What Drivers Said after Gander RV 400 at Dover

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Here’s what drivers said after Monday’s Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway:

Martin Truex Jr. – winner: “It feels incredible. So thankful for this team. What a race car we had today. This SiriusXM Camry was just incredible. Thank you to everyone back at the shop at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), Bass Pro, Auto Owners, everybody who supports us and makes this happen. We have one hell of a team and we came here with a new setup this time. We had an older setup that won in 2016 and had been good but not good enough. Hats off to Cole (Pearn, crew chief), James (Small, engineer) and everyone with TRD (Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A.) back in California, Costa Mesa for awesome engines and horsepower. Thanks to all these fans that have come out today on Monday. I promise it wasn’t easy. It was a lot of work. It was tough. But this race car was just incredible. Just thanks to everyone who makes this possible. I can’t believe it. Without Talladega, we would have had two in a row. It is special. New guys this year. Coach (Joe Gibbs, team owner) has put together a good bunch and Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and everybody. I am really, really proud to drive these Toyotas. They are awesome and I am a lucky guy. (What has started to click for you guys?) I think just putting all the details together. We’ve had speed all year. Finished second at Atlanta. Felt like we had the best car. Had some issues on pit road. Phoenix we ran second again. Seems like we were having little hiccups here and there. Now we’re starting to not only make our cars a little bit faster, show up better on Fridays, we’re a step ahead on the weekend. The pit crew is really doing a great job. That’s been the difference. We had a lot of trouble in the pits earlier in the year, didn’t get to show our speed. The guys are coming together, gelling, doing a fine job. We were able to take advantage of fast race cars today.”

Alex Bowman – finished second: “I’m worn out. This is the physically hardest race of the year for me, for sure. We at least had a shot at it. That’s really all you can ask for. Congrats to Martin Truex, Jr. Our Nationwide Small Business Chevy was really good. Cool deal they’ve got going on. A small business owner can enter to win a $100,000, so that’s a pretty neat promotion for them. I’m still proud of (crew chief) Greg Ives and everybody on this No. 88 team. We had a miserable start to the season and we did a really good job of resetting over the off-weekend. We’ve come out strong since then. … It would be better if we had a trophy, right? But, we needed this, for sure. Talladega is a speedway and it’s a lot of luck involved. But to come here to, in my opinion the hardest race track we go do, and run like that from the back of all things, was pretty special. I’m just proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for all the improvement we’ve made over the last year or so and we’re going to keep it going.”

Kyle Larson – finished third: “Oh, yeah, we ran inside the Top 5 all race long. We fought tight early-on, with our Credit One Bank Chevy, but we freed it up and got it to where I felt like I was pretty good. And in the last run there, after cycling through green-flag stops, I was really loose and got stuck in traffic and then was just looser in the dirty air. So, I had to just make sure I hit the bottom lap after lap to hold (Kevin) Harvick off. So, it was good to finally have a clean race. I don’t think we’ve had a clean weekend all year long. And we’re 11 weeks into the season. So, it’s good to finally get a clean day, like I said, and thanks to our race team. Our pit crew did a good job today as well. It was a nice day.”

Kevin Harvick — finished fourth: “As you look at the cars behind each other, especially there at the end, there was hardly anybody who could pass anybody. You lose so much downforce behind each other every week that, from a driver’s standpoint, it becomes frustration. It’s difficult to maneuver your car to make up positions, because they become so aero-bad behind each other. Our guys on our Jimmy John’s Ford did a good job today, we just got super tight the last run stuck behind the 42 (Kyle Larson). We just couldn’t go anywhere.”

Chase Elliott – finished fifth: We just fell off there at the end of that second Stage. That was the time of the race that we needed to be controlling it and not falling back. Just a bad time to have a bad half of a run and that is kind of what happened. So, we were fast, just not fast enough when it really mattered. … (Truex) was really good there at the end for sure. His car came on about the time I felt our car was starting to fall off. And hey, that is what pays. It was a tough race for sure. It was a very physical event, a lot of corner speed, which is hard on us for sure.”

Erik Jones – finished sixth: “We had really good speed in the Sport Clips Camry. We kind of rode around there all day in the top 10. We just couldn’t get the track position we needed to go and run up front. We felt like we were better than a couple in front of us. Just couldn’t quite get there. Just a long day. It was tough to pass and you really had to rely on track position and getting good restarts and getting good pit stops. A solid day for us. We have had some rough weeks, so to get back on track and run where we know we are fully capable of – good momentum and we are going to Kansas next week which has been a good place for us the past few times.” (Define ‘hard to pass’) It seemed like the bottom groove was preferred by a lot and it was tough to get up and make a move in the middle. It was hard to get some speed rolling there, especially if you had someone behind you. It felt like they would kind of snooker you and put you back another spot. It was just tough to make moves and it was tough to be aggressive and find a way to pass. Just tough all day.”

Joey Logano — finished seventh: “We made the most out of our day today for sure. We took a seventh-place car and won a stage, got a playoff point, and racked up some more stage points. We maximized what we could do. I’m happy with how the Shell-Pennzoil team performed. We were solid in the pits. It was a physical race out there for sure. This is one of the toughest places for a driver to race. I’m proud of my team.”

William Byron – finished eighth:Yeah, we had the strategy deal where we took two tires and got some Stage points. And then we had to start at the back, and ultimately we were clawing our way back the whole race. We finished behind the 22, and we both started in the back, which was unfortunate. The guys brought a really fast car that was a lot of fun. (Compare the race to last year) It was really hard to pass. Coming from the back the one time, it took me the whole race to get back there. The 22 and us worked our way back from wherever we were at the end of Stage 2, and then it took another 130 laps to kind of get any farther. That was unfortunate, but he could run the top which is nice. (Was that due to the package this year?) I don’t know. It might have just been me, but it was hard to pass anyone on the bottom and really defend significantly on the bottom. I don’t think I passed many guys on the bottom all day, if we were both running bottom/bottom. If they ran up a car length, I could get enough air that I could. But the only passes I made really all day were on top.”

Clint Bowyer — finished ninth: “It was kind of a frustrating day. We were OK. I think anyone who got in the top-five was going to stay there. We lost track position on the first pit stop and never really regained any of it. It was just really tough to pass today.”

Kyle Busch – finished 10th: “I kind of thought we were off as a program but obviously the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) won the race. We were probably going to end up about eighth but then I got into the wall at the start of the last stage so after that I was just sort of hanging on with my Pedigree Camry. It would have been nice to run better. It would have been nice to lead laps. When you run better you have something to hang your hat on so we obviously have some work to do before we come back here in the fall.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 11th: “It was a tough day for us here at Dover. The cars were really fast at this track today. Last year they weren’t, but obviously it was a different rules package. I had very high expectations coming into this race because I’ve run so well here in the past, and Stewart-Haas Racing has, too. I just couldn’t get the Haas Automation Mustang to turn like I wanted it to. We probably had an eighth- to 12th-place car today and we finished 11th.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 12th: “Not the result we wanted today with our Miller Lite Ford. I was just super-tight on corner exit during that last long green flag run. We lost track position and couldn’t get it back.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 15th: “It was a long day for our Menards/Duracell team. We were struggling especially with our Mustang being too tight on corner exit and couldn’t seem to get it where we needed. I want to thank the pit crew. Those guys had a great day and it seemed like they picked up positions every time we pitted. We know we have some work to do when we come back to Dover in the fall.”

Aric Almirola — finished 16th: “We struggled today, to say the least. This is probably one of the most track position-dependent tracks we go to, and we started off the race running fifth and the next thing you know we’re running 13th. We just never could recover from that. It wasn’t easy to make passes even when we were in the postion to do so, and it turned into a long day for us. But our Smithfield team is strong, and we’ve got another chance next week at Kansas to show everyone what we’ve got.”

Austin Dillon — finished 19th: “Our 19th-place finish at Dover today wasn’t indicative of the fight this team showed all race long. The No. 3 AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 started off the day tight on exit and stayed that way until the end of the Stage 1. My pit crew did a great job when we pitted on Lap 105 during the caution and gained us several spots in the process to help us with track position. After that first stop, our No. 3 AAA Chevy really took off and felt it was in the best shape it had been all weekend. However, a few laps later, it became really free and I battled loose entry and exit throughout the rest of Stage 2. Unfortunately, this caused us to go a lap down and finish the stage in the 19th spot. The final stage began with several wedge and trackbar adjustments to try and dial in the No. 3 AAA Chevrolet. This helped out quite a bit until after the final green flag pit stop. Our Chevrolet tightened up right after that stop and was tough to handle for the rest of the race. Even though The Monster Mile was a beast today, I look forward to conquering it later in the year. For now, we’ll regroup as a team during this short week in order to get back on track for Kansas next weekend.”

Ty Dillon – finished 22nd:We didn’t really know what to expect coming into this weekend but speeds here were incredibly fast. It made the racing a lot more challenging in some ways, but we made it through with a good, clean race. My Twisted Tea team worked hard all weekend to get our Camaro ZL1 where we needed it to be. We went back and forth on the balance throughout the day, but I ended the race feeling pretty good about everything. I wish we could have cracked into the top 20, but I’m proud of the progress we’ve made as a team at this track. This was a solid race for us and a good day to keep 2019 going in a positive direction.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 23rd: “They call this place The Monster Mile for a reason, and it was a monster to us today. We fought the handling of the No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 all weekend, but Luke Lambert and these guys didn’t give up on it and kept working from the time we unloaded and all throughout the race. We never did get it to where we needed it to be and then on top of that, we had to pit with less than 20 laps to go for a loose wheel. We will take what we learned today and make sure we are in a better spot coming back here in the fall. I have to say thanks to all of the fans that came back today after yesterday’s rain out. The crowd was impressive for a Monday race, and hopefully they enjoyed the show.”

We’ll have more driver quotes as they become available.

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TikTok to sponsor Ryan Vargas in six Xfinity races

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JD Motorsports
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TikTok is coming to NASCAR.

The popular video sharing app will break into the sport next month as a sponsor of Ryan Vargas in the Xfinity Series.

TikTok has partnered with JD Motorsports to sponsor the 20-year-old Vargas in the final six races of the season, beginning with the Oct. 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“TikTok has provided me with an incredible outlet to reach new fans and demographics through fun and creative content, and I’ve seen the highest growth in followers on TikTok over my other social channels,” Vargas said in a press release. “The opportunity to run the No. 6 TikTok Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the rest of the season is an absolute dream come true. Johnny Davis and the whole JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team took a chance on me last year and I’m excited to bring this amazing TikTok partnership their way. I wouldn’t want to make this partnership a reality anywhere else.”

Vargas has made three Xfinity Series starts this year. His best finish was 13th at Pocono.

The sponsor deal is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month programming.

A native of La Mirada, California, Vargas joined TikTok last year. He is a former member of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity programming and a winner of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer award, which is given to a minority or female driver who displays exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.

The partnership and paint scheme were inspired by a concept scheme by graphic designer Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’.

“Creators of all sizes and backgrounds show up to TikTok with their genuine, authentic selves,” Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing, said in a press release. “Partnering with an iconic brand like NASCAR to sponsor Ryan Vargas on his racing journey is a way for us to continue to support, celebrate and elevate the diverse creators that make our TikTok community what it is today. Ryan is an incredible athlete, and we’re looking forward to cheering him on alongside the rest of the TikTok community!”

According to CNBC in August, TikTok has roughly 100 million monthly users, up nearly 800% from January 2018.

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, has been in national headlines recently after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the United States for national security reasons if it was not sold to an American company. On Sept. 19 he approved a deal for its U.S operations to be operated by Oracle and Walmart.

Las Vegas weekend schedule

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NASCAR’s postseason continues with the Las Vegas weekend schedule, as the Cup Series begins the Round of 12.

In addition to Cup, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the Xfinity Series’ playoff opener and the second race of the Truck Series’ opening round.

More: Kevin Harvick on pole for Cup race

Here is the Las Vegas weekend schedule:

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 25

Noon – 2 p.m. ET – Truck Series haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

2 p.m. – Truck Series garage opens

2 – 8 p.m. – Truck Series garage access screening in progress

2:30 – 3 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m.  – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

8:50 p.m. – Truck Series drivers report to vehicles

9 p.m.- Truck Series race; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Truck Series haulers exit

 

Saturday, Sept 26.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

1 p.m. – Xfinity garage opens

1 – 6:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access screening in progress

5 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m. – Cup driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

7:20 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity race; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

9:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers exit

10:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. – Cup haulers enter

 

Sunday, Sept. 27

Noon – Cup garage opens

Noon – 6 p.m.  – Cup garage access screening in progress

6:50 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

7 p.m. – Cup race; 267 laps/400.5 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”