What drivers said after Kentucky race

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Cole Custer — Winner: “We have definitely done a lot better job these last few weeks. We started putting the whole picture together. You just got to have the whole thing working together, whether it’s pit stops, restarts, me doing my job, having the car perfectly right. When you’re just a little bit off in this series, you’re going to pay for it big‑time. You can’t be off in one area too much. You got to perfect all those areas, work at it. It’s a lot of days when your eyes are sore trying to look at film, trying to figure everything out. But it’s just trying to put the whole picture together. I think we still have a ways to go. We have things we can do a lot better for sure. I think we’re to the point now where we can race with these guys. We can take advantage of it when we’re near the front.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “Just trying to get in line behind the 4 (Kevin Harvick) off of (Turn) 2 there and got into him a little bit. Then got outside him because I screwed that up and went into (Turn) 3 and I knew he was going to run me up pretty high. I was up in the loose stuff pretty good there, but I was able to hang onto it. (Cole Custer) came with a big run and I didn’t see him coming.”

Matt DiBenedtto — Finished 3rd: “Man, it was crazy. We had a really good car. I mean, we could have contended for the win. It was really fast, but lost track position when things shuffled around and we had to do the wave around. Me and my spotter, I’ve got to give him a lot of credit, Doug Campbell, I told him we should win some sort of restart award. We were 18th because of track position how it cycled out with like seven to go. We had two monstrous restarts and then pushed Cole to the win there, which kind of felt cool. Good for him.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th:I had a couple good restarts there and got the car better, but still just not where we needed to be — but the restarts worked out in our favor and we were able to get the lead and Martin just misjudged there on the backstretch and got me sideways. I got out of the gas and that just brought everybody into the picture and then we were four-wide on the front straightaway here and the 12 hit the drain and came up and hit the side of the car and then i couldn’t see, so yeah, it got wild and that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’m just really happy for Cole Custer and everybody on the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 5th: “We ran strong, we raced tough. We weren’t quite able to rekindle last year’s success, but a top five is solid.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 6th: “I thought we had a good car all day. We drove up through there a lot. From the get-go it was hard to pass, but I thought it was better than the Xfinity or Truck races as far as the passing goes. We might have wore out that stuff a little bit more than them and the bottom seemed to come in a little bit more, especially through one and two, so that was at least better than what it’s been the last couple nights of racing. I finally got the lead from the 10 and I look at the point where we lost control of the race and it was when that caution came out close to the end of stage two and it gave the 2 the lead when they stayed out late and they just crossed the start-finish line on pit road and cycled into the lead. That lost us control of the race, I thought. We couldn’t choose where to restart and it was so hard to get the lead on the bottom, so we were just fighting to try to get back to the lead. I thought we were close to the 19. It was just kind of, I think, between he and I it was just who was in front of who as far as who was gonna have a good shot to win the race. We got a break there on that one restart, where we got a quick caution and we were a nose ahead of him and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re finally back in control of this race,’ and then he got put three-wide in the top of three and couldn’t maintain the lead. And then I hit a damn X Games bump, jump on the frontstretch there and bounced me into Harvick, so that sucked, but, overall, I was happy with our speed, just didn’t quite catch the breaks we needed to try to win the race.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 7th: “It was a very confusing day. I have moments where I felt like my Camry was really fast and I could run really good lap times, and then I had moments where – I wasn’t very good in traffic today for whatever reason. Normally, that is our strong suit, being able to pass guys, and today I really struggled with that. Obviously, I’m happy with getting out of there with a seventh, but disappointed. I wish we could have been a little bit better when we had that track position.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 8th: “It’s hard to be mad about another top 10, but we had such a great car and led the most laps. We had a really fast car and got caught with a caution that came at the wrong time. We had to battle our way back up there most of the day. We’re bringing incredible cars. Congrats to Cole and everyone at Stewart-Haas. Six top-10s in a row. We’ll go on to Bristol and try to race our way (into the All-Star Race) for a million bucks on Wednesday.” 

Brad Keselowski — Finished 9th: “An interesting race with the (traction compound) being what it is, trying to manage that. We started off not to my liking. We worked on it and got the car really good in the middle of the race, and that allowed us — the fact that we were so fast allowed us to run really fast while everybody was pitting, so we stayed out and as soon as we pitted the yellow came out, which cycled us to the lead, which was great, and then we just kind of fell off again. That was kind of a bummer and we were about a fourth- or fifth-place car there towards the end and on that restart it’s just mayhem. The cars have so little horsepower that you just have to push and take and take and take. Each restart was a takefest, which is part of the deal. I got used up on one or two of them probably, and had one where I got into Jimmie (Johnson) and probably took more than — took like the other guys had on me the others — but it’s just part of the chaos and it’s interesting because the restarts were the great passing opportunities, but they mix up the races so much that the finish is nowhere near indicative of who ran where, but that’s part of the deal.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 10th: “Races like today are ones we need to get ourselves into a playoff spot in the next few weeks. We really had to fight for our top-10 finish today at Kentucky Speedway. Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was really tight for most of the day but freed up almost too much in the final few laps. My team kept after it all day, and we were able to get up into the top 12 during Stage 2 after some pretty big swings on a couple adjustments. We got shuffled back in the field during the stage break between Stages 2 and 3 when we hit pit road thinking more cars behind us would follow. Unfortunately, they didn’t so we had to fight up through the field one more time, while also being smart and not getting in any situations that would end our day early. We were able to do that today and grab a top-10 finish with a car we struggled with, so that’s a positive. I know spots in the playoffs are starting to dwindle down, so we’re going to have keep picking it up. Top-10 finishes are going to help us, but we’re in a very volatile spot in the standings where things like today could happen and drivers behind us in points could win and lock in a spot. We’ll stay aggressive and not let points get away from us as we get down to the final races of the regular season.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “Well, I feel really stupid after spinning out trying to avoid the orange box. I did make it – it gave us some big, important track position, but it killed the splitter in the process. It kind of separated hitting the wrong way, so we were just super tight there at the end. We were able to make some of probably the best restarts of my career. Eleventh to fifth on that one and just holding on hoping it would go green to the end running ninth. Had that last restart – had another good one, but it kind of got choked up on the bottom that time. Everybody kind of bogged down and couldn’t continue the momentum. And then us being tight, we were just kind of sitting ducks.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 14th: “Our One Cure Ford Mustang was really fast today, but passing was so hard for everyone. We were sailing there at the end and figured we were top-five at least, but a caution after we pitted hurt us again. We got some damage before the finish so we were kind of hanging on. My guys gave me a great car today. They are working hard and I appreciate what they are doing. We are going to get the results soon. Congratulations to Cole (Custer), Gene (Haas) and SHR for winning the race. That was cool.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 16th: “Solid 16th-place finish today at Kentucky. That’s two top 16s in a row, which is awesome. I’m so proud of our GEICO Racing team and we are going to keep digging and building on these consistent finishes. We are learning a lot and definitely getting better. Our team is going to go after it this second half of the season.” 

Alex Bowman — Finished 19th: “That is just one of those things. We had a great car today. We battled some tight conditions there at the end, but overall, we had a decent day.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 22nd: “We had a frustrating day. It just felt like something was wrong with the right rear the entire day and could never figure it out. After almost spinning we stayed out as long as we could and got lucky with the caution, but had some damage to fix to be able to be competitive and by that time we didn’t have the track position. We’ll move onto the All-Star Race.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 24th: “Well that one definitely stings. We had a really good car on the long run, we just couldn’t fire off on the short run. (Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer)  and the guys did a great job all day. We ran long and caught a caution and had good track position at the end, sitting in the top 10. Unfortunately, I had to restart on the bottom and got sucked around and that was about it. You get loose one time and can lose about 10 spots. It’s really unfortunate. I hate it. I hate giving up spots at the end of a race, but that happens with this package and especially when some of these restarts get crazy. If you’re not in the right line, it just happens. I feel like I let my guys down. We had another solid performance speed-wise; we just didn’t get the result today.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 25th: “A tough day again for us after a couple of good weeks. The Clover Chevy was pretty fast, and we were able to work our way up into the teens after starting in the back. The conditions today were really tough; probably the toughest I’ve raced under, and passing was pretty difficult with the track conditions and rules package. But, we were making our way towards the top 10 when a miscue in the pits resulted in a broken valve stem that caused the left rear to go down and put us a lap down. We finally got the lap back towards the end of the race and I took a ride through the infield off of Turn 4 trying to get all I could get. So, a disappointing day, but I’m really encouraged by the speed we had in our Camaro, which was probably the best mile-and-half car I’ve raced. Just need to have mistake free days to be able to take advantage of fast cars.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 26th: “Wow, that was a good job by the guys and everybody to get us a lead-lap finish like that. I want to thank everyone for not giving up because we had several issues today, starting on lap one. Our Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry struggled for the first 10 to 15 laps every run, but then it always managed to get better and better as the run went along. We have to keep working, keep fighting, to just keep making everything better.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 27th: “Our No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was not good today. On to the Bristol Motor Speedway.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “Wasn’t the day we were hoping for. We were loose to fire off and we were hitting the splitter, and it got worse before it got better. (Crew chief Seth Barbour) and the crew tried a few different adjustments, but by the time we were able to get the handling to a better place, we were already multiple laps down and then we made heavy contact with the wall, which ended our day.”

Will chaos (and rain) reign on Daytona road course?

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The biggest unknown for Sunday’s inaugural Cup race on the Daytona road course?

Ryan Newman says “there are so many unknowns that it would be fabricating for me to tell you if I knew what the biggest unknown was.”

But with all the uncertainties heading into the race (3 p.m. ET on NBC) on a new course for Cup teams — and no practice — Newman is counting on one near certainty.

“I hope it rains,” he said. “I hope you add in the extra that we have to bolt on rain tires and we get something that is just spectacular. I hope that. The reality is that could be the biggest unknown that we have. We’re in Central Florida in the middle of August when it pretty much rains every day. We’ll see. I don’t know. I look forward to it.”

Good chance he gets his wish.

The wunderground.com forecast for Sunday calls for scattered thunderstorms throughout the afternoon. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:24 p.m. ET. There is a 58% chance of scattered thunderstorms at that time.

Will rain tires be needed for Sunday’s Cup race on the Daytona road course? They’ll be available. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Goodyear will bring rain tires for the weekend and teams will run in the rain, provided it is not a downpour and there is not lightning within an 8-mile radius of the track. Cup teams have never run a race on rain tires.

Only three times in Cup history have rain tires been employed. Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin used them in a test in 1995 at Watkins Glen. Teams practiced and qualified on rain tires at Suzuka in 1997 for the exhibition race in Japan. Rain tires were last used in Cup for a practice session at Watkins Glen in 2000.

Rain or shine, the task of racing on a new course without practice will be challenging enough for competitors.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being difficult, this is a 10,” Kurt Busch told NBC Sports.

“I’m excited for the challenge, the uniqueness of it all, how it’s just crazy, basically.”

MORE: Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race

Said Chase Elliott, who won last year’s race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval after crashing: I’ve never entered a race where you literally just have no idea what to expect.

Patience will be key. But not all 39 drivers will practice that equally when the green flag waves.

“I’ve got laps around that track without the extra chicane but that doesn’t mean I won’t haul off into Turn 1 and blow through the grass,” Newman said. “You don’t know. It will be more patience than aggressiveness I promise you by pretty much everyone. Those that don’t, you’ll notice.”

Kevin Harvick, who swept the Cup races at Michigan last weekend, will lead the field into Turn 1 and he’s not sure what to expect.

“I think me leading everybody into Turn 1 at Daytona could be interesting because I have no freaking clue where I’m going as we go down there,” he said. “Most everybody in the field is the same way.”

Turn 1 on the Daytona road course is a left-hand turn off the frontstretch just past pit exit. That begins the six-turn infield portion of the 3.61-mile course before cars return to the oval in what is its Turn 1. 

Teams stay on the oval through the backstretch before turning into the chicane there and going back on to the oval. A chicane was added off what is Turn 4 on the oval to help slow the cars before returning to the infield portion of the course. That was done for fear that the high speeds would wear the brakes over the race.

“I think it’s going to take everybody a little bit of time,” Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports. “I think there are going to be some people who have raced road courses a lot that probably feel more confident than others and possibly be overzealous and just charging it hard right away, and there’s probably going to be other people who are careful and see how many people slide into things. … It should be really interesting. If I was a fan, I’d be all about not having practice.”

Here are Cup drivers entered for Sunday’s race who have competed on the Daytona road course (overall finish)

Clint Bowyer 2013 Rolex 24 (finished 16th)

Kurt Busch — 2005 Rolex 24 (27th), 2008 Rolex 24 (3rd)

Kyle Busch — 2009 Brumos Porsche 250 (10th), 2020 Rolex 24 (26th),

Cole Custer — 2018 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (3rd), 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (9th)

James Davison — 2014 Rolex 24 (48th), 2015 Rolex 24 (29th), 2016 Rolex 24 (44th), 

Kevin Harvick — 2002 Rolex 24 (69th)

Timmy Hill — 2012 Rolex 24 (51st)

Jimmie Johnson — 2004 Rolex 24 (28th), 2005 Rolex 24 (2nd), 2007 Rolex 24 (36th), 2008 Rolex 24  (2nd), 2009 Rolex 24 (7th), 2010 Rolex 24 (21st), 2011 Rolex 24 (15th)

Matt Kenseth — 2005 Rolex 24 (27th), 2006 IROC race (10th)

Michael McDowell — 2005 Rolex 24 (42nd), 2007 Rolex 24 (10th), 2008 Rolex 24 (15th), 2011 Rolex 24 (7th), 2012 Rolex 24 (3rd)

Ryan Newman — 2006 IROC race (3rd)

Martin Truex Jr. — 2006 IROC race (6th)

Hailie Deegan: Road courses are ‘one of my stronger suits’

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Many drivers will be navigating the Daytona road course for the first time this weekend.

Hailie Deegan is not one of them.

Deegan, who competes in the ARCA Menards Series, will be in the field when the series takes to the 14-turn, 3.61-mile circuit for practice and a race Friday evening (5 p.m. ET on Trackpass).

“I’m pretty excited because this was not one of the races we had planned on our schedule,” Deegan told NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast earlier this week. “At the beginning of the year I saw all the races, obviously to see which ones you’re looking forward to, like your favorites and stuff and obviously this on wasn’t on there.  … I like road courses. I raced at Sonoma about twice (in ARCA Menards West). I was decent there, I qualified on the pole one of the times (2019) there against a lot of good drivers. It was a confirmation that, ‘Ok, we’re decent at road courses.'”

Deegan, who enters the race fourth in the point standings behind Michael Self, first got a shot at the road course at the beginning of the year. As a Ford development driver, she took part in multiple days of testing before competing in a Michelin Pilot Challenge race in a GT4 Mustang.

“I would not say I’m perfect at road courses,” Deegan said. “But I feel that’s one of my stronger suits. I’m trying to learn this whole stock car world. Circle track, everything like that, that’s all been a foreign concept. So everything I’m learning I’m learning for the first time. But when we go back to road courses, I grew up in go karting, I grew up racing off-road trucks on courses where you turn right and left. So that’s not a foreign concept to me. So I feel more comfortable on road courses, especially with us only getting an hour of practice and all the time I have on that track.

“I have so many days of practice from the beginning of the year on that track. Obviously, it’s a different car, a GT4 Mustang.  … It’s easy to drive, but hard to be fast in an IMSA car. (While) the stock cars are harder to drive, but you have that experience, I feel like you can have a little bit of an advantage over people.”

With eight races left in the season, Deegan will try to take that advantage to victory lane for his first career ARCA win. The last time she visited Daytona in February, she finished second in the season opener to Self.

NASCAR’s weekend schedule for Daytona road course

Daytona road course
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For the first time this weekend, NASCAR will compete on the Daytona road course.

All three of NASCAR’s national series and the ARCA Menards Series will take to the 14-turn, 3.61-mile circuit, culminating in Sunday’s Cup Series race.

This weekend takes the place of the race at Watkins Glen International for Cup and Xfinity.

Kevin Harvick will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race. Austin Cindric will lead the Xfinity field to green on Saturday.

Here is the weekend schedule for the Daytona road course.

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, Aug. 13

10:30 a.m. – ARCA driver-spotter-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

11 – 11:30 a.m. – ARCA rookie meeting (teleconference)

11:30 a.m. – Noon – ARCA crew chief meeting (teleconference)

3 – 4 p.m. – ARCA haulers enter (screening in progress)

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Driver motorhome parking (screening in progress)

 

Friday, Aug. 14

9 a.m. – ARCA garage opens

9 a.m. – 4 p.m. – ARCA garage access screening in progress

2 – 3 p.m. – ARCA practice

3:30 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (electronic communication)

4 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

4:50 p.m. – ARCA drivers report to their cars

5 p.m. – ARCA race; 28 laps/101.08 miles miles (MAVTV, Motor Racing Network)

6 p.m. – Truck Series driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

7:30 p.m. – ARCA haulers exit

 

Saturday, Aug. 15

6 – 8:30 a.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening and equipment upload)

8:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Garage screening in progress

2 – 4 p.m. – Truck Series haulers enter (screening in progress and equipment unload)

2:50 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

3 p.m. – Xfinity race; 52 laps/187.72 miles (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

4 – 7 p.m. – Truck Series garage access screening in progress

4 – 8 p.m. – Truck Series garage open

4:30 – 5 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (teleconference)

4:30 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5 p.m. – Cup driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers exit

 

Sunday, Aug. 16

6 – 8 a.m. – Cup haulers enter (screening in progress and equipment unload)

8 a.m. – Cup garage opens

8 a.m. – 2 p.m.  – Cup garage access screening in progress

9 a.m. – Truck Series garage opens

9 – 11 a.m. – Truck Series garage access screening in progress

11:40 a.m. – Truck Series drivers report to vehicles

Noon – Truck Series race; 44 laps/158.85 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

2:30 p.m. – Truck Series haulers exit

2:50 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

3 p.m. – Cup race; 65 laps/234.65 miles (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

6:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit

NASCAR updates its COVID-19 guidelines

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NASCAR issued an update to teams to the sanctioning body’s COVID-19 guidelines this week.

If after 10 days, a NASCAR member is unable to produce two negative PCR tests, their return status may be medically reviewed by a NASCAR Consulting physician. Previously, a NASCAR member needed to have two negative tests more than 24 hours apart and a note from their physician to be cleared to compete.

MORE: Spencer Davis cleared to race after COVID-19 recovery

Truck Series driver Spencer Davis is the third driver to be cleared to resume racing after a positive test. He missed last week’s race at Michigan. Jimmie Johnson missed the Indianapolis race in July after a positive test. Brendan Gaughan is racing this weekend for the first time since he tested positive for COVID-19 in July.

NASCAR cites new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with updating the sport’s COVID-19 guidelines.

“As we’ve said since our return, NASCAR’s health and safety plans will continue to evolve, with the goal remaining the same – a safe event for both our competitors and the communities in which we race,” said John Bobo, NASCAR vice president, racing operations, in a statement. “NASCAR will continue to implement and execute a comprehensive plan to ensure the health and safety of our competitors and the surrounding communities.”

Here are NASCAR’s updated COVID-19 guidelines:

Confirmed Positive Cases – Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Cases. Confirmed positive cases may return to racing activities after they have received two negative test results taken at least 24 hours apart.

A. If after 10 days, a NASCAR Member is unable to produce two negative PCR tests, their return status may be medically reviewed by a NASCAR Consulting physician.

  • New CDC guidance of July 22, 2020, recommends discontinuing PCR testing after the conclusion of the 10-day isolation period for the onset symptoms for the initial COVID-19 infection, if a person is fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours without the use of medication.
  • Please note: Based on advice from consulting physicians, NASCAR counts the 10 days from the date of the first positive PCR test for COVID-19.
  • In its guidance, CDC research indicates that in no instances yet discovered has there been a case where the virus is able to self-replicate beyond the 10th day following a positive test among individuals who are not immunosuppressed and did not have severe disease (e.g. requiring ICU stay or ventilation), so an individual in this situation poses no harm to others.  In the event that the individual continues to be tested, it is very likely that the individual will continue to return positive results.
  • Based on this new CDC guidance, NASCAR consulting physicians would review the individual’s situation and determine if they appropriately fit the CDC requirements before being allowed to return to racing without two negative PCR tests.

B. They must also have written clearance from their personal physician to resume all racing activity.

Confirmed exposure to a positive COVID-19 person. Those exposed individuals are required to stand-down from competition and self-isolate. They may return to racing activities after they have received one negative test. NASCAR in its discretion may request a second test for clearance based on the nature of the exposure. Please note: a confirmed exposure is based on a totality of the circumstances as determined by NASCAR in consultation with their consulting physicians. Analysis will include: identifying people exposed over the last 10 days, accumulated time greater than 10 minutes, direct skin contact (shaking hands, etc.), lack of social distancing and the level of PPE use among the individuals involved in the contact.