What drivers said after Talladega race

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “Just a lot of attrition. We just played the strategy and the numbers game to run in the back until we were locked in. Just things worked out. We finally got one back. This one was unexpected to say the least, but proud of this whole FedEx team, Toyota and everyone at JGR for bringing great race cars. Today we’re obviously thinking about JJ Damato (JGR executive) and his two kids. Really excited about this win. This was unexpected for sure. They were crashing in front of us. Obviously, I got forced down there just like the 21 (Matt DiBenedetto) and others did. There were a bunch of us that all crashed down there.”

Erik Jones — Finished 2nd: “It was good. Obviously, wish we could have won it there at the end. We had to throw a big block and got in the wall, but still came back and finished second there. Good day. The car was strong. The Sport Clips Camry had good speed and we led a lot of laps. Just didn’t totally play out at the end. You can’t ask for a lot more. We were there and coming to the line with a shot to win.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 3rd: “It feels great. I’m sure everyone is aware our team announced it’s selling and has been sold.  The relationship between myself and GEICO and Germain Racing and all the 47 employees at Germain Racing is coming to an end. We all promised each other when it was announced we would all give everything we had till the end.  This was a statement for our team. I can’t thank everyone enough at Germain Racing, Bob Germain, Larry Rogers, all the people at GEICO, all the people that worked there over my four years that helped me throughout my four years here.  I’m thankful for the opportunity and hopeful for the next opportunity. And hopefully some of us can get to work again, work together again. Hopefully this propelled some of us to get new opportunities next year as we’re all searching.”

William Byron – Finished 4th: “It’s tough not to get the win today but to finish fourth is good. It’s just unfortunate. We had a really good run there on the final lap and I got a good push from (Denny Hamlin) in (Turns) 1 and 2 that set that up. I was able to get to (Chris Buescher) and push him and then found some daylight on the bottom to have a run at(Matt DiBenedetto. Unfortunately, he blocked us there and put us below the yellow line. Fortunately, though we were able to save it and still finish in the top five. Today was a good run for us. We really needed to finish a race after the last couple weeks and it’s good to have a result like today.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 7th: “That was a crazy race at Talladega Superspeedway, but I’m proud of my No. 8 Cat Next Gen Dozers team for rallying all day long. They worked really hard to keep me in the game when we got into some trouble, and I really appreciate it. We got caught up in a wreck on Lap 1 that changed our game plan a little bit when we got some nose damage from the No. 95, but my team was able to make all the repairs quickly enough to get us back on our normal strategy by the time the competition caution came out. It was a lot about survival today with all the wrecks that were happening. I was able to squeeze through a couple big ones, but also got caught up in a couple others. Luckily, nothing was bad enough to take us out of the race completely. We just stayed focused, fixed what we needed to each time and kept fighting for every spot we could. It was a wild race today, so I’m happy we are able to come home with a seventh-place finish.”

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHECK — Finished 8th: “We managed to stay out of trouble the whole day, but that last caution forced us to pit for fuel – otherwise, we would have had a better shot at the win. We still came away with a nice top-10 finish.”

Ryan Preece – Finished 10th: “What a race today at Talladega Superspeedway. To be able to bring home a top-10 finish in our No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet after the season we have had feels like a win. I wish we didn’t have as much damage there at the end and we could give a little bit of a better push, but ultimately we needed fuel for the final NASCAR Overtime and needed to pit from the front anyway. I’m really proud of our Kroger team to be able to fix the damage that we did have and keep us there at the front at the end. We’ve got five races to continue finishing out this season strong and I’m looking forward to ending the season on a high note.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 12th: “This team has a never-give-up-attitude, and that is how we were able to finish so solid today in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road/E-Z-GO Chevrolet. Last week was a real bummer, but we kept fighting and only lost eight laps changing a belt. Tonight, we changed an oil cooler behind the wall and only lost two laps, so this RCR team is special. They are true professionals. Today was a fun race. We got our stage points in the first stage even with a little bit of damage. In the second stage, we just couldn’t keep up with the damage we had gotten, but to come back to 12th says a lot. This car is killed. I had a huge run down the backstretch at the end of the race. I pushed Brandon Poole way up there. Once I shoved him, I got to the bottom and then I don’t know what happened. The No. 2 car came across my nose and we lost a couple more spots at the end. It was probably a wild race for the fans to watch. I hope that we can make something happen at the Roval. We’re a little too far back in points, but we’ll see what we can do.”

Alex Bowman  – finished 14th: “This group of guys worked their butts off on pit road – very thankful for their hard work. Our Truck Hero Camaro, with Patriot Foundation on the side of it, was not really where we wanted it be to start the race. We made some changes, got it better and then I became a Ford sandwich there getting off turn two. I got pushed into the 10 (Aric Almirola) there – that was a bummer. If that was my fault, apologies to the 10. I felt like I got shoved into him, but it’s one of those deals you never want to be in that situation and crash somebody or cause a crash like that. So, bummed out about that.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 18th:  “I hope Tony Stewart is watching because he would be proud. We wrecked every car in the field and I wrecked four times in somebody else’s mess. This rules package just has everybody so on top of each other. Runs are just so fast and everybody wants to block and the runs are too fast to block and causes a lot of wrecks, but we made it through somewhat okay, I guess. We finished 18th and scored a lot of stage points, got a decent points cushion going into the Roval, but that’s gonna be a madhouse because there are a lot of cars next week that are gonna need a big race.  Hopefully, we just get through there with a solid day with the Discount Tire Ford and move on.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 20th: “We tried to take care of our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang most of the day and wound up starting fourth on one of the restarts toward the end and wound up part of the attrition for the day.  Looking up and down pit road it doesn’t look like there’s very many cars that don’t have damage.”

MATT DiBENEDETTO — Finished 21st: “It’s just a crazy finish. I haven’t been able to really process it. I just really want to get this thing in Victory Lane. This Tuscany Faucets team. I feel like this is the same story a lot of times, just heartbreak. My wife and I have had a stressful week again just with the uncertainty — always fighting for my life — but I’m so appreciative of this team.  The Wood Brothers, I want this 100th win for the Woods so bad. Our alliance with Team Penske, Ford — I appreciate them putting me in this car. It’s so much fun to drive and have a shot to win. Denny did a great job. Deja vu. Holy cow.  Denny deserves all the support in the world. He’s an incredible racer. He was my biggest threat. I tried to block all I could. This is tough.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 23rd: “It was textbook, as perfect as Talladega could go for us. Just nowhere to go obviously in that last wreck. Proud of the effort, strong car. We wanted to get stage points and we got a stage win, that was a nice little bonus. Had fun up until the crash. Just wrong place, wrong time. Wish we could have ran until the end.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 24th: “I don’t really know – I haven’t seen a replay yet. It was a big learning curve day for me. I think I came down on the No. 37 (Ryan Preece) there and started that whole deal, so that’s on me. It’s just unfortunate. It was a really good day for us in our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 World Wide Technology Camaro ZL1 1LE. We’ve got a lot to look over and review, which is good. We led some laps and had a really solid car. Hats off to my guys for a really solid effort – getting it fixed there at lap one. It was definitely a hard hit, but all-in-all, we’re good. We’ll try to take what we can from today. I love coming to these plate races. It’s showing, but we didn’t get the finish that we deserved today. All-in-all, we’ll go to the Roval and have some fun.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 25th: “Certainly not the day we wanted. A big thank you Todd Gordon and the Menards/Pennzoil crew doing a great job repairing our Mustang to where we could be competitive. Stinks we don’t have the results to show for, but we’ll move on to the Roval next week.”

Joey Logano — Finished 26th: “We had a lot of speed in our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang car. It was fast and it was up towards the front the whole race, leading a lot of laps. We were right where we wanted to be at the end of the race and (Chase Elliott) had a huge run. I probably shouldn’t have tried to block it. He was so fast and I lost a lot of momentum when I tried to block that, and that gave the 24 a big run and then I got in the middle and then I got in the soup and the next thing that happens is they all crashed, so it’s gonna be a tough week next week.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 27th: “The car was just real slow due to all of the damage, obviously, so I’m just holding up the line. I was trying to draft off the guys in front of me and I’m pushing too much backwards on the guys that are trying to push me forwards and it creates a wreck. Oh, well. The M&M’s Camry guys did a great job and just wish there was more for it. I just hate it when I’m right.”

Cole Custer — Finished 31st: “Our HaasTooling.com Mustang was fast and they just all started pushing real hard on the bottom or the middle and then they started spinning. I was like, ‘Hopefully, I can make it past it,’ but we didn’t.  It sucks. I thought we had a really fast car.  All the guys at SHR built some fast cars coming here, but we’ll move on to the next one.  It was fun racing up there, it just didn’t work out there at the end.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 32nd: “Yeah, it was a wild ride. That’s the nature of this sport. You’re on top one week with a win and everything’s fantastic. And then this week here at Talladega, we were hoping for a nice, smooth run and to gain some points. I was just doing my job as a Chevy helper running top-five and next thing you know, I’m going for one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been in.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 33rd: “You’ve got to go. You’ve got to push him.  The 22 and the 21 were trying and obviously they gave up on it for some reason. As soon as I got to (Jimmie Johnson), I push him in the front and the whole rear of the car went down and I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and before I know it he was tank swapping all over the place. I don’t know if that was how they had their cars built or whatever, but as soon as you got close to him he was all over the place. Obviously didn’t mean to wreck him, but you’re going hard and three-wide and people are behind you pushing.  I was hoping he would save it, but he didn’t and we all wrecked.”

Daniel Suarez – 34th: “That was definitely not the way we were hoping to end our day. You never know what’s going to happen at Talladega and Daytona because so much is out of your control, but we had another good Team USA Toyota today, like we did at Daytona. We just needed to get to the end of the race so we could fight for a good finish and we got caught up in something. It is what it is. Now we go to the road course at Charlotte and we’ll hope to make the most of our day there next week.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 36th: “Man, what a shame. We had such fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang; it was really, really fast. Unfortunately, we had a trackbar extension from another race car come through the grille and knocked all of the water out of the radiator. I’m thankful to everybody at Love’s Travel Stops and Luber-finer for their continued support. We had a really fast race car and it’s just really unfortunate that we weren’t able to make it to the end. It just wasn’t our day.”

ARIC ALMIROLA — Finished 37th: “I got hit from behind and turned in the outside fence. It’s such a shame. We had such a fast Smithfield Power Bites Ford Mustang. I’m just disappointed. We were doing everything we needed to do. We were closing in to the end of stage one and it looked like we were gonna score a lot of points there, which is exactly what we needed to do.”

New NASCAR Cup season features several changes

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While NASCAR looks back in celebrating its 75th season, there’s plenty new for the sport heading into the 2023 campaign.

Driver moves and schedule changes and are among some of the big changes this year. Here’s a look at some of the changes this season in Cup:

Drivers

— Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch has a different look, as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Tyler Reddick. 

— Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Kurt Busch, who was injured in a crash last summer and has not returned to competition.

Ryan Preece goes from being a test driver and backup at Stewart-Haas Racing to taking over the No. 41 car formerly run by Cole Custer, who moves to the Xfinity Series. 

— Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson returns to Cup after running the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. He’s now a part owner of Legacy Motor Club and will run select races for the Cup team. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500, driving the No. 84 car.

Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity Series champion to Cup rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Noah Gragson goes from Xfinity Series title contender to Cup rookie for Legacy Motor Club (and teammate to Jimmie Johnson).

Crew chiefs

— Keith Rodden, who last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne, is back in that role for Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing, as Dillon seeks to make back-to-back playoff appearances. Rodden comes to RCR after working with the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors.

— Chad Johnston, who has been a crew chief for Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, will serve as crew chief for Ryan Preece at Stewart-Haas Racing.

— Blake Harris goes from being Michael McDowell’s crew chief at Front Row Motorsports to joining Hendrick Motorsports to be Alex Bowman’s crew chief. 

— Mike Kelley, who served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief when Stenhouse won Xfinity titles in 2011 and ’12, returns to the crew chief role with Stenhouse this season at JTG Daugherty Racing. 

Races

— What’s old is new. The All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, marking the first Cup event at that historic track since 1996.

— July 2 marks debut of the street course race in Chicago, marking NASCAR’s first street race for its premier series.

— The spring Atlanta race and playoff Texas race have both been reduced from 500 miles to 400 miles.

Rules

Ross Chastain’s video-game move on the last lap at Martinsville will no longer be allowed, NASCAR announced this week. 

— Stage breaks are gone at the road course events for Cup races. Stage points will be awarded but there will be no caution for the end of the stage.  

— If a wheel comes off a car while on track, it is only a two-race suspension (last year it was four races) for two crew members. The crew chief is no longer suspended for the violation. 

— Cup cars have a new rear section that is intended to absorb more energy in a crash to prevent driver injuries after Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman each missed races last year because of concussion-related symptoms.

— Elton Sawyer is the new vice president of competition for NASCAR. Think of the former driver as the new sheriff in town for the sport.

Achievements 

— With a win this season, Kyle Busch will have at least one Cup victory in 19 consecutive seasons and become the all-time series leader in that category, breaking a tie with Richard Petty.

Denny Hamlin needs two wins to reach 50 career Cup victories. That would tie him with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 13th on the all-time list. 

Kevin Harvick, running his final Cup season, is 10 starts away from 800 career series starts. That would make him only the 10th driver in Cup history to reach that mark.

Friday 5: Clash at Coliseum provides a reset for RFK Racing

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Mired in traffic was not where Chris Buescher expected to be. Sure, he knew that racing 22 cars on a quarter-mile track inside a stadium that has hosted the Super Bowl, Olympics and World Series would put him in tight confines, but when the green flag waved for last year’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Buescher was in traffic on the freeway.

He was headed to the airport — along with the rest of RFK Racing. 

Both Buescher and team owner Brad Keselowski failed to make last year’s feature, sending them home earlier than expected.

“A punch to the gut,” Buescher told NBC Sports.

NASCAR’s return to the Coliseum for Sunday’s Clash is not a redemption tour for RFK Racing, said Jeremy Thompson, the team’s vice president of race operations. He calls it a reset.

That’s what last year was thought to be with Keselowski leaving Team Penske to become an owner/driver of an organization that had gone more than four years without a points victory before 2022. The Clash was a chance for RFK Racing to show its new direction.

Instead, RFK Racing and Spire Motorsports were the only multi-car teams not to have a car in the feature.

“Yes, it was not a points race, but it just looked bad,” Buescher said. “And it was bad. It hurt our feelings more than anybody else’s, I promise.”

Through that disappointment, lessons were learned.

“We didn’t have a lack of hunger that was holding us back,” Keselowski said of last year’s Clash. “We had a lack of understanding our vehicle dynamics. Understanding was just not good enough on a lot of levels.

“We continue to invest in resources and people to continue to push that forward to where we can go to events like that and feel that we’re a threat to win and we’re not just trying to make the race.

“I don’t think I understood that when I came in, where we were at as a company on the vehicle dynamics side.”

It was clear immediately that Buescher and Keselowski were in trouble. Buescher was 21st on the speed chart in practice; Keselowski was 33rd of 36 cars. 

“The car bounced so bad that I thought we were going to rip the transmission right out,” Buescher said of last year’s Clash weekend. “We spent all of practice trying to make the car just drive in a circle vs. trying to make it faster. We missed … before we ever left (the shop).”

Said Thompson about last year’s Clash: “I felt like our effort going into that was exceptionally high. We left no stone unturned. We just turned over some of the wrong stones.”

Two weeks later, both Keselowski and Buescher won their qualifying races at Daytona, but there was much work to do to overcome flaws with other parts of their program.

“We’re pushing really hard on vision and values of what it takes to be a high performer at this level, whether that is getting all the details right in the shop or on the road,” Keselowski said.

RFK Racing learned from its struggles early in the season, particularly with its short track program. Buescher, who had never placed better than 16th at Phoenix at the time, finished 10th there last March, a little more than a month after the Clash. He called his top 10 that day “a small win.”

Progress continued but it was not quick. Buescher placed third at Richmond last August before winning the Bristol night race in the playoffs. Keselowski was seventh at New Hampshire last July and won the first stage at the Bristol night race in September before a flat tire ruined his chances.

Keselowski acknowledges that turning RFK Racing into a team that can contend weekly for wins will take some time, but he sees progress.

“We’re not everywhere we need to be, but we definitely have a plan to get there,” he said. “Navigating that plan is challenging, but we’re on a path.”

2. Why not more horsepower?

NASCAR will take what it learned in last week’s Phoenix test to the wind tunnel on Feb. 13. If the wind tunnel test of short track enhancements goes well, changes could be implemented before the April 2 race at Richmond.

The changes being tested in the wind tunnel are a smaller spoiler (2 inches) and some adjustments to the underbody of the car. 

Still, one suggestion drivers often make is to give them more horsepower.

“I think there’s a misconception that we could take the existing engines and just throw 200 horsepower in it,” said John Probst, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, in response to a question from NBC Sports. 

“We do have multiple-race engines today that we have to keep in mind. (More horsepower) is something that we are actively discussing, but, obviously, we don’t do that in a vacuum. We do that with the engine builders.

“But anybody that has been around, we’ve raced high horsepower and low downforce before and ended up at some point in time deciding to go away from that to get more entertaining racing. … I think we’re open to entertaining any horsepower gains that we can get with our current (engine) architecture, but anything beyond that is actually not something that can happen quickly.”

Probst later said that keeping the engines in the current horsepower range could prove helpful for any manufacturer looking to join the sport.

“One of the reasons we landed on the horsepower range we’re in now is to try to land in areas that have existing racing engines designed for them, similar to our current (manufacturers),” Probst said. “We’re not hiding from the fact that we would like to encourage some new (manufacturers) to come in. That is part of the equation for that whole thing. I’m not saying it’s the driving reason, but it is a consideration.”

3. Crossing the line

The quarter-mile oval in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will provide plenty of chances to hit bumpers, doors and other parts of the car Sunday.

But there’s a line between short track racing and racing without respect. 

For Ryan Preece, who is running his first race in the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing this weekend, there is a clear divide.

“There’s certainly a way to go about it in quarter-mile racing where you can pass somebody without hitting them,” said Preece, a veteran of racing modifieds in bullrings. 

So how does he tell what’s crossing the line on a short track?

“If somebody drives into me getting into the center of the corner, they’re in control of their race car at that point,” Preece said. “So that or door slamming somebody, not even trying to make the corner, are two good examples (of not racing with respect).”

Preece relies on a lesson he learned racing modifieds with how to race in close quarters.

“I’ll never forget this, I was at Thompson (Speedway) and I used (seven-time modified champion) Mike Stefanik up pretty well into Turn 2 with probably six or seven laps to go, trying to chase down the leader. It didn’t happen. 

“I said, ‘Oh, hey man, I’m sorry. I had to do what I had to do for my team.’ He looked at me and said ‘Well, what about my team? What about the guys I race with?’ 

“I think that day really helped me understand that side of things. You want to race with as much respect as you possibly can. There’s a way to do it, a way to race somebody hard but not overstep the line.”

4. On the same page

Ty Dillon moves to Spire Motorsports this season as a teammate to Corey LaJoie.

Dillon will drive the No. 77 car, which has never finished in the top 30 in car owner points since its debut in 2019. The best the car placed was 31st in owner points in 2021.

Dillon says he has confidence in building the program based on Spire Motorsports’ approach.

“We aren’t unrealistic about where we are,” Dillon told NBC Sports.

But he also said that management has workable goals.

“We said, ‘Hey, here’s where we stand in the spectrum of the race teams,’ ” Dillon said. “Here’s our goals. Here’s what we believe we can accomplish. The structure of what everybody knows and how we’re all pulling in the same direction is a real confidence (boost).

“We know we’re not going to be the team that competes every single weekend for wins, but we’re going to be the best at who we are. Over time, people are going to say, ‘Damn, Spire has taken a step.’ … We’re long-term focused and everybody’s on the same page as that.

“I’ve been a part of a team that said, ‘Hey, we’re wanting to build something.’ Well, you get 10 races in and they haven’t won a race and they’re throwing everybody out the door.”

Dillon said the “realistic, genuine expectation” at Spire Motorsports makes this situation feel different for him.

“The hope and optimism is knowing that we’re all on the same page,” he said.

5. Rule book changes 

NASCAR announced a series of rule changes this week and stated that it would outlaw the video game move Ross Chastain made on the final lap of last year’s Martinsville race. 

NASCAR also made a number of changes to the rule book this week.

Among those:

— Intentionally damaging another car on pit road could lead a Cup driver to be penalized 25-50 points and/or 25-50 owner points and/or $50,000 – $100,000 fine. Last year, intentionally damaging another car on pit road could lead only to a fine of $25,000 – $50,000.

— Member to member confrontations with physical violence and other violent manifestations could result in a fine and/or indefinite suspension or membership revocation. Last year, such an infraction was listed as incurring a penalty of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or a fine of $50,000 – $100,000. Violations also could result in a race suspension(s), indefinite suspension or termination.

— In the past, if a car could not go when it was time to make a qualifying attempt, it was put on a five-minute clock to do so. That’s changed this year. Now, the clock will be no more than one minute unless it is a safety issue. 

Also, NASCAR listed the length of each Cup race. The inaugural Chicago Street Course Race is scheduled for 100 laps.

Harrison Burton looks for progress in second year in Cup

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Harrison Burton made the first start of his NASCAR Cup Series partnership with the Wood Brothers in the bright lights of Los Angeles.

Burton and the Woods teamed last season as Burton jumped into full-time Cup racing after two full seasons (and four wins) in the Xfinity Series. Their first race was the Clash at the Coliseum, and it was a good start — Burton qualified for the feature and finished 12th on the lead lap.

Then things headed downhill. Crashes at Daytona and Auto Club Speedway left Burton with finishes of 39th and 33rd, respectively. After the first five races of the year, he had four finishes of 25th or worse.

Now, Season Two, and there are higher expectations. Much higher.

MORE: Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

“The start of last year was really, really rough,” Burton told NBC Sports. “It kind of put us in a hole. We got into the wreck in the 500 and crashed at Fontana. Things kind of stack up on you, and all of a sudden you’re buried in points and it’s hard to make it back up.

“But, at the end of the year, three of the last four weekends were big for us (three consecutive top-20 finishes). We need to build off that and try to get out of the West Coast swing and have a clean group of those races. That’s really important. We need to get our average finish up in the first four to five races and not put ourselves in a hole we can’t get out of, and then go from there.”

The Wood Brothers team typically brings strong cars to the Daytona 500, the season’s first point race. Trevor Bayne scored the team’s latest win in stock car racing’s biggest event in 2011.

“We ran well in the 500 last year until I was upside down,” Burton said. “We had a fast car and qualified well and finished third in our duel. Then in the second Daytona race we put ourselves in good position late, so we were in contention in both Daytona races. The speed was there, and the cars drove well.”

The team’s primary goal is to make the playoffs, Burton said. “And we want to be a contender,” he said. “Cup races are so hard. First, you have to contend. Having a good average finish is really important. If you average around 17th or 18th all year, you can kind of point your way into the playoffs, and doing that is on our minds for sure.”

MORE: Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

Burton looks for a strong start in Sunday’s Clash, which will present teams with a mix of the old and the new. Drivers got the experience of racing inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last year, and notes from that race will be useful, but the racing surface will be all new again.

“Every repave has a different tendency,” Burton said. “We’ll see how close it is to last time and how different. Obviously, there is experience on that track, but still it’s a completely new surface, so it’s going to be a mixture of old and new. There’s some knowledge we can build off of, but we kind of have to go into the weekend with that knowledge as tentative because we don’t know if the track is going to be different.”

Burton heads for Los Angeles with a win already under his belt this year. He and teammate Zane Smith, last year’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, won last Friday’s International Motor Sports Association’s Michelin Pilot Challenge Series race on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

Burton drove the finishing laps in the four-hour race. He was third with about 50 minutes to go but moved in front with 22 minutes left when leader Elliott Skeer parked. Burton outran second-place Spencer Pumpelly by .688 of a second for the win.

“I thought we could run well,” Burton said. “After the test we did, we were really fast, so I was pretty excited. But apparently there is a lot of sandbagging that goes on there, so I wasn’t sure where we were. We had to have some things go right for us, and they did.”

 

 

 

 

Dr. Diandra: Muffling racecars won’t change fan experience

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Last week, NASCAR tested the muffler that will be used for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum.

“Heresy,” some fans cried. They argued that it is against the laws of man and nature to muffle racecars. That noise is an integral part of the fan experience. That you’re not supposed to be able to have conversations during races.

Relax.

The cars will be plenty loud.

Loud is fast

Engines produce power by combusting fuel and air in their cylinders. Each combustion produces high-pressure gases that push the piston up. The same gases make a loud popping sound when they escape the cylinder and finally the exhaust.

At 8,000 rpm, an eight-cylinder engine performs about 520 combustions every second. The faster an engine runs, the more combustions per second and the higher the frequency of the tailpipe noise.

That’s why NASCAR engines sound like grizzly bears and F1 engines, which run at higher speeds, sound more like angry mosquitoes.

Maximum horsepower requires getting the spent gases out of the cylinder as quickly as possible so the next combustion reaction can start. And that’s the problem with mufflers, from a racing perspective.

Mufflers on street cars bounce sound waves from the engine around a metal can. The waves interfere with each other, which decreases the overall volume coming from the exhaust.

Mufflers can also mitigate noise by directing the exhaust through a sound-absorbing material. Borla, the sole-source supplier for this weekend’s muffler, makes commercial racing mufflers that feature a robust sound-absorbing material superior to the commonly used fiberglass.

Both methods slow the exhaust gases — the first more than the second. The ideal racing muffler diminishes sound with minimal horsepower reduction.

Decibels

Sound-level measurements come in decibels (dB), a unit named after Alexander Graham, not Christopher — and apparently by someone who wasn’t the best speller.

But decibels don’t tell the whole story. Sound intensity decreases with distance, so you need to specify how far away the sound source was.

The easiest way to explain the decibel scale is to relate it to real-world noises, as I’ve done below.

A bar chart showing representative sound levels expressed in decibels.

  • Zero dB is the threshold of human hearing.
  • A whisper you can just barely make out is about 20 dB.
  • Most everyday noises are in the 60 dB to 100 dB range but are sometimes louder.
  • Exposure to 130 dBs can be painful.
  • A 150-dB sound can cause permanent hearing damage in a very short time.

Ringing in your ears the day after a rock concert was a badge of honor in high school. Older me wishes I had been a little smarter.

Hair cells — not to be confused with ear hair — facilitate hearing. Sound bends these hair-shaped cells, and the cells convert sound into electrical signals that the brain interprets. Loud sounds can bend these cells so much that they break.

Unlike animals such as sharks, zebrafish — and even the lowly chicken — humans cannot grow new hair cells. Once your hearing is damaged, you can’t get it back.

How loud are racecars?

A noise mitigation study for the proposed Nashville Fairgrounds track measured a single Next Gen car at COTA generating 112 dB on a straightaway at 100 feet.

A 2008 study measured the sound level inside a Gen-6 car to be an average of 114 dB. The study also compared sound in the stands, the infield and the pits.

Let’s add those numbers to our graph.

A bar chart showing representative sound levels expressed in decibels, including sound measurements from the Gen-6 and Next Gen cars

  • The Next Gen car at 100 feet is about the same loudness as a person screaming at top volume 1 inch from your ear.
  • The Next Gen car at 100 feet is just a bit quieter than sitting inside the Gen-6 car.
  • Bristol reached peak sound levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage.

The graph data suggests that inside the Next Gen car should be around 10 times louder than inside the Gen-6. Some drivers made new earmolds to cope with the additional noise in the cockpit.

Because of the way sound works, the numbers don’t add like you’d expect them to. A Next Gen car might be 112 dB, but two Next Gen cars are more like 115 dB. A full field would be only 5-7 dB louder.

The mufflers won’t muffle much

NASCAR expects a six to 10-dB reduction in sound with mufflers. A 10-dB reduction would make the Next Gen car about as loud as the Gen-6 car was.

Another way of looking at it: Good earplugs reduce sound levels by 25 to 30 dB. Wearing earplugs just barely gets you into the range of being able to hold a conversation if you stand very close to each other and you both shout.

You won’t notice the change in sound inside the track.

You also won’t notice a change in speed this weekend, despite a drop of 30-40 horsepower. The Next Gen car takes around 14 seconds to traverse the L.A. Coliseum’s quarter-mile track. That means cars won’t be going much faster than typical expressway speeds.

If you’re headed out to the track this weekend — despite the mufflers — bring earplugs or over-the-ear headsets. This is especially important for children, as their hearing is more easily damaged.