot better than we ran, which is good, but we have to get the balance better and we struggled with speed all weekend. Never had speed and never had a handle on it, so we have a lot of work to do before we come back.”

David Ragan — Finished 16th: “I felt like we ran really good the first stage and got off a little on adjustments, but the team got the car driving better and a few timely cautions got us back on the lead lap. It was fun to race at the end and we probably finished a few spots higher than we should have finished but it was nice to finish on the lead lap and be close to a top-15.”

William Byron – Finished 18th: “We seemed to have a pretty good day. We just took off a little bit tight on the last restart and got stuck in some bad aero spots, but overall not bad. It was good to get a solid finish and have executed pretty well to put ourselves in a good position. We just needed probably a 15-lap run just to get spread out a little bit. But, it was not bad, and we’ll go on to Michigan.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 21st: “That was a long day. I don’t think anything worked, track bar motor, cool box, fire under the dash, got spun out on pit road and pitted the car backwards. A top 20 would have been nice. We got passed at the line there by (Clint Bowyer) but we will just keep plugging away.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 23rd: “Our GEICO Racing team played the strategy game today. We didn’t have the speed that the leaders did, but my crew chief Matt Borland made strategy calls that kept us ahead of the other cars on our lap. We took the wave-around during each stage break to get back on the lead lap, and we were able to maintain our position in the final stage. The first caution of the last stage fell perfectly into our pit strategy, and we really had the balance of our Camaro ZL1 in a better place than it had been all day. I would have loved to break into the top 20 there at the end, but we didn’t give up and kept fighting back. We had good execution today, and that is what is going to make us better.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 25th: “Overall, we made gains in qualifying again, but handling-wise we weren’t all that good. We pushed in Turn 3, which was our weakest point on the track, and were loose in Turn 2. We took advantage of the stage cautions to make major adjustments to help climb into the top 12, but we ended up being an innocent bystander at the end. I said right before that restart with 10 to go that we’d have another caution and we did. Unfortunately, we were involved, when (Erik Jones) hit the Kalahari Camaro ZL1 in the left rear. We were running 12th at the time and were hoping to gain some spots, but we had to pit for repairs and that cost us all our track position.”

BUBBA WALLACE — Finished 38th: “I made a mistake on pit road speeding again here at Pocono. We took the wave around and we were on older stuff.  (Kasey Kahne) was a little bit better than us, well, for sure better.  I just tucked in behind him so we didn’t waste too much time and kind of did like a long shift and give up a little bit of time. I did it earlier in the race around some cars and had no trouble with it. I just had too much weight and pulled to the left and went from third to second. I really hate and I have never done it before.  It’s a bummer. She screamed pretty loud for a second and that was it.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.