What Cup drivers said after Talladega

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Here’s what Cup drivers said after a chaotic playoff race at Talladega

Ryan Blaney, winner – “I know a lot of guys had their problems today.  But we had our problem last week (at Dover), a bad problem.  We have kind of been saying all week, we’ve been wanting to win races all year.  Why have any different mindset? This was a huge, huge race for us.  I’m pumped up

Ryan Newman, finished second – “I told Aric (Almirola), I said they spent $50 million redeveloping this place.  I should have threw in 50 bucks for them to move the start/finish line, repainted it or something. It was a great run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford.  Everybody at Roush‑Yates, Roush Family Racing.  All the team effort that went into it was good.

“I mean, we just came up that little bit short.  I don’t know what else to say.  I could have pinched him some more.  I could have probably took the aero.  You can go back and bench race that three weeks from now.  It was a good race until the end.

“I saw the guys spinning in the back.  I was hoping for a yellow, but there wasn’t.”

Denny Hamlin, finished third – “(Our agenda) changed with every caution.  It changed with every car that fell out.  I mean, just a game of chess all day.  Sure, we could have got up there and raced, got in the middle, but we would have been in all those wrecks.  Didn’t make sense to me. I knew the statistics, the odds, the chances.  I looked at how many cars were on the lead lap if we were to crash at that point in the race.  It just wasn’t worth the risk.  There wasn’t enough to gain with cars still crashing. We waited till the bulk of them got out, then went up there and tried to win.  We almost did.”

Aric Almirola, finished fourth –  “Obviously, when you get that close to the end and you feel like you’re in position you want to win.  Man, it’s hard.  It’s hard to make the right move and do the right thing at the right time.  It’s so situational.  There’s maybe a couple of things, maybe one thing I could have tried to get up in front of (Ryan Newman), but he was coming so fast.  There was no way I was gonna block that run.  He was just gonna get to my outside and then I was gonna be stuck in the middle three-wide.  All in all, it was a good day.  We needed a good run.

Michael McDowell, finished fifth – “You’re always looking for anything to build momentum.  Results always do that and that’s always part of it.  Talladega and Daytona in particular are unique race tracks and a unique style of racing.  I don’t know how much it helps you going into Kansas, but it’s always good to get a top five and to have a strong day and be in position to push a Ford to Victory Lane.  That’s good, too.”

Austin Dillon, finished sixth – “It pushed really well and to get up through there at times, it just didn’t seem to be able to maintain the lead. But I’m glad we were able to get a good finish. Sixth place, we needed that. The No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), he had a heck of a run down the backstretch. If he could have picked me up, it would have been nice. We did everything we could for what we had, and the race was very close.”

Corey LaJoie, finished seventh – “We call that stacking pennies.  You take a 33rd-place car and finish seventh with it, so we’ll take it and run.”

Chase Elliott, finished eighth – “We had our ups and downs for sure today. Got caught up in that crash but my guys did a nice job of putting it back together as best we could. Just head out West to Kansas now and try to get a win out there. That’s about all we can do now.”

“You have to have the mindset to go out there and control what we can control and do everything we can to get a win. That’s all we can do.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished ninth – “It’s nice being that close.  We put ourselves in the right positions, got to control the race for a little while.  I felt like my spotter and I did a really good job blocking the right lines at the right time and just trying to learn for the end of that race.  That one restart we picked the bottom and I don’t know if that hurt us and it let (Kurt Busch) get to the outside and the third lane formed, so, all in all, we had a really fast car.  I’m bummed we couldn’t finish it off.  There at the end I felt like we were still plenty fast enough to get the job done, but I just ran out of laps to get back up there.”
Ty Dillon, finished 10th – “When there’s so few cars left running at the end of the race, the top just seemed to never really go. On the last restart, there were only eight or nine cars running, so I knew we were in a little bit of trouble. I needed a push in the outside line as far as I could to try to get us in position where we were in second or third and I just couldn’t get any help from behind. We had a nice, big run there at the end, but couldn’t really do a whole lot with it. Another top-10 finish for our team, which is good at the superspeedways. A top-10 finish is always good for us.”
Joey Logano, finished 11th – “It scared the crap out of me because it came out of nowhere.  I was riding around and everything was good in second place and, ‘Boom.’  The next thing I know I’m sideways and up in the air.  My team did an amazing job today because when we got done with the crash the hood was up and I couldn’t see.  The thing was barely rolling with four flat tires and everything else, and they got it to where it would run and then got through another crash to get the lucky dog and finished 11th on the day.  Two second places in the stages and an 11th-place finish with a crashed race car isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than it could have been, so I’m proud of that.”
Kevin Harvick, finished 17th – “You always want to do better.  I would have loved to have scored stage points and finish better, but we didn’t.  You can’t put much merit into this.  It’s kind of like bumper cars with your friends that don’t know how to drive at the go-kart track.”

Kyle Busch, finished 19th – “Everybody starts getting more aggressive towards the end and some guys just started pushing and I got pushed. I don’t know if (Kurt Busch) was getting pushed from behind him or what, but just got turned sideways the wrong way on the straightaway and that was it.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 23rd – “I brushed the wall.  I got into (Daniel Hemric) and was just pushing like I was all day long.  I don’t know.  He ran up too high and when you push you’ve got to kind of be to the outside and run me into the wall.  I was afraid it was gonna go flat, so I bailed out of there and, sure enough, it went flat.  And then I just got stuck down there.  I couldn’t get those guys to cooperate.  They stared at me for a lap.  I was like, ‘Boys, we’ve got to figure this out.  We’ve got to push this thing off.’  I don’t know that they knew I was stuck.  I shut it off and was trying to scream, but it is what it is.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 25th –  “I got wrecked, but I haven’t see the replay.  We were about to take the lead. I was pushing Brendan Gaughan and was really excited about how it was looking there for a minute and it just didn’t work out.”

Martin Truex Jr., Finished 26th – “Obviously we tried to find a safe place there and chill out and ride. That’s kind of what our plan was and we couldn’t even do that. Wrong place, wrong time, which seems like about every time I come here. I feel like I should just race as hard as I can race because I’m probably going to get wrecked anyway.”

Brendan Gaughan, finished 27th –  “It was okay, it was just one easy, quick flip and we put it down. The only thing you worry about then is somebody hitting you.  That is what you don’t want and that is where the fear comes in. Other than that, I am fine and like I said, some people would argue that I have anything up there that’s going to hurt. Thank you to Chevrolet and thank you to the Beard family, love you guys, and yes, I will see you at the Daytona 500. Mom, sorry.”

Kurt Busch, finished 28th – “I was just trying to make the middle lane work and all hell broke loose. I was having a lot of fun out there. Just trying to hold it steady and gain some points. I don’t even know who is left. It was pretty wild. These cars are so unstable in those big packs pushing hard. It just takes the smallest little mistake.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 29th – “I don’t really know what to say.  I don’t know what we could have done different.  We were just racing hard and then went straight to the back.  We were coming back to the front and then the whole mess started in front of me and I turned the wheel a little bit too hard to try to avoid the wreck and I ended up spinning out myself.  It was either spinning out myself or wrecking, so nothing really I could have done there.”

Matt DiBendetto, finished 30th – “I saw a car go up in the air and over. It’s just crazy. I don’t know. The car was fast, pushed great obviously. … I wanted to get this car to victory lane so bad for Toyota and LFR (Leavine Family Racing). It just stinks being that close. Man, that’s insane. I was pushing Kurt (Busch) earlier before that all happened and was just focused on pushing ahead of me because my car did it so well locking on the guys in front of me. I don’t know. Seems like a dang routine. We run a superspeedway race and then I meet you guys here for an interview after the care center. These races are crazy.”

David Ragan, finished 32nd – “Everybody just got to pushing and shoving and that’s just a product of speedway racing.  These guys race extremely hard.  The cars are really safe.  I don’t really think anyone is gonna get hurt, so that probably makes everyone drive a little bit more crazy than they should and when you’re pushing and shoving at 200 miles an hour eventually you’re gonna wreck people.  I think most of the big wrecks today were because of that and that’s just the way it is, so you get out there and you tear all of these race cars up.  I hate it for the car owners, but the fans saw a lot of great racing today.  Our Envision USA Ford Mustang was fast.  It was fun, but it just didn’t last to the end.”

William Byron, finished 33rd – “Obviously, our noses are pointed and it just jacked me right up and turned me around. I have to look at it. Yeah, it just turned me to the inside first. I don’t know what to do different there to get the push better. Just unfortunate for us. We had a really good run going. I felt like we were going to at least finish pretty solid. Our car was good, just trying to bide our time. Just unfortunate, for sure.”

Erik Jones, finished 34th – “It looks like the 1 (Kurt Busch) turned the 24 (William Byron) and kind of caused that wreck, so it’s unfortunate. We had a really fast car today. It’s one of the best superspeedway cars we’ve brought as far as single car and pack speed. It’s disappointing. The DeWalt Camry was definitely a contender, I thought, for a win today. We battled back from a lap down and got right back to the front. It’s unfortunate. We’ve just been on a bad streak and we haven’t been able to shake it. Hopefully next week at Kansas – it’s been a good track to us – we can get things back going again.”

Alex Bowman, finished 37th – “My guess is that I threw a block I shouldn’t have thrown a block. I got shoved way out there. I knew the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was coming and I just tried to move down just a little bit. As soon as he touched me, it just turned it sideways. They just had a bigger run than I realized. I should have let them go and shouldn’t have thrown a block. I apologize to all the cars that got torn up, that’s on me. Talladega happens. I hate it for all of our sponsors.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th – “I was just drafting and looking through the window like we do on the back straightaway and I noticed out of the left side of the windshield that the 88 was down there sideways by himself. So, something happened up there that got him pitched out of the line and unfortunately just slid right back up in front of myself and Chase (Elliott). I hope I did not knock Chase into the 88, and I feel like fortunately I may have turned him away from it and down the track. Hopefully he can still get some points here. It’s just one of those plate racing incidents and I hate it for Alex but a few people made it through from the Hendrick side of things in having a couple cars still in the race

Kyle Larson, finished 39th – “I just saw a little bit of smoke. I was in the top lane just hoping to get through it and it all happened quick. I saw the No. 88 (Alex Bowman)’s door numbers and I got into it. Yeah, that was a huge hit on my part. Thankfully, I’m OK and we’ll move onto next week and try to get a run at Kansas.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson among athletes raising COVID-19 funds

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Seven-time Cup champion and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. are among the athletes who have donated signed items as part of a fundraiser for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy states it is the only full-time national resource dedicated to helping donors maximize their impact by making more intentional disaster-related giving decisions.

Johnson is offering signed race worn shoes for COVID-19 relief. Anyone who donates at least $25 will be entered to win the shoes. A winner will be selected at random at end of the fundraising period, which is May 1.

Earnhardt is offering signed skeleton racing gloves for COVID-19 relief. Anyone who donates at least $25 will be entered to win the gloves. A winner will be selected at random at end of the fundraising period, which is May 1.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund supports preparedness, containment, response and recovery activities for those affected and for the responders.

Other athletes who have donated items include Jack Nicklaus, Stephen Curry, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles.

 

 

Where Are They Now: Lake Speed still racing and ‘still bad to the bone’

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He may not have been born a Petty or Earnhardt, but there is one former NASCAR driver whose surname practically predestined his career path.

That person with the colorful moniker is Lake Speed.

“God’s got a sense of humor, that’s the first thing,” Speed laughed when asked about his unique surname in a recent call with NBC Sports. “Every time I make a new acquaintance, I have to explain that the name is real and that God gave it to me.

Lake Speed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1997. Credit: Darrell Ingham /Allsport

“My dad was one of seven Speed boys. There’s a lot of Speeds back from where we’re from. Sometimes it’s a blessing, sometimes it’s a curse. Sometimes you get ridiculed if you’re not running good because you’ve got the last name of Speed, but on the other side it’s looked at as unique, and I think it’s kind of helped make me stand out a little bit in a crowd.”

While the last of his 402 career NASCAR Cup starts came in 1998 at the age of 50, the 72-year-old Speed is still chasing checkered flags and living up to his last name.

When asked if he’ll ever retire, Speed chuckled, “I haven’t been able to find that in the Bible anywhere. I enjoy what I do, I like people and helping people, the interaction and all that is perfect for me. I just don’t see stopping.”

Speed began racing go-karts in his native Mississippi at the age of 12 before eventually finding his way into NASCAR Cup.

“Some people know I was a big-time go-karter for years, had a career, business and raced all over the world with karts before I ever came to NASCAR,” Speed told NBC Sports.

Since leaving NASCAR, Speed has come full circle, returning to his karting roots in 2001 and has become one of the more successful and prolific karting racers in the country.

Future NASCAR Cup driver Lake Speed poses with one of his racing karts when he was 15 years old. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

“After I left NASCAR, a former NASCAR safety official, Steve Peterson, was a go-karter for years and years,” Speed said. “He kept calling me and kept saying, ‘Lake, you’ve got to come out here to the kart track. I have a few cars and you can come out and play with us some.’

“I finally went out one day and I forgot how much fun this was. I told myself I’ve got to get me one of these. So I got a kart and started fooling around with one and eventually started racing again. I went big-time, messed around and won the national championship in karting road-racing in 2007. Between the karting, the real estate business and trying to raise a bunch of kids and grandkids, that’s pretty much what I’m doing.”

Speed’s day job is as a commercial real estate broker, a career path he began back in his college days.

But racing has always been his first true love, particularly karting. Speed won the International Karting Federation national championship six times before he came to NASCAR in 1980, and was the first American to win the World Karting Championship at LeMans, France in 1978, defeating a number of other aspiring racers including future three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna.

He remained the only American to win the world karting title in any class until 14-year-old Florida native Logan Sargeant did so in 2015.

Speed could have gone in any number of directions as a racer, but former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler convinced him to try NASCAR, finishing as runner-up to Jody Ridley as Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1980.

Speed would go on to record 16 top-five and 75 top-10 finishes in his Cup career, with a career-best points finish of 10th in 1985.

Lake Speed, winner of the 1988 TranSouth 500. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

March 27 marked the 32nd anniversary of Speed’s only win of his Cup career, the TranSouth 500 at Darlington Raceway. He took the checkered flag by nearly 19 seconds over Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin and Mark Martin.

“It was more of a relief than anything,” said of winning. “I had really been close to winning a lot of races in my career up to that point and particularly that season, we had led (nearly) every race that season before that race.

“We had the whole field a lap down at one time (in another race) and still didn’t win the darn thing. So when I finally won at Darlington, it was like, ‘Gosh darn, finally, now we can finally get on with it.’

“That was great, but there were other highlight moments. I had cars that were more than capable of winning a race and had a mechanical failure, an accident or whatever that knocked you out.

“There were also the times we passed the heroes and we were always an underfunded and under-budgeted team. When you outran the big dogs, it didn’t matter whether we won the race or not, we took home a moral victory. We had a lot of moral victories. Only one was in the record books, but there was a whole lot more of them where we went home to the shop with our heads held high, knowing we had put the hurtin’ on ‘em.”

Speed still keeps up with NASCAR – and the fans still keep up with him.

“I can’t tell you how shocked I am, this far out, that I still get multiple cards, letters, model cars every week,” he said. “I’m autographing stuff and sending it out every week. It makes me feel good and gives me the opportunity to share my faith with people. I got saved in 1983 and it made a giant change in my life. I feel God gave me this platform to use, so I try to use it to honor him.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Do you miss it?’ Yeah, I miss it. I miss probably the most working in the shop with the guys, trying to build a better race car to outrun everyone else. I really love that challenge.

“I never went to work. It was always a pleasure and joy to work with guys and build strong relationships. People that have never been on a team that was working seven days a week for a goal, it’s just a different scenario than a ho-hum job that you’re going to just to make a check.

“I lived that life most of my life and when I got retired from NASCAR, all of a sudden I was in an office by myself. It was a shock. It took me several years to get over it. It was a tough, tough change. Karting really was a salvation for me, to get me going again to have something to do and the interaction with people.”

Lake Speed darts around a kart track April 5, 2006. Photo by Getty Images for NASCAR.

Speed didn’t mind being an underdog during much of his Cup career. But the real heroes to him were those who helped him throughout that nearly two full decades of NASCAR racing.

“I can’t really emphasize enough how important the crew guys are and were,” he said. “The relationships we built, we worked hours and hours together doing things and trying to accomplish stuff.

“In our case, being underfunded, when we got out ahead a lick, it was amazing to see these guys light up and the pride. When you see guys work real hard and they accomplish something together, it’s amazing. I still bump into one of those guys at least once a month and it’s like seeing a brother or sister that you haven’t seen in a while.”

Speed faced a number of tough competitors in his career but also became close friends with several, including Bobby Hillin Jr. and Darrell Waltrip.

Speed still lives and works out of the same compound he bought in 1985 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. His real estate office occupies part of his original race shop, while his karts have replaced the Cup cars that used to be worked on there as well.

Karting has helped keep Speed young. He enjoys mixing it up with drivers half or even two-thirds his age.

“Look at it this way: I started all this when I was about 12 years old and raced until I retired from NASCAR,” Speed said. “I sat around for two or three years until I got into karting and went right back to racing regularly again.

“It’s just something that’s been in my blood all along. I love working on ‘em, love the people, the camaraderie and the challenge. I always said that if I knew last year what I knew this year, I would have won all the races last year.”

Speed is also a big part of what has become somewhat of a seniors tour: vintage karting, which is composed mainly of drivers in their 50s and on up into their 80s.

“It’s like going to a high school reunion, but where everybody shows up with a go-kart, races, has a good time, tells a lot of stories and relives their childhood,” he said with a laugh. “It really is cool, it’s the greatest thing in the world. You go to a high school reunion and it’s kind of boring. This is not.”

When asked how successful he is in karts today, Speed laughed: “With the modern stuff, not so much. You’re racing against a bunch of guys whose average age is 22, there I’m kinda mid-pack.

“But with the vintage stuff, I’m still bad to the bone.”

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Virginia stay-at-home order puts Martinsville race in question

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for residents of Virginia that begins Monday and extends through June 10 “unless amended or rescinded by further executive order.”

Such an order would impact the May 9 NASCAR Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. That race is scheduled to be the track’s first Cup night race.

The Virginia order prohibits “all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals. … This includes parties, celebrations, religious and other social events, whether they occur indoor or outdoor.”

NASCAR issued a statement Monday:

“NASCAR is aware of the stay-at-home order issued for Virginia. We will continue discussions with public health officials and medical experts as we assess rescheduling options.”

NASCAR announced March 16 that it was postponing all events through May 3. Those races postponed are Bristol, Texas, Richmond, Talladega and Dover. Previously, the Atlanta and Miami weekends had been postponed.

Previously, Gov. Northam had issued a stay-at-home order from March 24 – April 23.

North Carolina will be under a stay at home directive beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday. It is scheduled to last 30 days. The order impacts the NASCAR industry with most race teams being based in the state.

 

Report: Debut of Next Gen car to be delayed

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The Next Gen’s car debut will be delayed, according to a report by The Athletic.

The car is scheduled to run its first race in the 2021 Daytona 500, but the The Athletic stated that the date would be pushed back in the 2021 season. The Athletic reported that a decision is expected to be announced this week.

NASCAR did not issue a statement Monday. Series officials are having discussions with teams and suppliers to determine the impact associated with postponements and adjustments of NASCAR’s goals for the new car.

The Next Gen car is viewed as a long-term cost-savings measure for teams and will include common parts from vendors. The Athletic reported that the delay in bulk manufacturing of the chassis and other parts will lead to the delay in the debut of the Next Gen car in 2021.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said last November that teams would take delivery of the car around this July. The COVID-19 pandemic has put that schedule in jeopardy. NASCAR has postponed Next Gen tests at Atlanta, Bristol and Dover. No makeup dates have been announced.

There remain two NASCAR Next Gen tests scheduled: June 2-3 at Charlotte and July 14-15 at Las Vegas. There are eight open tests and four organizational tests scheduled for between August and December. Phelps stated March 17 that NASCAR’s goal was to reschedule its postponed races before the playoffs begin Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway. Doing so could mean doubleheader weekends and/or midweek races, which would further tax teams as they also look to build Next Gen cars for next season.

“Even working ahead and being prepared, I see a lot of sleepless nights in the near future,” Ryan Sparks, crew chief for Corey LaJoie at Go Fas Racing, told NBC Sports earlier this month.

Also, at 5 p.m. ET today, North Carolina’s 30-day stay-at-home order goes into effect and will impact many businesses, including NASCAR teams and vendors in the state.