What drivers said at Darlington

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A collection of what drivers said following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “No question, we feel really, really good about (having three wins). I think the most important part is we are winning with the low downforce package, which most of the Playoff races we run are. Phoenix was a really, really big confidence booster for us – to go there and win. I feel like we’ve carried it since there. We just have to keep this thing going. Guys are doing a really good job, all around. It’s so fun to drive race cars like that. I’m just so thank for all of those guys that work so hard – men and women back JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the job they do. Toyota, TRD for giving us all the help they do with the engines and everything else. It takes a lot of people to make these cars go fast, and I’m really lucky to be able to sit behind the wheel of this one today.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “We definitely needed to get a good finish. I thought we were going to get one last week and I messed that up. Three bad weeks in a row, and to come back and contend for a win and finish second and get good stage points after speeding at the end of the first stage, too, yeah, it was a good day. Now we go to Dover, which is one of if not my best tracks. Excited about that, and Hendrick Motorsports has been pretty good at Dover from what I remember, too, so looking forward to getting there.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 3rd: “This was definitely a good weekend for us. The 750 (horsepower) races haven’t necessarily been our best. We’ve run 750 short tracks, not 750 intermediates. This was a good basis for us. I felt like our cars – 2017, 2018 time frame were always really good. I feel like this is kind of a cookie-cutter for the (Martin) Truex Jr. type era if you will. Obviously, it paid dividends for him today. Felt like we were close there for about 10 laps and then we just kind of lost the rear tires on the long runs. Just couldn’t hang, but overall the guys gave me a great M&M’s Camry to backup last week and hopefully build on a little bit of this today for Nashville (Superspeedway in June).”

William Byron – Finished 4th: “I thought we were pretty solid all day. We fell back to eighth or ninth early in the race and we were just too loose. We didn’t really have the car fully connected yet, but we just got it better and better. The long runs were still kind of our weakness. We weren’t super strong on long runs; we were just kind of a fourth-place car. But to finish fourth is good for us. Tenth top 10 in a row is awesome. I think our team is just super consistent this year. That’s a credit to Rudy (Fugle, Crew Chief) and the guys preparing awesome cars and executing well. We just have to find that little bit to kind of get with the 5 (Kyle Larson) and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.). We’re there at times, but we can’t really kind of break that seal, which is hard. We just have to continue to build the notebook. It’s Rudy and I’s first time going to these tracks, so I feel like there’s a lot of room to go still. But we’re doing great.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: “It was slick. This package was really slick and I knew before the day started that the cars were going to feel terrible, just feel absolutely terrible – even when you’re good. That was the case most of the time, even when I was catching (Martin) Truex Jr. there at the end of the first stage, the car was all over the place bad. That’s the high horsepower, low downforce. Just sliding all over the place. It was a lot of fun to drive. You had to work for all 400 miles at this race track. I thought from a statistics standpoint, they’re going to say it’s not a good race because Truex dominated, but it was a driver’s race track today.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 7th: “Tough day today. I got pretty loose on that last run and killed the right rear. During the beginning of the run, I was tight though. Not sure if I tried sliding the back too much or what. I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 8th: “Not a bad day. We ran kind of top-10 all day and just kind of hit the wall one too many times. I hit it a few times and the last time I really got into it trying to protect fifth there. I just hurt it a little too much. Overall I am proud of the effort. Here and Richmond are places that I have struggled at in the past and we have had some decent runs at those this year and I am really looking forward to coming back to these two places in the playoffs, so that is big that we seem to be learning a lot.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 11th: “We definitely wanted more but coming here with no practice and to come out with an 11th is a really good day. Truly we were probably an eighth- or ninth-place car and I just got in the fence really hard with 20 to go and killed it for the rest of the race and lost a ton of time. I feel like all year long we have been making baby steps and we will continue to get better as I get more experience and we learn each other more. I am excited to go to Dover next week. The next couple races I feel like are really good opportunities to run good with a lot of good race tracks for me and low downforce races which is more similar to the Xfinity Mustang. We will try to keep building on this and take advantage of starting up front now and try to gain some points.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 12th: “Our No. 8 Joe Nichols / Quartz Hill Records Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE not only looked good for NASCAR’s Throwback weekend, but was also really fast today at Darlington Raceway. I fired off way too loose and lacked rear grip pretty much from the start of the day, but we were able to capitalize on a strong starting spot to gain valuable stage points in Stages 1 and 2. This is the second week in a row we’ve scored a lot of stage points, and those have been key to helping climb up through the standings. Once the sun started to set, the handling of my Chevy changed dramatically. It was tough to be able to move around and search for different lines at times, especially when I would get snug on one end of the track and loose on the other. We kept working at it, and I felt like we were decent on handling at the end of the race, but we just lacked some speed. I wish we could have got back in the top 10 to grab the finish we deserved, but we’ll at least take these stage points and move on to Dover. I really enjoyed throwing it back to Marty Robbins and his iconic pink and yellow machine today with the help of Joe Nichols and Quartz Hill, and I hope all the fans enjoyed it too.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 15th: “It was a good day for our No. 42 Throwback McDonald’s Chevy. I got trapped a lap down early in Stage 1 and never got it back. I missed two decisions on the choose cone; went in the wrong lane and gave the free pass to two other guys and never got it back the rest of the day. There were no more cautions to cycle us back to the free pass. 15th is okay, but we definitely had a faster car, our best car I believe, of the year. We’ll just keep moving along (with) more progress, more progress. I’m proud of this group. I hate that the No. 1 car (Kurt Busch) wrecked out early. We’re making progress, so it’s good stuff.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 16th: “It was fun to work with Bass Pro Shops to pay tribute to NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts for this weekend’s NASCAR Throwback race at Darlington Raceway. I just hate that we couldn’t get them into Victory Lane. We started off loose and lost track position late in Stage 1. We put together a really solid run from start to finish in Stage 2 even though we were still trying to fine-tune the handling of our Chevy. Overall, we were just a little too late on the car adjustments and didn’t get the cautions we needed to get back on the lead lap. The entire No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team did a nice job sticking with it all day, but we’ll go back to the drawing board for next time we race at Darlington Raceway. We’ll go get them at Dover International Speedway.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 17th: “Today was not our day. We were super tight all day and just couldn’t get the front tires in the track. We will move on to Dover.”

Erik Jones – Finished 18th: “We did not get the finish we wanted today with our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 STP Camaro ZL1 1LE. It was pretty decent. We had a good run early and lost the balance a little bit late, and then cut a tire and got in the fence. We came back and salvaged a decent day, so I am happy with that. It was the best run we have had in a few weeks, and it is something to build off of when we come back in the fall. Overall a decent day, but we can do a little bit better.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 23rd: “It was a very, very difficult day. We have to regroup and try to see where we are a little wrong. We started the race extremely off. We made a few steps in the right direction and then we lost it again by the end. We have a lot of work to do. But we have very good people and have to regroup to try to see what we’re going to do.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 35th: “I was racing hard and there’s no give and take. Guy’s running for the Lucky Dog; you can’t fault him for that. But you still have to race the track and the give the room to the lead lap guys. But man, just got ran into, got taken out and we’re on this end of it. It’s been too many times. It’s been a rough year and this just adds to it.”

Cole Custer – Finished 36th: “They all checked up in front of me and just turned down into me. I didn’t have anywhere to go. It is really frustrating. We wanted to give Margaret Haas a really good run in our Mother’s Day car. It just didn’t work out for us. We will move on to the next one. We were really looking forward to this race but it didn’t go in our favor. It is so slick out there. It is pretty crazy. Really slick. That is the slickest I have ever seen Darlington. We were just struggling. We couldn’t really find the balance on the car.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 37th: “I got wrecked. Pretty simple. We were really fast. We had to start last and we were passing a bunch of cars. We were three-quarters of a second faster than the next 10 to 15 cars in front of us. We were passing about one a lap and I got to the 47 and passed him in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 and then at the exit of (Turn) 2 I had to check up just a little bit because I got tight and he ran right into the back of me and wrecked me.”

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023

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Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

MORE: Will Kyle Busch follow footsteps of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

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