What drivers said at Charlotte Roval

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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Chase Elliott — Winner: “Well, I just had another really fast NAPA Camaro and really appreciate the effort. I feel like road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but I feel like we just try to get a little better every time and tweak on the small things. I feel like I tweaked on some small things and got a little better than what I was here last year, which was good. And, I’m just really proud of the effort. It’s always special to win here at Charlotte with the shop being right across the street. I appreciate all the effort there. The best way to get into the next round is to win and so, hopefully we can do something with it.”

Joey Logano — Finished 2nd: “We won our league (laughing) because no one was beating that other car — Chase Elliott and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and that whole 9 team. They’re light years ahead of us when it comes to the road course, I mean everybody even their teammates. I can’t really put my finger on it. I got a good look of what it was and watched him cruise around not even trying and he would keep on driving away from me. Overall, I’m proud of what our Shell/Pennzoil team did today. We had to come in here and execute.  Obviously, there were plenty of crazy things that could have happened starting in the rain, going to slicks, stage points, trying to get ourselves in position. Obviously, there were times that (Kyle Busch) was in the spot and we were racing (Alex Bowman) with only a couple points between us, so it was close, it was stressful, but I feel a lot better now and will be able to sleep well tonight and then fire away to try and get into that Championship 4.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “I knew we were there and had tires. We were in a really good spot, but I knew that (Chase Elliott) was really fast and has been pretty tough to beat here the last few years. They’ve got something figured out, they’re really quick here. I was just kind of losing time to him everywhere. He caught me and I couldn’t hold him off more than a couple cars. The Craftsman Camry was good, it was good to get a top three. Probably a little bit better than what we ran, but we’ll definitely take it.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 4th: “It was a great improvement for our road course program. I’m really proud of everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing; looking at issues and working on what we need to do improve. Whether we were locked-in or not, we came here to go for it. I’m really proud of how our race unfolded. We just seemed to cook the rear tires after about 15 laps into a run, but we had really good braking, so I had to use my strength. I was ready for (Martin) Truex to banzai it in there, I was like ha, ha, I got you bro! He (Truex) axle-hopped, hit us and I was able to recover quicker than him. Really good day for our Monster Energy team, just wasn’t as fast as (Chase Elliott). I’m glad he is on to the next round along with Alex Bowman, we got as many Chevy’s as we could pushed through to the round of eight.”

William Byron — Finished 6th: “Yeah today was a tough one. I’m really frustrated with the speeding penalty. I felt like I was to the good and I obviously wasn’t so I’ll have to go back and look at it. Overall, today was a good day though. We led a lot of laps and felt like our car was capable of running up front with (Chase Elliott). I would have liked to see what we could have done there at the end and battled with him. Either way it was a good day for us and we’ll go on to Kansas and try get a win.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 7th: “Had a little bit of a run on them coming to one to go and probably stuffed it in there a little too far. Tried to get out from inside of (Kurt Busch) and hit that water back there and from there it was all over. Little too aggressive there at the end. Overall, just a so-so day for the Bass Pro Toyota. We had decent speed, not winning speed, but had a lot of fun out there, especially in the rain.”

ALEX BOWMAN — Finished 8th: “(Advancing) means a lot to me, but also to my race team. These guys work really hard all year. I feel like sometimes my team at least doesn’t get the respect they deserve. I feel like it kind of like validates all their hard work. Obviously we have a long way to go to try to make the Round of 4 at Phoenix. These guys work so hard, do such a good job, give me such great racecars. I’m really happy for them. I wish I could have been a little better today. We struggled with our race car quite a bit. Still ended up with a solid top 10, had what we needed there for points. (How he was feeling in the car) Didn’t feel too well. My nerves got to me more than I would have liked. I think it’s one of those deals under green you’re fine, but when it’s like caution after caution after caution, sitting there under caution just wasn’t feeling so good.I’m all good now. Definitely was nervous, though.”

Cole Custer — Finished 9th: “We had a lot of ups and downs today. The HaasTooling.com crew stuck with me today and the pit crew did a good job. I think we learned some things today with road courses that we can use in the future, which is a positive.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 10th: We had them covered in the rain and we were one of the fastest in the dry, but those cautions at the end of both stages came at the wrong time. Then that wreck killed us because we lost power-steering. The guys gave me a great car today.” (About going to the care center after the race) “I’m good. Was definitely outta gas. Another couple, three laps and I’d have been on the ground after the race crappie floppin’. Self inflicted. I shouldn’t have knocked the power steering out.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 11th: “It was definitely interesting. Our car was just way off handling-wise. We were just way too tight and had no drive up off the corner, whether it was wet or dry. We struggled with our Mobil 1 Ford and still probably should have finished somewhere seventh or eighth, but didn’t have the car where we needed to and wound up on the wrong side of all the strategies and things, but everybody did a good job and kept battling. It was actually a lot of fun.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 12th: “Every time I come to a road course, I grow as a driver. We had a great No. 8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet today, and I want to thank my team for working with me all day long. It wasn’t an easy day, but we all kept with it and improved throughout the race. It took a little bit of Stage 1 to re-familiarize myself with the course, so I spent a lot of that stage being careful to not overstep and wreck. After a pit stop and adjustment during the second stage, I was able to rotate a lot better all throughout the track, which helped me gain a lot of traction on the field. We had a couple cautions fall later during the race that helped us with some track position a little bit, overall, it was a really good effort by my No. 8 team today.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 14th: “It was a solid day all around for our Maxwell House Chevrolet. We were really good on the long run, and were able to play the strategy and lead laps for the first time this season. Ultimately, the tires wore out and it affected our handling and we weren’t able to hang on to the lead, but I’m really proud of the work everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing put into our road course cars this season and give me something that we could work on during the race and continue improving all race. We finally have had a really good string of races, and we’re going to keep on building off of that for these final four weeks.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 16th: “It was tough. I struggle here in particular. I’m not the greatest road course racer, but specifically here has always been a challenge for me and I just struggled all day. We really struggled on the rain tires and I spun out over there in that water that was draining across the racetrack in Turn 4, and then we had an issue with a pit gun or something on pit road and got a lap down. We fought hard. It was definitely a fight, but just not the day we needed for sure to move on, but we still got a few races left to go perform at the highest level we can and try to get the most points we can. I’m still really proud of our season and proud of the effort of this team.  We’ve got some racing left to do and hopefully get this Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane in one of these last few.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 17th: “Road course racing traditionally has not been my favorite, but we’ve been able to put together a few strong road course runs this season in our Kroger Chevrolet. We had a really special paint scheme this weekend honoring Breast Cancer Awareness month and names of JTG Daugherty Racing family members that have been affected by breast cancer. I’m honored to have our public relations director Jennifer Chapple on the car as she just fought a battle of her own to beat breast cancer. We had a restart where I thought we could really put ourselves in a good position to lead and stay at the front, but had contact that spun us and lost that position. Fortunately, we still had time to get back in the top-20 and still have a strong day for both myself and my teammate.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 18th: “(The race) started off real strong in the rain and there’s part of me that wishes it would have just stayed raining, believe it or not, but once it got dry I just kept falling off too much on the long run. I’d fire off real good and fall off and couldn’t keep pace, so I’m thankful that’s over. It’s a testament to the four wins we have earlier in the year. It gives us those bonus points and made this a lot easier day than it looked like it was gonna be, and we’ll move on to hopefully four good race weeks for us.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 19th: “We tried our hardest, but nothing fell our way toda. We were looking pretty good at the end of Stage 1. We took tires and got to fifth by the end of the stage, but an unlucky caution happened and that cycled us. We knew we were dead meat at that point because we didn’t have dry tires on, so we pitted at the end of Stage 1 to try and jump some people. That backfired on us because we had to go to the tail end of the line since pit road wasn’t open. We just had a lot of stuff happen to us today. Again, a caution fell late in Stage 2 while we were running 12th. We had no help from cautions. The race just didn’t play our way. I’m actually pretty happy with our performance as far as my road course racing has been. I feel like I’ve improved. I raced hard all day.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 21st: We survived thank the lord! Apologies to the 47 team. The run before that dumb move, I was mad at myself for not being aggressive enough…welp found my limit.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Well, we got another stage win – our third as a team – which is a huge accomplishment. I’m so very proud of our GEICO team. Today was another fun day and I had a blast behind the wheel. We didn’t finish exactly where we wanted, but we made a bold call there at the end right before that last caution came out to try and make it to pit road before it closed. That ended up costing us some track position, but to finish 23rd with a stage win feels like finishing 13th. It feels fun to win anything. I’m so thankful for everyone at Germain Racing and we will keep chugging along to finish strong.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 25th: “We came here with pretty good expectations but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. We started out on a wet track but it ended up drying pretty quickly. Our Coca-Cola Camry was pretty decent – I think better than a 25th-place car – but we ended up struggling with the brakes and that is not a good thing on a road course. It made it pretty tough to race people all day.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 30th: “Just trying to get everything we could get. You come into a race like this and you throw a couple Hail Mary’s and they rarely work, especially when you don’t have the car. That (Chase Elliott) car is spectacular here and it was superfast. I followed him for a lot of laps trying to figure it out and he just gets smaller and smaller as he’s driving away. I don’t know, it’s not just this race. It’s a whole season and it’s a culmination of things that led to this and led to our elimination. We knew it coming into this round that this was going to be the hardest round for us to get through. Pretty much impossible and it was. We weren’t able to make up enough or get a win. We’ll just have to fight for a win here the rest of the year.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 32nd: “Well, not the day that we had hoped for with Love’s Travel Stops and Speedco. We had a decent car at times, but then we had something break toward the end of the race and we tried to fix it, but just couldn’t. It’s unfortunate for us because we had two good races: Talladega and then the ROVAL, where we could have scored a lot of points and didn’t. To Love’s Travel Stops and all of our other partners, I’m sorry that we didn’t get you guys a good finish today, but we’ll try to stay positive, keep plugging away, get it figured out and get ready for Kansas.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “The Roval was not our friend today, unfortunately. Our No. 38 CITGARD Ford Mustang fired off pretty decent, but the rear end just stepped out on me in the first half of the race and I couldn’t save it. We pitted for damage repair and received a penalty that put us two more laps down and we couldn’t really recover from there. Sometimes mistakes just hurt. Hopefully it was still a good show for the fans. It was great that we were able to have them with us in in person at home. We’ll add what we can to our notebook for next time and get ready for Kansas.”

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

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LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo and behold, there you go, he wrecks me. Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

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After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

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While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

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Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.

 

 

Winners and losers from the Clash at the Coliseum

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the non-points race that opened the NASCAR season:

WINNERS

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex limped through a frustrating 2022 season, going winless and contemplating writing “finish” to his driving career. But he decided late in the year to make another run, and that choice paid big dividends Sunday as he put Joe Gibbs Racing in victory lane.

Richard Childress Racing — RCR opened the season with power, putting Austin Dillon in second and newcomer Kyle Busch in third. The new teammates even enjoyed some late-race collaboration, Busch backing off a second-place battle to give Dillon a chance to make a run at eventual winner Truex.

Ryan Preece — Preece, given a shot in the offseason at a full-time ride in Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, showed strength in his first outing, leading 43 laps before electrical issues dropped him to seventh.

Bubba Wallace — Wallace held the lead at the halfway point and totaled 40 laps in first but was drop-kicked by Austin Dillon late in the race and finished 22nd.

LOSERS

Chase Elliott — It was a lost weekend for the former Cup champion. Elliott was lapped during the race, failed to lead a lap and finished 21st.

Ty Gibbs — Suspension problems parked Gibbs after 81 laps, and he finished next-to-last a day after his car caught fire in practice.

Michael McDowell — McDowell was involved in several on-track incidents during the evening and finished 24th after running out of fuel, along with teammate Todd Gilliland.

Long: Drivers make their point clear on Clash at the Coliseum

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LOS ANGELES — So what to do with the Clash at the Coliseum?

The second edition of this exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showcased beating, banging and 16 cautions in a 150-lap race won by Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday night.

A year remains on NASCAR’s three-year contract with the Coliseum — NASCAR holds the option for next year — and it seems all but certain Cup cars will be back next year.

With Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen saying Saturday that his track will not host a NASCAR event in 2024 while being converted from a 2-mile speedway to a half-mile track, the Los Angeles area would be without a NASCAR race if the Clash did not return.

NASCAR is not likely to leave the nation’s No. 2 TV market without a race. 

A question this weekend was if the Clash would become a points race next year to replace the Auto Club Speedway date and allow NASCAR to have a new venue for the Clash.

“I think they should put (the Coliseum race) in the playoffs, personally. That would be perfect,” Denny Hamlin said straight faced after Sunday’s race before breaking into a smile to show he was speaking sarcastically.

Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano was emphatic in his response.

“No,” Logano said, shaking his head Sunday night. “We can’t do that.”

Why?

“You’re going to fit 40 cars out there? We can’t even make a caution lap without the pace car bumping the last-place car.”

Logano smiled as he spoke — then again he often smiles as he talks. He was not speaking sarcastically as Hamlin showed with his smile. Logano’s grin was part of a passionate defense.

“No. You can’t do that,” Logano continued of why a points race at the Coliseum is a bad idea. “That’d be dumb.”

Even in a celebratory mood after his first victory in NASCAR in more than a year, Truex was clear about his feelings of making the Clash a points race.

“Why would you screw it up,” he said, “and make it a points race?”

Just because drivers don’t like something doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

But much would have to happen to make this event a points race.

Those familiar with the charter agreement between teams and NASCAR told NBC Sports that they weren’t sure that the language in the agreement would permit a points race at such a venue. With the charter system guaranteeing all 36 teams a spot in a race, it’s not feasible to run so many cars on this small track. Only 27 cars ran in Sunday’s Clash. That almost seemed too many.

Should there be a way to make this event a points race without all 36 running in the main event, there are other issues. 

The purse would have to significantly increase. NASCAR stated that the purse for Sunday’s Clash was $2.085 million. Last year’s championship race at Phoenix had a purse of $10.5 million. The purse for last year’s Cup race at Watkins Glen was $6.6 million. The purse for last year’s race at Nashville Superspeedway was $8.065 million.

If NASCAR made the Clash a points race, then the purse would be expected to fall in line with other points races. Of course, there still would be the logistics. 

But is it worth it to try to make an event something it doesn’t need to be?

While the attendance appeared to be a little less than the estimated 50,000 for last year’s race, it wasn’t enough of a drop to warrant abandoning this event. Is a points race at the Coliseum going to increase the attendance significantly? No.

Just bring this event back next year as is.

“I think it’s good for what it is,” Logano said. “It’s a non-points race. I think we need to go back to maybe only four cars (instead of five) transferring from the heat (races) … there’s just too many cars (on the track). I think that’s part of the issue as well.”

Then, to make sure he got his point across about if next year’s Coliseum race should be a points race, Logano said: “A points-paying race. No. I’ll be the first to raise my hand that’s a very bad idea.” 

But it’s possible 2024 could be the final year for this event at the Coliseum. 

If Auto Club Speedway’s conversion to a short track can be done in time to be on the 2025 schedule, then the Los Angeles region would have a short track and NASCAR could move the Clash to a new area to reach more fans.

That’s part of the goal this new dynamic NASCAR, which has moved Cup races to different venues in the last couple of years and will run its first street course race in July in Chicago. 

While NASCAR has made such changes, making the race at the Coliseum a points race serves no purpose. Just listen to the drivers.