What drivers said after Martinsville playoff race

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Martin Truex Jr., winner: “I don’t think anyone expected that (performance).  This racetrack in general, you don’t see that. Hats off to my guys. Pit crew was stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments.  We adjusted on it early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.  I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows.  But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year, and I’m like, we’ve got work to do.  I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together today when it counted.”

William Byron, finished second: “(Truex) was really strong. I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit, and then I’d get to him and I’d heat him up a lot and then kind of fall back.  I don’t really know.  He was super strong.  Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around.  But overall it was a really good day.

“This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend, the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race.  Super excited, but second is not super fun, either.  We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”

Brad Keselowski, finished third: “I think that’s about all we had or maybe a little more than what we had.  We just kind of kept our head on our shoulders all day and made the most of what we had.  I was really proud of our team for that effort … Long green flag runs, a lot of aggressiveness, a lot of contact.  It was really tough to pass.  When you get behind somebody you’re way faster than that big spoiler would just kill you, but, all in all, a good day for us.”

Denny Hamlin, finished fourth: (What happened between you and Joey Logano?) “We were having a discussion, everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away.  So that’s Joey.  Scared ‑‑ he said, ‘Do you want to go?’  I said, ‘Yes, I’m here.’  But then he runs away.

(What was the altercation on track that led to it?) “I got close off of Turn 4. It looks like we got together, and it looks like collateral damage. He blew a tire.  I mean, he would probably say, ‘Oh, short-track racing.'”

Ryan Blaney, finished fifth: “We were in the top five all day and I thought we had a good shot at second.  We weren’t good on short runs.  We were terrible for probably 30-40 laps and then we’d come alive and be great, but just didn’t have the speed.”

Kurt Busch, finished sixth: “We finished (sixth) which was the highest we ran all day. Wow, what perseverance and an ability to make adjustments during the race. … We were lucky with the right lane on the restarts. Thanks to Global Poker, Chevrolet, Monster Energy. We got a sixth. Really good day at Martinsville for us. Our teammate Kyle Larson got a top 10 as well.”

Kevin Harvick, finished seventh: “We got our car a lot better in the second half.  We made some major adjustments when we got to the end of the second stage and made our car a lot better.  We just didn’t quite get back up there.”

Joey Logano, finished eighth: (On his altercation with Denny Hamlin) “I just wanted to talk to him about it and was pretty frustrated.  He just kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day.  A shot at the win for sure.  We probably weren’t going to beat (Truex), but we had a top five for sure coming our way, but we just were able to survive there.

“I don’t really know what happened because once he started hitting me he didn’t lift, he just kept finishing me off.  We ran each other fine all day, so I don’t know.  I don’t really know what happened.  He just kind of sends me up there and keeps on going with it.  Cut down my tires and fender rubs everywhere.

Kyle Larson, finished ninth: “This is my second best finish at Martinsville, so I’m really happy with that. We were able to steal some stage points as well, so we probably over achieved for how we usually run at Martinsville. I haven’t seen the points spread yet, but I would say we maintained from where we came in, so I’m happy about that.”

Ryan Newman, finished 10th: “We just out-tired there at the end.  Those other guys had tires and we didn’t and it didn’t work out the best for us.  It was a challenge.  They did a good job.  Our pit stops were awesome today.  That made a big difference and just came up short.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 17th: “It was a solid day for us here at Martinsville Speedway. We were just too loose and didn’t have the rear lateral grip we needed early in the race. We kept adjusting and kept trying to put ourselves in position to get the free pass or take the wave around, and finally late in the race we had something go our way that got us back on the lead lap. (Erik Jones) and (Michael McDowell) got together behind us once we were back on the lead lap and turned this Chevrolet Accessories Camaro ZL1 around. I hate that because I thought we were going to drive up into the top 15 pretty easily. It just wasn’t meant to be. We got a little too much damage to move forward at the end. All in all, just proud of these guys, proud of the effort and proud of the fight. We’ll roll on to Texas.”

Austin Dillon, finished 22nd: “I’m really proud of everyone on this No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team for working hard all weekend and giving us a really solid car at Martinsville Speedway. We put up a fight all race long, which really helped us to stay on the lead lap and battle competitively in the top 12 throughout Stages 1 and 2. Early in Stage 3, we were racing hard with another car when we cut a tire and made contact with the outside wall. Our Chevy was just too loose after that, making it really hard to earn back the lap we lost while making repairs. We had a good fight, but this is not the finish we wanted today.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 31st: “We had a good car in the first stage, and we ran solidly in the top-10. The car got tight in the second stage. Not the day we were hoping for, but we still have three races to go.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 35th: “That was so disappointing. Our BlueDEF Mustang was fast, and we were just cruising a lot today. We made contact with a lapped car, and I think that’s how we got the flat but I don’t know. The track bar broke at the end and ended our race. We had a great car all weekend, and we deserved better today.”

Aric Almirola, finished 37th: “We just got together.  I got inside of him (Kyle Busch) getting down in turn three and he chopped me, and I got in his left-rear and moved him up a little bit and got inside of him, and then we hooked and got tangled up off of turn four.  It’s disappointing.  I had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang and felt like we were maybe one adjustment away from being maybe a second or third-place car, so I’m proud of my guys, proud of the effort and we’ve got three more weeks.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th: “I’m not sure what started those two cars spinning (No. 10 Aric Almirola and No. 18 Kyle Busch). While they were spinning, I made an early decision to go where I thought the road would be open but by the time I got there it was closed up. Wrong place, wrong time.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

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7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

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His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”