What drivers said after the Atlanta Cup race

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Brad Keselowski, winner: “I think any win means a lot, but (60 overall wins with Team Penske is) a big number.  Now I get to wear that yellow Mark Donohue helmet. … We’re going to wear it next week. But what a tremendous honor.  This day is ‑‑ wow, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m just excited for this team, first race with the new rules or whatever they’re called now, and to be able to win it, that’s really special, as well, and I know everybody here is excited about that, and just a great day overall for Team Penske and our Ford Mustang.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished 2nd: Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated, you know – lapped cars. They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame. We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down and I know they were racing for the lucky dog, which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) … he just wouldn’t let me by. He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. My spotter kept telling his we need the bottom. These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him. Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Brad Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”

Kurt Busch, finished 3rd: “I could say that wasn’t anything fantastic or exciting, but it really was. To finish third on our second outing together and to run with the who’s-who of the sport just shows Ganassi’s got the right stuff. (Kyle) Larson had a tough break. We caught a good break to get on the lead lap with (Joey) Logano and to race in the top five at the end; but all in all, for us to get gelled together to learn what loose and tight was, but man, I just struggled in Turns 3 and 4 and that’s where I got arm-wrestled. They took us but hey, we’re top five in this kind of run.

Kevin Harvick, finished 4th: “We had a good race. It just felt like we were one step behind all the way from Friday. We made it the best it had been there at the end of the run. When we got the shadows in (Turns) 1 and 2 and cooled off our car got way too tight and started chattering the right tire. We made it a lot better at the end though. Our Busch Beer Ford had a solid day though and we were able to adjust on the car and make it better throughout the day. We just got really tight in the middle of the race and we just ran out of time.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 5th: “Our run wasn’t pretty. I knew our car had great speed. Obviously from practice and qualifying. Racing is a different beast, especially at Atlanta. You have to take care of those Goodyears. The way I had it, it felt like I was on top of the track skating around too much. We made good air pressure adjustments and got the grip level back in my race car to where I could compete. It is just weird. You see cars that are kind of up, cars that are down, cars that are dragging, cars that aren’t. Trying to figure out the right scenario for this is going to be interesting. You have to remember, this is a one-off race. There is no track that we go to anymore that is as slick as this and as hard on tires. It will be interesting to see what Las Vegas brings.”

Kyle Busch, finished 6th: “We had a hell of a day. We had a hell of a weekend. On the Cup side, we just had no fun this weekend, so it was really unfortunate for us. Guys worked hard and persevered and we battled through and took probably a 16th, 14th-place finish in our Camry and ended up sixth with it, so not too bad I guess.”

Erik Jones, finished 7th: “It’s not really a lot different honestly than what I thought old Atlanta was a lot like. I don’t think there was any more passing, I don’t think there was any less passing. I think it was kind of the same. It’s just different. Just a different way of going about it. Our DeWalt Camry was pretty good, but just a different race for sure than it has been.”

Aric Almirola, finished 8th: “Clean air was a big deal. Early in the race our car was really fast out front and when we got behind in second it still felt like we were a second or third-place car. Then I made a terrible mistake getting onto pit road and was three-tenths mph too fast and that is too fast. I had to go to the tail and then my goodness was it a challenge. Traffic, cars make so much downforce and we are all going so fast that it is really hard to make passes until late, late, late in the run. So, that is my fault. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford Mustang and it was driver error that made the mistake and that hurt the rest of our day.”

Chris Buescher, finished 9th:  “I knew that 24th-best finish stat (previous best Atlanta finish) and that was disappointing to me. I knew we were going to better it today about after the first stage. Everybody on this Scott Comfort Plus Camaro ZL1 did a great job. This group worked hard. We made big swings to get up there and to start 30th and be able to get a top 10 out of this thing, I’m proud of them. That was fun. That helped get us out of that hole or start to dig us out of that hole we got in with The Big One at Daytona. Just puts everyone in a good mood and Ryan (Preece) was running good too and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I know something a little bit out of his control. I think this is a sign of good things to come. We’ve got some more work to do, but heck of a start.”

Kyle Larson, finished 12th:  “I had a good day going until I sped (on pit road). My car handled really good and then once I got where I had to restart in the back, I was just really tight. Yeah, I mean, clean air is even more important nowadays than in the past I think, at least at a track like this. That was a little disappointing, but more so just upset at myself for making a big mistake like that.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 20th: “Just had a crazy day. I thought we were going to put ourselves in position to have a solid day. I made a lot of mistakes, way too many mistakes than what you can make at this level to even have a shot to run top five and still found ourselves in position there to do it and just had a right front tire come apart on our Alsco/Red Kap Camaro ZL1. That was the end of it, but the good thing is I feel like it put a little motivation in everybody here at RCR. That is the kind of race cars we have to have at the race track every week to give ourselves a shot. It was fun to drive, fun to pass people and look forward to next week.”

Ty Dillon, finished 25th: “This GEICO Racing team battled all day. We didn’t fire off how we wanted to at the start. Our Camaro ZL1 was just too tight in traffic and would fall off from there. This team kept working though. My crew chief made great changes, and my team had clean stops on pit road. We really had it handling how we needed it to by the middle of Stage 2. We were running similar lap times to the leaders at the end, and I was really happy with it. There is no doubt that our team learned a lot today with this new package. I’m proud of their hustle and that we kept improving throughout the race. Now we’ll turn our focus to Las Vegas.”

Ryan Preece, finished 35th: “I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t speeding. And when I looked up, he (BJ McLeod, No. 52) was coming in the pits. So, it’s a mistake. What are you going to do? It’s just unfortunate for us because we were having a really good run. Like I said, we are going to have some good cars this year. So, if we can keep that, we’ll be really good at Vegas and I’m just really proud of everybody with JTG and Kroger. There’s nothing else you can do other than that. So, I’m looking forward to next week.”

Check back for more.

Martin Truex Jr. charges late to win Clash at the Coliseum

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Martin Truex Jr., who struggled through a winless season last year, opened 2023 in style Sunday night, winning the Clash at the Coliseum with a late-race charge.

Truex bumped by Ryan Preece to take the lead with 24 laps to go and led the rest of the way.

Truex, Alex Bowman and Preece appeared to have the strongest cars over the race’s closing segment. Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch joined the struggle at the front in the final 10 laps

With seven laps to go, Dillon shoved Bubba Wallace into the wall as they raced for second place.

Dillon, Busch, Bowman and Kyle Larson followed Truex to the finish.

The race was the second Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“It was just a really good race car.,” Truex told Fox Sports. “Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins. To kick it off this way was great for these guys. We found ourselves in the right spot at the end.”

As the first three finishers, Truex (gold), Dillon (silver) and Busch (bronze) were presented medals in a podium celebration, an oddity for NASCAR but a nod to the coliseum’s Olympic history.

Dillon and Busch, new teammates at Richard Childress Racing, were battling for second in the final laps before Busch allowed Dillon to push forward in pursuit of Truex. “Overall, it was good to get back up to third, could have gone second, but I let Austin go,” Busch said. “He was better than us in practice. I thought he could have a shot at trying to get close, and I”ll push him through to get a 1-2, but never made it there.”

The second half of the race was pockmarked by contact and subsequent spins as the field was slowed time after time for cautions. The yellow flag flew 16 times across the race’s 150 laps.

Wallace, who wrestled the lead from Denny Hamlin on the first lap of a restart, was in first place at the race’s halfway point as the field parked for service.

Following Wallace at the break were Truex Jr., Dillon, William Byron and Tyler Reddick. In the second five were Preece, Busch, Bowman, Joey Logano (last year’s winner) and Larson.

The race’s first caution flew after 17 laps as Erik Jones spun out after contact from Michael McDowell. Jones parked for the night.

Seven laps later, 11th-place Ryan Blaney spun out in heavy traffic to prompt the second caution.

Among drivers who failed to qualify for the 150-lap feature were RFK Racing entries Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. Both also missed the race last year.

Jimmie Johnson to run Chicago Street Course Cup race

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LOS ANGELES – Jimmie Johnson says that one of his Cup races this season with Legacy Motor Club will be the July 2 Chicago Street Course race, which will air on NBC.

The seven-time champion will run select Cup races this season after spending the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. Johnson, who left NASCAR in 2020, will return in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway as a driver and part owner of Legacy MC. His No. 84 car does not have a charter and he’ll have to secure one of the four spots for non-chartered cars.

Johnson said on Fox before Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum that he looked to do more Cup races beyond Daytona and Chicago but did not announce any others. He will drive the NASCAR Garage 56 entry in June in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Kevin Harvick to join Fox booth in 2024

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LOS ANGELES – Kevin Harvick will move from the car to the TV booth next year when he joins Fox Sports.

Harvick, who is in his final season driving in Cup, will join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer in the booth for the NASCAR races on Fox in 2024.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Harvick said on Fox on Sunday. “We’re coming right to the booth. I couldn’t be happier. For me, the timing in life has just been absolutely perfect with everything on the driving side and now to have this opportunity to tell people about racing, there’s not anything I love more and I can’t wait.”

The announcement was made before Sunday night’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Harvick advanced to the Clash through his heat race.

RFK Racing drivers fail to qualify for Clash at the Coliseum

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After heat races and a pair of last chance qualifiers, RFK Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher failed to qualify for the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum for the second straight year.

Former champion Chase Elliott led wire-to-wire Sunday to win the second last chance qualifier to move on to the feature. He was joined by second-place Ty Gibbs and third-place AJ Allmendinger.

Michael McDowell led all 50 laps in the first last chance qualifier race to advance to the feature. Also moving on to the 150-lap main event were Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland.

MORE: Clash at the Coliseum starting lineup

Among those failing to advance from the first last chance race were Harrison Burton, whose late-race slide cost him several spots, and Ty Dillon.

Austin Cindric got the provisional starting spot and will be 27th — and last — at the green flag. The race is scheduled for an 8:20 p.m. ET start.

William Byron led all 25 laps in winning the fourth heat race.

Also transferring to the feature from the fourth heat were Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece and Erik Jones, who took the fifth and final spot with two laps to go.

Denny Hamlin dominated the third heat, leading 20 of the 25 laps to win. Chase Briscoe, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez followed in the top five to transfer to the main event.

The biggest loser in the third heat was Bell, who spun out after late-race contact and finished sixth.

Martin Truex Jr. took the lead from Kyle Busch late in the second heat and won easily. Busch was second, Austin Dillon third and Kyle Larson fourth.

Kevin Harvick, starting his final season in Cup, made a strong last-lap move and edged Elliott for fifth and the final transfer spot to the feature.

Aric Almirola, who failed to make the Clash feature last season, took the lead late in the first heat race and won the 25-lapper in front of Alex Bowman and Justin Haley.

“It was about being more prepared,” Almirola told Fox Sports. “There was no way to be prepared a year ago. I was really disappointed to watch this race from the grandstands last year.”

Rookie Noah Gragson and defending race and reigning series champion Joey Logano also finished in the top five to join the first three in the feature.

Burton spun out early in the first heat.

MORE: Heat race 1 results

MORE: Heat race 2 results

MORE: Heat race 3 results

MORE: Heat race 4 results

Last Chance Qualifier race 1 results

Last Chance Qualifier Race 2 results