What drivers said after Indy

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Brad Keselowski — Winner: “I gotta give credit where credit is due. My crew chief, Paul Wolfe, made a heck of a call to pit there late in that run and the yellow came out and we had new tires and started eighth and it was kind of like it gave me the ball. You know how that goes. I had to make a play. I knew it was going to be tough. We weren’t a dominant car by any means but Paul and everyone executed an incredible race. I just had to do my job and here I am in victory lane at the Brickyard. Man, I wish RP (Roger Penske) was here. I know he is watching at home. What a day!”

Erik Jones — Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I would say that’s a pretty accurate representation. We just had an up and down day and it was kind of a weird race the way that cautions were falling. We never really seemed to get in a groove and get a feel for where our car was capable of. I thought maybe we had about an eighth-place car. We stayed out at the end and I was kind of like ‘man, I think we’re going to get hosed here on the restart with these guys taking tires’. Our Toyota Camry was fast and we had a good restart. The 14 (Clint Bowyer) spun his tires. We were able to get clear and it worked out. I was hoping to be a little bit closer to the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) when they were side by side to get a big run, but we weren’t quite close enough to do that. A strong day. A race like we needed to have when we’re in the playoffs – when we’re not a car that can contend, just persevere and make the most of what we can and that’s what we did today.”

DENNY HAMLIN — Finished 3rd: “I had the race pretty well in hand. Landon Cassill wrecked for no apparent reason at the end and then we just got roughed up by the 2 (Brad Keselowski) there at the end – on new tires. Very unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes cautions don’t fall your way. We were able to survive the first few, but allowed those guys to – with all those cautions and meaningless wrecks – to the guys on new tires to be right on us and that’s what happened.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “Disaster is a good word. It was not a smooth day by any means from start to finish, but our Jimmy John’s Ford was fast and that was the highlight of the day.”

CLINT BOWYER — Finished 5th: “You’ve got to use good runs like that for a confidence-booster for the playoffs. It was a good run for us. Man, it’s a game of luck. There wasn’t really any strategy. You can’t strategize for cautions that you don’t know are gonna exist. I felt like we were definitely faster than the 11, but when he beat us out of the pits there, that position nobody passed anybody for the lead and unless they were a huge advantage on tires, and then all of a sudden the cautions come out and hand the 2 the win. That’s what’s frustrating, but that’s the nature of the beast here.

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “We have to stick with our strengths and that is consistency. We’ve qualified well all year. We’ve had good pit strategy and we just have to make sure we don’t make any mistakes that hurt us and we lose a lot of track position. Today, we had one bad pit stop and it’s like, ‘You know what, the car is fast.’ We just have to take our time getting back up there, instead of trying to blitz through there. Sometimes when you do that you get caught up in some wrecks, so, right now, it’s the playoffs and we’ll just work our way through and advance through the rounds.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “You just do whatever you have to in order to win and it’s the same strategy that the No. 11 and No. 14 were on. I think we all pitted really close. It was hard to pass today and having that track position at the end I didn’t think… I mean I wanted to stay out because it was hard to make up any ground. When the No. 42 pitted I was worried about how many behind us might follow him in. We definitely made the right call. If the last caution hadn’t come out we would have run third or fourth, yeah it was a good day”.

Kyle Busch — Finished 8th: “Hopefully we can kick (the playoffs) off well. Hopefully we can kick them off with a win. We’ve not been to victory lane in Las Vegas in a long, long time. I’m hoping that we can get back to victory lane there and get ourselves started off with this playoff exactly the way we need so we can get our way through and not have to worry about the Roval.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 10th: “From the start of this race, it was all about track position. Tires didn’t mean a whole lot. Our No. 31 Grainger Camaro ZL1 was decent but really aero-dependent. If I got really close to someone, the car would plow. If someone got behind me, the car would snap loose. Our laps times in clean air were as good as the top-five cars, but we just needed the track position and a shot at the end. Fortunately for us our strategy paid off and we were in contention with 10 laps to go. We lined up sixth on the final restart, but with all that dirty air, it just wasn’t going to happen for us. All in all, we had absolutely no practice or qualifying so great job by my crew chief Luke Lambert and the rest of the No. 31 crew for unloading a competitive car for me at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Our regular season may be over, but our plan remains the same, win. We’ve got 10 races to keep improving on our Camaro and 10 more chances to win.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 11th: “We were running fourth or fifth (on the final pit stop) and green flag stops came and I missed my box. I went to the wrong box. I went to the 22 box like I was in the XFINITY race and missed mine. The bad thing was they were both set up the exact same in each race. The 12 was before the 22, so I had to come around the 12 in the XFINITY race and I just had a brain fart and cost us a bunch of time. That was dumb on my part, but I thought we had a fourth or fifth-place car today, and you never know how it would have played out at the end. It stinks, but it’s cool that Penske got one car to win here. That’s cool for that team, but we’ll put all this behind us and go to Vegas. That should be a pretty good track for us.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 12th: “We were fairly competitive. I felt like we had a top five to seven car. It’s hard to tell exactly because we weren’t always on the same tires, but we kept putting ourselves behind with the way the cautions fell and the way we did our strategy. And then the car fell off the jack when we were running fourth or whatever. That was pretty much the end of our day.”

Joey Logano — Finished 13th: “We just weren’t very good from the get-go. We swung at everything we could swing at and just kept shooting ourselves in the foot all day.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 14th: “Our race was good. I felt like our car handled pretty decent there. The last little bit of the race just didn’t work out for us. We pitted for tires and then on that restart they all checked-up in front of me and I stacked up into (Ryan) Blaney and got some nose damage and then my speed was just really bad after that. I was tighter in the corners and slower down the straightaways. It allowed people to pass me pretty easily. So, felt like we had a third to fifth-place car and ended up 14th, so a little disappointing, but good that we had speed.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 15th: “I felt like we actually got our NAPA Camaro pretty good there at one point in time. I say pretty good; it was better than we have been here; better than I typically am. So, that was encouraging. We had some decent pace. Those restarts there at the end were just terrible for whoever was on the outside lane and I, unfortunately, got a couple of them. You could make it go if you were up towards the front. I certainly couldn’t figure it out so maybe it was me. But, we’ll go on to Vegas.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 16th: “I’m just proud that I’ve made every Playoff since NASCAR started them, so that’s a big honor for me. Now we just need to go the rounds and get hot at the right time.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 17th: “That was a good day for us. A top 20 at Indy is always a good day. I was really happy to get those last few spots at the end. We beat the cars we needed to beat to get into that top 25 in points. I’m really proud of everybody. We made good adjustments and got it good there at the end when we needed it. Happy to have a good run for John Andretti and Race for Riley. It was special to have them on the car.”

William Byron — Finished 19th: “We kind of just played some different strategy and couldn’t keep our track position up front, but overall it was a good effort. I thought we made some decent adjustments and good things, but still just got to keep working.”

Regan Smith — Finished 20th: “What a crazy day at Indianapolis. My first time back in the car in a while. I’ve got to tell you something, it’s just as wild as it’s always been and just as difficult as it has always been, very aero sensitive race cars. We hear the drivers talk about it every week. I got to experience it first hand today, but I had a lot of fun battling in the No. 95 car. Bob Leavine and his whole team have done a very nice job of putting a group of guys together, appreciative to get to drive for them. At one point, I looked over and I’m side-by-side with Jimmie Johnson, so not a bad day for us. I wanted to stay out of the middle of all the points stuff that was going on there naturally and let that play out for those guys that had some battles going on. Nonetheless, Indianapolis, this place is magical and will be back here next year for the Brickyard 400.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 21st: “Today was a good day for our GEICO Camaro ZL1 team. It was our third straight 21st-place finish. That may not seem like a lot to many people but that’s great consistency for our team. We’re improving and getting better week in and week out. I’m proud of our effort coming down to the last stretch of the season. We’re getting stronger as a team and we will keep making gains.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 22nd: “Frustrating day because we had a pretty good car. We just couldn’t ever keep the track position we needed to. The No. 9 car chopped us off going into (Turn) 4 and instead of wrecking him, I wrecked the No. 22 and then we blew a tire because of it. The playoffs are coming up though, here we go.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 23rd: “I feel good. I feel like we’ve got fast race cars and we’ve got a chance to go up there and compete to win races and go far into the playoffs. Just thinking about today and another lost opportunity for us. We had a car capable of challenging to win and run up front and we just keep having things pop up. Today, we had a flat right-rear tire running third getting ready to pass Blaney for second, so we keep having things go wrong and it’s unfortunate. But one of these days our luck is going to change and hopefully it starts this week at Vegas and when our luck changes, we’re gonna put our Smithfield Ford Fusion in Victory Lane. We’ve been too fast and had too good of a car lately these last couple of months to not put it all together.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 33rd: “I was watching the scoreboard a little bit. If the No. 1 (McMurray) won, he deserved to be in it more than we did. I kind of had that attitude all weekend. If somebody else wins, we can’t control that, you know? It was a pretty miserable day. I hate it for my guys. I hate it for the No. 47 (AJ Allmendinger) as well. I don’t know if I came down on his door too much or if he just got loose. Whatever it was, it was a bummer for both of us. I hate that. But, we’ll move on from it. It wasn’t a good day but at least we finished and we’ll move on to Vegas.”

AJ ALLMENDINGER — Finished 37th: “I was under Alex (Bowman) just trying to stay off of him. I was hoping I could get clear enough getting into the corner and he didn’t lift. Once he did that, I knew, I was just trying to do everything I could to stay off of him and it’s just so tight there. Once I got loose, there was nothing I could do. I know he is in the Playoff hunt, so I didn’t want to do that.”

BUBBA WALLACE — Finished 38th: “I felt the same. It scared the hell out of me, for a second; and I spun around so fast and I think I dropped the window net before I even spun out to let everybody know I’m fine. But after it slowed down and got on track I said we’re done. The brakes blew up or broke or something and we got killed there. It felt like an hour and a half later. It’s unfortunate. We’ve got to go back to the shop and figure out if it was brakes or a tire coming apart and ripping the brake line off. But, I had no sign of any indication before. It just went around. So, it’s unfortunate. I thought we were starting to make some headway. We were struggling on center exit, but I’m just glad it wasn’t like Pocono again.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 40th: “Left-front brake rotor exploded and went through the hood. I thought I blew a tire initially going into (turn) one there and I was like ‘oh this is going to hurt’, but the car kept turning luckily and I was able to keep it off the wall. Just brake rotor exploded. I don’t know what was going on with the brakes. We had major issues from the start of the race. Obviously, all that kind of compounded into having a major brake issue. It’s unfortunate. The Auto-Owners Toyota was really fast. As hard as it is to pass here, we were getting there making our way to the front. I felt like any time we had clean air, we had really good speed. Wish we could have raced all day and seen what we could have done with them, but hopefully we’ll get this bad luck out of the way before the playoffs start next week.””

Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota

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Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.

 

Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22

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While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”