What drivers said after Richmond

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Alex Bowman – Winner: “I feel like lately we’ve been really, really fast each and everywhere we’ve gone. Atlanta we ran third. Bristol, we’re the best car, break a transmission. Go to Martinsville, the 12 was probably the best car, but we were probably the second-best car. We have our issue there. Pretty happy with where we’re at right now. We’re going to a lot of places that statistically I’ve struggled at, like Martinsville and here, and running really, really well. I think when we get to the places that I feel like we’re actually good at, it’s going to be really, really good.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 2nd: “There’s frustration, for sure. But it doesn’t change my attitude or work ethic. I’m going to work just as hard to win next week and the week after that. You’re a competitor, you want to win. Especially when you have a great opportunity to win. It just didn’t happen. I just got to digest it, look at it and see where we could have been a little bit better. But ultimately, there’s nothing I can do. My effort was as high as it could be. There’s nothing that’s glaring that I feel like I could have or should have done different. Maybe there is. I’ll go back and look at it, figure it out. Just seemed like the 48 (Alex Bowman) had it gripped up there for a couple laps.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “Congratulations to them. They beat us. I think probably their adjustments they made on that final pit stop definitely made (Alex Bowman’s) car fire off really well. He started to pay the penalty the last couple laps, but he was so far out that it didn’t matter. It’s frustrating because we were so close with the Shell/Pennzoil Mustang and wanted to get our Ford in victory lane here and led some laps. We made the pass on Denny and then we had a heck of a battle going back and forth.  He was tight when I passed him and then I was tight and he caught back up to me, so the track was changing there and we were both trying to keep up with it. Dang it. I hate being that close. Third is decent, but to be that close and you’re on the front row on the final restart, you think you’ve got a good shot at it and the front didn’t wake up for three laps. Once it woke up, it was too late, so that’s part of it, I guess.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 4th: “I knew that we had a really, really good SiriusXM Camry right from the drop of the green flag. We kept working on it and kept working on it, but then I guess we got caught a lap down there by the yellow flag in stage two. From that point on, it was just battling back up through there. Really proud of this 20 group. We’ve kind of lacked a little bit of consistency throughout the year, but now it seems like we’re picking it up.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 5th: “Driver screwed up our chances there for sure. Auto Owner’s Toyota Camry was really fast. Just like last week, we got off in the middle of the race and then stage three we got it dialed in and I got caught speeding on pit road. We had to drive all the way back through the field and under green, that was tough. We got all the way back to fifth. Heck of an effort by the guys and wish I hadn’t made that mistake so I could have seen what I could have done with them.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 6th: “Man, I really battled for fifth there at the end, but burnt up my tires on the outside in the process. Finally, a solid day for our Smithfield team. Everyone did their part and we were mistake-free today. Let’s fire it up and keep it rolling.”

William Byron – Finished 7th: “It was a good day for us. We ran in the top 10 all day; sometimes top five. Definitely were searching for more there at the end, but to come home seventh at a track that I’ve struggled at is good for us. We definitely know what we need to work on to get better. This is not a race that we had circled to do well, so it’s good to finish top 10 again and keep that streak alive. Congrats to Alex (Bowman) and the No. 48 team. They did a great job there at the end of the race to get their car to take off. That was pretty awesome. We’ll go onto Talladega (Superspeedway) and try to win that one.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 8th: “We had a good M&M’s Red Nose Day Camry. The car didn’t start off well, but Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys kept adjusting on it, and we got it a lot better. There at the end, you try to get all you can on and off pit road to have a shot at the win, and I just came in there too hard and got the commitment box (penalty).”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 9th: “It definitely feels long overdue that we got that top 10 finally, so that’s good. We’ve had some rough circumstances that sort of put us in a hole to start the year, but we knew that we have plenty of speed and obviously a great team. It was good to come here and at a track that I really wouldn’t consider one that I have a ton of success at in the past, so that was definitely rewarding. It was a day full of just no forgiveness. You couldn’t have any mistakes at all, so we started the race and we’re too far off. We worked on the car a little bit and made the right calls and got great breaks and once we got track position and got up in the top 10 we had no problem staying up there. That was good. It was a really high pressure day because there was no room for mistakes with that much green flag here. I’m proud of the team and having Menards and Libman on the car. All good stuff and something to build on. We’re climbing out of that hole in the points and gaining a lot quick.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 10th: “Solid day for our No. 3 Chevrolet team. I thought we had something taking off today. I felt like we were pretty good; drove up into sixth or seventh. We never really were as good as we were the last time we were here. Just couldn’t get that adjustment that really would make us go any better than we were before; just kind of a top-10 place car all day. At one point, we were way worse than that. Justin (Alexander, Crew Chief) did a good job making adjustments and the guys in the pits were solid. Can’t thank all the team at RCR and the No. 3 guys enough; working hard and putting in the effort. Tenth, for a battle, was good. We wanted more, but we’ll take a top-10.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “It was a step in the right direction at Richmond for me and the BODYARMOR team. Our lap times and the way our car handled and we adjusted on it through the race were better than the 11th place finish we had, just got trapped for too long a lap down and without cautions, it was tough to get that back. I think we had a ton of key learnings that we can evaluate and come back stronger when we race here in the playoffs.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 14th: “Our Discount Tire Ford was fast today but it just didn’t come together for us. We’ll bounce back next week.”

Erik Jones – Finished 19th: “It was an up-and-down day for the No. 43 Medallion Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We started too tight and could not really do what we needed to do with our Chevrolet Camaro. We got it better as the day went, especially towards the end of the race. We started to really get some good speed and gain some track position. Just got too far behind, got caught on pit road when the caution flag came out, lost a lap early and could not get it back where we needed it to be. We will take a top-20 finish. We got some good notes and we will move on.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 20th: “We tried a lot of different things with our No. 8 Cat #WhatPowersYou Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today to try to get the handling to where it needed to be and made some small gains throughout the race. It just seemed like we were a tiny bit off from what we had last year during our one visit to Richmond Raceway, so we’ll definitely be studying this one closely to be better when we come back in the fall. I was just a little too tight almost all day and then too loose in the final stage, which didn’t let me charge through the corners like I wanted. Richmond Raceway is a tough place to figure out in a Cup car, especially with it being just my second Cup start here, but I learned a lot. We’ll be ready when we come back here in September.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 22nd: “Richmond is always a tough place for me, but I felt like we had a decent day despite what the results show. We still have work to do, but half the battle has been trying to overcome our starting position and the early caution pinned us a lap down. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) and the guys have been doing a great job listening to my feedback, and we’ll continue to work on our short-track program so we’re better when we come back in the fall.”

Cole Custer – Finished 23rd: “We had a couple of issues we were trying to shake all day, the biggest one being that after the first 10 laps of a run, we just had a hard time getting our HaasTooling.com Ford to turn over the long run. There were so few cautions that we didn’t have the chance to make significant enough changes to try and fix it. A tough last three races on these short tracks. We’ll get to stretch our legs a bit next week at Talladega.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 27th: “It was a tough race for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops team at Richmond Raceway. We started out on the tight side of things and just struggled to roll the center of the corners. I felt like our long run speed was pretty decent, but unfortunately we went a few laps down and with the limited amount of cautions, it just made it difficult for us to regain the Lead Lap. Looking at the positives, we certainly learned a few things, which we’ll add to our notebook for when we come back to Richmond (Raceway) in the fall. I wish we could have had a better finish for our partners, but I greatly appreciate the support of Love’s Travel Stops and hopefully we can go out next weekend and deliver another solid superspeedway performance for them at Talladega (Superspeedway).”

Austin Cindric – Finished 28th: “It’s an interesting race. I definitely chose the wrong time to make a rookie mistake getting into the 6 (Ryan Newman). That’s definitely on me and that was a really vulnerable time for our strategy and that put us behind the eight-ball all day. We tried to do some strategy to get us back and we ended up putting ourselves another lap down. By the time stage three rolled around we were able to make some good adjustments and our Verizon 5G Ford Mustang was really good. I wouldn’t say we were top five good, but I think we were good enough to run inside the top 10, top 15 so there’s a lot of positives. I drove up to P20 under green, so lots to learn, but definitely wish I could get that stage two mistake back.”

Anthony Alfredo – Finished 31st: “It was not a great day at Richmond. We just lacked raw speed, along with our teammates. Historically, as a group, this hasn’t been one of our strongest tracks. But, we’ll go back and do our homework to get better. I liked racing the track today, I feel good, but we just weren’t able to get the finish we wanted.”

Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.

 

Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona

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In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”

 

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

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Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”