What Drivers Said after Kentucky

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In a race that wound up in a battle of brothers, older sibling Kurt Busch beat younger brother Kyle to the finish in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here’s what the Busch brothers and other drivers had to say afterward:

Kurt Busch – Winner: “Hell yeah, hell yeah! You know, racing your little brother every week and watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him, but I’m proud of him he gave me a little bit of room on that outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and third place probably would have got it. What an awesome run. Well, we got a yellow at the end that put us back in position. Whatever last week was, it’s this week right now, and we’ve got the trophy.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: I’m glad it was a thriller. Unfortunately we were on the wrong end of the deal … Obviously great to put on great races and great finishes. Been part of a lot of them, but none with my brother like that. So that was a first. No hard feelings.”

Erik Jones – finished third: (How much did you have to overcome?) “A lot early. We just didn’t have the track position. We qualified not where we wanted to and had to work back from that. Right from the start I knew that the Craftsman Camry was pretty good. I felt comfortable in practice in race trim. Just had to work back from it and it took until the second stage to get up there and we were finally in position and got some good restarts and some good pit stops and got up in contention on the last restart. You can’t ask for much more. You want to be there and want to have a shot. We did that. We just didn’t have quite enough car and didn’t have quite the right circumstances, but good day overall.”

Kyle Larson – finished fourth:I thought the race for the lead there was really good from what I could see. It was good, maybe a little better than your normal Kentucky. … (On the final restart) I was satisfied with the launch I got. I was going to be committed to Kurt (Busch)’s back bumper no matter how much of a run I had because I knew I couldn’t get to the lead from the third row so if I could help a teammate out, I was happy with that. I’m happy for Kurt (Busch), Matt McCall and everybody on the 1 team. They have been really strong all year long. They should have won last week, so it’s nice for them to get some redemption today. … (What was it like at the end of the race?) I couldn’t believe we didn’t crash. Kyle (Busch) was loose a couple of times below him and they made contact I think a couple of times. There was some really good car control and it was fun to watch from my seat.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: We definitely had a fast car – a car that was fast enough to run up there with those guys, but obviously going to the back of the pack there with 80 (laps) to go was detrimental to try to win the race. We had to make a call with no tires there and we didn’t gain track position. We had worse tires than everyone around us and still was able to come up to fifth, so pretty happy with that effort. We have fast cars every week. As long as we have a clean race, we have chances to win and we just can’t have the penalties that we have and wrecks that we’ve had. It’s just a combination of things where we’re really, really close.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: It was a positive night for us. We finally got some stage points the last two races. It didn’t start out good but we did a good job of working together, staying in it and not giving up. We got some track position and right there at the end, I don’t know. Our SHR cars are extremely fast, we show that in qualifying, but they aren’t the best in race trim and traffic yet. We have work to do there and we know that. We are going to the magic mile next weekend but given the month of June that we had, we had to get that monkey shook off our back. Right there at the end, you hate to give up fifth right there at the line but we could have just as easily wrecked in turn one on the restart and had another finish like we had in June. We needed a good solid finish and we got that and got some good positive mojo back with our team and we will build on it.”

Joey Logano – finished seventh: The caution came out at the wrong time. It happens. You try to think through your notebook on how to have a good restart. I thought I was going to have a decent one but I got stopped on the left rear there when Kyle (Busch) got into me. That is what it is. That stopped all my momentum. (Kurt Busch) had a huge run and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t block them all. I tried to stop (Kyle Busch) on his right rear by side-drafting. I saw (Kurt Busch) coming and felt like if I could get in front of him that we were so low at the time if I blocked (Kurt Busch) he would just go to the middle and pass me. I felt like I couldn’t stop (Kurt Busch). I was in a bad spot. Once I got stopped on the left rear on the restart I was a sitting duck and they just went by me on both sides. … (How frustrating is it?) “It is frustrating when you are fast enough to win and you don’t win, yes it is frustrating. … (Was the racing good?) “Yeah, it was a great race. It was a lot of fun. You had strategy and cautions and it was probably the best Kentucky race we have ever had. If I was a race fan I would say that was a cool finish. I am a little too close to the fire to say it was a cool finish right now. … (On the final restart) “We were in a perfect position when the caution came out. I did what I could to clear (Kyle Busch) before Turn 1. I got a decent launch but he stopped my momentum. … I just didn’t do a good enough job. We had the fastest car and we didn’t win. That’s the takeaway.”

Daniel Suarez – finished eighth:t was an eventful night for sure. We just had a fast race car but we got a bit tight. I feel like we made the car better but we never got the track position back. We had a tire going down and then I was speeding coming to pit road because I was wheel hopping because of the tire. It was one problem after another. We were fast enough to overcome that but not enough to get a better finish. I feel like the good thing is that we have the speed we just have to keep working to have a cleaner day and keep working to try to keep that speed the whole race. … (Is it an empty feeling to be on the pole and not come away with any stage points?) “It is. I feel like the first stage the call that we made on four tires instead of two tires kind of messed us up a little bit. That is part of it. We made our bed on that. There was one caution after another and we couldn’t recover. After that we had the flat tire. It was just bad decisions and a little bad luck but we were able to overcome with a decent finish.”

Ryan Newman – finished ninth: “It was a good run. To start where we did and get back up into the top 10, that was good. We had a crazy last restart, lost a few spots but got it back in (Turns) 3 and 4. I’m proud of the guys. … (Restarts like the final one) are crazy, but this aero package makes it that way. … I think we got five or six cars there coming to the white. It was a good run for our Acorns Ford. We still have to get our performance better. The guys did a good job on pit lane but we just have to have faster race cars. We didn’t have the balance quite right but you can’t come to the race track and qualify damn near wide open six-tenths of a second off the pole. We have some work to do and we know what to do.”

Chris Buescher – finished 10th: “Our Planter’s Camaro was pretty good tonight at certain times, but we definitely fought it. We worked hard to keep it where we needed to be all day long. That was good strategy on top of the pit box; hats off to our group. We’ve got some work to do yet, but that was a great finish. … (Are you encouraged by the speed you’ve shown?) “Yeah, absolutely. It’s encouraging to see it. To be 100 percent honest, tonight was not one of our better 1.5-mile tracks compared to where we have been in the last couple of months. With that being said, we definitely got a finish out of it. We ran good; we ran on the lead lap all night long. We are trying to find some more speed. We hadn’t qualified really well and I think tonight was about trying to figure out a way to get some more raw speed out of it. At the end there, it was a wild restart and we were able to come out with a good top ten finish.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 12th: “Our Fifth Third Bank Ford showed speed all night. It was good to be able to lead laps and get some stage points in the backyard of Fifth Third Bank. All in all it was a good day for our No. 17 team.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 13th: “You come into every weekend expecting to run well, no matter if it is your best track or worst track. I don’t really go into any weekend expecting to run a certain way. You just try to do your best. My team did a great job overcoming adversity early in the race to get us back on the lead lap. Our DEX Imaging Ford Mustang was just so tight. The last restart was crazy and almost got into the wall. We will move on to New Hampshire.”

Aric Almirola — finished 14th: “We had a really fast Valley Tech Ford. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) and the team did a great job adjusting on it all night after we started off tight and eventually got our Mustang freed up. We were in a great position to come out of Kentucky with a good finish, but we ended up going the wrong direction on the final restart. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but we had a strong weekend, and we’ve got a chance to do it all again in New Hampshire.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 20th: “I don’t know, we’ll need to get back to the shop and figure out what happened tonight. We just didn’t have the speed with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. I thought we had a good shot to compete for the win but that just wasn’t the case.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 24th: “Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was faster than our 24th-place finish indicates tonight at Kentucky Speedway. Starting in the top 10 was a positive step for this team, and it was great to earn Stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1. Throughout Stage 2, we chipped away at the lead and gained solid ground until we were assessed a stop and go penalty during our pit stop on lap 150. The penalty put us two laps down, but we kept fighting and grinding it out because there’s no quit in this team. It wasn’t the finish we hoped for, but I know we have a resilient group that will be ready to rebound next weekend in New Hampshire.”

Ty Dillon – finished 26th: Kentucky is a tricky track. I really enjoy racing here, but it always has its challenges. Tonight wasn’t the night that we had hoped for, but we learned a lot. Our GEICO Military team has seen strong improvements in our superspeedway and short-track packages, and these intermediate tracks are next on the list. We may not be getting the finishes that we deserve because of one thing or another, but we’re taking valuable notes that we’re able to apply as we keep growing and building.”

Austin Dillon — finished 35th: “The AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really fast to start the race today at Kentucky Speedway. We were able to run within the top-five for much of the first two Stages and earn Stage points, which is definitely an improvement over last year. We have speed, and that’s a testament to all of the hard work RCR and ECR is doing. Unfortunately we had transmission and alternator issues today and spent time in the garage making repairs. I hate breaking stuff, but when you do, this No. 3 team just keeps working and never gives up. We’re going to get this monkey off our back and we’ll be just fine.”

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Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota

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Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.

 

Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22

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While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”