Friday 5: Ryan Newman ‘thankful’ to be heading back to Daytona

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Ryan Newman admits he’ll feel some emotion returning to Daytona International Speedway this weekend for the first time since he was hospitalized after his last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.

Newman was on his way to winning the season-opening race in February when a push from Ryan Blaney’s car unsettled Newman’s Ford and sent it into the wall and upside down. Corey LaJoie’s car slammed into Newman’s, which slid across the finish line on its roof. The No. 6 Ford came to rest just beyond the exit of pit road.

Rescue workers needed 15 minutes, 40 seconds to extricate Newman. He was sent directly to Halifax Medical Center. Newman walked out of the Daytona Beach hospital 42 hours later holding the hands of his two daughters.

I guess after February I’m pretty emotional every day,” Newman said of returning to Daytona for Sunday’s inaugural Cup race on the road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to continue on. I get to hit the reset button in a roundabout way, not with my life, but the reality is just to continue to play on. 

“I will probably be some sort of emotional going back to Daytona, but I don’t see it being a whole lot different than the kind of emotion I had getting in the car at Talladega or even going back to Darlington for that matter when I went and did my first test.”

Rescue crew members load Ryan Newman into an ambulance after his Daytona 500 crash. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Newman suffered a bruised brain and missed three races before the coronavirus pandemic paused the season in March. When the series returned in May, Newman was back in the Roush Fenway Racing car.

Although seconds from winning the Daytona 500 and earning a playoff spot, Newman said he can’t focus on what might have been.

“No doubt I’ve thought about it, but the reality is it’s not the truth, it’s not what happened, it’s the what could have been and everybody has that in their season,” he said.

This weekend is the first of two trips to Daytona this month for NASCAR. Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will race on the road course Saturday and Sunday. Cup and Xfinity teams return in two weeks to race on the oval. The Aug. 29 race marks the end of the Cup regular season.

Four races remain before the Cup playoffs begin. Newman needs to win one to make the playoffs.

“I feel like we made a huge stride for us and our organization and our team going from Saturday to Sunday in Michigan (last week), and I look forward to continuing that,” said Newman, who finished 28th on Saturday and 13th on Sunday at Michigan.

“The reality is we want to lead one lap and that being the last one, so need to be realistic about it and keep the ball rolling, but you’re right we’re here to win, we’re here to win for ourselves, for me personally, for our sponsors, our team, crew chief Scott Graves … everybody involved, we want to win but we all want to see progression as we do that.

“Leading a bunch of laps and finishing 35th isn’t going to cut it. … It’s been a struggle for us, as many other teams, just the lack of track time, the lack of laps and getting the car dialed in. It’s been a challenge.”

2. Chase Elliott looking for better performances

Chase Elliott comes to Daytona with three straight top-10 finishes, but it is a bit misleading.

He’s no finished better than seventh in those races. He’s not finished better than seventh in his seven races. This from a driver and team that was in contention to win late at Darlington before he was wrecked by Kyle Busch, was a pit call away from winning the Coke 600, won the second Charlotte race and saw an aggressive move for the lead late at Bristol backfire. Since Bristol, he’s had seven top-10 finishes and six finishes outside the top 10.

Despite three consecutive top-10 finishes, Chase Elliott seeks better results. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“Yeah, I think we’re struggling a little bit, for sure,” he said. “I think on one hand, historically the Pocono (25th in the first race, fourth in the second), Indy (11th), Kentucky (23rd), and Texas (12th) tracks have been, I would say, historically poor for me, personally. Maybe not from a stat sheet or whatever in some cases, but I think those tracks have been a problem a little bit in the past. So, I’m not as surprised to struggle with those places.

“But certainly, I thought we would do a little better at Kansas and thought we would be maybe a little better at Michigan. I feel like our success came early there at Michigan. We had some really good runs there in my rookie year and then in that second year. But really, since then I feel like we’ve even struggled there.”

While maybe not viewed by most as a road course racer, Elliott won last year’s race at the Charlotte Roval, the most recent road course event.

“I think it’s going to be a fun challenge for everyone,” he said of having no practice before Sunday’s inaugural Cup race on the road course. “I’ve never entered a race like that where you literally just have no idea what to expect. Road racing, in my opinion, is a lot about brake-markers and a lot about visual aids and these nuances around the track that you can see with your eyes to help with your hands and your feet do the right things at the right times. Heck, I have no idea where I need to stop on Turn 1 on Sunday; or (Turn) 2 or (Turn) 3 and all the way back around to the start/finish line.”

3. Extra help 

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and William Byron worked this week with Corvette driver Jordan Taylor at the Chevy simulator to prepare for Sunday’s race on the Daytona road course.

January marked Taylor’s 13th consecutive Rolex 24 start at Daytona. He was on the overall winning team in 2017 with brother Ricky, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon and won the event in 2019 with Fernando Alonso, Renger van Zande and Kamui Kobayashi.

Bowman said Taylor’s expertise has been helpful.

“Jordan really helped with entry to Turn 5,” Bowman said. “His entry in there was quite different than how I was approaching it. Some of the braking zones were a little bit different. Then some line stuff and some rain stuff as well. Having his knowledge is super helpful. He’s a really good guy, and I really appreciate his help. The rain will be the biggest thing. I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing in the rain, so being able to have an idea of what to expect there is a big help.”

Jordan Taylor, a two-time Rolex 24 winner worked with Alex Bowman and William Byron this week in preparing for the Daytona road course race. (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)

Taylor taught the drivers the “little nuances” of the 3.61-mile course.

“When you look at it on a track map, it looks pretty basic but each corner has little tricks that can help you,” Taylor said. “They’re going into this race with zero practice and zero laps on this track, so they need as much preparation as they can get. From my side, I bring some experience from that track that I can give – little tips that maybe would take them a session or two to figure out. Hopefully they can hit the ground running when they show up for raceday.”

Taylor hopes Bowman and Byron can repay the favor when the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series races at the Charlotte Roval in October.

None of us on the sports car side have driven the new course there, and they’ve had a couple races in the past,” Taylor said. “It would be nice to get some feedback from them and some tips and tricks they’ve learned the last couple of years. The Hendrick guys have had a lot of success there. … When we go there for the first time with our Corvette C8.R, they can definitely show us a few things.”

4. Race for points

The goal the next couple of weeks is simple for Cup drivers. Score as many points as possible before the playoffs begin.

Other than that, some say, this stretch of races does little to prepare for the playoffs.

Last weekend’s doubleheader at Michigan marked the final races on a 2-mile track this season. This weekend’s Cup race at the Daytona road course is a unique track. Next weekend’s doubleheader at Dover could provide some insights on Bristol but the tire is different between those tracks.

So that leaves one thing for many to focus on.

Joey Logano seeks to avoid the struggles he had late in the regular season last year. . (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

“Playoff points,” Joey Logano said. “That’s all it’s about right now. … They’re different racetracks than what we’re racing in the playoffs, but that’s OK. There are trophies out there to go out and get and that’s all that matters. That’s all I need. 

“That’s the only carrot I need to hang out in front of me is a big check and a big trophy and some playoff points to help propel you into the Championship Four.”

Logano’s struggles in the final six regular-season races before last year’s playoffs contributed to failing to make it to the championship race. He had one top-10 finish during that stretch at the end of the regular season.

In the last six regular-season races last year, Logano fell from first in the season standings to sixth. That cost him nine playoff points — the difference between first, which is 15 playoff points, and fifth, which is six playoff points. He scored one playoff point, winning a stage in those six races. Between the potential playoff points he lost and what he actually gained, he lost a total of eight points.

Logano made it to the final eight of the playoffs last year but failed to advance to the championship race. He missed making the final spot in the title race by seven points to Kyle Busch.

That wouldn’t have mattered had Logano won a race in the third round to advance to the title race, but he didn’t so his only way to the title race was via points.

While Logano lost the chance at eight additional playoff points in the final six regular season races, Busch gained eight playoff points in that same time for a net gain of 16 points over Logano. Busch gained his points by moving from second to first to win the regular-season title and gain five additional playoff points (the difference between those positions). He also scored three stage wins in those races, giving him three more playoff points for a total of eight playoff points gained.

That was more than enough to keep him ahead of Logano in the standings and keep Logano out of the title race.

5. Uncertain future

Austin Cindric has won four of the last five Xfinity races and starts on the pole for Saturday’s race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), but he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing next season.

The son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric, Austin said he does not have have a contract for next season.

I’ll continue to work hard on the weekends and work hard during the week to understand what the best pathway is to take me,” Austin Cindric said. “Obviously, I’ve had a lot of loyalty within the Penske organization. I mean, I wouldn’t be at this point without them and without Ford Performance. 

Austin CIndric Road America
Austin Cindric has won races at Kentucky twice, Texas and Road America in recent weeks. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

“Those two relationships have really brought me here as quickly as I’ve kind of come up through the NASCAR ranks, so I would love to be able to stay within that camp, but, at the same time, I’m focused on trying to figure out what the next steps are in my career in NASCAR because it’s where I want to be, it’s where I want to stay, and it’s where I’ve put the most effort in the last couple years, so I’m pretty motivated at that.”

The coronavirus pandemic and economic impact on companies has created challenges for teams seeking sponsorship. That is expected to slow the process in teams signing drivers for next season. Cindric acknowledges he needs to look at all options for next year.

“I’m not doing myself any service if I don’t go out and understand what’s out there,” he said. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil and that’s the case. You’ve got to pick up the phone and not expect it to ring, but having success while you’re doing that is great. It makes those conversations easier to have and easier to convince people that you’re the guy, but, overall, it’s what I’ve been doing during the week and I’m very focused on doing my job during the weekend first and foremost.”

The 21-year-old Cindric drove for Brad Keselowski’s Truck team in 2017. Cindric ran for Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and has been full-time at Team Penske the past two years.

Along with four wins this season, Cindric has nine top-three finishes in 18 starts.

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Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great originations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)