What drivers said after Daytona 500

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Here’s what drivers had to say following the 63rd Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:

Michael McDowell – Winner: “My plan was to stick to (Keselowski). I knew he would go for a race-winning move and my plan was to let him make that move and then coming off of four try to get to his outside or inside. I knew I didn’t want to make my move too early, so I was committed to (Keselowski’s) bumper and when he made the move, the hole opened up. It’s just unbelievable.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 2nd: “I don’t think it was very close. I kind of got next to him and I saw the lights come on, so I knew it was over right then. Just a huge thanks to NAPA, Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I felt like we had a fast car. We weren’t as good as I thought we were on Thursday. I felt like we did a really good job executing today. Staying out of trouble – that’s not something I’ve done a very good job of here in this race, so I’m glad we could at least finish this one and have something to build on for when we come back and try to do better. … The top was just so fast. It didn’t seem to matter who got down low; you couldn’t really make anything go. We all kind of tried at certain points in time; it just didn’t work out. Close – we finished one, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 3rd: “Yeah, you know you’ve just got to be thankful to be around at those moments at the end. I pulled out to see if the bottom would work and just didn’t get enough of a run. It was close. I’ve got to thank all my sponsors like Bass Pro Shops and everybody that helps this program. We were here all weekend scoring points and that’s all I can ask for. Our team worked hard in the off-season with ECR power. What can I say? Chevy was really close. I had fun working with my guys tonight in the Chevy camp.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 4th: “Yeah, Brad (Keselowski) laid way back there and got a run on the inside and then at that point when it scatters you hope that you get a push or you can wind up in the right spot and I just wound up in a spot that finished fourth. We had a great Busch Light Ford Mustang all night. We were able to position ourselves up front. It was kind of a weird race the way it would all single-file out and then you kind of scatter there a lap or two at the end and see where it all played out.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: “We were too far out front (on the final pit stop). We got on-and-off pit road too good. I was just too far ahead of the pack. I figured the Chevys would make a move from two or three to go, because they are not going to win on the last lap from fifth or sixth. I was able to gain some positions. I think I was 12th and everybody was running single file, so it handcuffed me. I couldn’t really do anything. I hoped once I got to eighth as long as they make a move with two to go, I’m in the energy – in the area where I can make something happen. Dominant car, just a dominant car. Just one of those things that execute too good.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 7th: “A great way to kick off the year with this No. 42 car. This Clover Chevy was fast. We tore it up at the end- hit the wall a ton coming to the checkered, but still finished seventh. This was a great way to start the year. We got a few stage points. Thank you to everyone at Clover, McDonald’s, AdventHealth, Caregility – it was a good way to start. We worked well with our Chevy teammates. I still have some learning to do. I’m glad to get out of here and come back next week for the Road Course.”

Corey LaJoie – Finished 9th: “Great way to start the year with our Spire Motorsports Chevy team. You always want to be in position to contend for a win, but to finish ninth in my first race with the team is exactly what we set out to do. Good start in points and we’ll continue to get stronger over the course of the year.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 10th: “All-in-all a good day. I thought we were in an OK spot there at the end to get a top-five, if not, maybe a win if things worked out down the backstretch and through three and four. They all kind of started crashing in front of me. I almost made it through; I think I barely clipped (Brad Keselowski) and then kind of slid all the way through three and four. Thought I might save it, couldn’t save it and started spinning. Lost some spots, but it was still a top-10. … We finished top-10 in the Duel; got some points there. We were top-10 in both stages, so not a bad day for us. Would have liked to have been a little bit better, but anytime you can see the checkered flag, somewhat, at Daytona is always a good day. We’ll come back here next week and have some fun on the Road Course.”

Joey Logano – Finished 12th: “Pandemonium, I guess. Chaos struck. (Keselowski) kept trying to back up, trying to get a run. I was trying to back up to him to keep the runs from being too big and just, I guess he got to the back of (McDowell) and it ended up being a really big run coming at me and it seemed like we all just collided in one spot. It’s a real bummer that none of the Penske cars won, but at least a Ford won and I’m really happy for McDowell. I hate that we didn’t win with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. I feel like we had a great shot being where we were and leading on the last lap, but if we couldn’t win I’m really happy to see McDowell win this thing. He’s a great guy, a great person, a good leader in life and has helped me a lot in my life, so it’s very cool to see him win the Daytona 500.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 13th: “I had a big run down the backstretch and wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad. I don’t feel like I made a mistake, but I can’t drive everybody else’s car, so frustrating. The Discount Tire Ford was not the fastest, but (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and the whole team did a great job of keeping us in position and right then we were in position. It’s exactly where I want to be running second on the last lap at Daytona with this package and had the run, made the move and it didn’t work out.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 14th: “I had a run down the backstretch and everybody was kind of checking up in the middle so I went high to go around the outside. I figured guys would kind of blend back to the high side and (Brad Keselowski) just landed on my hood. Came out of nowhere. Unfortunately got caught up in the wreck and banged up pretty good. Took a couple good licks, but just a matter of plate racing I guess. For as far back as we were and what was happening, I don’t think we would have won. I think we probably would have been maybe fourth or fifth so that’s about all we were going to get anyways. Just unfortunate day for the M&M’s Camry. Hate it for my guys. It seemed like every time the points were being paid, we stumbled. First stage we went from second to outside the top-10 and then the second stage, we went from third to ninth. Then there at the end obviously, I felt like we had a top-five and finished 14th looking at the board there. Just a dismal day at Daytona, as usual.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 22nd: “That was quite a finish; I just wish we could have been part of it. We had to ride around all day. Once you lose two laps, you’re pinned down. You have to stay just one lap down. Got stuck in the mud, had too much damage and never really got to race. All those boys started pushing way too hard, way too early, and we got wrapped up in it. It made for a long Speedweeks. It wasn’t the best Speedweeks I can remember. … We’ll bounce back. We have another race here at the Road Course, then we’re down in Miami and then we’re out of Florida. We’ll dig out of this hole. We’re a great team; we’re ready for this.”

William Byron – Finished 26th: “It was a long day but I’m proud of my guys for being able to fix the car as well as they did so we could finish the race. Those spots we picked up were important. It would have been nice to pick up a few more, but that’s just how things go. We’ll regroup and focus on next week’s race at the road course.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 27th: “I’m proud of my No. 8 Lenovo team for sticking with it all night long to get as much out of our race as we could. We had such a solid No. 8 Lenovo Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that my team had worked so hard on over the last couple of months. It’s really unfortunate that we got caught up in one of the big ones early after just 15 laps of the DAYTONA 500. I hate it for all our partners and fans, but it’s part of racing here. My team did a great job repairing what they could and getting me back out there after that lengthy rain delay. Every point and position matters out here, so I’m glad we were able to get back out there to grab a few more spots and finish out the night. It’s not the clean start to the season that we wanted, but we’ll regroup. I look forward to coming back down here next weekend for the road course. We had a lot of speed during the Clash that we can capitalize on to get ourselves a good finish.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 34th: “We were just getting pushed too hard too early. It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three and (Christopher Bell) just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 35th: “It looks like (Aric Almirola) kind of got turned sideways there and I was the guy that got ran into. Bummer – I hate it for Ally. Obviously, we had a really fast Camaro. The Chevrolet’s were working good together; hopefully a Chevy still ends up in Victory Lane. Hats off to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports; they built some really fast race cars. Hate that superspeedway racing works out that way sometimes, but that’s just part of the game.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 36th: “Sadly, we got caught in someone else’s mistake early on, and even though I made it through the wreck, my car got killed on the grass. So frustrating, such a shame. But at the same time, I’m very excited for what is coming this year. I’m so fortunate to be part of such an amazing team that gave me a very fast No. 99 iFly Chevy Camaro. We’ll bring another fast race car next weekend and go back to battle.”

David Ragan – Finished 37th: “It’s just unfortunate to have a bunch of tore up race cars that early. I’ve never met a driver that said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start this 500-mile race and just be super-aggressive.’ We all talk about give and take and making it to the end, but it seems nobody does that once they get out there. It’s frustrating that everybody is pushing and shoving and I just saw (Alex Bowman) get turned and whenever someone wrecks in the top five or six it tears up a lot of cars.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 38th: “Somebody crashed in the outside row in front of us and we had nowhere to go and I got hit from some place. I had the wreck missed, but got hit from some place and that was the end of our day. I just feel bad for Kohler Generators jumping on board and getting wrecked out of the Daytona 500 so early, but unfortunately that’s part of racing. I just wish we could have had some better results.”

Erik Jones – Finished 39th: “Unfortunate end for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team in the Daytona 500; it’s not what we were hoping for by any means. The No. 43 Armor All Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was fast to start. We had raced up there into the top-10 and I think we were just outside of it when the big wreck started. Bummed, but there’s 35 more races left this season to go back out and make up for it. We’ll work hard to try and make these points up here as we go and move onto the Daytona Road Course next week.”

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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

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

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

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

Heat 2

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

Heat 3

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

Heat 4 

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

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

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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

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

Clash qualifying results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

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

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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

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

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

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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