What drivers said after Texas

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Kevin Harvick – winner: (How critical was this race for you?) Well, we’ve already been going down the road. They’ve already built the car, picked a direction. Like we talked about earlier, we’ve got so many things that you had to choose from from an aero standpoint, and Homestead is such a unique racetrack. We’ve already been to the simulator, we’ve already built the car, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens.

(Your son, Keelan, set the air pressures before the race and again you won. What’s up with that?) Yeah, I think he’s three for three or four for four. I think all four races he’s set the air pressure this year, so if anything we’re helping him with math. It’s fun to have him at the racetrack. Had a fun weekend. They have a great zoo here, in case you were wondering. We didn’t do much yesterday. But just really proud of everybody on this team.”

Aric Almirola – finished second: “Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really fast. I am really proud of the effort by everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines and Ford Motor Company. Our cars were really, really good from the time we unloaded here and we all came with a little something different, just trying to learn and get ahead for next year. I think we learned some stuff. I am really proud of all the guys on my team. We have had such a bad run of luck the last two months and it is so nice to come here and just execute all night and have a fast car, lead laps and win a stage and run up front. We had a great night on pit road. I did my part on restarts and on and off pit road and just an all-around solid night. We can build on that.

(You were relentless tonight, weren’t you?) Yeah, for a little while I thought we had a car capable of winning. When Harvick got a good restart there and was able to keep pace with us I knew I was in trouble. His car was a good bit faster than ours in clean air.”

Daniel Suarez – finished third: “That was a very solid night and I am very happy with the performance and speed that we brought from the shop. Everyone back at the shop did a great job. We knew we would be fast here. We had a solid performance here last time. We did a good job. We had good execution and a good clean day. I am very happy for Stewart-Haas Racing and the 41 Ford Mustang was pretty sporty. I am very happy for Kevin (Harvick) getting his ticket for Homestead.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: (Kyle Busch said he will have to race you next weekend and you’re tough to beat. Your thoughts?) It is going to be a good battle for sure. We are definitely racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us outside of the top-four wins. Then it will come down to (Busch) and the 22 to try to get for that last spot. It is going to be fun. I am looking forward to the battle. It will be a good time. Obviously the 18 team is good and Kyle is a good driver but I think we are a great team and they are beatable just like everybody else.”

Alex Bowman – finished fifth: We started really tight and we made good adjustments throughout the day. Obviously, once the sun went down, the car got a lot better and we were pretty solid. I wish we could have had a little more track position and our strategy go our way a little more there at the end. But we definitely had a really good car today. It was just really tough to pass, but the guys did a good job. We came through the field a couple of times and had a good day.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished sixth: (What was today like?) Just a battle. We felt pretty good after practice going into this thing that we’d be competitive. We were not very good and then we got some track position and we were hanging on okay. Then, we got back in the pack again and just had one run where it got really, really tight and lost all of our track position again and then it was just a battle. Made huge adjustments. We’ve not adjusted on a car that much all year long and we still never got it perfect, but definitely a lot better at the end. We just fought hard and never gave up on it all day and came home with a decent finish.”

Kyle Busch – finished seventh: “(What are your thoughts about today’s race?) I don’t know, I was running wide open there and those guys were just driving away. We got what we got out of our M&M’s Camry tonight. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some good adjustments. The whole first set of tires was just ugly for us. Once we got past that and got some other tires on the car, it seemed to go a little bit better. It was hard battling some of them guys up there and up through traffic and what not. We should have run third and ran out of gas and starved the pump there at the end. Then I was stalled on pit road. That cost us four or five spots there.

(How do you feel about heading to Phoenix to get back to victory lane?) We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy. If we can obviously go to Phoenix and have a strong run and be able to go out there and win, that will put ourselves through as well too. We’re two (points) on (Joey Logano) so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and the 22, imagine that. … The last couple times we’ve been to Phoenix, we’ve run pretty good. Hopefully, that can translate to this time around again. We were good at Richmond and normally Richmond translates good there. Loudon (N.H.), that translates there. I’m optimistic about it. I think we can do okay. It’s just a matter of running another clean race and not having mistakes.”

Ryan Blaney – finished eighth: “It was a long night. We struggled really bad all night with track position and then I felt like even when we got a little bit of it we still weren’t very good. We tried a lot of things tonight and they didn’t really work. Unfortunately we didn’t really get many stage points and the 4 winning didn’t help our cause but we have to run better than that anyway. … (How do you feel about Phoenix?) Gotta win. Hopefully we go do that.

(What happened late in the race with Ryan Newman?) I am not in his head. Ryan is Ryan and he is going to race hard. I was mad that I had a massive run up top and he just turned right and it made me jump out of the gas and get tight and hit the fence. That is what I was mad about. I was fine with the racing before that but when someone has a big run like that it is like, ‘C’Mon.’ I don’t know. I don’t really care. I forgot about it until you brought it up to be honest.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “I think we just need to stay positive on this with our Monster Chevy and we finished ninth. We were running second and had everything under control and the yellow came out right after we pitted and it locked us a lap down. It’s just tough to be on the back side of that circumstance and to be locked back there in 20th with only 90 (laps) to go. It’s tough to make that back up. Our car had really good speed. I was really happy with the balance the second half of the race. And all-in-all, it just wasn’t the top-five effort that we needed but we’ll take ninth.

(What did you make of the traction compound at the top of the track?) They don’t need to spray it that heavy right before the race starts. That just throws away everybody’s set-ups and it’s too inconsistent to start and with too many guys having trouble that are quality cars, it shows that the surface wasn’t prepped right.

(Your teammate criticized Bubba Wallace’s spin. How do you look at it?) We won Kentucky earlier this year when the No. 43 (Wallace) spun on the same spot. He had an axle problem a couple of weeks ago. My spotter said 200 feet before he spun, he had a flat tire. So, if you have a flat tire, it’s kind of hard to hold on to your car.”

Erik Jones – finished 10th: (Talk about your finish) It was okay, the car was alright. Got caught out there on pit road and had to restart pretty far back with 90 to go and just drive back to where we could. Kind of a tough day. The Sport Clips Camry fired off the race well and just kind of lost it through the race. We’ll go on to Phoenix and hopefully be a little bit better.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 11th: “Track position was everything, and we just lost out on that in the end.”

Kyle Larson – finished 12th: “I’m not really sure yet. But it was just vibrating really bad and it lost a lot of speed. So, something happened. But what really killed our race was the No. 43 (Bubba Wallace) spinning on purpose. They put us a lap down. I think we were up to fourth at that point. It really killed us and a few others. You hate to see that and be affected by it, but it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it now. We’ll try and go to Phoenix and get a win. I don’t really know who is in front of us. I feel like we had a good shot to win up until the No. 43 spun in front of us.

(Can you put a positive spin on this weekend that give you a positive outlook heading to Phoenix?) Well, I felt like once the traction compound came in today, I was really fast; probably the best on top, for sure. Next week they’re going to be doing it at Phoenix as well. I hope that opens up some lanes for me. I feel like there’s nobody better at finding different lanes and things like that to find speed. So, hopefully it lends to benefit us because we need to get a win. We can do it. I’ve been close to winning there before. So, we’ve just got to work hard.”

Austin Dillon – finished 13th: We put up a good fight tonight in the No. 3 RigUp Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway. We came up from the back three times, which is a testament to the amount of speed we had in these Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets. I think we could have ended up with a top-10 finish if a few more things would have just went our way. We’re working hard to make our cars respond better in traffic, and we’re learning a lot as a team. We’ll be in a strong position for 2020. I want to thank RigUp for their support this weekend.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 16th: Everyone on this No. 8 Cat Dozers Chevrolet team fought all day and never gave up. We were just way too tight to start the race, then we had a piece of debris wrap around the splitter and cover the right-side air duct, which really hurt the handling. I hate we lost that whole run to adjust on the car and make it better, because when we did get a chance to work on it and wave around, we were sitting in a position to have a good day. I feel like we just needed one more caution to be on equal tires with everyone ahead of us and fighting on the lead lap, it just didn’t work out. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 8 Cat Dozers Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. We love to fight another day and we’ll go on to Phoenix to do just that.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 28th: (What happened in your incident?) Just got up in (the traction compound) before it was really broke in. Just lost control. That’s all there is to it. Proud of the whole FedEx team for putting their best effort forward so we could be there at the end. Did the best we could and we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win.

(How confident are you going to Phoenix to win and to transfer to Miami?) The car and the effort will be there, that’s for sure. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can go there and win. In these circumstances, I like the challenge. We’re going to go out there and give it our best shot and put our best foot forward and see if we can’t get a win next week.”

Chase Elliott – finished 32nd: (What happened in your crash?) I made a mistake, got loose and crashed. I really hate that happened. Obviously, it’s not good and not what you’re looking for. It’s just my mistake and there’s really no excuse for it. It’s just all eyes on Phoenix.

(Has anyone had a crazier playoff run than you with all the highs and lows?) I’m not sure. Obviously, today was very self-inflicted. I made a mistake that there’s really no excuse for and that’s what you get. You make mistakes, you put yourself in a bad position and that was all on me today. I hate that it happened, but it did and we’ll just go onto Phoenix and try to get a win out there.

(You’re in a must-win situation at Phoenix. How do you feel about your chances?) I feel a lot better about it than I did today. So, I look forward to getting out there.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 39th: “(What happened in the accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?) I just busted my butt. I feel terrible for Ricky, he didn’t deserve to get caught up in it. I was just real loose and trying to make something happen. When you are getting passed by other cars you kind of lose your confidence and you try something and I knew better. My butt told me I would wreck if I do that. I was getting passed and swung for the fence and I hit it. It just sucks. I am kind of embarrassed to do that. I was just trying to make something happen for my team and swung too hard.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 40th: We got our car better there and we were running top five but with the flip-flop of track position we made an adjustment and I got running 1 and 2 really good and passed some really good cars. Then we got around to Brad (Keselowski) there in (Turns) 1 and 2 and he got loose underneath me and almost crashed us down there. We lost a lot of track position. Then going into Turn 3 there I was running the top and saw him getting loose. When I checked up my car got loose as well. I was just trying to avoid him and it got mine sideways. It is a bummer of a weekend. Our Fastenal Mustang was really fast and I was having fun until then.”

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Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really the biggest, fastest, fiercest track?

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Talladega Superspeedway has a reputation as one of the wildest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

Is it hype? Or do the numbers prove the point?

The biggest

Talladega is the longest oval track in the NASCAR circuit. At 2.66 miles (14,045 feet), one Talladega lap is the length of about 468 football fields. Talladega is longer than Mauna Kea is tall.

If we measure lengths in terms of Talladega:

  • The distance from Charlotte to Nashville (the location of the NASCAR awards ceremony) is 339 Talladegas.
  • If you flew direct from Los Angeles to New York City, you would cover 2500 Talladegas.
  • Martinsville is just 0.20 Talladegas.

Talladega also holds the record for banking in current Cup Series tracks with 33 degrees. Talladega’s banking is so high that the outside lane of the 48-foot wide racing surface is 26.1 feet higher than the inside lane. That difference is about the height of a two-story house.

Talladega is a tri-oval. Think of it as three straight lines connected by three curves.

A graphic showing the tri-oval shape and how it got its name

 

While tri-oval describes the track shape, it is also used to refer to the frontstretch — the most triangular part of the track.

And Talladega’s frontstretch is formidable. The 4,300-foot segment is banked at 16.5 degrees. Talladega’s frontstretch has more banking than all three of Pocono’s turns.

The backstretch, known as the Alabama Gang Superstretch, isn’t too shabby, either. It’s 1,000 feet longer than Daytona’s backstretch. If you were to unroll Richmond, its entire 0.75-mile length would just cover Talladega’s backstretch.

Talladega’s infield is so large that it could hold the L.A. Coliseum, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover, Richmond and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A graphic showing that it's possible to pack five smaller tracks, plus the NASCAR Hall of Fame into Talladega's infield

The Fastest

Bill France Sr. originally envisioned Talladega as Indianapolis Motor Speedway with higher banking. At a time when raw speed was the big attraction, higher banking would allow Talladega to wrest away the closed-track speed record from Indy.

In 1970, just six months after Talladega hosted its first race, Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph mark on a closed course.

Baker’s breakthrough happened at a testing session. It wasn’t until 1982 that Benny Parsons became the first Cup Series driver to qualify over 200 mph. Just four years later, all but one of the 42 drivers starting the spring race qualified over 200 mph.

In May 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time Cup Series qualifying record at 212.809 mph. That record will likely never be broken. During the race, Bobby Allison got airborne and crashed into the catchfence. NASCAR subsequently mandated restrictor plates (and now tapered spacers) to keep speeds down and cars on the ground.

Restricting airflow to the engine makes drafting even more important. That, in turn, leads to large packs of cars racing within inches of each other. That’s why four of the top-10 closest finishes in the Cup Series happened at Talladega.

In the spring 2011 race, Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by just two-thousandths (0.002) of a second. That ties the famous 2003 Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch Darlington finish for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history.

Of all Talladega races run after NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in May 1993, 44 ended under a green flag. Of those races:

  • Seven (15.9%) were won by less than 25 thousandths of a second.
  • Fifteen (34.1%) were won by less than one-tenth of a second.
  • Thirty-nine (88.6%) were won by less than two-tenths of a second.
  • The largest margin of victory was 0.388 seconds.

The Fiercest

Pack racing leads to more contact. Out of 35 Talladega races run under the current green-white-checkered rule, 14 (40%) ended under caution. Rain caused one of those yellow/checkered finishes. The rest were due to accidents.

In 64 races since 1990, Talladega has seen 228 caution-causing spins or accidents, which involved 1,120 cars.

Almost half (49.2%) of these incidents involved only one or two cars. A one- or two-car accident is no less problematic for the drivers involved than a larger crash. But the more cars involved in accidents, the more likely a driver is to be knocked out of the race.

  • 3.5% of all accidents since 1990 involved 20 or more cars.
  • 5.7% of accidents collected 15 or more cars.
  • 16.7% were 10-car or larger crashes.
  • 38.2% involved five or more cars.

While probable, the Big One is by no means inevitable.

Neither are accidents in general. Three races since 1990 finished with no cautions, but all three of these races took place before 2003. The lowest number of cautions in a Talladega race since 2003 is three. That happened at the fall races in 2013 and 2015.

The average number of caution-causing accidents and spins in a Talladega race is 3.5.

  • Seven races (10.9%) had a single caution-causing accident or spin.
  • 14 out of 64 races (21.9%) had four caution-causing accidents or spins
  • 13 of 64 races (20.3%) had three caution-causing incidents.

Races with four or fewer accidents make up 71.9% of all Talladega races — which means that races with five or more accidents only account for 28.1%.

The numbers definitely uphold Talladega’s reputation. Although the track itself remains the same, the racing varies. Tune in to NBC (2 p.m. ET) to see whether this fall’s bout is accident-filled or accident-free.

Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

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AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

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Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.

Safety key topic in meeting for drivers at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Cup drivers met Friday with Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council, and discussed safety issues ahead of this weekend’s playoff race, which will be without two drivers due to concussion-like symptoms from crashes.

Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch will not race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Busch suffered his head injury in a crash at Pocono in July. Bowman’s injury followed his crash last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Both were injured in accidents where the rear of the car hit the SAFER barrier first.

Two drivers injured in less than three months — and the series racing at a track where crashes are likely — raises tension in the Cup garage. 

Denny Hamlin blasted NASCAR on Saturday, saying it was “bad leadership” for not addressing safety concerns drivers had with the car. Hamlin also said that the Next Gen vehicle needs to be redesigned.

Burton, who also is an analyst for NBC Sports, said in an exclusive interview that Friday’s meeting was lengthy because there were several topics to discuss. Burton didn’t go into details on all the topics.

Safety was a key element of that meeting. Burton, whose role with the Drivers Advisory Council is to coordinate the group and communicate with NASCAR, discussed the cooperation level with NASCAR.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” he said. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car. 

“We want to see that come to conclusion as soon as possible. They have made commitments to us and are showing us what is happening, communicating with us in regard to timing, and we want to see it come to conclusion, as they do. 

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some changes done before last weekend. It just takes a long time to test stuff.”

NASCAR has a crash test scheduled next week on a new rear clip and rear bumper. Even if the test goes well, there’s not enough time for any such changes this season with five races left.

The frustration from drivers — and voiced by Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — has been that NASCAR was informed about issues with a stiffer car for more than a year. Some questions were raised after William Byron crashed in a test in March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway.

“William Byron busted his ass at (Auto Club) Speedway and that should have raised a red flag right off the bat,” Harvick said Saturday.

Hamlin said more drivers needed to speak up about concerns with the car.

“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives,” Hamlin said.

Byron is looking for changes to be made.

“I want to have a long career, and I don’t want to have a series of concussions that make me either have to step way from the car or have to think about long-term things,” he said.

Chase Elliott also shared his frustrations Saturday.

“You come off a week like we had in Texas and somebody getting injured and then you come into here, where odds are we’re probably all going to hit something at some point (Sunday) and probably not lightly at that,” Elliot said.

So what do drivers do?

“Do you just not show up?” Elliott said. “Do you just not run? I don’t think that’s feasible to ask. There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. 

“My frustration is … I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had a choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry. 

“That should have just never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. So my disappointment lies in that that we had years and time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t, and now we’re having to fix it. 

“I just hate that we did that. I think we’re smarter than that. I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.”

Burton told NBC Sports that drivers did not discuss in Friday’s meeting running single-file in Sunday’s race as a form of protest.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for me to see single-file (racing Sunday) because of what happened at Texas and what could happen next week (at the Charlotte Roval),” Burton said. “Drivers need a period of calmness. 

“There was not a discussion, a collaborated effort or any sort of thing of how you race (Sunday). That conversation did not come up in that meeting.”

Harvick said Saturday that he’ll continue to be vocal about safety issues.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure these guys are in a good spot,” Harvick said. “Whatever I have to do.”

Harvick later said: “I don’t think any of us want to be in this position. We have to have the safety we deserve to go out and put on a great show and be comfortable with that. 

“Obviously, we all have taken the risks of being race car drivers, but there’s no reason we should be in a worse position than we were last year.”

Harvick said it was a matter of trust.

“The reality of the situation is much different than what they’re looking at,” Harvick said of NASCAR officials. “I think that the trust level is obviously not where it needs to be from getting it fixed. I think they’re going to have to earn the trust level back of reacting quick enough to do the things that it takes. The drivers’ opinion, especially when it comes to safety side of things, has to be more important than the data or more important than the cost. Safety can’t be a budget item.”

Corey LaJoie, who is a member of the Drivers Advisory Council board, said that while challenges remain with the car, he sees the effort being made by NASCAR.

“Nothing happens quick in this deal when you have 38 teams and you have seven cars per team,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “It has to be a well-thought-out process to implement the changes.

“It’s easy to get up in arms and prickly when we have guys like Alex and Kurt out. You don’t ever want that to happen. Every conversation I’m having is what we, as the Driver Council, is trying to communicate to NASCAR and NASCAR making proactive changes and moving timelines up aggressively to try to implement these changes.”