What drivers said after Daytona road course race

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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s inaugural Daytona road course race for the Cup Series:

Chase Elliott — Winner: “Our guys did a phenomenal job. We just had a phenomenal car. I don’t think I did anything very special today. I think Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and all our guys did a really good job pitting there at the start. We made a couple really small adjustments, I felt like, there, at that first stop and I was really kind of able to leave it after that. So, I just appreciate everybody that makes this happen. … Just thanks to all our partners and Chevrolet. I spent a lot of time with them this past week. A special thanks to Jordan Taylor and Boris Said for reaching out and being willing to help this weekend; some road course ringers. I tried to lean on them and luckily everything worked out.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “I just would have liked to have stayed closer to him (Chase Elliott) to put a little pressure on entries. My entries were the strong point against him, but I was giving him four car lengths so he could kind of drive the entries the way he wanted to make sure he got a good exit. I wasn’t quite clean enough the last few laps, but I definitely gave myself a chance. Those last couple corners, I felt like I did as much as I could to get to him and tried to do it the right way.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “Thought we had a chance to win, no doubt about it. Just got caught speeding on pit road. Had to go to the rear and then got damage so we had to go to the rear again. We passed a lot of cars that last run. I know we had the speed at the end there, we were faster than anyone. Just ran out of time, but that’s how it goes. Proud of everybody on the team and still feeling really good about these road courses.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 4th: “Good job to everyone on my No. 48 Ally Chevy team. I just lacked that rear grip at the end there. That was a really fun and a solid day, that’s what we needed and now we go to my favorite track – Dover. So proud of Chase, what a road racer he is.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 5th: “That was just a fun day for our Fastenal Ford Mustang team. We needed that after a couple of hard weeks. Some decent runs and some bad luck and that was fun. I was able to mix it up and steadily work our way forward. We kept learning as we went and there at the end we got beat up. All four corners of this Mustang are beat up but we got the finish out of it. That was a good one. A good day.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 6th: “We did what we needed to do today. We had a great Mobil 1 Ford. I thought it was going to be even better there at the end, but we must have gotten hot. (William Byron) got me on the restart and then another car got by me. If I didn’t have anything to lose there I might have been able to get a few more back. But that was a good points day. I hope we are on a roll and we continue this at Dover.”

Kaz Grala — Finished 7th: “I never thought my NASCAR Cup Series debut would come in this nature. I first want to say that I’m thankful that Austin’s symptoms are mild and that his wife Whitney and baby Ace are healthy. I hope to see him back in the car next week at Dover International Speedway. It certainly was an honor to get the call from Richard Childress and drive his iconic No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet. I honestly had a blast. These Cup cars have so much power, which I really enjoyed. Today exceeded my expectations. My goal was to come in today, run all the laps, not tear anything up, and get a top-30 finish so this is certainly far above my wildest dreams. Justin Alexander called an excellent strategic race, which really helped us get up there and compete inside the top 20 most of the day. We were able to lead laps in my NASCAR Cup Series debut, and it was fun to mix it up with some of my childhood heroes. Before the last caution, I made a bold, three-wide move on a restart, which got us a ton of positions. I don’t really know what I was thinking, but it worked and put us around 12th. We were in pretty good shape with some fresher tires than the guys ahead of us and opted to stay out under the last caution. We were able to pick off a few more of those guys to finish comfortably inside the top 10.”

WILLIAM BYRON — Finished 8th: “It was a good result for us today. We chose to go for the stage points and had to pass our way through the field a few times because of that strategy. I think we did a nice job of that and getting a lot of those available points. Once we got towards the front top five we kind of stalled out though. Overall, I’m pretty happy with today and getting a good result. We just need to have a couple good weeks with solid races when we go on to Dover for two races and back to Daytona. I’m looking forward to Dover next week for sure though.”

Joey Logano — Finished 9th: “We are starting to get some consistency which is good. We tried some interesting strategy stuff today. It didn’t work but we were able to recover for a top 10. Overall, we know what we need to work on for the Roval with our Mustang and we will go to work. (Chase Elliott) obviously has been really good at these road courses, especially with this tire. We have to find some rear drive. That is where he was beating everybody. We will go to work and try to find it.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 10th: “It was a decent day. We had high hopes which is good. You should come to places like this where we have a lot of experience and track knowledge. Unfortunately we started really deep in the field and we were able to drive up to the top 10 there before the end of the first stage and then we talked about it and it was all about trying to win a race for us. We didn’t try to get stage points. We came in with a few laps to go and we were able to get into the top five and get to third. I saw those rain clouds coming and I thought that was exactly what I needed. I was hoping that it would rain because I have experience on this course in the rain and the others guys don’t really. We lost a little bit there at the end and got passed by guys that had fresher tires. We still managed to get in the top six or seven and then that caution came out with five to go. We knew we weren’t going to beat Chase and those guys up front on the same tires so we just took tires.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 12th: “That wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Started the race and tried to work our way through there and go through a cycle of green-flag pit stops and then had a flat left rear. We didn’t hit anything, so that was a big bummer. We had to pit again and then went a lap down, so we had to come back from that. We passed a lot of cars and got the lucky dog and then had to start in the back again for the third time. We drove up to 11th there before the last caution. We just had the wrong restart lane and couldn’t really go. We were down on forward drive, but pretty good by ourselves. Proud of this Axalta team for how they recovered, but a bummer to lose those four spots on that last lap.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 13th: “We were able to rally at the end and pick up a few spots. Our Wabash Ford took off pretty good but the longer runs were a struggle.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 14th: “I really enjoyed the day today, the track was a fun challenge for us. (Crew chief) Matt McCall did a nice job making adjustments on the Monster Energy Camaro, but we burned up the tires on the last longer run and just had to play a little defense in the end. It was a really fun track and I had some fun out there today, I just didn’t have enough in the end.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 18th: “Man, the Daytona International Speedway road course is tough, but our No. 8 Cat App Chevrolet team kept after it, and we were able to continue to get better throughout the day. I spent a lot of time on the Chevrolet simulator before this weekend to help prepare, but there was still a big learning curve during the first stage of this race. I struggled with some wheel hop in Stage 1, but we were able to make some adjustments before Stage 2 started to help fight that. I got more comfortable with the course as the race went on and had better drive off to fight for positions. The red flag actually helped me a little bit since I was able to cool off a little bit and review some SMT data with my crew chief, Randall Burnett. We made a fuel only stop just before Lap 50, which helped me get some good track position. Unfortunately, that final yellow came out with six laps to go, and we had to pit for four fresh tires. I got boxed in on that final stop, so that hurt our restart spot, but I was able to get our No. 8 Cat App Chevrolet back into the top 20 before the checkered flag came out. Not the day we wanted, but we maximized what we could and have three more shots to get into the playoffs, so our fight isn’t over yet.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 20th: “Strong battle for us today. Our GEICO For Your Boat Chevrolet was really strong at the beginning of the race. We battled our way up to 16th and then fell back to 30th right before that final stage. We fought real hard and ended up with another top-20 finish. It was a hot day inside the race car and a hot one outside. I’m proud of our effort and we kept it on track for the first time at the Daytona road course.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 24th: “We started to gain momentum there at the end and thought we could have put the Go Bowling Ford Mustang inside the top 10. Unfortunately, that caution came out and we pitted. I was caught behind some cars on the restart with nowhere to go. That’s road course racing. Not the day we wanted, but we kept the car on the track and in one piece. We’ll regroup and go to Dover where we know we can bring speed.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 25th: “That was not the finish that our Richard Petty Motorsports team wanted. Going into it, I thought I would finish, but to say that the No. 43 DoorDash Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and Bubba Wallace would be top-10 finish at a road course on the last lap – man, I never would have thought it. Hats off to my guys – they never gave up on me and brought all the confidence.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 27th: “There was some good mixed with some things our CommScope Toyota struggled with on the road course today. We did the best we could. I thought the balance of the car was pretty good. We just couldn’t find the forward bite we needed to be a little more competitive. Our brakes got pretty hot  in the middle part of the race and that hurt us, too. Overall, I think it was a good learning experience for when we go to the ‘roval’ at Charlotte in a couple of months.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 31st: “It was a long day for the Advance Auto Parts team. With the new qualifying draw, we started deep in the field, but really had to work our way forward. I sped on pit road that really cost us and I was not able to hold on the old tires late. We’ll put it behind us and get ready for Dover.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 35th: “It was a really hot, really tough day for our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang. There was an issue with the cool box and I ended up having to shut it off towards the beginning of the race, which meant it was extra hot inside the car. We made some adjustments throughout the day to give me more front turn and drive off, but unfortunately our day ended just shy of the checkered flag. Really proud of my crew for sticking with it all day long.”

Brendan Gaughan — Finished 39th: “That isn’t quite what we wanted here today. I spent the first half of the race just trying to feel out the race car, and get to the points that I like on the course. After the red flag, we finally got our car where we wanted and started to move up. We were getting close to that top 15 and I made a mistake. I don’t normally miss shifts but I missed two shifts to fourth (gear) and over revved the motor. When I did I lost fourth gear. We were here in Daytona to run well on this road course – not have to change the transmission just to go back out there and run around 20 laps down. We will be back here in two weeks and see if we can get a good one for the old No. 62 Beard Oil Chevy.”

Dr. Diandra: Strategies in making Clash picks

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Crew chiefs must develop their approach to today’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum using only last year’s data, plus this year’s practice and qualifying.

Fans wagering (for fun and/or profit) must contend with the same lack of data as they make their Clash picks.

The shortest regular-season track is a half mile. A quarter-mile track is a different beast, even with a year’s worth of Next Gen experience.

“Last year everything was brand-new – the track, the format and the car,” Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Chase Elliott, said in a team release. “We’ll have a little bit better of an idea of what we’re going for this time around, but the track is so unique that even with going there last year, we’re still learning.”

As are the fans.

There are a few changes to keep in mind as you make your Clash picks.

NASCAR increased the field from 23 cars to 27. With 36 drivers entered, only nine will miss the Clash. Even without points on the line, no one wants to head home before the main event’s green flag.

Last year, equipment failures caused four out of five DNFs in the main race. Expect fewer mechanical issues this year.

But perhaps more aggression.

Don’t pay too much attention to practice

Last year’s practice times showed no correlation with Clash performance. Eventual winner Joey Logano finished practice last year with the 26th fastest lap — also known as the 11th-slowest lap. But he qualified fourth.

This year, despite losing about 40 hp to mufflers, Martin Truex Jr. set a fastest lap of 13.361 seconds. Truex’s lap beats last year’s best practice lap time of 13.455 seconds, set by Chase Elliott.

Although only seven-tenths of a second separate the fastest practice lap and the slowest, the change is far from linear.

A graph showing practice times for the Busch Light Clash field

  • The top 11 drivers are separated by just 0.048 seconds out of a 13- to 14-second lap
  • Brad Keselowski, who didn’t make the race last year, had the third slowest practice time.
  • Tyler Reddick ran the most total practice laps with 117. He was followed by Kevin Harvick (116), and Noah Gragson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., both of whom made 115 laps.
  • Most drivers ran their best times in their first or second session. Austin Dillon, however, ran his best time on lap 109 of 112.
  • The top three in practice also had the three best 10-lap averages.

Qualifying is the key to good Clash picks

Last year, qualifying position correlated well with driver finish in the Clash. If your driver qualified on the front two rows for his heat race, last year’s results suggest that the only thing keeping him from making tonight’s Clash is an accident or mechanical failure.

That’s bad news for Ty Gibbs, who wasn’t allowed to qualify and will start in the back of the field. It’s also a negative for Ryan Blaney, who posted a 40-second lap, however, Blaney has a shot at the provisional and Gibbs doesn’t.

The heat races are only 25 laps, which doesn’t leave much time for passing. Heat race starting position is highly correlated to heat race finishing position.

  • Last year, the pole-sitter for each of the four heat races held the lead for the entire race.
  • Of the 12 drivers starting in the top three for each heat race, nine drivers — 75% — finished in the top three.
  • Only the top-four finishers of each heat race advanced last year. This year, the top five move on. Last year, 16 of the 25 drivers (64%) starting in positions one through five finished in the top five of their heat races.
  • No driver who started a heat race from ninth finished better than sixth. That’s not encouraging news for Blaney and Gibbs, among others.

That means Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron are pretty much guaranteed locks for a good starting spot in the Clash.

The 20 drivers who qualified in the top five for their heat race have a very high probability of making it through to the main — and of finishing well there.

As was the case last year, practice showed little correlation with qualifying. Martin Truex Jr. qualified 22nd despite posting the best practice time.

The Last Chance Qualifiers

Three drivers from each of the two last chance qualifiers fill out the final rows of the Clash starting grid. Last year, drivers were more aggressive in these 50-lap races than the first four heats.

Again, the closer to the front a driver starts, the better his chance of making the race. Last year, both pole-sitters finished in the top three and advanced.

The last chance qualifiers are long enough for a driver starting in the rear to make it to the front. Last year, Ty Dillon came from 10th place to win the second race. He was subsequently disqualified for jumping the final restart and Harrison Burton, who had started seventh, advanced. If you’re looking for long-shot Clash picks, don’t count the back of the field entirely out.

The Big Show

Last year, the 150-lap main had five lead changes and five cautions.

  • Of last year’s four heat-race winners, two finished in positions one and two, while the other two didn’t finish the race.
  • Of the six drivers who advanced from the last chance qualifiers, none finished higher than A.J. Allmendinger in ninth.
  • Allmendinger tied with Erik Jones for most spots gained. Jones started 16th and finished fourth.
  • Excluding drivers who failed to finish the race, Danial Suárez had the biggest position loss, starting fifth and finishing 14th.

If you want to avoid the frontrunners, you might want to keep an eye on Aric Almirola, who qualified fifth, and had the seventh best 10-lap average run during practice. Austin Dillon didn’t put together a strong 10-lap run, but his team found something in the last minutes of practice that allowed him to go from finishing practice in 22nd to qualifying sixth.

And although Bubba Wallace qualified 16th, he ranked first in runs of 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 laps. He was second in five-lap speed.

Good luck with your Clash picks!

NASCAR Sunday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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It’s race day for the NASCAR Cup Series.

The Clash at the Coliseum will open the 2023 season for NASCAR on Sunday with the featured 150-lap race scheduled for 8 p.m. ET at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The field for the non-points race will be set by a series of heat and last chance races Sunday afternoon. The top five finishers in each of four 25-lap heat races will advance to the feature, and the top three finishers in two 50-lap last chance races will join the grid.

Joey Logano won last year’s Clash as it moved from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to the Coliseum.

The Cup Series regular season is scheduled to begin Feb. 19 with the Daytona 500.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 64 degrees in the afternoon and no chance of rain. It is expected to be sunny with a high of 62 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the Clash.

Sunday, Feb. 5

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. Sunday – 12:30 a.m. Monday — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 5 – 5:45 p.m. — Four heat races (25 laps; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 6:10 – 6:35 p.m. — Two last chance qualifying races (50 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8 p.m. — Feature race (150 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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.