What Drivers Said after Pocono

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Denny Hamlin – winner: “(Crew chief Chris Gabehart said Hamlin was good on fuel) to the checkered, but not the green-white checkered, so he said we were going to have to have a different conversation if it went into overtime. But I knew with all those caution laps with about six or seven to go, it helped us out. I knew that I did everything I could to save fuel there once I got out front. If it was going to be not enough, it was going to be not enough. I’m so proud of the whole team for putting me on a great strategy there, pit stops, everything. This was a perfect team effort this weekend. We really identified our weaknesses from the first race and we went to work as a driver and a team and I think we’re better for it. … (Talk about the last restart) “It was nerve wracking. I had Kyle (Larson) pushing me. Kyle is great friend, so I put a lot of faith in him that he was going to push me there into Turn 1, but I knew he was in a backup car there wanting to win really, really bad. Luckily I was just able to clear those guys and coming off of Turn 1, they were side by side and I was able to stretch it out.”

Erik Jones – finished second: It was fun. It was hard racing there in the end. The right restarts make for exciting finishes. Today was no exception. Wish we could have gotten up there and challenged Denny (Hamlin). Martin (Truex Jr.) gave us a great push on the final restart. The bottom just doesn’t have what the top does here on restarts, so we did all we could. The Reser’s Camry overcame a lot. We were pretty far off at the start of the race. We got it way better and had a chance to win had things worked out a little differently. We are close every week. So, it’s going to turn our way one of these times. It’s always a challenge. Probably my least favorite part of racing at times is just having to save fuel. Our opportunity to win when we were going green was to make it to the end. It would have been really tight. Those guys kind of gave up saving there. We were hoping it was going to stay green. Had a couple good opportunities on the restarts. The Reser’s Camry was there all day, second half of the day, we had problems at the start. Man, it’s a bummer. We’re close every week. Third, third, second (in the last three races). We’re right there. We’re doing great building points, but it would be great to knock a win out. We’re just so close, it stings a little bit more when you get close to it. Honestly, we started the race so far off today, I wasn’t sure how we were going to run. We were able to turn it around halfway, get back in contention. There at the end I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out. It was nice to get some good restarts. Martin (Truex Jr.) gave me a great push at the end. We were there for second, then the top got rolling. I couldn’t really do anything. Good to get another top-three run. We just got to break through. Once we get that first one, I think we can click a few off here.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished third: It was a good day overall for our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker ATVs Boats Camry. I was trying to save fuel there in that long run. We were running second to the 20 (Erik Jones), and we thought we were in better shape than him on fuel. He started saving more, and I started saving more. I thought, ‘Man, I probably ought to try to pass him here. Then we got in lap traffic and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got around me. Then I got by the 20, and then the 11 had the control of the race after that. When the caution came out, he got to lead the restart. I was on the bottom. You can’t do anything from the front row on the bottom. We were kind of in a sucker hole there, and a little bit lucky to come back to third. … (Between restarts and strategy, how tough was it today?) It’s probably easier dealing with that kind of stuff when your crew chief is calling race strategy, has you on the right side of everything, than it is just to have to try to pass guys, maybe your car not be as good as you want. It wasn’t a tough day. Our car was pretty good. Thanks to Bass Pro, Tracker, everybody back at TRD. Thanks, guys. We’ll get after them in Michigan.”

William Byron — finished fourth: “It was a struggle. I felt like the guys did a good job with strategy, and being able to maximize on restarts. We got fortunate on a couple of things. We go on from it and move onto Watkins Glen. … It was a tough day. We didn’t really have a lot going our way. In the first stage and even the second stage, we were just kind of hanging on. We just found a way to kind of make it work. We had good strategy and just found a way to kind of settle in there in a decent spot, and save the right amount of fuel. We ran out of fuel coming across the line, so that was great. We saved the right amount of fuel and that was about it.”

Kyle Larson — finished fifth: “(Did you hit the wall near the end of the race?) I didn’t hit the wall, but I got close. I knew I was going to be close to the wall, so I bailed out of the throttle to keep myself from hitting the wall and lost momentum. I felt bad, but it was better than ending up torn up like the last time I was aggressive on a restart. It was a good day. It was a lot better car than I thought I was going to have, so it just goes to show how good our team is right now and how good our cars are. Last week, I felt like we had one of the fastest cars and we didn’t get to show it. Today, I felt like we were one of the fastest cars. If I could just race a primary car, who knows what we could do. I just have to clean up a little bit of what I’m doing in practice and the races, and hopefully we can get a win. This just goes to show how good our cars are right now. Any time you have a good run in a backup car, it’s satisfying. The past two weeks in a row I feel like we’ve had good speed in our backup cars, so I’ve been really happy with that. I don’t want to race backup cars, so I just have to stop crashing.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “It was a good day. They had the right strategy and I just didn’t time those last two restarts right and our car struggled a little bit on the first lap or two to get the front to turn, but they had everything right where it needed to be. If the caution doesn’t come out, I think we were in good shape, but that’s the way it goes, especially at this place. You have to have the cautions fall your way and you have to have everything go right. We just had a few little things here and there that didn’t go our way and wound up sixth.”

Daniel Hemric — finished seventh: “Hard work pays off, and the seventh-place finish we had today at Pocono Raceway is proof of that. The No. 8 Caterpillar Chevy started off with great balance in the beginning of Stage 1, but as the laps went by, it started to tighten up a lot. Even though I had a tight Chevy, it was fast enough to gain valuable track position. The scheduled pit stop on lap 36 gave me fresh right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to free me up a bit. This proved to be helpful and we finished the stage 11th. During the stage break, we took left-side tires and took a round out of the left rear. Unfortunately, this freed me up way too much and I had to battle a loose Caterpillar Chevy for a majority of Stage 2. The pit stop before the stage break solved some of those issues, and we finished the second stage 13th. In the final stage, we started 20th but quickly made up ground. Crew chief Luke Lambert dialed in our Caterpillar Chevy for the latter part of the stage and we ran a good chunk of that time in the top 10. With about 40 laps remaining, it became clear that we needed to save fuel; so that’s what we did for the remainder of the race. A caution with eight laps to go allowed us to go full-tilt until the end. I’m extremely proud of the grit and fight this No. 8 team showed today to power us to a top-10 finish. I can’t wait to take this momentum into Watkins Glen next week.

Brad Keselowski – finished eighth: “There were some really rough parts. I made a huge mistake the first two or three laps there. I was running hard behind the 41 and I slid up and tagged the wall, but I was able to get it onto pit road and get it fixed and claw our way out and get into a position at the end where I thought we were gonna win the race. Then whoever that car was just stopped on the race track and cost us a shot at the race. We weren’t gonna win it honest, but we put ourselves in position at the end, so I’m really disappointed on that. All in all, we came away with eighth and recovered from our struggles, but gave up a win because of somebody else. That’s just part of the deal. … We had a shot at winning there at the end if one of those cars five laps down didn’t decide to stop on the race track, which is really frustrating but part of it.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 10th: “It was looking real bad for awhile just from not being fast at all.  I’m kind of disappointed.  I thought in practice we were pretty good.  I had to start at the back and we just didn’t go anywhere.  We went nowhere and we weren’t really handling good.  I thought at first it was dirty air, but a couple cars drove up through there and even when we got a little bit of clean air I still wasn’t very good, so that was frustrating.  And then I thought we were gonna get some track position on equal tires on that restart and the 41 ran into us in the tunnel.  They did a good job of fixing what they could and just got a good last restart.  I think we started eighth and ran 10th, so we salvaged something there.  It was kind of a long day, a frustrating day, and we just need to be better. … (Was the incident with Suarez just racing?) Yeah, it’s just racing.  I was the top of three, he was the bottom of three and the middle guy backed out and he didn’t have any angle into the corner.  He drove off in there probably the hardest out of all of us and when you get no angle into the corner your car goes straight, so that’s what he did.  He had plenty of room.  As soon as he dove off in there you know what’s coming, but at that point there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s just racing.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 11th: “That was a long hard day. We were up and down. It was so tough to pass, so everything boiled down to fuel and tire strategy. I’m glad we got the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford up there for an 11th-place finish at the end.”

Austin Dillon — finished 19th: “I’m so proud of this team. We had a major setback today after having to start at the rear of the field.  However, these guys didn’t let that dampen our spirits or prevent us from working on a plan to get the No. 3 Freightliner Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up front. For a little while, it looked like fuel mileage was going to work in our favor, until the caution came out and leveled the playing field. There were a couple of restarts at the end of the race that simply shuffled us out of the top 10. The outside line was definitely preferred, but we just couldn’t catch a break to be positioned up there for those last restarts. This is still a huge improvement over some of the misfortune we’ve had the last several weeks. We have a few opportunities to earn a win and punch our ticket to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and we’re going to do all we can to get us to that point.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 21st: “I think if it would have stayed green there, we would have gotten lucky and probably got a top-10 finish due to having more fuel than the leaders,” Stenhouse said. “It was disappointing to get caught up in an accident with less than five laps but everyone is racing really hard trying to get all they can get.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 24th: “We worked on the Haas Automation Ford Mustang all day and ended up in a really good position in the top-10 for the last restart. We were told we had a penalty and had to restart in the back, which really hurt us because it was just so hard to pass today. It was disappointing to not get a good finish, but we’re usually pretty good at Watkins Glen, so we’ll try to make up for it there.”

Ty Dillon — finished 29th: “Today was not the day that we had hoped for in Pocono. We were excited to get here and put all of our notes from June to good use, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with the handling of our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. We took some big swings at it on pit road with adding bar load on a couple of stops, and that made it a little better. But, sometimes weekends just don’t go your way in racing, and this was one of those times.”

David Ragan — finished 36th: “The 21 just slipped up and spun me out in my left-rear quarter panel.  I’m sure Paul just slipped out of the groove and lost control for a second and we happened to be there.  That’s very unfortunate.  I felt like we had a top 20 car today.  We raced around the top 20 most of the day.  Mike Kelley and our new group of guys called a good race and we had a pretty good weekend.  When you’re racing hard like that sometimes things happen and things have seemed to happen to us a lot lately.  We’ve been in a slump and had some bad luck and it takes a couple of races and we’ll get out of it, but it certainly is a tough ending to what could have been a good day.”

Ryan Preece — finished 37th: “I blew a tire going into Turn 1. It was a pretty hard hit, but I’m good.”

Chase Elliott — finished 38th: “(Did you run over anything?) I don’t think so. It just popped, so I guess it wasn’t happy with something. It’s just unfortunate. It’s been a rough month, little over a month now. It’s just an unfortunate rough patch. Hopefully we can get past it. The good news is that we are still in the summer months, so the stuff that really matters is still ahead. I just hate to come to these places and not be able to learn something from it. I felt like our day was finally turning around for our NAPA team. We were finally moving forward. I think we were running in the top-10 there when we crashed. I feel like we were finally getting our car going. Obviously, we crashed yesterday so this car was taking some time to get adjusted. I thought we were doing a good job of it. I don’t really know what to do about that, but just move on.”

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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. 

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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.

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

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CONCORD, N.C. —  NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will not permit drivers to run against the wall to gain speed as Ross Chastain did in last year’s Martinsville Cup playoff race.

NASCAR made the announcement in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

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Chastain drove into the Turn 3 wall and rode it around the track at higher speed than the rest of the field, passing five cars in the final two turns to gain enough spots to make the championship race. NASCAR allowed the move to stand even though some competitors had asked for a rule change leading into the season finale at Phoenix last year.

NASCAR is not adding a rule but stressed that Rule 10.5.2.6.A covers such situations.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

NASCAR stated that the penalty for such a maneuver would be a lap or time penalty.

Chastain said he’s fine with being known for that move, which will never be repeated in NASCAR history.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to make a wave that will continue beyond just 2022 or just beyond me,” Chastain told NBC Sports earlier this month about the move’s legacy. “There will be probably a day that people will learn about me because of that, and I’m good with that. I’m proud of it.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I don’t think it will ever pay the reward that it paid off for us that it did that day. I hope I’m around in 35 years to answer someone’s question about it. And I probably still won’t have a good answer on why it worked.”

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account within a week of it happening. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that had had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account to that point in 2022 was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move at the time, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media. 

NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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NASCAR’s preseason non-points race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of racing’s fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway.

The concept was driver vs. driver and car vs. car. No pit stops. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona oval, with speed and drafting skills the only factors in victory.

Originally, the field was made up of pole winners from the previous Cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers in the Clash field, and it also served as incentive for teams to approach qualifying with a bit more intensity. A spot in the Clash the next season meant extra dollars in the bank.

The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, and no more so than last year when it was moved from its forever headquarters, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Over the decades, virtually everything about the race changed in one way or another, including the race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship and title. From 1979-2020, the race was held on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, it moved to Daytona’s road course before departing for the West Coast last season.

Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the Clash:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 2022 — Few races have been as anticipated as last year’s Clash at the Coliseum. After decades in Daytona Beach, NASCAR flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its top drivers and cars on a tiny temporary track inside a football stadium. Joey Logano won, but that was almost a secondary fact. The race was a roaring success, opening the door for NASCAR to ponder similar projects.

2. 2008 — How would Dale Earnhardt Jr. handle his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly — in his first race. Junior led 46 of the 70 laps in winning what then was called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. The biggest action occurred prior to the race in practice as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on — and off — the track. Both were called to the NASCAR trailer, where the incident reportedly accelerated. Both received six-race probations.

3. 2012 — One of the closest finishes in the history of the Clash occurred in a race that produced a rarity — Jeff Gordon’s car on its roof. Kyle Busch and Gordon made contact in Turn 4 on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto his roof. A caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart had the lead on the final lap, but Kyle Busch passed him as they roared down the trioval, winning the race by .013 of a second.

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4. 1984 — A race that stands out in Ricky Rudd’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth Clash, but the video highlights from the day center on Rudd’s 15th-lap crash. He lost control of his car in Turn 4 and turned sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it lifted off the surface and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, very badly damaged. Safety crews removed Rudd from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were swollen such that he had to have them taped open so he could race a few days later in a Daytona 500 qualifier.

5. 1980 — The second Clash was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of Daytona International Speedway’s masters. This time he won in unusual circumstances. An Automobile Racing Club of America race often shared the race day with the Clash, and that was the case in 1980. The ARCA race start was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the featured Clash also on the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision of stopping the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt collected the Clash trophy, the ARCA race concluded.

6. 1994 — Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon would score his first Cup point win later that year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but he also dazzled in the Clash, making a slick three-wide move off Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. He held on to win the race.

7. 2006 — Upstart newcomer Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Clash. Tony Stewart, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had the lead with four laps to go, but a caution stacked the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had issues at Daytona throughout his career, on the restart and won the race.

8. 2004 — This one became the duel of the Dales. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by .157 of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-segment, 70-lap race.

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9. 1979 — The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, drew a lot of attention because of its short length (20 laps) and its big payout ($50,000 to the winner). That paycheck looks small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest per-mile races in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in numerous ways over the years, the first race was limited to Cup pole winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, almost always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the 20 laps and won by about a car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race took only 15 minutes.

10. 2020 — This seemed to be the Clash that nobody would win. Several huge accidents in the closing miles decimated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for the victory. Erik Jones, whose car had major front-end damage from his involvement in one of the accidents, won the race with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was one lap down in another damaged car but drafted behind Jones to push him to the win.

 

 

 

SunnyD to sponsor Kevin Harvick in two races, Riley Herbst in Daytona 500

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Kevin Harvick has picked up a sponsor for the new season, and Riley Herbst has picked up a ride in the Daytona 500.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday that orange drink SunnyD will be the primary sponsor for Harvick’s No. 4 Ford at Darlington Raceway (May 14) and Kansas Speedway (Sept. 10).

SunnyD also will be the sponsor for Herbst as he joins the entry list for the Daytona 500 in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing car. The orange drink also will be an associate sponsor for Herbst in the No. 98 Xfinity car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

The 2023 season will be Harvick’s final year as a full-time Cup driver.

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The Daytona 500 will mark Herbst’s first Cup Series start. The 24-year-old native of Las Vegas has made 109 Xfinity Series starts.

“It’s great to have Riley making his first NASCAR Cup Series start with RWR and be a part of the next step in his career,” said team owner Rick Ware in a statement released by the team.

“As a kid you always dream of being able to race in the Daytona 500, and I’m able to accomplish that with Rick Ware Racing,” Herbst said. “It’s such a big event and for it to be my first Cup start will be a crazy experience.”