What drivers said after Darlington

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Erik Jones – winner: “(What was your late-race battle with Kyle Busch like?) Well, it was just a lot of pressure. Kyle (Busch) is a great race car driver. I’ve raced him a lot and you obviously want to beat him to win, right? I know our first win at Daytona was great, but man, this one feels good. Just getting back to victory lane, showing we can do this continuously. Man, it was a lot of work. I’m mentally drained, I’m physically drained. I knew he was running the wall and I knew I was going to have to go up there and try to hold him off. It took everything I had to do it. I was pedaling hard. Fortunately, he got into the wall a couple of times. He gave me a little breathing room for the last two laps. That felt good, but awesome to come home with this win.

“(Is that the hardest you’ve ever had to drive and how much pressure was Kyle Busch putting on you?) “Yeah, I mean, I’m wore out just mentally and physically – more mentally than anything, but Kyle was really running hard, and he’s one of the best guys out there. Our Sport Clips Camry was good, but man, I was pedaling as hard as I could and just glad to hold him off and to finally get to victory lane. I feel like it’s been coming for us for a long time, so it just feels really good.

“(How special is this win?) Well, it’s pretty special, my 100th start. I guess sometimes funny things happen, right, and 100th start we’re in victory lane with my first‑ever scheme on a big car, so it’s pretty special.  Thanks to Sport Clips for letting me run that. That meant a lot to me and my family. My mom is here for this one and that’s great. But all my partners, man, I’m so happy for them, DeWalt, Craftsman, Reser, Stanley, Circle K, Interstate, Toyota, just sticking with me through this – it’s been a big year of speculation and maybe moving around and I don’t think there’s much more to say than this right here, so it’s pretty good.”

Kyle Larson – finished second: “It was just really hard to pass. I think this package has been good for a lot of places but here. It’s a high grip track, already narrow. It was just tough to pass. I felt better than the 18 there at the end. Anytime I got within a few car links from him, I would lose a lot of grip. It came down to restarts and pit stops. We just didn’t have the greatest restarts there to allow Erik (Jones) to get by me and then that last green flag stop was not as fast as the 18 or the 20. I’m disappointed about that, but we had some good stops and some bad ones. But, all in all, it was a good day. Good to get another good finish here. It was nice to have a shot to win. We thought we would have a dominating car after practice, but we were still a top-3 car. I thought it would be a little easier.

“(What did you need to beat Jones at the end?) Erik (Jones) did a good job on that last restart to get by me and I was better than him throughout that run, but I could never do anything with him just because the dirty air was really bad. It’s a worn-out surface and the groove was already narrow and it was extra difficult. I feel like both the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and I were a little bit better than he was at the end, but I couldn’t do nothing with him. So, that part of it was frustrating. But still, it was good to have a good run.”

“(You’re now locked into the playoffs) I feel like we were going to have a good shot to make it after the last few weeks we’ve had. It would have been nice to get a win today, but yeah, it’s good to be locked-in and to look ahead to the Playoffs. We’ve been running really strong here lately. So, we’ve just got to keep going.”

Kyle Busch – finished third: “You just can’t get there with this package. It’s just such a one‑lane racetrack. There’s not enough options, there’s not enough grooves that you can get enough air on your car to close that gap and make that pass. We kind of lost control of the race there on pit road when we came down the leader and then came out third and I thought if we could just keep in touch with those guys and keep close to them, then we might be able to out‑pit road them at the end of the race, and we did one of them but not the other one. Overall a good day and the Snickers Camry was fast and was the best we’ve run here in a long, long time, so that was fun.  It was nice to lead some laps, be up front like that, but I hate it that we got behind on pit road and then we couldn’t make it up on the track. That kind of sucks.

“(Were you trying to save a little bit to try to get to Jones late in the race?) Yeah, when he started to inch out a little bit, I was trying to save my right front because I knew my right front wasn’t going to make it the whole rest of the way without me knocking the wall down, and I was right. I hit the wall with about four to go and then I hit it again with three to go, and that was ‑ it killed it that time. Luckily, we were able to salvage a third, just dragging the fence for the last two laps. I don’t think I’ve ever seen NASCAR not throw a caution in that scenario ‑ oh, yes I have, that’s right. I blew a left-front tire at California in an Xfinity race and we had to finish the whole last lap, so doesn’t surprise me.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: “I don’t think it was really anything that was one spot, it was just all weekend we just struggled with the front of the car.  Really, they did a great job to do the things that we did tonight to finish fourth and made the car better all night and just had a solid night and finished fourth. … I ran (the race) without air-conditioning or fans or anything. The battery went dead, so we had to turn it all off, and luckily it was cool. They did a good job. It was nice and cool inside the car tonight.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fifth: “It was kind of a blue-collar top five.  We just hung around fifth to tenth all day and was able to clear off a few cars there at the end and ended up fifth.  We had really good short run speed with the Miller Ford, but we didn’t really have the long run speed and the long runs, you’ve got to have that. … (On late start due to rain) I actually thought it was great.  I had as much fun as I’ve ever had here at Darlington.  I thought it was good.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: “(What about the late contact with Jimmie Johnson?) Obviously the situation there at the end with Jimmie just trying to hold on and fend for spots.  He’s doing everything he can do to make the Playoffs and we are too.  You don’t want to race those guys like that.  He’s one of my old heroes, a good friend, but that’s all out the window when you’re on the race track.

“(You’re 15th now in the points. Is that a relief heading to Indy?) Yes, it is.  That was the task at hand.  We put ourselves back in position, but, kid you not, yes, I want to make the Playoffs, but I want to make the Playoffs to get past the first round and to hit that thing in stride and race to our capabilities.  Tonight was our capability.  Single-digit finishes we’re capable of rattling off and this was a good shot in the arm, a momentum boost for our race team going into that last race in Indy, and if we can do that again is what I’m looking for because, again, you always have to be looking down the road.  Yes, the task at hand is right here in front of us, at the forefront of making the Playoffs, but, man, to be honest with you, my eye is on making those Playoffs and getting through that first round.  It’s kind of like racing on this race track, you’re racing that guy in front of you, but you’ve always got your eye on the guy in front of him as well.”

Kurt Busch – finished seventh: “I thought our Camaro was going to be bulletproof, and we just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and got some damage. It hurt the left-front toe. I just couldn’t dodge the cars, there was like five or six of them in front of me. We just ended up getting collected. I’m proud of the crew for getting the toe straightened back out. We got the fenders to clear and I didn’t think we would run that good after we got all that damage. But we raced our way back up to seventh. Overall, we had a race winning car and we led a lot of laps early. We just have to seal the deal. We have to have solid pit stops all night, we have to keep our track position, and I have to dodge cars better when they are wrecking.”

Paul Menard – finished ninth: “It was an up-and-down night.  We had big swings with balance.  The whole race was in darkness, it wasn’t like we went through a transition, but we fired off really tight and did a fairly normal adjustment and got really loose.  We got back to tight with no adjustments, so I don’t know if we had some inconsistencies in tires or what, but basically just freed it up all night long and got something to show for it.  Greg made a great call and got us some track position and held on. … (This is your first career top 10 at Darlington) Yeah, it feels good.  I’ve always loved this place even though she hasn’t always liked me, but it was a fun night.  Anytime you drive any car at Darlington it’s a lot of fun.  These 550-horsepower tracks sometimes get a little timid, but Darlington is one of those tracks you just have to be on all the time and it’s a lot of fun.”

Austin Dillon – finished 10th: ““It has been hard mentally for everybody on this team across the board, and I’m glad my grandfather (Richard Childress) stuck with us and believed in us. It was really nice to give him a good run in his car tonight, that was special too. I love Darlington, it’s so much fun to race here. I wish we raced here two times. It’s just a fun track to race. I hope we have a little bit more speed next week to kind of dictate what we want to do there at the end.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 11th “It’s gonna be a lot of fun going to Indianapolis and have everybody all in pretty much with Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.  I feel like we’re gonna race extremely hard all the way to the end. … I think we’re putting on a good show for you guys and all the fans, and now being tied heading to Indianapolis that makes things even more interesting, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge. … (Are you confident going to Indy?) Yeah, for sure.  My team has been strong.  I feel like today we missed it a little bit.  We had a faster car than 11th, but we just missed it for whatever reason heading into the race.  We have to study what happened and come back stronger.

“(What happened with Ryan Newman?) “That’s a racing thing.  I didn’t touch him.  As a driver it’s very, very easy to know that the guy behind you is very, very close and to feel that air, but he’s experienced to know.  Once he sees the race he’s going to realize that we didn’t touch.  It was everything aero and just hard racing, that’s it.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 16th: “I had at least 15 years with a lot of luck on my side, 7 years of championships and having 2 or 3 bad ones is just part of it. I keep saying that we’re getting and tonight we showed it, from the way we qualified to how we ran on those stages. I was running fourth when that accident took place in turn three and I just had nowhere to go.

“(How do you view Indianapolis?) I mean we are running out of days, and if we miss it, it’s just going to be by a few I believe. If I look back over the first half of the season, I see a lot of races where we gave away a few points. So, it’s kind of unfair to put all the pressure on one race in Indy. But it is what it is and we are going to go there to win a race.”

Aric Almirola – finished 17th: “That’s what happens. It’s really, really hard to unload a backup car and not get any laps on it. I put our race team behind on Friday and wrecked our primary car and then we just battled all night. At the beginning of the race we had a 30th place car and we worked on it all night and fought really hard and got out of here with a 17th-place finish, so I’m actually real proud of that. I know it’s crazy to be proud of a 17th-place finish, but that’s the kind of fight and perseverance and determination that I feel like will pay off in the playoffs. … “(Would you have liked a better finish with only one race before the playoffs now?) Absolutely.  You want to build that momentum, but the worst thing we could do is have another 35th place finish in a wreck and a DNF.  We did that at Michigan and Bristol, so we kind of need to right the ship and finish a race and get back on track and get the wheels turning the right direction.”

William Byron – finished 21st: “I think we were sixth, maybe seventh, there and everything was going pretty well. I guess the guys started wrecking in front of us. We passed the beginning of it and somebody got hooked back up the track or something and we hit them square. From there, we were just kind of off the pace and had to ride it out until the end.”

Ryan Newman – finished 23rd: “We got spun and we came back, and we did not have a top 10 finish, so it’s unfortunate. We lost some points today, but we’ve got a lot of fight in us and we’ll go into the last one here in the regular season and fight. … (Do you feel like you owe Suarez something?) I have to watch the replay. They said he hit me, but I don’t know. He had me jacked up sideways going into the corner, so do I owe him? Probably a little something.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 37th: “I’m really proud of this team, but I’m kind of at a loss of words. Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet got better and better throughout the last half of the race and we were moving through the field. I felt like we had a top-10 car in the final stage until the contact with the No. 6 car, which cut the right rear tire. I hate so many other cars were involved. That incident damaged something under the hood and ended our night. Everyone at RCR is working as hard as possible to get better and it will pay off. Tonight was just not our night. I know we’ll show up to Indianapolis next week stronger than before. Thank you to Caterpillar for the awesome scheme for Throwback weekend, and to all of the fans that waited through the weather today at Darlington.”

Michael McDowell – finished 38th: “I saw the 8 start to get loose like he blew a tire and chased it up the track. I was already on the bottom and I saw the 11 and a few other cars on the top and they were just trying to get down and we all kind of jumped on the brakes. You’re so fast at that point when you jump on the brakes the cars get pretty loose and out of control. I think I got clipped by the 11 in the right-rear and just kind of turned me hard right into the wall and in front of the field, but it’s really unfortunate.  We had a decent Dockside Logistics throwback car. We were logging laps trying to get to the end and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Sioux Chief to sponsor ARCA Showdown, East Series to race at Nashville Fairgrounds

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ARCA announced Saturday that Sioux Chief Manufacturing will be the entitlement sponsor of its 10-race ARCA Menards Series Showdown in 2020.

Sioux Chief Manufacturing is a Missouri company that designs and manufactures rough plumbing products, parts, and accessories for residential, commercial, industrial and government applications

Sioux Chief has been involved in ARCA since 2015 as a race event sponsor and special awards program sponsor and sponsored ARCA’s former Short Track Challenge.

As part of the deal, a newly increased point fund, combined with race purses, owner plan, and contingency awards, will offer teams a chance to compete for a share of over $920,000 in posted awards throughout the series.

The Sioux Chief Showdown will bring together the best drivers from the ARCA Menards Series, the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West, formerly known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Those events, held on oval tracks 1.25-miles in length and under and road courses, offer drivers who may not be able or eligible to run the full 20-race ARCA Menards Series schedule the opportunity to run for a championship. Combined with the overall ARCA Menards Series championship, and the East and West championships, drivers will have four separate championships to compete for in 2020.

The announcement was made at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis. Also present was promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises, who announced that the ARCA Menards Series East would compete at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on May 2.

The Tennessean reported this week that the Nashville Fairgrounds was negotiating with Sargent to promote at least three races at the short track in 2020. Sargent’s involvement in the track comes after Nashville’s Fair Board voted to terminate its agreement with Formosa Productions to run the track over outstanding debt.

The ARCA Menards Series has competed at the Fairgrounds the last five seasons. The ARCA Menards Series East, formerly known as the K&N Pro Series East, competed there from 2007-08.

GMS Racing reveals full-time driver-crew chief lineup, number assignments

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GMS Racing has announced its full-time driver-crew chief lineup for the 2020 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season and number assignments for its trucks:

– Chad Norris has been named crew chief for Brett Moffitt and the No. 23 Chevrolet team. Moffitt drove the No. 24 in his first season with the team. Norris has been with GMS Racing for two years and directed the effort that delivered the team its 2018 Xfinity Series win at Talladega.

– Chad Walter will lead Tyler Ankrum and the No. 26 team. 2020 will be Ankrum’s first season with GMS Racing. Walter served as an engineer for Ankrum this season at DGR-Crosley. Walter has five wins and 42 top fives in 208 Xfinity Series starts as crew chief.

– Kevin “Bono” Manion is paired with Zane Smith on the No. 21 Chevrolet. 2020 will be Smith’s first full-time Trucks season after competing part-time for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. Manion has 24 wins as crew chief across all three national series since 2003. He led Martin Truex Jr. to his two Xfinity Series titles.

– Jeff Stankiewicz will remain as the crew chief for the No. 2 team piloted by Sheldon Creed.

Social Roundup: How NASCAR drivers are spending their offseason

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NASCAR’s Champion’s week is now behind us and we are firmly in the offseason.

Well, sort of.

The NASCAR world never really stops, which is evident simply due to the continued announcements for the 2020 season.

But with Joey Logano testing the Next Gen car at Phoenix earlier this week and Dale Earnhardt Jr. helping clean up North Wilkesboro Speedway for iRacing, it’s been anything but quiet.

Here’s a look at what else happened in the NASCAR community this week.

Someone needs to check in on Jimmie Johnson, he could be in his own version of Mr. Mom.

Chris Buescher is home again.

The 2015 Xfinity Series champion is back at Roush Fenway Racing for the 2020 Cup season and he’s got the firesuits and cars to prove it.

Brad Keselowski recently became father to a second daughter.

He’s now learning some important life lessons.

Former Front Row Motorsports driver Matt Tifft is now off the market after getting married to his fiance, Jordan. Now they’re on their honeymoon.

 

Matt DiBenedetto showed off one of the perks of being a Wood Brothers Racing employee.

Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace went somewhere warm to start their holiday.

Joey and Caitlin Gase welcome twin sons

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Xfinity Series driver Joey Gase and his wife Caitlin are now parents to twin boys

The babies were born on Wednesday. Their names are Jace and Carson.

More: Brad and Paige Keselowski welcome second daughter