What drivers said after the Cup playoff race at Texas

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Kevin Harvick — Winner: “That last restart I knew I needed to pick the top. I wanted to be on the bottom to be safe because the top got such a good sidedraft getting into one and the outside groove got rubbered up. I thought if I could keep him from finishing the corner I could drive back by him. It all worked out. Everything went well today on our Mobil 1 Ford and we were able to get to victory lane.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 2nd: “We got by (Kevin Harvick) on that one restart but I just couldn’t hold him off. He was really good. I kind of missed (Turns) 1 and 2 by an inch and he took advantage of it. We needed to be mistake free and then some and I just couldn’t be that. Then we had another shot at it. The last one (restart), he took the top, like I knew he was going to and he motored around me. It was a strong showing by our Carlisle team. I thought we were a second-place car all night really. I thought the 4 was head and shoulders above everyone else but I thought we were second best for sure. That was a fun race for sure.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “We had a top-five car. We got out front where we could lead laps for a little bit and just when the front tires would give up that is when (Harvick) was just stellar. He was stupid fast. He was able to do a lot. Congrats to them. That is two Fords in and two to go.”

Erik Jones — Finished 4th: “It was good. Our SportClips Camry was pretty fast and had okay speed. Just didn’t have the fire-off speed that we needed to contend there the last short runs, but a good day for us. Running top five, top 10 – we kind of know what we need to work on to get a little bit more to get up there with the 4 (Kevin Harvick), the 12 (Ryan Blaney) and those guys. We’ll go to work. Texas has been a good place so hopefully we can come back in the spring and get a win.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 5th: “We made some good ground that first run and then we had that issue there under the pit stop and then it was just hard to get track position after that. Our car was really loose on the short runs and it would build really tight, but we got that better. Still had to fight the looseness early in the run, but didn’t get quite as tight as the run went on, so that helped me and then we had some good restarts. I felt like we would gain a spot or two every time and then we had a good one there when we got from eighth to fourth and then we had a yellow and fourth to third. I was just kind of hoping it was going to stay green there… then that last restart just got loose underneath people and fell back to fifth. Top five, good run, but just didn’t have anything to compete with the front few.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 6th: “Yeah, just a really frustrating race track ever since they ruined it two years ago. I hate that. … I feel better about Phoenix than I did about today, for sure. Yeah, we’ll see. I mean, I don’t know till we get there. Yeah, tough spot to be in. But ultimately you got to be in a must‑win situation at Homestead if you ever make it down there, so you might as well get used to it and like it.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 7th: “I just didn’t get the restarts nailed at the end. I was on the loose side. We thought we were going to be loose but each restart just got worse and worse and we had no right-rear grip. I don’t know what really leads to that other than just heat cycles on the tires. We are in a good position. There are a lot of other people I would like to be right here. We just didn’t have the speed (Harvick) had today and hopefully we will get it next week.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 8th: “We were a third-place car and that restart there where we finally were in position we fought all day from the back and started at the tail and worked diligently all day to get up to the front and finally got ourselves in position to at least have a shot and race with those guys. (Joey Logano) just went down in Turn 3 and put it right on my door and about wrecked us both. I am not sure. I will have to talk to him. He just continues to make things harder on himself. If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine. When (Miami) comes around if I am not in, he will know it.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 9th: “I’m telling you, God is testing us. There’s no question. Had to start at the back, got to the front, hung around there for a while and then had a loose wheel there again. Just a tough day. Overall, a good day. Luckily we were able to get up front and get some stage points in the first two stages and then we had trouble, but we had it at least in time to recover. Proud of everybody on this Bass Pro/5-hour Energy Toyota and feel like we’re in decent shape going to Phoenix. We’ll go there and race hard again and see what we can do.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “Overall, it was just a frustrating weekend. We were off in practice and then didn’t qualify great. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys made some good adjustments throughout the race, but we had an issue there at the end that just didn’t help us. Hopefully next week goes better. I have been looking forward to getting back to Phoenix.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 15th: “There is no format for the teams to communicate to the tower. So, whatever the tower says is the way it is. This is just one of a few calls that have been wrong due to that situation. I don’t know how they do it. Here we have a minute-and-a-half under caution, but at Bristol you’ve got 30 seconds. I don’t think it’s a perfect environment for them to get it right all the time. Stuff happens.”

William Byron — Finished 16th: “We just kind of started in the back and then worked our way forward from there and we kind of fought a little bit of the same things we saw in practice, but I thought we had a couple of better runs. A couple of runs not so good, but then, at the end there we tried to put on tires and make up a few spots and it just didn’t work out. Overall, pretty solid day. We needed a solid day. Good to finish one off.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 22nd: “This weekend overall was solid for us. We had good practice sessions, advanced to the second round of qualifying and then had a decent car during the race. Our Geico Military Camaro ZL1 was really good in the beginning and it got even better as the run went on. The strategy and cautions didn’t fall our way, but I’m proud of my guys because that was our best mile and a half race all year. With two races to go, our Germain Racing team will keep pushing forward to finish strong.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.