What drivers said after Kentucky race

1 Comment

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.”

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. —  NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will not permit drivers to run against the wall to gain speed as Ross Chastain did in last year’s Martinsville Cup playoff race.

NASCAR made the announcement in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

MORE: NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

Chastain drove into the Turn 3 wall and rode it around the track at higher speed than the rest of the field, passing five cars in the final two turns to gain enough spots to make the championship race. NASCAR allowed the move to stand even though some competitors had asked for a rule change leading into the season finale at Phoenix last year.

NASCAR is not adding a rule but stressed that Rule 10.5.2.6.A covers such situations.

That rule states: “Safety is a top priority for NASCAR and NEM. Therefore, any violations deemed to compromise the safety of an Event or otherwise pose a dangerous risk to the safety of Competitors, Officials, spectators, or others are treated with the highest degree of seriousness. Safety violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

NASCAR stated that the penalty for such a maneuver would be a lap or time penalty.

Chastain said he’s fine with being known for that move, which will never be repeated in NASCAR history.

“I’m proud that I’ve been able to make a wave that will continue beyond just 2022 or just beyond me,” Chastain told NBC Sports earlier this month about the move’s legacy. “There will be probably a day that people will learn about me because of that, and I’m good with that. I’m proud of it.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. I don’t think it will ever pay the reward that it paid off for us that it did that day. I hope I’m around in 35 years to answer someone’s question about it. And I probably still won’t have a good answer on why it worked.”

The video of Chastain’s wall-hugging maneuver had 12.5 million views on the NBC Sports TikTok account within a week of it happening. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that had had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account to that point in 2022 was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo all praised Chastain’s move at the time, joining a chorus of competitors throughout social media. 

NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

0 Comments

NASCAR’s preseason non-points race, now known as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, was born in 1979 with the idea of testing the sport’s fastest drivers and cars on one of racing’s fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway.

The concept was driver vs. driver and car vs. car. No pit stops. Twenty laps (50 miles) on the Daytona oval, with speed and drafting skills the only factors in victory.

Originally, the field was made up of pole winners from the previous Cup season. In theory, this put the “fastest” drivers in the Clash field, and it also served as incentive for teams to approach qualifying with a bit more intensity. A spot in the Clash the next season meant extra dollars in the bank.

The race has evolved in crazy directions over the years, and no more so than last year when it was moved from its forever headquarters, the Daytona track, to a purpose-built short track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

MORE: Toyota looking to expand its NASCAR presence

Over the decades, virtually everything about the race changed in one way or another, including the race length, eligibility requirements, format, calendar dates, sponsorship and title. From 1979-2020, the race was held on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval and served as a sort of preview piece for the Daytona 500, scheduled a week later. In 2021, it moved to Daytona’s road course before departing for the West Coast last season.

Here’s a look at 10 historic moments in the history of the Clash:

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 2022 — Few races have been as anticipated as last year’s Clash at the Coliseum. After decades in Daytona Beach, NASCAR flipped the script in a big way and with a big gamble, putting its top drivers and cars on a tiny temporary track inside a football stadium. Joey Logano won, but that was almost a secondary fact. The race was a roaring success, opening the door for NASCAR to ponder similar projects.

2. 2008 — How would Dale Earnhardt Jr. handle his move from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports? The answer came quickly — in his first race. Junior led 46 of the 70 laps in winning what then was called the Budweiser Shootout, his debut for Hendrick. The biggest action occurred prior to the race in practice as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch tangled on — and off — the track. Both were called to the NASCAR trailer, where the incident reportedly accelerated. Both received six-race probations.

3. 2012 — One of the closest finishes in the history of the Clash occurred in a race that produced a rarity — Jeff Gordon’s car on its roof. Kyle Busch and Gordon made contact in Turn 4 on lap 74, sending Gordon into the wall, into a long slide and onto his roof. A caution sent the 80-lap race into overtime. Tony Stewart had the lead on the final lap, but Kyle Busch passed him as they roared down the trioval, winning the race by .013 of a second.

MORE: Surveying key race dates for 2023

4. 1984 — A race that stands out in Ricky Rudd’s career, and not in a fun way. Neil Bonnett won the sixth Clash, but the video highlights from the day center on Rudd’s 15th-lap crash. He lost control of his car in Turn 4 and turned sideways. As Rudd’s car left the track, it lifted off the surface and began a series of flips before landing on its wheels, very badly damaged. Safety crews removed Rudd from the car. He suffered a concussion, and his eyes were swollen such that he had to have them taped open so he could race a few days later in a Daytona 500 qualifier.

5. 1980 — The second Clash was won by Dale Earnhardt, one of Daytona International Speedway’s masters. This time he won in unusual circumstances. An Automobile Racing Club of America race often shared the race day with the Clash, and that was the case in 1980. The ARCA race start was delayed by weather, however, putting NASCAR and track officials in a difficult spot with the featured Clash also on the schedule and daylight running out. Officials made the unusual decision of stopping the ARCA race to allow the Clash to run on national television. After Earnhardt collected the Clash trophy, the ARCA race concluded.

6. 1994 — Twenty-two-year-old Jeff Gordon gave a hint of what was to come in his career by winning the 1994 Clash. Gordon would score his first Cup point win later that year in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but he also dazzled in the Clash, making a slick three-wide move off Turn 2 with two laps to go to get by Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan. He held on to win the race.

7. 2006 — Upstart newcomer Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to win the Clash. Tony Stewart, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, had the lead with four laps to go, but a caution stacked the field and sent the race into overtime. Hamlin fired past Stewart, who had issues at Daytona throughout his career, on the restart and won the race.

8. 2004 — This one became the duel of the Dales. Dale Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win by .157 of a second. It was the only lap Jarrett led in the two-segment, 70-lap race.

MORE: Legacy MC looking to make a leap forward

9. 1979 — The first Clash, designed by Anheuser-Busch to promote its Busch beer brand, drew a lot of attention because of its short length (20 laps) and its big payout ($50,000 to the winner). That paycheck looks small compared to the present, but it was a huge sum in 1979 and made the Clash one of the richest per-mile races in the world. Although the Clash field would be expanded in numerous ways over the years, the first race was limited to Cup pole winners from the previous season. Only nine drivers competed. Buddy Baker, almost always fast at Daytona, led 18 of the 20 laps and won by about a car length over Darrell Waltrip. The race took only 15 minutes.

10. 2020 — This seemed to be the Clash that nobody would win. Several huge accidents in the closing miles decimated the field. On the final restart, only six cars were in contention for the victory. Erik Jones, whose car had major front-end damage from his involvement in one of the accidents, won the race with help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who was one lap down in another damaged car but drafted behind Jones to push him to the win.

 

 

 

SunnyD to sponsor Kevin Harvick in two races, Riley Herbst in Daytona 500

0 Comments

Kevin Harvick has picked up a sponsor for the new season, and Riley Herbst has picked up a ride in the Daytona 500.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday that orange drink SunnyD will be the primary sponsor for Harvick’s No. 4 Ford at Darlington Raceway (May 14) and Kansas Speedway (Sept. 10).

SunnyD also will be the sponsor for Herbst as he joins the entry list for the Daytona 500 in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing car. The orange drink also will be an associate sponsor for Herbst in the No. 98 Xfinity car fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

The 2023 season will be Harvick’s final year as a full-time Cup driver.

MORE: Toyota looking to expand its presence in NASCAR

The Daytona 500 will mark Herbst’s first Cup Series start. The 24-year-old native of Las Vegas has made 109 Xfinity Series starts.

“It’s great to have Riley making his first NASCAR Cup Series start with RWR and be a part of the next step in his career,” said team owner Rick Ware in a statement released by the team.

“As a kid you always dream of being able to race in the Daytona 500, and I’m able to accomplish that with Rick Ware Racing,” Herbst said. “It’s such a big event and for it to be my first Cup start will be a crazy experience.”