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.”

Five can’t-miss NASCAR Cup races in 2019 beyond Daytona 500

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We’re 32 days out from the biggest NASCAR event of the season in the Daytona 500, a race of such importance that needs no explanation.

But what else is there to look forward to?

There are 35 other Cup points races this season and they’re not all created equal.

Here are five races to pay closer attention to this season.

– Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on Feb. 24 on Fox)

The second Cup race of the season will probably have its biggest spotlight in recent memory when the 1.5-mile track is the first to host the 2019 rules package.

Derived from the 2018 All-Star Race package, it includes a tapered spacer and is intended to provide closer racing. Cars will run 550 horsepower at all tracks 1.33 miles and larger, which includes Atlanta. At tracks less than 1.33 miles, cars will have 750 horsepower.

Combine the hopeful intent behind the package and a rough track surface that’s being kept in place by the “most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C.,” and you have no excuse to not tune in and see what happens.

Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on June 30 on NBCSN)

The race that marks the start of NBC’s portion of the NASCAR schedule set an incredible precedent in 2018. The 1.5-mile track debuted in its new spot on the schedule with Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch’s dramatic last-lap battle and Busch’s win.

Was it a result of the drivers involved? The hot Chicagoland surface? Lapped traffic?

Yes.

Can it be topped?

We can only hope.

Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on Aug. 4 on NBCSN)

From the green flag last year, the Cup race on the New York road course was a barn burner, ending with a duel between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. that resulted in Elliott’s first Cup win as Truex ran out of gas.

Races on the road course have had increasingly memorable finishes over the last seven years (beginning in 2012 with Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose). WGI shows no sign of providing a snoozer in the near future, especially as long as pit strategy is involved.

Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 29 on NBC)

The final lap of last season’s inaugural Cup race on the Charlotte Roval  had enough drama for three races on the new road course.

From Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson‘s contact in the final turn giving Ryan Blaney the win; Kyle Larson hitting the wall twice and passing a stalled car at the checkered flag to advance in the playoffs; and Aric Almirola passing enough cars to advance himself.

Do teams have the oval-road course hybrid figured out after one year? It’ll be fun to watch that question answered.

First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Oct. 27 on NBCSN)

We’re starting to run out of fingers to use to list memorable events in Martinsville’s recent history of hosting a playoff race.

You could argue it started with Dale Earnhardt Jr. banging doors with Tony Stewart to win his only Martinsville clock in 2014.

Since then?

We’ve seen Matt Kenseth’s retaliation against Joey Logano in 2015, which resulted in Jeff Gordon’s final Cup win.

Two years later, Denny Hamlin wrecked Elliott from the lead near the end of regulation. Kyle Busch then won in overtime as Martinsville’s version of “The Big One” unfolded. Afterward, an angry Elliott confronted Hamlin on the track as fans filled the air with cheers and boos.

Last year Truex and Logano provided a thrilling battle over the last six laps. Logano performed the bump-and-run on Truex in the final turn to win the battle in the “damn war” (which Logano also won in Miami).

 

New NASCAR Cup team owners invest in minor league hockey team

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You might say that the newest NASCAR Cup team owner is now in a Rush.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which recently purchased the Cup charter of former NASCAR championship team Furniture Row Racing, has branched out, taking a minority ownership share in the Rapid City (South Dakota) Rush of the 27-team East Coast Hockey League.

Spire co-founders Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr will become active minority partners in the Rush, hoping to bring the team back to past prominence.

“We aren’t going to be saviors here,” Spire co-founder Jeff Dickerson said in a press conference at the team’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center home. “There’s no magic bullet. It’s going to take all of us to create the culture that builds excitement and value. The city loves the Rush and we hope to get it back to where it was.”

Rush majority owner, Rapid City businessman Scott Mueller, sees better days ahead for his club.

“The biggest thing is (Spire’s) sports industry knowledge,” Mueller said, according to the Rapid City Journal. “It’s about putting people in seats, selling advertising and they have a lot of knowledge on that. (Dickerson) sees so many venues, and I think he’s going to be involved in changes that are needed.

“We’ve taken some steps in the last few months. These are great days for us, and we’re really excited about our future.”

The Rush is mired in sixth place in the ECHL’s seven-team Mountain Division.

In addition to purchasing Furniture Row Racing’s charter, Spire represents several race car drivers including NASCAR’s Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Ross Chastain, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland, Garrett Smithley and Vinnie Miller and IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe.

Spire isn’t the only NASCAR Cup team owner involved in other sports. Roush Fenway Racing’s co-owner John Henry owns Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club of soccer’s Premier League, while Chip Ganassi previously was a minority owner in MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Felix Sabates, who also holds a minority ownership stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, is also a minority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

“We have been looking for several years to find something in minor league sports and see if what we do in motorsports translates to this space,” Puchyr said, according to The Journal. “Our due diligence indicates that it does.”

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Richard Petty Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports announce crew chief changes

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Bubba Wallace will have a new crew chief in 2019 with Drew Blickensderfer leaving to take the same position with Front Row Motorsports.

Richard Petty Motorsports said in a statement it will announce a new crew chief “at the appropriate time.” Meanwhile competition director Philippe Lopez will lead the No. 43 team’s efforts to prepare for the season.

Wallace finished the 2018 season 28th in points. He earned three top 10s, including second place in the Daytona 500.

Blickensderfer, who was with RPM since 2012, heads to Front Row Motorsports, which announced its crew chief lineup Wednesday.

Blickensderfer will be paired with Michael McDowell on the No. 34 Ford. Blickensderfer replaces Derrick Finley, who will serve as FRM’s technical director.

Mike Kelley joins FRM to crew chief rookie Matt Tifft and the No. 36 Ford. Kelley was previously with Roush Fenway Racing where he was crew chief on the No. 60 Xfinity car. Kelley is a two-time Xfinity champion, winning with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011 and 2012.

Seth Barbour will return for his second full season as crew chief on David Ragan‘s No. 38 Ford. He joined the team in the middle of the 2017 season as a crew chief for Landon Cassill.

The crew chief moves come as the team recently announced it had moved shop locations.

 

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Kyle Larson wins preliminary event at Chili Bowl

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Kyle Larson won the A feature Tuesday night to advance to Saturday night’s A main at the Chili Bowl Nationals. It was his fifth preliminary event win at the Chili Bowl. Zach Daum finished second.

Larson took the lead on Lap 6 of the 25-lap feature and went on to the win.

MORE: Tuesday night race results from Chili Bowl

MORE: Monday night race results from Chili Bowl

“We’ll move on to Saturday and try to be better,” Larson said in the press conference afterward.

NBCSN broadcaster Dillon Welch finished seventh in the 24-car field. Alex Bowman placed ninth. Tanner Berryhill, who will be a Cup rookie this season, was 10th.

The Chili Bowl continues the rest of the week, culminating with Saturday night’s main event.

JJ Yeley, Landon Cassill and Rico Abreu are among the drivers scheduled to race Wednesday night at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, event.

Thursday’s racing will include two-time defending winner Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier and Karsyn Elledge, daughter of Kelley Earnhardt Miller. Kasey Kahne and Tanner Thorson are among those scheduled to race Friday.

Thorson won Tuesday night’s Race of Champions. Larson was second, Bell placed third and Yeley was fifth in that event.