What Drivers Said after Talladega Cup race

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Ryan Blaney – winner: “I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could. Ride the top, ride the bottom. (Erik Jones) got to my outside and I tried to go up there to slow him down and I’m not sure, I don’t know three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that. We just edged it out, but I’m really proud of this whole Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang team. It’s been a cool year so far and I’m really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun.”

What was it like saving fuel:  “We were riding there. We came back in and topped off and we were just riding around until maybe 12 (laps) to go. I was waiting for Kevin (Harvick) to kind of go, but he had to save more than I did, so we just kind of had to get going. You’re just biding your time and hoping you saved enough.  There’s enough information in there nowadays where you do save enough, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you everybody for coming out. I appreciate it.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished second: “We were so close there at the end. It was hard all day trying to break up the Penske cars and then there at the end, all the blue ovals were together. But, our No. 47 NOS Energy Drink Camaro ZL1 1LE was really fast all day. The boys brought a good one. I thought we had a shot there at the end, it just didn’t work out. But, all-in-all, a solid day. Really cool to see all the support of the fans that are here for Bubba (Wallace). That was a really special moment at the beginning of the race. We came up one spot short – we’ll go get them next week!”

Aric Almirola – finished third: “I thought we had a shot to get our Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane. We had a really good car and our strategy was to stay out of trouble all day and be there at the end, and we were there at the end. It was close, but we just couldn’t get it done. I’m proud of all my guys on this team. We had a great week last week at Miami with a top five and leave here at Talladega with another top five, so we’ll keep building on that and it looks like the ball is going in the right direction for us.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fourth: “We had a good Camry, we just ran out of fuel there at the end and had to pit with just a few laps to go. But luckily, the caution came out and some other guys in front of us ran out of gas so we were able to get a few more positions and race to the finish. Overall, it was a good day and our car had good speed. Got into the wall there early in the race and we were able to rebound from that. The Talladega spring race hasn’t always been the best one for us so we’ll take this fourth-place finish and get outta here.”

Erik Jones – finished fifth: “Yeah it was good. We kind of rode around today and just tried to stay clean – stay out of trouble – and give ourselves a chance there at the end, and that’s what we did. We got a fortunate yellow there after we had to pit for fuel. We got relined up and gave ourselves an opportunity. We had the momentum. We had the run in the end. The 12 (Ryan Blaney) kind of came up on us there. He moved us up the track, which in turn, kind of got us turned into the fence. It’s superspeedway racing. He’s doing what he has to win; I’m doing what I have to win, and it didn’t play out in our favor, so at least we were there and had a shot to win one of these things. They aren’t easy to win by any means, so it was nice to be up there.”

Chris Buescher – finished sixth: “Not a bad run for our Fastenal Ford Mustang and our team. Lots of excitement throughout the race at different areas and I obviously wanted to replay the end to do a little bit better. At the end of the day it was a good run for us.” 

Alex Bowman – finished seventh: “Figuring out you are a couple laps short on fuel while leading a speedway inside 15 to go is not very much fun. We took the lead there and our fuel mileage number plummeted farther than we thought it would be. We thought we were good and then all of a sudden, we weren’t good. Led a bunch and had to give up the lead to try to make it there at the end. I saved enough once I gave up the lead, but so bummed. We had such a good car and definitely had a shot at winning. It is just one of those deals. Really appreciative of everyone at Valvoline and Hendrick Motorsports. P7 isn’t the end of the world, but man giving up the lead like that is a bummer.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished eighth: “We had a really great run in our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang today. I really thought we had a shot at it at the end there, but I’m still proud of our entire team’s efforts. When we fired off, we were kind of tight, and then we had that tire go down in the second stage, but we managed to come back from it and battled into the top 10 by the end. I wish we would have won that thing, but a P8 finish at Talladega is still good for us and I want to thank everyone on the team for their support.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “Proud of our effort today for everyone who works on this Monster Energy Chevy. We chipped away at adjustments all day, having to overcome a really loose handling race car. Top-10 is a solid effort! Gotta zig instead of zag next time!”

William Byron – finished 11th: “We had a shot there at the win with about 29 laps to go and just got a push from (Joey) Logano in the corner. I don’t know why it got loose there but it did. We lost our track position and then really just fought to get back from there and tried to save fuel at the same time. We pitted with two to go to get some extra fuel and we made a pretty good charge to the front there in the third lane. We had a good number of cars to the inside but ultimately finished 11th. It would have been nice to finish top 10 but we did finish a superspeedway race in one piece which is nice. I thought we had some great speed at times and great opportunities to lead the race. We just have to build on that and continue to get better. I feel like these races are always unpredictable but at the same time there is skill involved. We did a decent job of controlling the skill part we just have to keep working.”

Ty Dillon – finished 12th: “Our GEICO Camaro was solid today. We had a strategy there at the end to save fuel to make sure we were good to the checkered. I stumbled a little bit on the final restart, but we had just enough fuel to make it. You just have to be in the right line at the right time at the end of these things. We got filed out on the bottom, but still brought home a 12th-place finish. I’m really proud of our result. We needed that and we will keep truckin’ along.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 13th: “I’m obviously very proud of our sport, the drivers and crew members that wanted to stand up today and stand next to Bubba Wallace. That’s really the moral of this story. A lot of people reached out to me in the morning with ideas, wanting to do something like the video we made a few weeks ago. I certainly have been involved in playing a role in trying to help organize, get things executed and done. This is really a driver initiative. Many drivers chipped in. Kevin Harvick had the idea of pushing Bubba’s car down the front stretch to the front of the field, have the teams follow. I’m happy to play a role in it. I want to. I know I need to. I feel like to see the garage area stand up as they have, as well, in the last few weeks, then again today, is just sending a very strong message. I’m very proud of our sport.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 14th: “This is probably the most badass moment right here. It’s been tough. It’s been hell. Well, I wouldn’t say hell; it’s just been hectic you know, carrying this weight, this burden. I wouldn’t really say burden, either. I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face. Look at this (turns around to face crowd to ask) is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? (cheers from fans) That is so cool! The sport is changing.

“The deal that happened yesterday, sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep on going. I’ve been a part of this sport for a really long time. I’m still kind of a rookie. I’m starting to figure this stuff out. We had a good race going today in our Victory Junction Chevrolet. But man, I know I should have won that damn race. We ran out of gas. The stars didn’t align for us completely, but all in all, we won today. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters. From drivers and crew members. Everybody here. The badass fan base; thank you guys for coming out here.

“This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport. Like I said earlier, I’ve got a long way to go. And we’ll keep on trucking. Another top 15 for us. We’ll take it. And, we’ll just go on to Pocono, right? I’m still smiling. I’ve got a long week ahead of me; probably a couple of weeks. Probably a couple of months, but I’ll be ready for Pocono, though.”

Ryan Preece – finished 15th: “That was definitely a crazy day at Talladega Superspeedway in our No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet. We had nose damage early on in the race, and that caused us to use a little bit more fuel than the rest of the field during the long green flag run at the end. We got put in a position where we needed to pit early, then the caution came out after we pit. However, we had a really fast Kroger Chevrolet and were able to run in the front for most of the race and even lead a few laps, and to be able to finish P15 after the issues at the end is something, we can still be proud of. We need some positive momentum to continue turning the season around from our bad luck at the start and this is really going to help.”

Joey Logano – finished 17th: “We had a really fast MoneyLion Ford Mustang. Spent all day at the front and in the end it just didn’t work out for us with the caution coming out late. Happy for (Ryan) Blaney and that whole 12 team. They’ve been fast all year and good to see them get the win and lock into the playoffs. I spent a lot of years with that group.”

Michael McDowell – finished 18th: “That final lap was insane. I felt like the first two stages were a lot less crazy than normal Talladega racing, but the final stage was exactly like what we all had anticipated. Everyone at Front Row Motorsports did a great job of building me a fast No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. Our car had a lot of speed and was able to suck-up really well in the draft. Our plan all race long was to play it safe and stay towards the rear of the field in hopes of avoiding any potential wrecks that might occur. Our strategy worked out great and we were in contention on the last lap, until the wrecks started.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 19: “I blocked the wrong lane at the end of the race, which was unfortunate because I thought I had shown all race that we had a Dent Wizard Ford that could have raced for the win. I’ll have to go back and look at the tape. I think it’s awesome that Ryan Blaney won and I’m really happy for him.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 20th: “We’re getting closer and closer to winning one of these races. We had a really fast No. 8 Realtree Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today, really just needed a bigger fuel cell to make it through those closing laps without having to come to pit road. We were a little bit loose today, but the car was able to suck up to others really well, which made it easier for me to work with people and show them that they can trust and work with me in return. It was awesome to get my first Cup career stage win, even if we had to wait out a brief rain shower for it. I think that showed a lot of people that we really strong speed today. From there, we just played it smart and stayed out of trouble to be there in the closing laps. We managed to grab the lead with about 16 laps to go. It was tough to maintain the lead and save fuel since we knew we were right on the edge of making it. I thought maybe we would make it before that final caution came out, but then the No. 11 ran out of gas or had a bobble or something. Once he ran out, my main help was gone and the No. 12 was able to slide by as we slid back. But that is how it goes at plate racing. Timing is everything. It was just chaos on that final restart, but we gave it everything we had.”

Brendan Gaughan – finished 21st: “That’s not the finish we wanted – 21st place. I will take the heat. I did not do a good job on the last couple of restarts. Darren Shaw (crew chief) and the rest of the boys worked real hard on the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. It was trouble at the start but in the end, they got it right. I will take the blame – 21st place and not a scratch on it. The good news is it is going to be a heck of a Chevrolet for Daytona.”

Cole Custer – finished 22nd: “That really stinks to run out of fuel toward the end of the race. My guys are doing a great job and we’ll get it turned around here soon. There’s not much you can do about running out of fuel when it’s a fuel mileage race. We really didn’t need that last caution.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 25th: “It was like a traffic jam today. I could push like heck, but when I was in front I would stack everyone up. It was frustrating running in the back like that in the first two stages, but that’s what you have to do to guarantee you will be there when the money is on the line. We were going for it at the end.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 26th: “We pitted for fuel and were driving up through the middle and got blindsided by somebody crashing. It was a hard hit. But I should be fine.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 28th: “We stayed out of trouble and that’s always a good thing at Talladega. Our CommScope Toyota didn’t feel too good at the start of the race, mostly in the rear. But, by the middle of the race, we made it better and I was able to drive it. We had some good moments on pit stops and we had great track position at one point. We just need to keep working hard to find the speed we need, especially on the superspeedways. We’ll go back home and keep trying to make it better for next weekend. Baby steps.”

Chase Elliott – finished 38th: “The splitter was in the ground a long ways and it was just dragging too much. It wasn’t getting any air to the engine, so it was getting really hot. So, it just wasn’t worth continuing. I hate it. We really started the day struggling pretty bad and finally got it going pretty good, I thought, later on. Ultimately, just got in a bad spot there and went around.”

Austin Dillon – finished 39th: “Unfortunate day for the No. 3 team. The Bass Pro Shops Camaro was pretty solid – we had to work on it a little bit. You try and race at these places and keep yourself upfront in a good position, and that’s what I was doing. Just missed our stage points twice – 11th and 12th at the end of both stages. Tried to work the middle groove there and when Chase (Elliott) got turned, I was just kind of the last guy standing when he came up the track. Unfortunately, it’s a part of these things.”

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.

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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.

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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?”