What drivers said after Sonoma


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.”

North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.

“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”

Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”

Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”

Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.

“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”

“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.

While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.

In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.

“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at COTA


Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has attracted an entry list that includes talent beyond that of the tour regulars.

Jordan Taylor, who is substituting in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet for injured Chase Elliott, brings a resume that includes 31 IMSA class wins, two 24 Hours of Daytona overall wins and two IMSA wins at COTA.

MORE: NBC Driver Rankings: Christopher Bell is No. 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One championship in 2009 and has five F1 starts at COTA. He is scheduled to be a driver for the NASCAR entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kimi Raikkonen, entered by Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 program, won the 2007 F1 championship and has eight F1 starts at the Austin track.

They will draw attention at COTA this weekend, along with these other drivers to watch:


Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best seasonal finish: 2nd (Atlanta I)
  • Past at COTA: 19th and 14th in two career starts

Keselowski hasn’t been a star in road course racing, but his 2023 season has started well, and he figures to be in the mix at the front Sunday. He led the white-flag lap at Atlanta last Sunday before Joey Logano passed him for the win.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 5th and 33rd in two starts

The Dinger is a road course expert. Last year at COTA, he was involved in tight racing on the final lap with Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman before Chastain emerged with the victory.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Auto Club)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top fours, including a win

Chastain lifted Trackhouse Racing’s profile by scoring his — and the team’s — first Cup victory at COTA last season. He’s not shy about participating in the last-lap bumping and thumping that often mark road course races.


Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 13th and 21st in two starts

Buescher has never led a lap at COTA and is coming off a 35th-place finish at Atlanta after being swept up in a Lap 190 crash. Although he has shown the power to run near the front this year, he has four consecutive finishes of 13th or worse.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas I)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top 10s

Bowman’s four-race run of consistent excellence (finishes of fifth, eighth, third and ninth) ended at Atlanta as he came home 14th and failed to lead a lap. At COTA, he is one of only four drivers with top-10 finishes in both races.

William Byron

  • Points position: 28th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past at COTA: 11th and 12th in two starts

Involvement in an accident at Atlanta ended Byron’s two-race winning streak. He’ll be looking to lead a lap at COTA for the first time.



Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended by NASCAR


Three members of the Reaume Brothers Racing No. 33 Craftsman Truck Series team have been suspended for three races by NASCAR after a piece of tungsten ballast came off their truck during last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The suspensions were announced Tuesday.

Crew chief Gregory Rayl and crew members Matthew Crossman and Travis Armstrong were suspended because of the safety violation. Mason Massey is the team’s driver.

MORE: Xfinity driver Josh Williams suspended for one race

In a tweet following the announcement of the penalty, the team said it will not file an appeal. “The ballast became dislodged only after the left side ballast container had significant contact with the racing surface,” according to the statement. “We would like to be clear that there was no negligence on the part of RBR personnel.”

NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Truck Series owner/driver Cory Roper, who had been suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy, has been reinstated.

The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series are scheduled to race this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.


Josh Williams suspended for one race after Atlanta infraction


NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Josh Williams has been suspended for one race because of his actions during last Saturday’s Xfinity race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Williams will be ineligible to participate in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He would be able to return for the April 1 race at Richmond, Virginia.

Williams was penalized for a “behavioral” infraction, specifically disobeying a NASCAR request.

In a tweet after the suspension was announced, Williams said: “I stand behind what I did and I don’t regret any decisions I made. I stand behind NASCAR for these decisions and will continue and always support them.” He said Alex Labbe will drive the team’s No. 92 car at Circuit of the Americas this weekend.

MORE: Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended

NASCAR officials ordered Williams off the track during Saturday’s race after his car was involved in an accident. Debris falling from his car prompted a caution flag, leading NASCAR to order him to park.

Instead of going to the garage area, Williams parked his car at the start-finish line and walked to pit road.

Williams was escorted to the NASCAR hauler office at the track. He waited there until the conclusion of the race and then met with officials for about 20 minutes.

MORE: NBC Power Rankings: Christopher Bell rises to the top

Section 8.8.9.I of the Xfinity Series Rule Book states that with the Damaged Vehicle Policy, NASCAR can order a car off the track: “At the discretion of the Series Managing Director, if a damaged vehicle elects not to enter pit road on the first opportunity or if a damaged vehicle exits pit road before sufficient repairs had been made and thereafter causes or extends a caution (e.g. leaking fluid, debris, etc.), then said vehicle may incur a lap(s) or time penalty or may not be permitted to return to the Race.”

Williams later admitted he had violated a rule but said he was frustrated by the NASCAR decision.

“We all work really hard and to only run ‘X’ amount of laps and then to have something like a piece of Bear Bond and put us out of the race, it’s really frustrating,” Williams said after his meeting with series officials. “Small team. We work really hard. We’ve got to make our sponsors happy, right? It doesn’t do any good sitting in the garage. It is what it is. We’ll learn from it and move on.

“I told them I was a little bit frustrated,” Williams said of NASCAR’s call, “but it was in the rule book.”