What drivers said after New Hampshire

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Brad Keselowski – winner: “We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just haven’t really went out and kind of dominated a race. Talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and like, ‘Man, what do we need to get to that next level?  We’re right there.  We need to go out and just dominate a race,’ and that’s what today was for us with the Western Star/Alliance Parts Ford Mustang.  I’m really proud of my team and the effort that they gave today.  A great race car and to all of Team Penske, thank you.  Its so great to be racing back in front of fans again.  It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”

(WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT WAS THIS TODAY?):  “This is the same tire and similar track to Phoenix and we know that’s what you’ve got to do to win this championship. You have to go win Phoenix and we put on a great showing today.  I’m pumped, I really am. The playoffs are a long ways away and they’re gonna be tough, but this is certainly a good sign.”

More: Keselowski wins third race of year

Denny Hamlin – finished second: “We just kind of were second there to the 2 (Brad Keselowski). We could really do well on restarts and we were going back-and-forth. Wow, that was some really, really good short track racing there. Hopefully the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair and it’s good that we got one-two out of it.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished third: “We ran second in the first stage and had a tire get away on pit road, had to come from the back. That definitely made things a lot more challenging. Had a decent Sport Clips Toyota, just wasn’t quite driving like we needed it to and then it kind of burned the tires off after 25 or 30 laps. We could hang with them and we would fall consistently off the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin). Third-best car and we finished third so all in all, a good day. Just have to find a little bit more. Just missed the balance a little bit today. Love coming up here to Loudon and this was a fun day.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: “It was an okay day. (Crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) put together a great car for me, something that was pretty competitive. I thought maybe it was something we could win with if we had the track position right.  We scored a few stage points. It was a somewhat uneventful day. Our pit stall was very challenging. It’s just kind of how this works right now. If you have a bad race the race before, you get stuck with a really bad stall and stuck in between a couple cars and that cost us a little bit. And then there on one of those cautions there towards the end I heard Paul say, ‘Pit,’ and the part that I missed is where he said, ‘if they split, pit.’  So all I got was the pit part, so we pitted when there really wasn’t many cars or any cars that pitted. And then we kind of got lucky and got a caution five or six laps after that. We did fuel only, which just made us really loose the last run.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished sixth: We had some troubles and had a fast car from the start, we just had to tighten it up some. I was a little frustrated at times just because of how fast of a car we had and we were sort of stuck back in a little mess, had some big trouble on one pit stop and really set us back, so we were battling to try to get up where we belonged and then once we did we were pretty competitive. I thought we had a car that could have ran in the top two or three until that very last run we just got a little too tight on the last set of tires. We were tight and lost a little speed, so we ended up still having a solid day finishing sixth, which I’m happy about in the sense of our last two weeks were very rough as far as luck. We’ve had fast race cars, but the takeaway I take from it is we’ve really been in a good groove for the last many weeks I can remember. For the last sevenish weeks we’ve had cars that can run up in the top five and top 10 no problem, so I’m real encouraged about that moving forward. I think we’ll stay in a good rhythm. Other than that, not too crazy of a day. I’m glad we came out with a solid run that the team deserves when we’re obviously fighting for points.”

Aric Almirola – finished seventh: “Well the streak continues. Nine top 10s in a row. So proud of this Smithfield Hometown Heroes Ford Mustang team. We ran up front a little bit in the beginning and were just off a bit on balance of our car. It was a solid day. We continue to build a points gap back to the cutoff line to the guys in the playoffs and we just continue the consistency. One of these days we’re going to get us a win.”

Cole Custer – finished eighth: “Today was definitely the run we needed. If we can keep being this consistent, we’ll have something for the playoffs.”

Chase Elliott – finished ninth: “We were hoping to have a better finish today. I felt like we were making some ground up there late in Stage 2 and at the start of the final stage. Then those guys got ahead of us when we stayed out and they pitted. That got us back in traffic and our drive off wasn’t good enough to drive back through the field like some of those other guys. Definitely not where we want to be, so we’ll keep working and trying to get it better.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 10th: “New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit for me, so to come out of here with a top-10 finish feels great. We had a great starting spot with our No. 8 Feeding America Chevrolet but didn’t have the handling to keep the track position in the preferred line. Our car was very tight for most of the day, which made it really hard to roll the center of the corners like I wanted to, so we had our hands full for the start of the race. We had some great speed though, we just had to adjust on our Chevrolet a little bit to get the handling to match it. Towards the start of Stage 3, the handling loosened up enough for me to really start rolling through the turns on the bottom and pick up some positions. With the final caution coming out when it did, we had to focus on saving fuel for a long time in the final stage, but we managed it well enough to not only make it to the end, but also fight our way into a top-10 finish.”

William Byron – finished 11th: “That was a hard fought one for us today. We worked hard throughout the race to get the handling right and in the middle stage of the race we were pretty good. We were able to drive up to third and I was happy with that. After that though the car just stopped turning and the handling went away towards the end. It was a typical New Hampshire race in the things you fight here handling-wise, which is good and bad, but we’ll take the solid finish and head to the Michigan doubleheader and have two really good races there.

Jimmie Johnson – finished 12th:

Austin Dillon – finished 13th: “The only thing we were missing was track position. We had to start at the rear of the field but did a good job of working our way into the top 15 or so in Stage 1. In Stage 2 we took right-side tires during a pit stop, which positioned us in the lead for a restart with just a few laps remaining in the Stage. I just couldn’t get going on two tires and ended up losing the lead, but we were still able to maintain enough track position to earn some Stage points. We pitted for fuel-only during a caution in Stage 3 that put us in a great position at the end of the race to go for it while a lot of other teams were in fuel conservation mode. It was amazing how fast the Freightliner Chevrolet was during that long green flag run at the end. We just needed about 20 more laps at the end to be in contention. Overall, it was a solid day for this Freightliner team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 14th: “That was a really up and down race for us at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today. We knew we had speed in our Kroger Chevrolet but struggled with the handling for the beginning half of the race. Brian Pattie did a great job staying on top of the calls to keep us on the lead lap, and make adjustments that gave us a top-15 finish. We struggled in July, but that’s a solid start to our August to get back on the right momentum.”

Alex Bowman – finished 15th: “We had an up and down day today. We started off chattering the tires, which made the car difficult to drive. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys made some big changes on the stops and got our Chevrolet a little better. A big thanks to my team and everyone back at the shop for their hard work every week. We will move on to Michigan for the doubleheader next week.”

Ryan Preece – finished 16th: “New Hampshire Motor Speedway is always a place I have marked on the schedule, but we really needed a strong run today. I’ve felt like the last few weeks, we’ve had the right adjustments and the right balance in our cars, just couldn’t get luck on our side to get the result we deserved. We ran out of fuel on the final lap that cost us a few positions; but being able to be competitive and get stage points today and still come away with a top-20 finish in our Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet is really positive. I’m proud of all of the hard work everyone has put in at JTG Daugherty Racing and to Trent Owens for making great adjustments all day and I’m looking forward to turning this season around.”

Kurt Busch – finished 17th: “There wasn’t much magic to be found for the Monster Energy team today at the “Magic Mile.” We really struggled with the car being loose on entry all day. The guys made some adjustments to help out, but we just couldn’t find the handling for the long runs. We are working hard to get better on the short tracks like this”.

Clint Bowyer – finished 18th: “We got some bonus points in the first two stages today and we’re still in the top 12. We’ll go to Michigan this week and I know our Fords like that place a lot.”

Michael McDowell – finished 19th: “It was certainly a tough day for our No. 34 team today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We didn’t fire off exactly how we had hoped, but we consistently made good improvements to the car and ended up with a Top-20 finish after running around the 25th position for a majority of the race.”

Ty Dillon – finished 22nd: “Today was a long one for our GEICO team. My guys worked hard all day, but our Camaro ZL1 1LE was tight for the majority of the race. We would make a little gain and then the balance would get tight again. During the second stage, our left rear fender was flared out after contact and we lost track position on pit road to make repairs. We hoped some guys would run out of fuel there at the end, because we were one or two laps to the good, but the cards didn’t fall that way. On to the double in Michigan.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 23rd: “Not much to hit on today. Our Cash App Chevy was just okay. Nothing to be proud about. But we gave it our best effort. We were just way too tight. We’ve got to restart from baseline when we come back to this place. We’ve always kind of fought that and never really had decent results. All in all, a minor setback to start the race, so we’ve got some clawing to do. We’ve got six races left to get a shot at the playoffs, so we’ve got to get our mojo back. It seems like we’ve been searching for it for the last couple of weeks and we’ll keep after it. So, on to Michigan.”

Daniel Suarez  – finished 26th: “We gave it everything we had today with our It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota. We were pretty good on restarts most of the day but then it was surprising how quickly it went away within about 15 laps the early part of the race. We worked to make it better on the long run, and it felt like it was coming to me during the long run at the end. But that was pretty much all we had today. We just need to keep working hard. Next week, we’ll have two chances to keep making things better.”

Corey LaJoie – finished 35th:

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 36th: “That was definitely a hard hit, but I’m okay. An unfortunate end to our day in the No. 38 CITGARD Ford Mustang. We had a fast car and were pretty good on the short run. We struggled a little on the long run, but overall we had a fast race car. I can’t thank my guys enough for how we unloaded. We unloaded with speed and felt good about our situation. We had a top-15 car today, but we pitted for tires towards the end and must have run something over and had a left-front tire go down, which ended our day.”

Kyle Busch – finished 38th: “I blew a right-front tire for some reason. I have no idea why. Way too early in the going for anything to be wrong or even to build enough brake temp or brake heat. I don’t know. Just hate it for our Pedigree team and the fight that we’ve been having this year seems to be continuing. Last time I was here in a Pedigree car, we blew a right-front tire for no reason as well too. Just seems to be our luck with the Pedigree scheme for some reason here at New Hampshire. It’s still 2020, but sooner or later we have to turn this stuff around.”

 

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.