What drivers said after Sonoma

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

Kyle Larson — Winner: “It was not easy. Any road course isn’t easy, just trying to keep it on track is tough; especially when you’ve got two of the best behind you on the last restart, Chase (Elliott) and Martin (Truex, Jr.). I felt like I did a good job at the one before and stretched it out a little bit and didn’t want to give him another try at it, but he kept the pressure on. Martin was strong too, but what a car. This HendrickCars.com Chevy, thank you Mr. Hendrick. The is unbelievable. I thought I would be okay today, but I just didn’t know how I would race. I don’t think of us really do with no practice. But our car was really good there and I can’t say enough about it.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 2nd: “There were spots on the track where I thought I was a tick better (than Kyle Larson), and there were spots on the track he was better. Then there were spots I thought we were fairly even. Needed to have a tick more to get after it. Proud of our team. I thought we were solid. Just need a little bit.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “Our only hope was for it really to go green the rest of the race there in that third stage once we both pitted and we were one-two. He (Kyle Larson) drove by me and he was just super fast for 10 laps. Our only chance was if the race would have gone green from there and I still don’t even know. He was really fast for 15 laps then obviously once we started getting all those cautions, we were toast. Definitely not what we needed.”

Joey Logano — Finished 4th: “We’ll take it. We had the tire issue the first run and that got our strategy off. Paul did some different things and we were able to get some stage points in the second stage. We had nothing to beat (Kyle Larson), if I’m being honest, but our Autotrader Mustang was good enough to finish top three or four. We kind of did that one-stop strategy the last run there and got to where we were probably a third-place car if we had the same tires as the cars racing around us, but, overall, we’ll

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “So far we’ve fought different issues at every road course. …  I don’t know if the Hendrick cars run the same setup every week, but we keep making little tweaks and we keep chasing different demons. We’re right there, we’ve got good, fast cars. Toyota, JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), everybody is doing a really good job. We just definitely don’t have the overall pace to (Kyle Larson) for sure.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “We had a smooth day. We figured out how to have a nice easy execution. I worked with Ross (Chastain), our teammate to get two top 10’s. It was almost a top-five type car, just needed better drive off the corners. To be in the mix and have the right strategy and have a smooth day, we’ll take it, and we’re going to build on it.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 7th: Whoa!, seventh on a dry road course! This No. 42 team is so good, they gave me a Clover Chevy that I can go out and race with the best Cup Series guys; it just seems wild. The pit sequences were crazy; the car is pretty clean. A good day for both the No. 1 and 42 teams. I got to race with the No.1 car a lot there at the end, and only touched a little bit, which is hard to do here. A good teammate day and good building day for CGR.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 8th: “I got a lot of damage early on, but we never really had anything for the 5 (Kyle Larson). We ran down the 9 (Chase Elliott) after the first 10 laps but then we got off sequence and got in the mid-20s and got a bunch of damage. Our FedEx Toyota wasn’t just as fast after that. To get back into the top-10 with a car as torn up as that, I guess that’s an okay day.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 9th: “Solid top-10 day. Wish we would have been a little better. We were really fast to start, we just kind of struggled with track position and using the car up to get through the field. Onto the next one.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “We were never on the right tires with the right track position. We were kind of all over the place. I thought we were in a pretty good spot with 25-30 to go and we kept delaminating tires. We had a delaminated rear and I was in the dirt with no grip, and then we got sandwiched there and that’s kind of just what happens. That’s probably the ugliest top 10 car I’ve ever had, that’s for sure, but I’m proud of them for sticking with it. I just wish the strategy worked out a little bit better than what it did. We just couldn’t really catch a break at the right time, but, overall, ending up in 10th isn’t too bad.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 12th: “It was an up-and-down day. I feel like we deserved a top 10 out of today. It was really hard there at the end, just pushing and banging. The car was good on the short run, but it was very bad on the long runs. We’ll have to keep working. We’ll try to make our cars a little bit better. I feel like today, we deserved a few spots better. I’m very proud of this team, we just have to keep getting better.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “We had a really fast Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today at Sonoma Raceway, so it’s a shame that we had alternator issues during the race. In Stage 1, the voltage dropped but we were able to stay out and finish Stage 1 with stage points before pitting to change the battery. We ended up changing the battery a couple of times throughout the race, but this RCR team never gave up. Our Chevy was fast today, and it feels good to know that the effort we put into the off season preparing for these road courses is paying off because our performance is improving. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 14th: “It was a hard fought day. Shout out to Chris Cook (road course instructor). We came out here two weeks and ran a TA2 car and really just gained a ton of confidence with being on road course. I had a lot of fun. I was able to bring it over today. I just felt comfortable. We’ve still got some room to go. We’ve still got to figure out what we need in our Toyota Camry to make me a little bit better, but when they are telling me that I’m better than 10 cars on a road course, it’s a pretty damn good day. It was a good day for our DoorDash team. We will go on to Texas.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 17th: “Getting time on track (Saturday) in the ARCA West race was good for learning the track, but there wasn’t much outside of that I could take away with the cars being so different. I just could never get the car to really do what I wanted it to do. We really struggled with forward drive, which, if we had been able to have practice, we could’ve worked on some of that. It’s just hard to make those adjustments during a race. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) made the right calls to get track position, but the cautions didn’t fall like we were hoping. To come out top 20 and learn a lot throughout the race is really all we can ask for right now.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 19th: “Even though it’s my home track, today was the first time I’ve even seen Sonoma Raceway so it was a big learning day for me. My No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had some really good speed in it, I just needed better rotation and front grip for both the left and right-handed turns. It took me a couple laps at the start to learn how to pass on this course, but once I got that figured out I was able to move up through the field better. Unfortunately, I had a tire rub after contact with the No. 48 car that caused us to pit for tires and burn one of our sets early. From that point on, we had to adjust our strategy to try to make it to the end of the race with the tires we had left. During the first batch late race cautions, we had to stay out and fight for every spot we could on older tires than the rest of the field. We eventually pitted to put on eight-lap scuffs since they were better than what we were on. I just made the most of it. It’s frustrating to be way better than where we finished, but sometimes that happens and we did what we could.”

Cole Custer — Finished 20th: “It was definitely a battle all day. We got our Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford better and better. For our first time in Sonoma, it was a little bit tough not having any practice. We worked on it all day and survived. And I think we got a decent finish, although it wasn’t the finish we wanted, especially in our first race of the year with Autodesk, which is based just down the way in San Francisco. So we’ll go back and figure out how to make it better.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 28th: “That was super unfortunate there at the end. We were running eighth coming to the white flag. We had a really good Love’s Travel Stops Mustang and got track position at the end. The last couple of restarts went well, but bumper cars didn’t work out there on the last lap and, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We had another top 10 going, but didn’t finish it off. You’ll have that. They’ve gone our way a lot this year, so still proud of everybody with the effort. We were in position to do it again, but it just didn’t go our way.”

William Byron — Finished 35th: “I was trying to roll the outside of the No. 43 (Erik Jones) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) was in front of me. I thought he was going to run the bottom and obviously somebody spun in front of him and caused a big pileup. At that point, you’re just a passenger. You’re obviously going to knock the radiator in and be done for the day. It stinks, but we were struggling all day to be honest. So, we have to go back and work on that. Definitely learned some lessons. Thanks to Axalta, Chevrolet and everyone. We’ll re-group. It was really the first bad weekend of the year, so we’ll re-group from it.”

Where are they now? Scott Riggs races with son, Layne

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Scott Riggs, who raced for 15 years in NASCAR’s top three national series, now is guiding the racing career of his 20-year-old son, Layne.

And things are going well.

Layne won this year’s NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series Late Model championship, scoring 16 wins in 43 starts and edging former series champion Peyton Sellers by four points for the title.

Riggs thus became the youngest champion in Weekly Series history.

“It all started when Layne was 10 years old, mostly just something to entertain him and to have some fun,” Scott told NBC Sports. “But it’s turned into a full-fledged job. My life and plate have been full.”

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes

The Riggs family’s race shop is located in Bahama, North Carolina, Riggs’ home base during his NASCAR career. Scott describes himself as the “truck driver, spotter, crew chief and in-shop mechanic.”

“I am very tired,” he said.

The team, which depends on volunteers, didn’t plan to race in so many events this season, but when Layne started the year with a string of victories, it made sense to chase the national championship and give him a chance to be the youngest winner ever.

“To chase it that hard and be that close and then to win it, it was very exhausting,” Scott said. “It was a very big relief to finish the year.”

Success on short tracks resulted in Layne racing in three Camping World Truck Series events this year with Halmar Racing. He had a best finish of seventh at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in his series debut.

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Scott Riggs ended his NASCAR driving career in 2014 in the Truck Series. He won five Truck races and four Xfinity races and ran 208 Cup races without a win. He made his Truck debut in 1999, moved to Xfinity in 2002 (winning Rookie of the Year) and then to Cup in 2004.

Riggs, now 51, raced in the Cup Series from 2004-13 with stops at MB2 Motorsports and with teams owned by Gene Haas, Tommy Baldwin and Ray Evernham, among others. He had four top-five finishes.

“I think I was very fortunate and the timing was right for me to move up through the ranks and get so many good opportunities,” Riggs said. “I raced late models for a long time, and then all of a sudden I got the opportunity to get in a truck. Won some races and poles and won races and poles in Xfinity.”

MORE: Jody Ridley’s upset for the ages

He ran out of chances in Cup as team models shifted, including some downsizing and mergers.

“I felt like I couldn’t get an opportunity that I had worked for and earned,” Riggs said. “It was hard for me. I was bitter for a year or so. But I look back, and a realization came over me that I was fortunate to have that time with my kids when they were at the right ages. I got to watch them do their things and just be the dad I wanted to be — not being gone four out of every seven days racing.

“I don’t think I’d have the relationship I have today with my kids if I had had a longer time in the sport.”

 

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

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The best quotes from drivers and others involved in NASCAR competition often come in the heat of the moment — after a crash or a close finish or a controversial decision by officials.

NASCAR’s history is filled with memorable quotes from drivers who won races to drivers who watched wins slip away to officials caught in a moment of history.

Here’s a look at 10 that stand out:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. “I didn’t mean to turn him around. I meant to rattle his cage, though.” — Dale Earnhardt, describing how he didn’t mean to wreck Terry Labonte after he wrecked Labonte on the last lap at Bristol Motor Speedway to win the Aug. 28, 1999 race.

2. “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass. There’s no way to get around that.” — Kevin Harvick, Feb. 21, 2010, offering his opinion on why Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team won so many races after Johnson outran him to win at Auto Club Speedway.

MORE: An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley wins at Dover

3. “It’s a stump-puller.” — Sterling Marlin, emphasizing the strength of his engine after he won the Daytona 500 Feb. 19, 1995.

4. “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.” — Joey Logano, talking about Kevin Harvick after they were involved in a late-race crash at Pocono Raceway June 6, 2010. Harvick’s wife, DeLana, often wore a firesuit similar to those worn by team members during races.

5. “Do you have a brother?” — Ward Burton, responding to a reporter who asked if it was tougher to finish second because the race winner was his brother, Jeff, March 7, 1999 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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6. “I couldn’t hear him. He’s got that little yap-yap mouth. I couldn’t tell what he was saying.” — Ricky Rudd, commenting on what Kevin Harvick said to him after they wrecked at Richmond Raceway, Sept. 6, 2003.

7. “We can’t race with tears in our eyes.” — team owner Robert Yates, explaining why his team would not participate in the next week’s race after its driver, Davey Allison, was killed in a helicopter crash, July 1993.

8. “He’d have to toast everyone with milk.” — Dale Earnhardt, commenting on the celebratory drink choice Jeff Gordon might make if he ever won the Cup championship. After he won the 1995 Cup title, Gordon followed through, toasting his championship with a glass of milk at the awards banquet.

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9. “You know they say there’s talkers and doers. I’ve done this twice.” — Tony Stewart, winning the pre-race trash-talk contest with Carl Edwards prior to the 2011 race for the championship. Stewart had won the title in 2002 and 2005 and notched another over Edwards in 2011.

10. “This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I’ve ever personally had to make, but after the accident in Turn 4 of the Daytona 500 we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.” — NASCAR President Mike Helton, confirming Earnhardt’s death at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 18, 2001.

Honorable mentions: David Pearson, after being told that Richard Petty had said Pearson was the best driver he ever raced against: “I agree with him.” … CBS broadcaster Ken Squier, calling the famous finish of the 1979 Daytona 500: “And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers, overflowing. They are angry. They know they have lost. And what a bitter defeat.” … NASCAR founder Bill France, providing a unique ending to a pre-race prayer after temporarily forgetting to use Amen: “Sincerely, Bill France.”

Snowball Derby entry list includes NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck drivers

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Four Cup drivers are among those entered for Sunday’s 55th annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

The Cup drivers entered are former series champion Brad Keselowski, playoff competitor William Byron, two-time Southern 500 winner Erik Jones and incoming Cup rookie Noah Gragson, who advanced to the Xfinity title race this year.

Also entered: Josh Berry, who competed in the Xfinity championship race this year, and Ty Majeski, who competed in the Truck championship race this year.

Majeski won the 2020 Snowball Derby. Gragson won the race in 2018. Jones won the event in 2012 and ’13.

Others entered include:

Chandler Smith, who won the 2021 Snowball Derby and will drive for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2023, is listed on the entry list but stated on social media he will not be competing.

The Snowball Derby is among the more prestigious Super Late Model races on the calendar and coming after the NASCAR season makes it easier for more Cup, Xfinity and Truck competitors to take part in the event.

Qualifying takes place Saturday. The Snowball Derby is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Sunday. Racing America will stream Sunday’s race for $49.99. A three-day viewing pass can be purchased for $74.99.

 

 

An upset for the ages: Jody Ridley’s 1981 victory at Dover

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NASCAR’s history is sprinkled with upsets, from unlikely winners riding the Talladega draft to short tracks that yielded unexpected wins when favored leaders crashed on the final lap.

Survey the list of surprise winners over the decades, and Jody Ridley’s name likely will stand out.

On May 17, 1981, two days shy of his 39th birthday, Ridley won a 500-mile race at Dover Motor Speedway in Delaware. It was the only victory of Ridley’s Cup career and the only win scored by Virginia team owner Junie Donlavey, who participated in the Cup Series for 45 years, with 863 starts.

Donlavey’s team was perpetually underfunded, and his drivers often raced with tired, overused engines and tires that had too many laps. He survived with a mostly volunteer crew and enough sponsorship to carry him from race to race. Rival drivers and team owners considered Donlavey one of the most popular residents of NASCAR garage areas across those many years, but he rarely had the chance to reach for victory lane.

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On that spring day at Dover, one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks, everything fell the right way. Many of the tour’s leading drivers parked with engine or overheating problems, and the day’s best car – the Wood Brothers entry driven by Neil Bonnett — was sidelined with an engine issue late in the race after leading 404 laps.

Ridley, running a steady race, benefited from an unusual day at Dover. The race had only two cautions, and the final 471 laps of 500 were run under green-flag conditions. A general lack of cautions prevented top teams from changing tires frequently, putting Ridley, who was used to running tires longer than normal, on better footing.

When Cale Yarborough left the race with engine trouble 20 laps from the finish, Ridley inherited the lead — he had been two laps down to Yarborough — and led the rest of the way. He won by 22 seconds over Bobby Allison, who was the only other driver on the lead lap. Dale Earnhardt finished third, a lap down. Illustrating the problems experienced by many in the field — not an unusual result in those days — was the fact that the fourth-place driver, D.K. Ulrich, was nine laps off the lead pace.

Ridley drove into Victory Lane for the first time, much to the delight of Donlavey’s crew.

“Junie took it all in stride,” Ridley, now 80, told NBC Sports. “He wasn’t as excited as the team guys were. Junie was the type of guy who didn’t want to cash in on other people’s bad luck. He kind of felt sorry for the guys who blew up. That’s just the way he was.

“For me, it was the highlight of my career. Once I got into Cup racing, I knew we probably wouldn’t do much winning because we didn’t have the equipment. It was icing on the cake to win that one.”

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Jody’s son Anthony, then 22 years old, was listening to the race via radio in Chatsworth, Georgia, where the family lived.

“I was upstairs at my girlfriend’s house, and I think I bounced all over the upstairs and then floated down to the first floor,” Anthony said. “It was all pretty cool. Dad called home. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t get real excited about anything, but he was happy.”

The win paid $22,560. Ridley’s cut from the check (40 percent, generally standard in those days) was $9,024, a nice payday but not Ridley’s biggest in Cup. He would win more for finishing in the top 10 in the Daytona 500.

“We were having a good day,” Ridley said, “but I never thought about winning it. We just didn’t have the cars. But we stayed in the hunt, and the other teams couldn’t get too many new tires, and Junie had put a different gear in the car. Normally he would put in a taller gear and drop the RPMs down (to protect the engine), and you couldn’t keep up. For some reason that day, he didn’t. And it paid off.”

Before joining the Cup tour full time in 1980 at age 37, Ridley had established himself as one of the top short-track drivers in the country. Across the South, at top Eastern Seaboard tracks and into the Midwest, a visit by Ridley usually meant a tough night for the locals.

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Ridley’s older brother, Biddle, and Anthony kept the Ridley short-track cars running.

“We did all that together for 36 years,” said Anthony, who started changing tires during pit stops at the age of 14. “It was how we made a living, but trying to feed three families out of a race car is tough.”

Ridley still lives in Chatsworth, where his 1981 victory was a sports highlight for years.

“He can’t hear well, but he’s still tough as a pine knot,” Anthony said.