What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race

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Here is what drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER: “Just to have the speed that we had and to be good on the long run at the end, and to be able to take the lead on the restart against a couple guys who are good here each and every time. Look at the 22 (Joey Logano), the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin), those guys are always good, and we’ve been searching. I’m really proud of James (Small, crew chief) and ‘Jazzy’ (Jeff Curtis, engineer) who came up with the setup here. Like I said, we will go home and figure out to be better, and tweak on it. This is just unbelievable. Unbelievable day for Bass Pro Shops, Toyota, TRD, this Camry was smoking fast. I just want to thank all of the men and women at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) that make it possible to let us drive these things. Man, all of our sponsors. It’s a dream come true to drive these cars and be out here in front of these awesome fans. Hopefully we can put together a good season and win some races. One win last year was disappointing for us. We were close a lot of times, but we want to win bunches and we want to go for another championship, so hopefully this will be good momentum for us right here.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 2nd: “We did a good job maximizing our day with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We were a second-place car and finished second, won a stage and second in the other stage, so a lot of points. I hate finishing second, though. It really stinks, but, overall, this has been a good racetrack for us. The last few times we’ve been here is first, third and second, so we’re all over it, just needed that last run not to have a caution. I think we were in a pretty good spot to maybe run that thing out, but, overall, that was where we had it.”

DENNY HAMLIN — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, I think we are happy with that. Obviously, we want to win with our Offerpad Toyota but certainly the short tracks is something we want to put a lot of emphasis on this year. We just didn’t have the results on the short tracks that we wanted last year, but getting the first short track win here for JGR – 1, 3 is a good sign that we worked on the right things and we are headed in the right direction.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 4th: “Yeah, we just never could get the car quite as good as we were last year. We tried a few things I think could be better for the championship race here this fall, and I’m not sure it went the way we thought it would, so learned a lot. We were really solid, so really proud of everybody on the Wurth Ford Mustang team. We’ll build off it. We’re clicking off really good runs here and that will transfer into wins.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 5th: “We struggled really bad all the way up to that very last run, to be honest. We got better and had a good pit stop there at the end. Proud of the effort that the Unifirst team put in to pull out a top five.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 6th: “We struggled on the restarts and we just could never get the track position. After seven or eight laps, it felt like our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang was good enough to run in the top three, but we could never get going on the restarts to be able to get that track position.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I hadn’t felt loose in all day and that last run, I got loose in and just couldn’t get in the corners as aggressive as I needed to. I ended up guarding my entry zones; my angles for exit aren’t great. It just kind of made everything harder. The No. 9 (Chase Elliott) and No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got behind me and finished seventh. It was weird that I hadn’t had it all day, but all-in-all, I had a really fast car again. That’s very promising and just have to clean up mistakes on my end and have a smoother race.”

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Decent day here at Phoenix Raceway. We had a good car; ran in the top 10 all day and it just kind of ended there in eighth. We’ve got some things we need to work on when we come back, but we definitely know the areas to work on and improve. So, we just have to go to work on those things. Looking forward to it and looking forward to the challenge. We’re looking forward to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 9th: “I was really happy with our Rheem Camry. It was pretty fast. Right off the bat, we were pretty good, we just had to tweak on the balance just a little bit to get it going. I felt like we were in really good shape had it stayed green. Our long run speed was pretty good. I felt like we were going to be looking at another top five, but I made a lot of mistakes throughout the course of the race that cost us a better finish. I’m happy to keep the momentum rolling, get another top 10. Hopefully we can keep rolling, but definitely have to clean up the mistakes on my part.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “Towards the end of the day I think the track kind of changed on us and we lost some speed.  We were fighting stuff that we weren’t fighting at the beginning and other guys’ cars came to life and we were kind of chasing ours a little bit. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. We tried a bunch of stuff and tried to get ahead of the track and just couldn’t quite get there, so, for how much speed we lost throughout the day just track changing, running 10th I’m proud of that. I’m proud of Todd and everybody for sticking with it all day and good stage points for sure and not a bad finish, either.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 11th: “Finally a solid day. I’m proud of my team. We ran in the top 10 most of the day, had a really good car on the longer runs and there at the end it panned out to be a few short runs, so, all in all, a great day. Finally turned all the bad races around and got us almost a top 10. … That was fun to run up front and be competitive and get out of here with a solid finish. Hopefully, we made some hay and made some ground on the points situation. We’re gonna have a lot better starting spot and pit selection going to Atlanta, so we’ll keep this momentum going into next week.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “I’m really proud of the effort that everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing put in to get this No. 47 Kroger/Energizer Chevrolet to a third consecutive top-15 finish. It would take a few laps for our car to come in, and with the couple of cautions we had in the middle of the race it made it tough to get that longer run where we had really strong speed. Once that came in, we were able to keep pushing forward to gain and keep our track position. Being consistent has been really key early in the season as we have a variety of racetracks and that was definitely the best run at Phoenix Raceway than I’ve had in several years. I’m looking forward to keeping the momentum going next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 13th: “Ended up 13th but had a crashed car for 300 laps. Definitely solid, all things considered with the whole left side wiped out. We had to overcome damage. We had a fast car, but the left side damage didn’t help the pit crew on stops. Greg (Ives) made great changes on pit road to help the handling changes. Wish we could have gotten Ally/Best Friends a better finish, but we will come back strong next week.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 14th: “We just couldn’t get our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang to where we needed it. It wasn’t quite as good as it was here last fall. We weren’t bad, but we weren’t great. We had one run at the start of the last stage that kind of set us back, and we couldn’t quite recover from it. Earlier we’d run between eighth and 11th, so if we’d had better track position at the end we probably could have finished a few spots better than 14th. We’ll take what we got and move on to the next one.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 15th: “We battled, but we don’t have much to show for it. We were really loose from the right rear corner. Man, it was like a mystery slide with the rear. Something weird happened with the rear gear late in the day. We were terrible loose. Last week was horrible tight. We have to find better balances with track conditions and these tires. The code sometimes says they’re the same, but it sometimes drives completely different. We just have to hunker down and find the rhythm of each of the runs. If there’s seven sets of tires, we’ve got a game plan for each set. We’ll get them next week.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 17th: “We fought all day in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We struggled with a loose handling condition in Stage 1, but Justin Alexander and the entire No. 3 team worked hard to adjust and got the car running much better by the end of the race. Early in the race, we knocked a hole in the right front nose and that set us back a bit. It was just one of those deals where I had nowhere to go. The team did a good job with the car and making the repair, but we had to recover from a speeding penalty on pit road. It felt like we were just trying to get back track position all race and trying to get the car handling better. We’ve got some stuff to clean up for sure, but we’ll figure it out and move onto Atlanta Motor Speedway. We’ll be just fine.” 

Ross Chastain — Finished 19th: “I’m not going to say that we are overly excited, but it was progress. Just the philosophy and feedback from the car for me was the best we’ve been this year. So, we’re trying to get this car to where I can drive it and hustle it; and as a race car driver, it’s pretty humbling whenever you can’t do the things you normally can do behind the wheel and this weekend, today, was a step in the right direction. We still have a long staircase to get up. But the Chevy Accessories car was okay. I didn’t do the best job behind the wheel, but I’m learning. And, pit stops were money. A lot of spots gained on pit road and onto Atlanta.”

Erik Jones — Finished 20th: “It was not exactly the day our team was hoping for with the No. 43 Medallion Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, but there are some good things we can take from it. I thought our early and mid-run speed, especially earlier in the race, was pretty good. We were a top-15 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Then we lost the balance towards the end and ended up slipping back and finishing in the 20th place. So, it was not 100 percent what we wanted, but for a short track, it was a good day to build, learn and try to get better for the next one. We had good pit stops all day. We were pretty quick on pit road picking-up spots, so there are a lot of positives to take and move forward.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 21st: “I felt like the car was decent the majority of the race. The car was driving pretty good. I was pretty happy with the balance of the car on the long run; the short run wasn’t that great. We made some adjustments in the last 80 laps and I wasn’t very happy with it. But, all-in-all, really proud of my guys and we have to keep getting better. We had a few mistakes on pit road; lug nuts and stuff like that. Decent day, but we just have to keep getting better.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 22nd: “The results don’t show how strong our HighPoint.com Ford Mustang was today. We have a lot we need to work on, but to run up front for a while in the final stage was really encouraging. We drove from the back to the top 10 twice, but problems with the pit guns and jack on our stops really held us back from the finish we deserved. We’ve just got to stay patient and focused, and we’ll have a race where it all comes together soon enough.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 25th: “It was a long day with our STANLEY Camry. Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys made a lot of changes the first half of the race, but having the pit road penalty there put us back in traffic and we just couldn’t quite dig out of the hole all day. We were in the lucky dog position a few times, but the cautions didn’t fall at the right time. We’ll get back to work and hope to have a better finish at Atlanta.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 29th: “Today was a tough day for our No. 8 Nate Barnes / Quartz Hill Records Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE at Phoenix, but we’ll study and learn from our race. We had decent long run speed throughout the day that allowed me to climb up through the field during the longer green flag runs of the race. I was just too tight in the center of both turns to get through them as good as I would have liked and I needed more to fire off with on the restarts, but we were making some small gains during the end of Stage 3. Unfortunately, I had a miscue on our final stop of the day and that led to speeding on pit road, and then a valve stem broke and I got into the wall. We were able to finish the race though and fought for every spot that we could in the final handful of laps. A frustrating day for our team, but we’ll learn from it and move on to Atlanta.”

Cole Custer — Finished 31st: “We didn’t unload how we wanted and it’s a shame to have something like that happen after we worked so hard to get our HaasTooling.com Mustang running to where we were in the mix and could compete for top 10. I hate it for the guys. It wasn’t the finish we deserved, that’s for sure, but we’ve got some ideas for how to get things turned around.”

 

 

Appeal panel gives William Byron his 25 points back

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William Byron is back in a transfer spot after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded his 25-point penalty Thursday for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas.

By getting those 25 points back, Byron enters Sunday’s elimination playoff race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 14 points above the cutline.

Daniel Suarez is now in the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. He is 12 points ahead of Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Christopher Bell is 45 points behind Suarez. Alex Bowman will not race this week as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms and has been eliminated from Cup title contention.

NASCAR did not penalize Byron after his incident with Hamlin because series officials did not see the contact. Two days later, NASCAR penalized Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel stated that Byron violated the rule but amended the penalty to no loss of driver and owner points while increasing the fine to $100,000.

The panel did not give a reason for its decision. NASCAR cannot appeal the panel’s decision.

The panel consisted of Hunter Nickell, a former TV executive, Dale Pinilis, track operator of Bowman Gray Stadium and Kevin Whitaker, owner of Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

Here is the updated standings heading into Sunday’s race at the Roval:

Byron’s actions took place after the caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race that the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Drivers for Drive for Diversity combine revealed

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The 13 drivers who will participate in the Advance Auto Part Drive for Diversity Combine were revealed Thursday and range in age from 13-19.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. Cup drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson came through the program.

The 2020 and 2021 combines were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that we are in a position to return to an in-person evaluation for this year’s Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine,” Rev Racing CEO Max Seigel said in a statement. “We are energized by the high-level of participating athletes and look forward to building the best driver class for 2023. As an organization, we have never been more positioned for success and future growth.”

The youngest drivers are Quinn Davis and Nathan Lyons, who are both 13 years old.

The group includes 17-year-old Andrés Pérez de Lara, who finished seventh in his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Sept. 15 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also among those invited to the combine is 15-year old Katie Hettinger, who will make her ARCA Menards Series West debut Oct.. 14 at the Las Vegas Bullring. She’s also scheduled to compete in the ARCA West season finale Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

 

Name

Age Hometown
Justin Campbell 17 Griffin, Georgia
Quinn Davis 13 Sparta, Tennessee
Eloy Sebastián

López Falcón

17 Mexico City, Mexico
Katie Hettinger 15 Dryden, MI
Caleb Johnson 15 Denver, CO
Nathan Lyons 13 Concord, NC
Andrés Pérez de Lara 17 Mexico City, Mexico
Jaiden Reyna 16 Cornelius, NC
Jordon Riddick 17 Sellersburg, IN
Paige Rogers 19 New Haven, IN
Lavar Scott 19 Carney’s Point, NJ
Regina Sirvent 19 Mexico City, Mexico
Lucas Vera 15 Charlotte, NC

 

Dr. Diandra: Crashes: Causes and complications

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Two drivers have missed races this year after hard rear-end crashes. Kurt Busch has been out since an incident in qualifying at Pocono in July. Alex Bowman backed hard into a wall at Texas and will miss Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Other drivers have noted that the hits they’ve taken in the Next Gen car are among the hardest they’ve felt in a Cup car.

“When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I thought the car was destroyed, and it barely backed the bumper off. It just felt like somebody hit you with a hammer,” Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports.

The three most crucial parameters in determining the severity of a crash are:

  • How much kinetic energy the car carries
  • How long the collision takes
  • The angle at which the car hits

Angle

The last of these factors requires trigonometry to explain properly. You can probably intuit, however, that a shallower hit is preferable to a head-on — or rear-on — hit.

A graphic show shallower (low-angle) hits and deeper (high-angle) hits
Click for a larger view

When the angle between the car and the wall is small, most of the driver’s momentum starts and remains in the direction parallel to the wall. The car experiences a small change in velocity.

The larger the angle, the larger the change in perpendicular speed and the more force experienced. NASCAR has noted that more crashes this season have had greater angles than in the past.

Busch and Bowman both had pretty large-angle hits, so we’ll skip the trig.

Energy — in pounds of TNT

A car’s kinetic energy depends on how much it weighs and how fast it’s going. But the relationship between kinetic energy and speed is not linear: It’s quadratic. That means going twice as fast gives you four times more kinetic energy.

The graph shows the kinetic energies of different kinds of race cars at different speeds. To give you an idea of how much energy we’re talking about, I expressed the kinetic energy in terms of equivalent pounds of TNT.

A vertical bar graph showing kinetic energies for different types of racecars and their energies

  • A Next Gen car going 180 mph has the same kinetic energy as is stored in almost three pounds of TNT.
  • Because IndyCars are about half the weight of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, an IndyCar has about half the kinetic energy of a Next Gen car when both travel at the same speed.
  • At 330 mph, Top Fuel drag racers carry the equivalent of six pounds of TNT in kinetic energy.

All of a car’s kinetic energy must be transformed to other types of energy when the car slows or stops. NASCAR states that more crashes are occurring at higher closing speeds, which means more kinetic energy.

Longer collisions > shorter collisions

That seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Who wants to be in a crash any longer than necessary?

But the longer a collision takes, the more time there is to transform kinetic energy.

A pitting car starts slowing down well below it reaches its pit box. The car’s kinetic energy is transformed into heat energy (brakes and rotors warming), light energy (glowing rotors), and even sound energy (tires squealing).

The same amount of kinetic energy must be transformed in a collision — but much faster. In addition to heat, light and sound, energy is transformed via the car spinning and parts deforming or breaking. (This video about Michael McDowell’s 2008 Texas qualifying crash goes into more detail.)

The force a collision produces depends on how long the car takes to stop. Compare the force from your seat belt when you slow down at a stop sign to what you feel if you have to suddenly slam on the brakes.

To give you an idea of how fast collisions can be, the initial wall impact in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt Sr. lasted only eight-hundredths (0.08) of a second.

SAFER barriers use a car’s kinetic energy to move a heavy steel wall and crush pieces of energy-absorbing foam. That extracts energy from the car, plus the barrier extends the collision time.

The disadvantage is that a car with lower kinetic energy won’t move the barrier. Then it’s just like running into a solid wall.

That’s the same problem the Next Gen car seems to have.

Chassis stiffness: A Goldilocks problem

The Next Gen chassis is a five-piece, bolt-together car skeleton, as shown below.

A graphic showing the five parts of the Next Gen chassis.
Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click to enlarge.
The foam surrounding the outside of the rear bumper
The purple is energy-absorbing foam. Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click for a larger view.

That graphic doesn’t show another important safety feature: the energy absorbing foam that covers the outside of the bumpers. It’s purple in the next diagram.

All cars are designed so that the strongest part of the car surrounds the occupants. Race cars are no different.

The center section of the Next Gen chassis is made from stout steel tubing and sheet metal. Components become progressively weaker as you move away from the cockpit. The bumper, for example, is made of aluminum alloy rather than steel. The goal is transforming all the kinetic energy before it reaches the driver.

Because the Next Gen car issues are with rear impacts, I’ve expanded and highlighted the last two pieces of the chassis.

The rear clip and bumper, with the fuel cell and struts shaded

The bumper and the rear clip don’t break easily enough. The rear ends of Gen-6 cars were much more damaged than the Next Gen car after similar impacts.

If your initial thought is “Just weaken the struts,” you’ve got good instincts. However, there are two challenges.

I highlighted the first one in red: the fuel cell. About the only thing worse than a hard collision is a hard collision and a fire.

The other challenge is that a chassis is a holistic structure: It’s not like each piece does one thing independent of all the other pieces. Changing one element to help soften rear collisions might make other types of collisions harder.

Chassis are so complex that engineers must use finite-element-analysis computer programs to predict their behavior. These programs are analogous to (and just as complicated as) the computational fluid dynamics programs aerodynamicists use.

Progress takes time

An under-discussed complication was noted by John Patalak, managing director of safety engineering for NASCAR. He told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long in July that he was surprised by the rear-end crash stiffness.

The Next Gen car’s crash data looked similar to that from the Gen-6 car, but the data didn’t match the drivers’ experiences. Before addressing the car, his team had to understand the disparity in the two sets of data.

They performed a real-world crash test on a new configuration Wednesday. These tests are complex and expensive: You don’t do them until you’re pretty confident what you’ve changed will make a significant difference.

But even if the test goes exactly as predicted, they aren’t done.

Safety is a moving target.

And always will be.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers race on the road for the final time this season Sunday, as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course ends the playoffs’ Round of 12.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course incorporating the CMS oval and infield will determine the eight drivers who will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott won last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and is the only driver who has qualified for a spot in the Round of 8.

Entering Sunday’s race, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the playoff cutline. Bowman will not qualify for the next round because he is sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.

The race (2 p.m ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 81 with a 6% chance of rain.

Saturday: Mixed clouds and sun. High of 67 with a 3% chance of rain.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 68 with a 3% chance of rain.

Friday, Oct. 7

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 – 5 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Saturday, Oct. 8

Garage open

  • 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)