What drivers said after Brickyard 400

Leave a comment

There was a lot of carnage and two drivers made the playoffs and two others fell short in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We saw Jimmie Johnson eliminated from the playoffs for the first time in his Cup career after a big crash. Others who made an early exit in the race due to wrecks include Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones.

Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer made the playoffs, but Johnson and Daniel Suarez came up short.

Here’s what many of the drivers in Sunday’s race had to say:

Kevin Harvick — winner: “(On NBC frontstretch interview) This is great. I have to say thanks to all the fans. I can’t tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me. As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win Indy 500s and I got to be around him as a kid. He was my hero. Coming here and winning here is pretty awesome. These guys just built a great race car. I just can’t say enough on this Mobil One Ford Mustang. These guys on this team built a heck of a race car. This is the same stuff that we took to Michigan and had a great weekend obviously and went to victory lane.

“I know how much this means to everybody. This is a great engine package that Roush Yates has given us. It’s been to victory lane twice now, once at Michigan and now the same engine here. I kept telling myself, get the baby girl (daughter Piper) a trophy. It’s a good weekend to come. She doesn’t really quite know what’s going on, just a lot of noise, but pretty special.

“(What kind of statement is this?) I don’t know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car. We gave up the lead on one of those restarts, came and pitted and the caution came out and the way the caution flag fell worked in our favor. It gave us control of the race and we kept control of the race and we didn’t make any mistakes and here we are in victory lane at one of the greatest places on Earth to race.”

Joey Logano — finished second: “We were so close to winning here. It means so much to winning at Indy and gosh, I wish we could have gotten it, but I’m proud of the effort of our team. We had a solid run. … Today was all about getting playoff points as much as possible. The 4 (Harvick) was fast and quick and we kind of needed something crazy to happen to get ahead of him. … Overall, I feel strong about our day today and going into a racetrack we won at last time (at Vegas) we were there and make another championship run at this thing. We need to execute there like we did here today. We have to have perfect days all the way through. It’s so hard to recover these days, you know? You’ve got to be perfect. I look forward to the playoffs every year because the time you learn the most about yourself and grow the most, the pressure kind of has the ability to do that, so I can’t wait for that.”

Bubba Wallace — finished third: “Heck of a day. I don’t know to say. We had speed all weekend in our Victory Junction Chevrolet. We never gave up all day no matter what happened on pit road. I still don’t know what happened. We went from the lowest of lows, to the almost highest of highs! It was just a solid day for our team. Smaller organizations having big runs. It is very uncommon these days. Almost like David and Goliath. Everything kind of clicked today for us. These little teams aren’t supposed to run with the big teams. It was a good day.”

William Byron — finished fourth: “(On NBCSN) Unfortunately, we got that damage on pit road at the beginning of the race. Not really sure what happened there. The front crunched in the left rear fender but I was really pleased with how our car was after that, it was really quick. It was a really good top five run for us and we’re really looking forward to the playoffs ahead. We’re pretty optimistic. I think we’ve learned a lot the last couple weeks with the way our car’s been set up and how it’s worked for us. It was a grind today to get track position but once we did, we were really happy with that. Hopefully, it should be a real good track for us.

“(Your thoughts on the playoffs?) I feel like any place that we’re going back to for a second time is going to be really good for us. Definitely going back to Vegas is going to be great. Going back to Richmond is going to be good. The Roval is a new one, but I feel those two out of three in the first round, going back for the second time, can help our team. I would say after these last two weeks we’ve had a better handle. We were really guessing on how much straightaway speed versus corner speed we wanted, and I think we’ve got a good package going into the playoffs.
“(Do you feel like you’re where you need to be to start the playoffs?) Yeah, I think so. I mean there’s no better way to go into than a Top 5 finish. And that’s really good for our team. It kind of helps start our momentum and I hope we can carry that into next week. … Martinsville is tough. Talladega is very unpredictable. I just don’t know. We’ve just got to take one race at a time, obviously, and do the best we can.”

Clint Bowyer — finished fifth: “We just kept digging. … That was a close call with the 88 (Alex Bowman). It was a wild race. These restarts are everything and you have to try to go for broke and everybody did. We got some momentum. This was key for us with a top-five and some top 10s before that. Teammate obviously won the race so we obviously have some things to work on in these playoffs. Hats off to everyone at Stewart-Haas. … I think we have the ship going in the right direction going to Las Vegas. We were putting ourselves in some bad situations and the driver wasn’t doing a good job of digging ourselves out of them, but I feel like collectively we’ve finally gotten over that, our confidence level is back a little bit. To finally leave some of these racetracks with some positive mojo is definitely important.”

Denny Hamlin — finished sixth: “I knew our car was strong, we just struggled with track position. After a few restarts, we were up in the top six. Then we got shuffled in the last restart to 10th and then got back to sixth in the last couple laps. The car was fast, but just never got a chance. It was a second and a half different between running behind someone and in clean air. The 4 (Harvick) had good car speed, controlled the race and that allowed you to leg it out like he did. It was a good regular season for us, we’re ready for the playoffs and hopefully we’ll get a few more wins before this thing is over. … Everywhere we’ve gone back to a second time, our results have been extremely good. I definitely like our chances when we go back to Vegas and all these other tracks coming up. We’re pretty excited about it. I feel we have as good of speed and handling as we’ve ever had. If we have good clean races, we’re upfront. If we don’t, we have a bad finish. That’s the only thing that’s been holding us back.”

Ryan Blaney — finished seventh: “Overall, I’m proud of thew whole 12 team. Man, I thought we had the car to win but we got back in the pack and got super tight and couldn’t pass anybody. That really stinks. I thought we were actually pulling away from (Harvick) when we got the lead easy. It’s just one of those things, it seems like the norm for this year, so hopefully it’ll turn around.

“(Will the first round be tough?) I guess so. Vegas has been pretty good to us. Richmond isn’t our strongest track and the Roval (Charlotte), you really don’t know what will happen. Hopefully we can have strong runs and no problems, no issues and do what we should and hopefully the runs will get better for us as the tracks get a little better for us. But take it just one race at a time.”

Ryan Newman — finished eighth: “(To NBCSN) We weren’t by any means the fastest car, were tight in traffic, I’m sure a lot of guys were, but we were one of the worst. Excellent strategy by (crew chief) Scott Graves, everybody at Roush Fenway. It’s been a year of progress, learning and a lot of things I feel like a rookie more than I’ve ever been. … We did everything we could and it was good enough but we have a lot of work ahead of us. What happened today could happen in three more races, so we have to put our nose to the grindstone. We have a lot of work to do. We showed we can progress throughout the race, but we have to start qualifying in the top 10 and finish in the top five. Then we’ll prove we’re made of more than what we’re showing.”

Chase Elliott — finished ninth: “I haven’t seen a replay of the pit road incident, but one thing about Indy is pit road is so narrow. You have to start braking before you turn into your box which is typically not the case. I think that was a contributor. I apologize if I didn’t stop quick enough. Once they all started stopping, they stopped so fast, I didn’t get stopped quick enough and about the time I got stopped, somebody piled into me. It was one of those chain reaction things. I hate that it happened, especially that early in the race, but luckily, we were able to piece our car back together and finish the race. My crew worked hard during to get us better. So, it finished alright.

“(On being in the playoffs) Just hopefully having a nice, smooth, uneventful race at Las Vegas would be good. These past couple of weeks have been wild with just a lot of stuff happening. So, we just need to get out there and I have confidence that we can have good cars. We’ve just got to get going in find a little consistency and just get things started off, uneventfully, would be great. (Are there any other tracks you’re looking forward to:) Yeah, the next one, really. I think you have to have the ability to win all of them, or the majority of them, to have a shot at Homestead. We just need to have that mindset going in. This first round is going to be tough. Michigan and Charlotte haven’t been our best two race tracks, so it’s important for us to not overlook it and put some emphasis on the first round and not just think we’re going to breeze right through.”

Paul Menard — finished 10th: “It was an up and down day for us. We qualified really good. We were really tight to start. That has happened to us the last two weeks where we fired off really tight and had to free up throughout the race. We finally got some track position back at the end and had a couple good restarts and got a top 10, so overall, not a bad day.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 11th: “(Your late charge just wasn’t enough to make the playoffs) I was just trying to drive as fast as I could. I knew it was going to be tough but I wanted to be positive. We had 26 laps or something to go, I had fresher tires, but I had track position and this is a track position race. It was a bad timing to get trapped in the pit stop cycle. We could have won the race doing that or we could have lost the race like this. … It just didn’t work out.

“(What will the remainder of the season hold for you?) We’ve been strong in some races and average in some others. As a team, we definitely have some work to do. We were just down in power this weekend. I qualified 20th and one of my teammates got the pole. We just have to keep working hard and trying to put ourselves in better position. I believe in this team and this team is used to win races and I want to take them there.”

Austin Dillon — finished 12th: “Starting off, our SYMBICORT® (budesonide/formoterol fumarate dihydrate) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was tight in Turn 2 but handled really well everywhere else on the track. Trouble came early though when the caution flag was displayed during Stage 1. We all came down pit road to pit and a big group of cars got jumbled on pit road and started making contact with each other. The cars in front of me started colliding and I made contact with the No. 9 car, then the No. 17 car drove through all of us because someone hit him from behind, too. The craziest part of this entire race is pit road. You’re dodging slower cars and if something happens you have no where to go. You can’t dodge left. You can’t go anywhere. We were able to make repairs to our Chevy, but the damage definitely created handling issues for the rest of the day. We raced our way as high as seventh but the handling was so tight that we lost a few positions at the end to finish 12th. I’m proud of this team. We had a plan and we stuck to it. It feels great to put together a solid race for our partner AstraZeneca and everyone associated with the No. 3 team.”

Ty Dillon — finished 13th: “Today was another solid day for our GEICO team. We continued to make the car better and better throughout the race and were able to miss the accidents in front of us. I battled a tight car for most of the race but Justin (Alexander) and I worked through adjustments together. I’m proud of my team for working hard all weekend and to finish 13th is more momentum for us to carry into next week. We continue to build our program and runs like this show that we are making gains.”

Aric Almirola — finished 14th: “It was a crazy race today. Track position was really important and restarts were crazy and really important. You just have to go. You have to go all the time. You can’t give up spots on pit road or restarts. Once it gets single-filed out it is really tough.

“(What is it like to be back in the playoffs?) To be able to make it back into the playoffs and have a shot to run for a championship is great. Everything has to be better when you get to the playoffs. The car has to be better, the driver has to be better. I have to do a better job on restarts. We have to do a better job on pit road. It all stacks up. It all matters. I think when you get to the playoffs, everybody brings a whole other level and hopefully we can rise to the occasion like we did last year. … (Does last year’s experience help you?) I think so. I feel like going through this last year and the pressure and everything that goes with it really gives me a good understanding. I am not going into it blind. I really know what to expect and I know the level of intensity that is getting ready to come.”

Alex Bowman — finished 21st: “(Are you ready for the playoffs?) Yeah, I love Las Vegas. There’s three or three and a half grooves to run, basically. So, I’m really excited to get there and try to make the most out of a really strong 1.5-mile program for us. I think that’s a place that we can go and be capable of winning and I’m looking forward to it. … (How stressful will 10 straight weeks of playoffs be like?) We’ve just got to go out and perform and not have good days and then bad days, like we’ve had the last two weeks. There are a lot of really good race tracks for us. The second round is extremely good for us. So, I’m looking forward to it. I think our cars are going to be really strong and we can go out there and win some races.”

Martin Truex Jr. — finished 27th: “Well I can tell you that I’m glad to be rolling out of Indy. It’s been a pretty crappy weekend for us in general. Felt like we had something for them today at the start of the race. We were passing cars. We had to start way in the back, and then on the first pit stop, of course, we get in a crash. Unfortunate deal. The guys have been doing a good job, and I feel like the Playoff tracks line up well for us. We have a decent amount of Playoff points in the bank to start out with. First round, if we can just go do what we know how to do, be consistent, not beat ourselves, we should be able to move on pretty quickly. Hopefully, we can start to take advantage of the fast race cars. The last five to six races, we have been really strong. We don’t have a whole lot to show for it, so it has been disappointing. It has been frustrating from that point. Knowing that we have the team and the speed to go really far in the Playoffs and be a Championship contender feels good. We will be ready to start that next weekend.”

Kurt Busch — finished 30th: “(What track are you looking forward to the most in the playoffs?) Vegas. That’s my home town. (Describe the emotion and physicality of 10 straight weeks in the playoffs) You’ve just got to be ready for it. All year long you build up toward it. There are sister tracks to some tracks that other tracks that are own their own. Each week is a nice, fresh, restart; and you’ve got to get through three races each time, you know, the three rounds to get to Homestead. So, I kind of look at it as three races at a time and just try to piece together what you chew on.”

Kyle Larson — finished 33rd: “I am kind of happy with how the day went except for crashing myself out. I am proud of the car my team brought. I felt like I had the best car probably. I didn’t get to see the No. 1 car (teammate Kurt Busch), but he seemed fast as well. I was really, really good. I was happy with that, but upset with myself that I crashed myself. I’m looking forward to the playoffs. We’ve had faster, and faster cars every race.
“(Do you have confidence going into the playoffs?) Yeah, no doubt. It’s been a good couple of months. My cars have been good. We’re qualifying pretty well. So, we’ve just got to keep plugging along and hope we get a win and get through these rounds. … (This is your fourth time in the playoffs. You’ve only gotten past the first round once. What will it take to get through more than one round?) I think just having nice, clean days. Days like we have had the last couple of months. Aside from crashing today, we’ve gotten good stage points and good finishes. So, we just have to continue having days like that and eliminating our mistakes. We just have to do the best we can in the stages and the finishes.”
Daniel Hemric — finished 34th: “I felt like we had a good restart there and I got to the bottom, which is where you need to be, then next thing I knew I saw the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) sideways. I saw the left side of his car, his nose through the grass. I thought I had it missed and someone got turned down and caught me in the right side of the Liberty National Chevrolet Camaro Zl1 and turned me into the outside wall. I’m not sure what started it or what happened – just chaos. This was an important day, making my first Brickyard 400 start, all the way up until the point where we were crashed. That’s been the story for this No. 8 team all year. Everybody on this team works too hard to have this many unfortunate things happen to us. We’ll put this one behind us and move on to Las Vegas next week.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 35th: “(From NBC interview) It’s certainly disappointing. Unfortunately we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we were in today. We needed a stellar day and I think we were having a strong day and just really proud of my team and where we were at and what was going on.

“The 1 car (Kurt Busch) had a little bit of trouble on the restart I’m on the inside going into the corner and it was just super tight. It’s unfortunate that happened, certainly not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go below the white line, got snipped there and around we go.

“(This will be the first playoff you won’t be part of in your Cup career) It’s pretty impressive the run we’ve been on in the playoffs for this many consecutive years. We have that to be proud of and sure, we would have liked to continue that on. The goal is to win a race. The team is getting stronger each and every week. Cliff Daniels (crew chief) is doing an amazing job leading this group and we’re ready to roll. We’ll dust ourselves off and try to get a trophy.”

Kyle Busch – finished 37th: “(Did you have any indication the engine was about to go?) “No, we just left pit road and we were just coming up through the gears. Everything was fine. We got to fourth. We made it all the way to turn two on the apron there and then tried to blend up in traffic and it just let go. I don’t know. We weren’t as good as we wanted to be, where we thought we could run with those guys. We were definitely struggling in the long run similar to yesterday. We thought we qualified a little better than we should, and I guess that’s probably why we weren’t quite there for the long haul and keeping downforce in the car I guess. Just too tight overall. I thought we were going to have a solid third-to-fifth, something like that anyways, and try to come out of here with some points or some momentum going into the Playoffs, but we are stuck here. Once it blew up, it knocked the brakes out of it so I couldn’t stop coming to pit road so I couldn’t get out of everyone’s way and not cause a caution. So sorry about that.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 38th: “(That was a wild ride. What was it like for you?) Yeah, I sure would like to see the replay first. We had new tires and we were racing some cars that didn’t have new tires and wanted to make the pass there and got real tight to the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and lost the nose in the air. I was trying to leave room and probably came down on Erik (Jones) more than I thought I did and he got real loose. No air on my car. I hit the wall there. There is this spot on the wall with just an atrocious angle. I don’t know what that spot is for but it does not need to be there, but we found it. That is how racing goes. We find the things. This track really was part of the safety revolution about 15-20 years ago and I think it is time for another.”

“(The TV guys were saying with that bad wall angle, maybe that was a good spot for the tires given the angle of the wall. What are your thoughts?) “That is an interesting conclusion. I am not sure I agree with that. I think there probably should not be weird angles like that to wreck on. It is what it is and I am glad I am okay. It is just a tough day for everyone on the Discount Tire Ford team.”

Erik Jones – finished 39th: “I just got loose and made a mistake. I didn’t think Brad (Keselowski) would be so tight on me and I just lost it. It’s my fault. I feel bad for the 2 (Keselowski) and I feel bad for our team as well. It’s a shame, we had a good Stanley Camry and I just hate seeing it come down like that. I just wasn’t anticipating enough and I drove in too hard for it. It’s all good. We’ll move on. Wish we would have had a good day. Our car was really strong and we had a shot to probably win today. Just didn’t work out.

“(What was the racing like?) Really challenging. That’s part of why I was making that move and being aggressive with it. I was just trying to get track position. I made a mistake on pit road and stalled it. I was just trying to get back up there. We had a good restart and I was just hoping I could get some good track position back. Tried to get in there and get another spot and it just didn’t quite work out.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

A ‘crucial’ year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan will be racing a sports car today at Daytona International Speedway with an eye toward her future in stock cars.

Signed by Ford Performance to a developmental deal that will put her in a full-time ARCA car (and possibly a truck race or two) this season, Deegan was surprised when the manufacturer also expressed a desire to put her in a few IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events.

The first will be Friday’s season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour warmup race at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Deegan and Xfinity Series veteran Chase Briscoe will start 20th in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

MEET HAILIE DEEGAN: ‘I put my helmet on the same way as everyone else’

“I originally never planned on this, but (Ford) came to me and were like ‘we want to get you on our IMSA program,’” Deegan said. “’That’s what we did with Briscoe, (Cole) Custer, (Austin) Cindric. All the guys that came through the ranks with Ford.’

“When they told me that, I was excited because more road courses will be in the NASCAR world, and there already are quite a few. I think what makes an all-around good driver are the ones that are good at every single type of track.”

There’s been much talk of adding road and street races to the Cup schedule in the next few years, and the Xfinity Series schedule just expanded to five road courses with the move from the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that will be driven by Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe.

Deegan, 18, still remains a long way from the top two national series, but they are her goal, which makes 2020 critical for earning results.

“This is the year that’s very important and crucial to my career because it decides contracts for years out with sponsors getting behind you for the higher levels,” said Deegan, who had three K&N Series victories in 2018-19. “If we can do good this year, I feel I can get more people behind me so we can go in the top three level series (of NASCAR), and have sponsors that want to stay with me full time while I’m there.

“My goal is to win a few races in the ARCA Series, which is going to be hard. There are a lot of good guys, good cars this year.”

Aside from running full time in ARCA for DGR-Crosley, Deegan would “love to do a truck race” if the sponsorship materializes, “but funding right now is all focused on ARCA so we can try to work toward those championships and winning races. I know I want to be in a good car with good people behind me. If we can focus on that, hopefully everything else will come along.”

Click here to read the full version of this story from NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk.

2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Start time, TV schedule, lineup and more

Speedy Cash expands deal with Front Row Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek
Front Row Motorsports
Leave a comment

After sponsoring John Hunter Nemechek in two of his first three Cup Series starts last year, Speed Cash has expanded its backing of Nemechek for the 2020 season, Front Row Motorsports announced Friday.

Speedy Cash, an omni-channel financial services provider specializing in short-term loans, will be on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford for multiple races, including events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the year for both Nemechek and Michael McDowell and his No. 34 Ford Mustang team.

Speedy Cash sponsored Nemechek last November in his Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway and in the season finale at Miami. Nemechek finished 21st at Texas, the best of his three starts filling in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford after he stepped out of the car due to suffering a seizure.

Nemechek will be part of a deep rookie class in Cup this year after he raced full-time for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“As a driver, partnerships like this one with Speedy Cash are so important to our entire team,” Nemechek said in a press release. “It’s always great to see partners expanding their involvement in the sport. For me, Speedy Cash is pretty cool. If you need cash, there are so many easy ways you can get it using their services. I enjoyed getting to know them in the last few races of the 2019 season and we’re going to work hard to make them proud in 2020.”

 

Friday 5: As season nears, a bigger deadline looms for NASCAR

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

While the Cup garage opens in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway to begin the 2020 season, a bigger deadline is looming.

It is less than 10 weeks from NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of announcing the 2021 schedule around April 1.

Phelps made it clear in November what will be key elements to the upcoming schedule.

“We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service,” Phelps said the morning of last season’s finale in Miami.

Tracks that host Cup races — now mostly owned by NASCAR — were put on notice by Phelps’ comments.

“The two things that teams need: We need butts in seats and eyeballs on the TV,” said Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing president, this week.

He stated how important attendance is for teams by noting the growth at Watkins Glen International, which had its fifth consecutive sellout of grandstand seating last year.

Fans at Watkins Glen in 2019. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“When I started in 2010, we didn’t take a lot of partners to Watkins Glen,” Newmark said of sponsors. “Now you take a partner to Watkins Glen in a heartbeat. It is sold out, the energy there. I understand the capacity at Watkins Glen is not the same but it has this feeling, and I think really what we’re trying from a team perspective, from a Roush Fenway perspective, that’s the most important thing.

“I want to go to areas that embrace having the race, that people show up in the stands, that there is a lot of energy. That’s where I want to take my partners. I want them to see their brand in that type of setting.

“Some venues can do that with two races. Other venues it’s been more of a struggle. I would love to see us try these new venues. There will be an energy around that.”

Among Newmark’s suggestions of where NASCAR should consider racing at some point: “Mexico, Canada, street courses, different road courses, different short tracks, look at it all.”

Ryan Newman, who enters his second year at Roush Fenway Racing, said that NASCAR should consider running a Cup race on dirt.

“I’m not trying to bash anybody, we just can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing,” he said this week. “We just can’t. We’ve got to mix it up as a sport. We’re working on doing that and I know that.

NASCAR Trucks at Eldora Speedway in 2019. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“But we’ve got to mix it up and make the fans want to see something different, want to see something new. A different driver. A different venue. A different type of anything. Not just a Next Gen car, that’s a part of it. … Going dirt racing can be done with the Next Gen car. If Junior Johnson was here, he’d tell you, ‘Let’s go race dirt.’ I’m telling you.”

Only the Truck series races on dirt, competing at Eldora Speedway. Cup last raced on a dirt track Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard Petty won that race.

As the sport continues to evolve — adding a night race at Martinsville, a doubleheader weekend at Pocono, and the debut of the Next Gen car next season — the makeup of the schedule in the coming years will be among the biggest tasks for NASCAR officials.

2. A big deal

After winning the Chili Bowl for the first time in 13 attempts, Kyle Larson said moments after the triumph on the MavTV broadcast: “Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”

Larson, who lost the Chili Bowl the previous year on the last lap, later explained his comment in his press conference.

“It will be fun to watch the dirt fans and the NASCAR fans go at it and maybe get a text from (NASCAR’s Steve) O’Donnell and probably (Chip Ganassi Racing chief operating officer) Doug Duchardt,” Larson said.

“I think they understand the energy that this race brings to me and how much I want to win and have wanted to win it. Obviously, I’ve said in the past that the Chili Bowl, to me, is bigger than the Daytona 500. Obviously, it’s not just because of the size of the crowd and the purse of the Daytona 500, nothing compares with that I’ve raced in.

“On a personal level, just how close I’ve been to winning this race, I think that’s where I think this race has meant more to me. But now maybe after winning the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 will be that next race that’s going to mean the most to me that I want to win. It’s just been a great little run and hopefully we can turn this into some good momentum into the NASCAR season.”

Ryan Newman, who competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals for the first time, defended Larson’s excitement with winning that event.

“There’s 360 drivers, 360 teams going for one trophy. That’s spectacular,” Newman said. “I raced midgets races before where I won and there were 16 cars that entered and I felt really good about it. Going back to the Kyle Larson (comment), when there’s 360 (drivers) and you have been working … your whole life to get that trophy, it makes it special. It makes it more special than anybody who is out of his shoes to understand.”

3. Memorable win

NASCAR’s test this week on the Indy road course for the Xfinity Series will give those drivers a chance to accomplish a first — be the first Xfinity driver to win on that circuit.

Brad Keselowski after winning the 2012 Nationwide race at Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski won the first Xfinity race at Indy (it was known as the Nationwide Series at the time) in 2012. That remains a special accomplishment.

“It sticks with you,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m proud of it. … It makes me … a little sad because I don’t get to compete in that series anymore with all the rules, it’s not feasible. So there is a little bit of sorrow I have with that question (of winning there) but it certainly was a defining moment for my career.”

Keselowski also won the final Xfinity race at Lucas Oil Raceway — where the series competed from 1982-2011 before moving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

4. 15 and counting …

Call it a good sign for some, an omen for others or one crazy coincidence but each of the past 15 Cup champions have had an even-number car number.

The last driver to win the championship with an odd number on the car was Kurt Busch. He won the 2004 title (the inaugural Chase) driving the No. 97 car.

So, if one believes in signs, the even-number streak could be a bad sign this season for drivers with odd numbers, such as Busch (No. 1), Chase Elliott (No. 9), Denny Hamlin (No. 11) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19) among others.

5. NASCAR at Rolex

Kyle Busch is the only active Cup driver competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway (coverage will be on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Gold: Track Pass), today’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge will have some additional NASCAR flavor.

MORE: A “crucial” year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

MORE: Full Rolex 24 Hours coverage at MotorSportsTalk

The four-hour endurance race begins at 1:10 pm. ET (and will be streamed on the NBC Gold: Track Pass) and includes Xfinity drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Also competing will be Hailie Deegan, who moved from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s in the offseason. She’ll spend most of her time this season running in the ARCA Series. Deegan and Briscoe will co-drive the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

Matt Tifft reveals he suffered another seizure

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matt Tifft revealed Thursday night that he suffered another seizure on Dec. 12 while on his honeymoon.

Tifft, 23, suffered a seizure Oct. 26, 2019 at Martinsville Speedway, forcing him out of his Front Row Motorsports ride for the rest of the NASCAR Cup season. He and the team announced Nov. 13 that they would end their agreement so Tifft could focus on his health.

In a social media post Thursday, Tifft detailed what happened Dec. 12 and afterward:

“This one rocked me pretty badly, as I was conscious for a lot more of the convulsions, and it really has taken everything in me to return to feeling somewhat “normal.”

Tifft also said the experience has haunted him.

“Anxiety, PTSD, fear or whatever you call it of that seizure has played through my head nearly everyday. Luckily, these last few weeks I’ve finally seen improvements after going to therapy and trying to “rewire” my brain. It started off really rough, where I could hardly leave my house without having intense anxiety and panic attacks about having another seizure, which I have never had in my life before.

“I’m committed to “rewiring” my brain and to restore my mental health. I’ve never suffered a mental illness before. Even with the brain tumor in 2016 and first seizure, I never had these effects. I never knew how debilitating it could feel to live with constant fear and anxiety.

“But now, I do see a light in this getting better, however as I continue with this road to recovery with these issues and finding answers, I just wanted to make it know that my deepest sympathy goes out to those who deal with these issues on an everyday basis, and I can’t thank my wife; family and friends enough for their continued support.”

Tifft had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain July 21, 2016. He returned racing. He placed sixth in points in the Xfinity Series in 2018. Tifft competed in Cup in 2019 as a rookie until his seizure at Martinsville.