What drivers said after Martinsville

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A list of driver quotes following Sunday’s completion of the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “You know what, it was never clicking. I mean, even at times where we could have decent runs, it was like fifth, sixth, seventh. I felt that was the best I could ever run here up until, like, 2015 or so. For whatever reason, I just could never get the car to do the things I wanted it to do. It came a point where people told me ‘They can’t do those things you want it to do.’ You’re like, ‘Okay, maybe it can’t do those things and I just need to figure out how to drive it the way it is.’ After not having success at a track, it comes to a point where you really don’t know what you need to do, if it’s even possible to do the things that you want to do. It’s a real challenge. I’ve just been lucky to be with really good people, have really good cars, have that communication, that belief in one another that you can make the thing do the things you want it to do. They know you’re driving it right, you know they know how to set it up. You work together. That’s where we’ve been the past, really, six, seven years here. It’s a place where it doesn’t change all that much other than depending on the tires that Goodyear brings. You can really just continue to work on similar things and refine those. That’s what we’ve been able to do here. It’s been awesome. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 2nd: “I really felt like we were not perfect, for sure, all day. But we did make it better I think as the day went on. The run was kind of that right distance for me there at the end to maximize it. I felt like if it was any longer than that, I was probably going to fade again kind of like I had been all day. I really appreciate the effort. We worked really hard today to get back to second. I felt like every strategy call and circumstance just kind of went the other direction for us. We had a couple of good restarts there at the end; had a good pit stop and made a good last adjustment just for a short run. But definitely need to be better. Our NAPA team has been working hard. We’ve had a very eventful year I feel like, so it’s nice to just have a solid day. We got some stage points and got a good finish. We’ll try to go get them next week.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 3rd: “We just continue to run top-three every single week. Every stage, every finish – we’re right there. We just need to get a little better. We’re barely missing it. We led a lot of laps and that’s because our competitors that we were racing against, had some issues. We had a good short run car that could keep us up front on the restarts. Overall, a lot to learn.”

William Byron – Finished 4th: “It was a hard-fought day for us. We had handling issues early on and then once we got back further in the pack – it was just crazy. We had fresh tires and the speed but had to manage traffic. Once we got track position back we were making up ground but got held up a couple times which hurt us. Overall though we had a fast Liberty University Chevy. It was a good day and we learned a lot. On to Richmond next weekend.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 5th: “Yeah, definitely the restarts were crazy. I didn’t have the best balance on the restarts and that made it even a little crazier for me because I was kind of on defense, I felt like, most of the time. Even when I was on offense, I was kind of on-edge. But after we would get 15 to 20 laps in, I actually felt really good. I felt like we were probably a fourth-place car on the long runs, so I was happy about that. To get a top-five here at probably, by far, my worst race track feels like a win.”

Joey Logano – Finished 6th: “We weren’t very good. It was kind of a confusing race for us. I thought we were decent yesterday the first run and then fired off on this first run and was like, ‘Uh oh.’ I had no rear grip and started fighting loose in and off. We almost went down a lap, but a good strategy play got us up toward the front and a couple good changes got us closer to where I needed to be as well, and then it was just kind of a slugfest, a grinding race from there. There were points I thought we were decent and then the next run we were no good, then we were pretty good, and then no good. We just kept jumping the fence back and forth, and trying to understand where to be was pretty tough. We almost got a top five out of something that was a pretty challenging day. We got something out of it. I was expecting a lot more out of today, but we still got a sixth-place finish with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang which is just OK.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 7th: “I’m happy with the top-10 in our Camry. It was a very hard-fought race for us. We went from the back to the front to the back to the front – it felt like 20 times. We had moments where our car was a top-10 car and we had moments where our car was a 20th-place car. We hit there at the end and we were able to keep going.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 8th: “Today was a good day for our No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, but we definitely had to fight for it. I learned a lot about racing at Martinsville Speedway over the course of the weekend. We fired off strong Saturday night and were able to work our way up a handful of spots after having to start from the rear of the field due to an unapproved adjustment. Then the rain came through and postponed the race, but that also gave our team a good chance to talk about what we had and what we needed to work on. Once we got back going today, I had really good long run speed and was able to use that to capitalize on some good runs to get into the top 10 and grab stage points at the end of Stage 2. I needed more center turn and to be a little looser during that span of short runs that came in the middle of Stage 3 when we had all those back-to-back yellows while being shuffled back a little bit due to our pit cycle, but luckily the final run of the race was a longer one that allowed us to bring home a top-10 finish. Overall, this was a good weekend for our team and I’m looking forward to carrying this momentum into next weekend’s race at Richmond.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 9th: “We just maintained today. I got one good restart and then went too loose at the end.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “It was such an up and down day. Our SNICKERS Peanut Brownie Camry was good, we just kept getting behind on track position and just kept working to try and make it back up. At one point in the race I thought something had broke. The handling fell off the car so quickly, but the car was better once we put the next set of tires on. The guys did a good job fixing the damage, we dug in and salvaged a top-10 out of it.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “We had a really good Menards/Pennzoil Ford Mustang tonight. On the long runs we were really good. Denny was good on short runs. I was just kind of trying to hold off the guys behind me until we got 20 or so laps in and then I could kind of start creeping forward. But, we just got that pit road penalty at the end. It’s just a mistake and something that should be avoided. We’ve had an issue the last three times we’ve been here with a car to win, so that’s frustrating but I’m real proud of the effort. I just wish we could close one out.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 14th: “It was a marathon this weekend at Martinsville Speedway in the American Ethanol Chevrolet. We faced a lot of adversity. The entire right side of our Chevy was gone by the end of the race. There was just a lot of beating and banging out there today. We got our car handling pretty well, but were held on pit road for a lap as a penalty for pitting outside the box. We lost our track position but did a good job of trying to work our way back to the front. The handling of our Chevy just wasn’t what it needed to be once it got dark outside. The track changed too much. We’ll go get them at Richmond Raceway on Sunday.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 15th: “It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to salvage a decent day at Martinsville Speedway for our No. 47 Kroger/Crest Chevy. We really struggled to get the right balance throughout the majority of the race, but Brian (Pattie, crew chief) made some strategy calls to keep us in a position where we could maintain our track position and stay on the lead lap, and ultimately race in the top-15 for the majority of the end of the race and miss the big wreck that took out our teammate. We were really fast at Richmond Raceway last year and I’m looking forward to getting there next week and keeping our momentum going.”

Cole Custer – Finished 18th: “That was a typical Martinsville race. It’s a long race, a tough race, a long two days, it felt like. Our biggest issue was trying to find the drive off the corners that we needed. We got our HaasTooling.com Ford pretty decent in that respect by the middle of the last stage. We managed to get through that big wreck in better shape than a lot of other folks, and for some reason the car got worse during the last run, but we were able to get 18th place out of it.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 20th: “I’m not sure what it’s going to take to have our luck change, but I sure hope it’s soon. We ran so aggressively and so well, and it felt like we just had a magnet on the left-rear quarter panel. We stayed in the lead lap there in the first stage, and I felt like we had a solid car to work with. Then we got jammed up and I got pushed into another car that tore up the front end. We couldn’t catch a break all day. After all of that we still had a top-10 Smithfield Anytime Favorites Ford. We were in the Lucky Dog position there at the end and couldn’t get a caution to get us back in contention. We’re keeping our heads up and waiting for the bad luck to end.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 27th: “I’m not really sure what went wrong there with 100 laps to go. Something just felt off after we got pushed up off the bottom and started falling back. The team did a really good job of sticking with it and coming back from two laps down. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) called for some really good adjustments, and we had a great short-run car. It just started to get a little free, and we never got a chance to work on it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 30th: “It just wasn’t the day we really wanted for the No. 43 Petty’s Garage Camaro ZL1 1LE. It was just up-and-down trying to find a balance to get the car where it could roll the center and not be too free. I finally felt we kind of got the car where we wanted to be towards the end. We had those string of cautions and got caught up in one of the later wrecks. We really didn’t have too much damage, but I had either an axle or a gear issue that ended our day there. I wish we could have seen where we would have ended up. I think we probably could have drove up towards the top-15, maybe even the back of the top-10. We learned a lot though and I think we can take it to the race coming back to Martinsville Speedway in the fall.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 32nd: “First of all, I saw a couple of cars on fire, so luckily nobody got hurt. I was a bit surprised that the safety people took a long time to get to my car. I tried to make sure everything was good to stop the fire, but for some reason, they just weren’t stopping the fire. In that wreck, there wasn’t really anything I could do. I was trying to slam on the brakes to try to slow down, but it was a parking lot in there. I couldn’t do anything about it. The No. 24 car (William Byron) put us in that position; he pushed me out of the way. I had a few laps older tires than everyone else. But overall, we have to keep working. This weekend, overall, wasn’t great. We came from the back several times. We had a fast car, but we made bad adjustments. It just wasn’t a clean weekend.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 33rd: “It’s just unfortunate that we got caught up in it. It looked like some guys got in front of me and the track was blocked. I think I was just barely gonna get stopped in time and somebody clobbered me from behind and just tore us up. It’s a bummer. I think we were really good. We drove up into the top five and lost the power-steering. I was able to manhandle it around the racetrack, but I couldn’t get down pit road where you go to turn in your pit box. Every pit stop, it wasn’t my crew’s fault, I just couldn’t get the car stopped in the box and pointed the right way. That kind of got me in the back, and then I got dumped. We recovered from that and then we got caught up in a wreck that we just didn’t look like I could miss. Just one of those compounding, frustrating short track days, but we had decent speed. We just have to figure out why we lost the power-steering that kind of put us behind.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 34th: “It’s very frustrating. I hate it for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports; everybody at Ally and Chevrolet that gives us so much support. Everybody works so hard to give us what we need and we had such a good race car today; such a fast Ally Camaro. I had a loose right-front wheel and that’s just part of racing; things are going to happen. Our pit crew is phenomenal every week. I make mistakes, people make mistakes, it happens. It put us behind the eight ball there and then they all crashed in front of me. I stopped and the guys behind me didn’t stop. It was one of those deals. I hate it. I feel like we had a car capable of winning, which says a lot because I drive this place completely wrong. I’m so bad here. Greg (Ives, Crew Chief), everybody on this No. 48 team have their work cut out for them to make a car work for me and they did that this week. It was phenomenal; couldn’t ask anything more of it, but not much to show for it.”

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”