What drivers said after Coca-Cola 600

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Here is what drivers said after Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Kyle Larson — Winner: “It feels good. It was not easy. I felt like I had to fight off William (Byron) and Chase (Elliott) a lot. It kind of worked out there in that last run. The No. 43 (Erik Jones) had to pit and pulled out in front of me, and I just towed with him for a while and stretched my lead out. We had a good car there in that last run. Awesome! It feels great to be the guy to help Mr. Hendrick break that record, finally. This is awesome. We haven’t seen this many fans in forever. … And thanks to my No. 5 team tonight, too. They were great tonight. My pit crew did awesome. We had awesome pit stops, especially on the green flag stops, too. That really allowed us to get the win tonight.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 2nd: “We absolutely got beat tonight, no question. They did a better job, as I said before. The only thing you can do is just look for more opportunities, be excited for another chance, and fortunately we have that next week, next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. We’ll just try to get a little better and me do a better job, us communicate better as a team, execute better, and try to have a better result. …  I think we’re all just trying to maximize the opportunities. This is a sport that comes in waves. It’s a roller coaster. There’s going to be good times, there’s going to be bad times. I hope we’re always this good and always this competitive, but I think the law of averages would tell you that that’s not going to last forever, so I think we all want to try to take advantage of the opportunities that we have right now as a company and continue to challenge ourselves to be better because our competitors are getting better, they’re pushing harder. We need to make sure we’re not just happy with where we are, we’ve got to get better, too. We’ve got to push, because May isn’t — that’s not when we hand out the big trophy. We need to make sure we’re on our game when it counts.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “We’ve had some strong runs and we’ve had some runs that were better than the finishes that we got out of them as well. Overall, we had a really good piece – strong from start to finish there. We just kept trying to make some little tweaks to it, and make it a little bit better. I don’t know what happened on that final pit stop. We got out in front of those guys, but they had the momentum to get by me, I guess, and I was just too loose and too sloppy on the front side with some speed, but once we got rolling there, we got a lot better and we able to run them back down, but we just couldn’t get back by them. Great night.”

William Byron — Finished 4th: “It was hard racing. I was trying to get second there and cost myself third. With this package, you just have to get the side draft at the perfect spot. I feel like we just missed where that was. We just didn’t have quite enough. Congrats to the No. 5 (Kyle Larson, race winner) guys. They were lights out. We’ll go to work and try to get that.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th: “Hats off to Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the Ally 48 team on making really good adjustments to get us where we needed to be and get us in the top-five. So cool for Hendrick Motorsports to be the all-time wins leader now. Our Ally Camaro was a handful all night, but glad to get a top five out of it.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 6th: “I am so proud of everyone on the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road team. We had some adversity today, but this RCR team rallied to get over everything and put together something at the end to be proud of. The Coca-Cola 600 is a long, grueling night and a lot of it is just about who can have a clean race. We didn’t have the cleanest of races, but we rebounded well. We earned stage points in every stage tonight, and did a great job of keeping up with adjustments as the track changed. Even when we fell back in the running order we kept our cool, didn’t give up, and were able to drive back into the top-10. Everyone did a great job. If we keep bringing cars like this to the track, we will win races.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 8th: “That was a heck of an effort by our team and Roush Fenway to get our Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang from a 27th-place starting spot to eighth. We knew why we were there when it happened, but to have that drive forward and get up to the top 10 and ride around there all night, and be able to make up spots on long runs, I’m proud of that.  It’s a good night. It’s a long race. We executed really well on pit road. Everybody did a really nice job, so I’m proud of that.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 9th: “The No. 8 Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was stout tonight and had a lot of speed all race long. I fired off the night a little tight but with an air pressure adjustment on our first stop, it loosened right up and stayed loose for most of the day. Our car transitioned really well from night to day, and a large part of that was thanks to my team making the correct adjustments to keep up with the changing track conditions. I started to get a little too free during the last half of Stage 3, but the team was able to walk back our adjustments enough to get me in a good spot balance-wise for the remainder of the night. We had a really good points night and earned valuable stage points in every stage tonight, which will be a huge help to keeping us moving up in the standings. We ran in the top 10 almost the entire night, which is a big feat during the Coca-Cola 600.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 11th: “That was a blue collar night for sure. (Crew chief Jeremy Bullins) and the guys on the Keystone Light team got us the best we were all night there at the end and we almost got a top 10.” 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “That was a solid night for us in the No. 47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet. Starting on the front row was really great for us and everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing and from there we just struggled being really loose on the long run then building tight in traffic as the sun went down and we got into the second half of the race. We got trapped by a lap car at the end when I think we were definitely catching cars for position at the end, but 12th is still really strong for us and a step back in the right direction after a few rough weeks. I’m looking forward to keeping up the momentum next week at Sonoma.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 13th:  “Had the loose wheel early in the race and we were able to take the waive around, got back on the lead lap and then the pit road speeding penalty hurt us. We had a better car than our result tonight, but we’ll keep fighting.” 

Daniel Suarez — Finished 15th: “Our car was good. We were missing a couple adjustments at the beginning, but we were able to get it better there at the end. We just never got the caution that we needed.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 16th: “We had to come back in at the end, but we were able to fix the vibration. The No. 43 Petty’s Garage Camaro ZL1 1LE was pretty decent all day. We had our best speed at the end, we just got behind there with the extra pit stop. Solid day – it was a better 1.5-mile track for us than we have the last few, so hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.”

Joey Logano — Finished 17th: “We struggled a bit tonight to find the right balance. We fought both sides of it, loose, tight and then we had the unscheduled pit stop for the vibration. We had about a 10th place Shell-Pennzoil Mustang tonight, it just didn’t work out that way.”  

Cole Custer — Finished 21st: “This race is such a long one, and I wish we could’ve gotten a better finish for Feeding America and Wow Wow Classic Waffles in their first outing with us. We struggled with the balance of the car all day, but it started getting better throughout the race. Once the leaders start passing you, it’s hard to make up for the lost time. We’ll look ahead to Sonoma.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “We battled all day to improve the handling and speed of our Smithfield Ford Mustang. We got caught a lap down early and just couldn’t recover. When we had clean air we were one of the fastest cars, but I just couldn’t find any grip in traffic. We raced our tails off to try to find something, and our pit crew had a great day. Moving on to Sonoma.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 23rd: “We had a really tight-handling HighPoint.com Mustang tonight. It seemed like no matter what we did, we couldn’t make any gains with the adjustments. These races are tough, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting to Sonoma and doing some more road-course racing.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 27th:“It’s unfortunate (the cut tire that sent him into the wall shortly before the end off stage 3) because I felt like we were just figuring out the handling on our car. It took us a few laps to figure out the handling early on and we just needed some track position, and once we got that in stage 2 I felt good about where we stood. Unfortunately, you can’t control when a tire will go down and ours put us behind the 8-ball and we just didn’t have enough laps to recover.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 37th: “Just really disappointing to have issues so early in the longest race of the year. Unfortunately, it just turned into a long test session for us. Thankful to have AdventHealth on the car this weekend, and sorry we couldn’t have a better result for all of the guests that they had join us today.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 38th: “Not much more to say other than we are just on an extremely tough streak of bad luck. The car lost power steering and I saw the oil pressure drop, not much warning of any issues. We thought we made repairs to carry on, but apparently the damage was done and forced us out of the race early.”

Milestones in reach for NASCAR Cup drivers in 2023

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While the countdown to the start of the 2023 NASCAR season in February continues, here’s a look at some of the milestones Cup drivers could reach in the upcoming season:

AJ Allmendinger

Allmendinger returns to drive the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing in 2023. He’s scheduled to make his 400th career Cup start March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, a race he nearly won last year.

Aric Almirola

Almirola is 26 laps away from leading 1,000 laps in his Cup career.

Ryan Blaney 

Blaney is scheduled to make his 300th career Cup start Sept. 24 at Texas in the playoffs. Texas was the site of his last Cup win, which came in the All-Star Race in May.

Chase Briscoe

Briscoe is scheduled to make his 100th career Cup start Sept. 10 at Kansas in the playoffs.

Kyle Busch 

Busch needs one win to set the NASCAR record for most consecutive seasons with a win. He is tied with Richard Petty with 18 entering the 2023 season, which will see Busch drive for Richard Childress Racing.

Busch is 92 laps away from leading 19,000 laps in his Cup career.

He is 34 starts away from tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. for 23rd on the all-time list of most career starts at 676. Busch is scheduled to tie Earnhardt’s mark Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the playoffs and surpass the mark the next weekend at Martinsville Speedway in the playoffs.

William Byron 

Byron is scheduled to make his 200th career Cup start July 16 at New Hampshire.

Chase Elliott

Elliott is a win from scoring a victory in six consecutive Cup seasons.

He is 100 laps away from leading 5,000 in his Cup career.

Justin Haley

Haley is scheduled to make his 100th career Cup start Sept. 10 at Kansas in the playoffs.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin is two wins away from 50 career Cup wins. That would tie him with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 13th on the all-time victory list. 

Kevin Harvick

Harvick is scheduled to make his 800th career Cup start April 23 at Talladega.

He is 15 starts from tying Jeff Gordon for ninth on the all-time list for most career Cup starts at 805. Harvick is scheduled to tie Gordon’s mark June 4 at World Wide Technology Raceway and is scheduled to move ahead of Gordon on June 11 at Sonoma.

Harvick is 99 laps away from leading 16,000 laps in his Cup career.

He is five top fives away from having 250 in his Cup career.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski is scheduled to make his 500th career Cup start June 4 at World Wide Technology Raceway.

He is 93 laps away from 9,000 career laps led in Cup.

Kyle Larson

Larson is scheduled to make his 300th career Cup start March 19 at Atlanta.

He is four top 10s away from 150 career top 10s.

Joey Logano

Logano is one win from having a Cup victory in 12 consecutive seasons, which would tie him for 13th on the all-time list with Denny Hamlin.

Logano is one top five away from 150 career top-five finishes.

He is nine starts away from tying Richard Petty for 19th on the all-time list of consecutive starts at 513. Logano is scheduled to reach that mark April 16 at Martinsville and surpass it April 23 at Talladega.

Tyler Reddick

Reddick is nine top 10s away from 50 career top 10s.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stenhouse is scheduled to make his 400th career start in the season finale at Phoenix.

He is five top 10s away from 50 career Cup top 10s.

Daniel Suarez

Suarez is one top 10 away from 50 career top 10s in Cup.

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is 16 starts from tying Jeff Burton for 10th on the all-time list of consecutive starts at 628. Truex is scheduled to reach that mark at June 11 at Sonoma and surpass it June 25 at Nashville.

Bubba Wallace

Wallace is scheduled to make his 200th Cup start June 25 at Nashville.

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.