What Drivers Said after Bristol

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Kyle Busch – winner: We’re crazy. We just do what we do, try to win. It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol. Love this place. It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end. I know we didn’t quite get side-by-side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I’m like, I better go. I got up there, was able to make some ground. Man, just awesome to be here in front of this crowd, here at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of not having the best and got everything we needed here at the end. … (On having won eight times now at Bristol; Darrell Waltrip has 12 wins) It ain’t 12, that’s for sure. So I got more to go. We’re getting there and it’s fun. It’s the most (among) active driver(s), I guess. I think I heard that. But, you know, there’s a lot more years left hopefully. … I felt like we had to overcome a lot especially there just on the short runs. We just didn’t have the burst-off speed that we needed for the first 30-40 laps. It kind of seemed after that we could maintain with a bunch of those guys and then we could kind of run those guys back down just a little bit. It was hit or miss a little for us today and this weekend. We thought we had a pretty good car in second practice yesterday and going into the race. We just didn’t quite have the speed. We just didn’t show exactly what we needed there. … I love winning at Bristol. You love winning everywhere. It’s nice to continue to bounty up some of those bonus points for the playoffs.”

Kurt Buschfinished second: It was tough battling our No. 1 Chevy. The Monster Energy team is doing a good job. But that one was tough. I really wanted to beat him. I was going to wreck him (laughter). I was wanting to stay close enough so that when we took the white, I was just going to drive straight into (Turns) 3 and 4; I mean he’s already won. I figured he could give a little love to his brother, but no. I wanted that one bad. I feel like him right now. I’m like ugh, I’m mad because I didn’t win. But, this car, we’re struggling on qualifying and we struggle on taking off. And, I just can’t get the right rear to grip until it gets heat in it. And, it’s hard to be patient when you’re running for the win on old tires. So, I’m happy that we were in position to do it, this group of guys. We’re not quite ready to win yet, but that was close. And I was going to wreck my little brother to win today. But with three laps to go, I just stepped out in Turn 1 and I wasn’t close enough after that. But, thanks to (crew chief) Matt McCall and everybody at Ganassi. This No. 1 Monster Chevy is fast. We’ve just got to fine-tune it all.”

Joey Loganofinished third: “Right at the end there, I thought when we got by the 2 (teammate Brad Keselowski), I said, ‘If I can just hold him off, that’s the pass for the win.’ I was pretty confident we were gonna be able to do that for 15 laps or so and then the caution came out and what do you do? Do you pit? Do you stay out? You know a few of them are gonna stay out. It’s really hard to pass and by the time I got to third those cars were so far ahead of me I was stuck and was not going to get to them. It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work. We had the car part figured out today, we just missed it on some other ends and just have to keep fighting hard. We got a stage win and that was nice, and led a lot of laps, but you want to win at Bristol so bad. Bristol is the coolest track. You see the start-finish line and think you’re gonna get it, but things happen quick here.”

Ryan Blaneyfinished fourth: “I need to get better as the track kind of rubbers out. Joey is really good at it. I thought he had the best car, probably. The track rubbers in and I just need to do something different there. Overall, not a bad day. We were up there all race and just tried to keep up with the track. The track was really racy today from bottom to top. I thought it put on a really good show.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “We struggled today. We just didn’t really have the car that we needed to go out there and compete. It was just a little bit off. We kind of hung around that 10th to 13th place all day and then we just got it closer there at the end and that’s when we kind of made a charge towards the front – that and some good strategy. I screwed up our strategy on pit lane. We’ll get it cleaned up. Just got to work through all the kinks and clean stuff up. We didn’t have a race-winning car. Top-five finish with a car that probably shouldn’t have been there is a good day.”

Paul Menardfinished sixth: “We qualified really well and had good track position from the start. I messed up our first pit stop and got us behind. I went to neutral to stop and it popped into third, so I killed the car. I put us behind doing that and track position is so important. Greg (crew chief Greg Erwin) made a good call to stay out and came home with a top 10.”

Clint Bowyerfinished seventh: “We had a good car, it’s just horribly disappointing. You get that close. Long runs were my strong suit. I couldn’t take off all day long. Some of those things made sense. We were down a little bit on air and it took a little bit of time for them to come in. The problem is when you balance around that and you just pump the air-pressure up, then it doesn’t work either and you don’t handle there. It’s just disappointing.”

Daniel Suarezfinished eighth: “Today was difficult. We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top 10. I’m proud of that. We have to keep better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team. We have great race cars and it’s always good to perform well. Today, we had a lot of speed. I felt like we had top five speed at times and when we’re not very good we have top 10 speed and that’s where we ended up, so after all of those mistakes it was still a decent day.”

Ryan Newmanfinished ninth: “It was a good run for us. We had a car better than what we finished. I’m not sure what the call was on pit road there with the penalty, but then I don’t know why we ended up having to start fifth when we were actually sixth. It was a penalty to be moved up a spot, but a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford. The guys did a good job today, we just don’t have the total result to show for it, but it’s definitely and improvement and I’m proud of them.”

Jimmie Johnsonfinished 10th: “We did make a jump in our performance so I hope we can find another chunk that quickly that will put us in that top-five mix consistently. I think we are going to right way and I am very optimistic about that, so I am very thankful and grateful for that. We will celebrate these small victories and get ready for the big one.”

Chase Elliott – finished 11th: “Definitely not what we started out hoping for. We got turned late in the race, that was about it. We fell behind from there. Had a great car, even without the power steering.”

Austin Dillonfinished 14th: “We had a struggle with our Camaro all day. It wasn’t ever really good but somehow we maintained, stayed on the lead lap. More attrition, working hard to stay up there. At one point we got the car pretty decent. The car was pretty tight, but it was decent. There at the end I hit the wall because we had the rear to free. It damaged it. So through all that, 14th is 14th. But I’ll take it.”

Ty Dillonfinished 15th: (On his stage win) “That was huge for our team, to go head-to-head with the top teams is huge for GEICO and Germain Racing. That was a really cool moment, something we are really proud of. We are proud of the direction we are going with our race team. We are going to keep getting better for Chevrolet, GEICO and Germain Racing. I’m really proud of how we are doing with our Camaro.”

BRAD KESELOWSKIfinished 18th: (On restart controversy where he was penalized) “Nobody could figure out the lineup. There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”

Kyle Larsonfinished 19th: “Not much up to it. We had a loose wheel and we had to come down pit road and lost two laps. Then we had an uncontrolled tire. Had a penalty for that and lost a lap. We fought back to get on the lead lap and then had a right front tire going down, so we lost a lap and finished a lap down. Not much to show for how quick our Camaro was today.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 30th: “Man, what a day. We knew going into today’s race we had a tall task ahead of us, but a few things in the opening stage made it an even tougher day. When the first caution of the race happened, I had slowed down but got hit from behind and received damage to the nose of the No. 8 Caterpillar/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The pit crew did a good job making the necessary repairs, and we were logging some laps in the top 20 when we just got hit from behind by the No. 15, spun and backed into the wall. That hurt the handling of the car pretty bad, and it was all I could do to hang on for the rest of the day. This was definitely a frustrating race, but the crew never gave up all weekend and made the most of the situation. Here’s hoping we find some good luck soon. We just need a clean race, and that is the goal next weekend in Richmond.”

Aric Almirola — finished 37th: “The 24 (William Byron) just got loose under me. He struggled to get going on the initial start. He spun his tires and then was just loose and out of control that whole first lap. When we went down in turn one he lost it under me and wiped us out. I’m pretty frustrated. You work all weekend, all week getting ready for the event and to make it one lap is kind of uncalled for, so I’m disappointed, frustrated, but life goes on. We’ll go to Richmond. Honestly, I think some of it is inexperience on William’s part. I think he started to panic because he started to lose spots on the start because he spun his tires on the start, and probably a little bit over his head with the tire pressures and everything not coming up and he just lost it. He got loose underneath me, lost it and ran right into the side of us and wrecked us. Part of that comes with experience, I guess, but, either way, it doesn’t change the outcome for us today.””

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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.