What drivers said after Nashville

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Here’s what drivers said following Sunday’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway …

Kyle Larson – Winner: “It’s still just early on, so it could change. I think fans can appreciate me because I do it in all different types of forms of racing, not just NASCAR. You don’t know what car I’m going to be in on what day of the week. I could be in a sprint car like I will be tomorrow, in a late model middle of the week some other day, then a Cup car on Sunday. I think fans, because I’m a little bit different than your normal race car driver, I think that’s why fans so far seem to still cheer me on and like to see me winning. Too, I think they can appreciate my story and how hard I’ve had to work to come and get to where I’m at today, too. I think there’s a lot that goes into it. I appreciate the fan support and I like being a fan favorite. It definitely means a lot to me.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 2nd: “It’s finally on a circle track, that’s all I’m happy about. I’m happy about the road courses, I just don’t really know what it’s happening. Here, I know why. I know what we did. I know what I’m doing to drive the car. Road courses, it’s not really pre-planned. This is pre-planned. It’s what we all grew up doing.”

William Byron – Finished 3rd: “We had a little bit of right-front damage, so honestly we weren’t as good as we probably could have been. We were OK, we just couldn’t finish the corner and just struggled with the right-front all day. Overall, that’s just part of it. It’s hard to start in the back and we learned a lesson there on adjustments for qualifying. Nothing major, just something to learn from.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 4th: “We had a good car, just, my goodness, we don’t have anything for those Chevrolets right now. They’re making grip and they’re getting up off the corner. It’s so hard to race with them. I can roll the center as good as some of the guys in those cars, if not a little better, and then it’s tough to keep up. But we have made huge strides to close the gap. Our race team is doing a great job scrounging and scrapping to build better race cars and it’s nice to come here and run up front, run in the top five and at least be in the mix, so it feels good. We’ll just keep building on it. The All-Star Race was a good race for us. Today, again, was a good race for us, so we’ll just keep grinding.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 5th: “Our Monster Jam Grave Digger Ford Mustang was a lot loose at the beginning and really pretty good the second half of the race. We got some damage there when we made a little contact with the 24 and that made it a little bit tighter. I thought we were better than the 24. The 42 had fresh tires and the 10, I thought we were better than those cars. The 5 was kind of in a league of his own, but once again the guys did a great job and ground away at it and came away with a top five out of gas.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 6th: “It was a challenging day. The cars were not easy to drive and even when we were running second there, we were trying to make adjustments to get better and see if we could catch him. I felt like I was a little better than the No. 5 (Kyle Larson) in one of those stages on the long run and then we kind of lost our track position and struggled to get it back. I’m glad we were able to make it up into the top-10 there. Really solid day for our Kroger team.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 7th: “It was good. The car was good enough to finish right there in the top-10. I don’t know what it was, but in the last couple of runs, we lost some grip in the front. I don’t know if it was the race track, or what; but the guys did a very good job of making adjustments. The car was fast; we showed that a couple of times. We’ve just got to continue.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 8th: “We ended up eighth. We were trying to save some fuel at the end and lost the race for a top-five. Awesome day for (Ross) Chastain. He pitted and got to run hard at the end. I was hoping he would catch (Kyle) Larson; that would have been incredible. We ran out of gas coming out of turn four, but had to do what we could with the Monster Energy Chevy. All-in-all, it was fun track to drive. It was a lot of fun just slip-sliding around with all that horsepower at a new track.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 9th: “I feel like we were probably a back half of the top 10 car, so we finished where we should have. It was a lot of work though. I hope to make it a little bit easier in our Dewalt Camry next time.”

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: “We just weren’t very good. We just kept grinding and grinding to get every spot we could and did what we could to try and get the best finish. Tenth was the best we were gonna do. That’s about where we ran all day anyway after the first few laps. Once we lost our track position that’s where we were.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 11th: “Our qualifying result was way better than expected. I didn’t expect to qualify that well, based on what we learned in practice. We completely wholesaled everything and changed it all before qualifying, so we didn’t know what to expect with our PEDIGREE Camry. Obviously thought we would be better than 11th. We have work to do.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “What a race! We knew we would have our work cut out for us today in the No. 3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE after qualifying didn’t go as well as we planned. This Richard Childress Racing team never gave up though, and I am so proud of them for that. Early in Stage 1 we earned some track position but fell back a bit with an ill-timed caution after a green-flag stop. We then rallied to race our way to sixth position at the end of Stage 1. We finished Stage 2 second to earn additional points, which is really good for our NASCAR playoffs battle. Overall, I’m really proud of this team and we will take this 12th-place finish and move on to Pocono Raceway for a double-header next weekend.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 19th: “Today was all about survival at Nashville Superspeedway. Our No. 8 Joe Nichols / Quartz Hill Records Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had a lot of speed in it, but we had to overcome a lot of obstacles today. After our first pit stop of the day, there was no grip on the pit access road while exiting, and I clipped the grass and spun around. Luckily, I didn’t hit anything and other than some dirt on the windshield, we were able to keep going after pitting for fresh tires. Shortly after that, someone on the track dropped some debris that went through the nose of my car but didn’t hit anything bad enough to end our day. From then on, we just raced really smart to get our laps back, which we were able to do after a couple of quick cautions. Our car was a bit on the tight side today and needed to be looser, but our adjustments really didn’t seem to help on the short runs like we needed them too. Our long run balance wasn’t bad, but I had a really bad vibration in the final 12 laps and had to slow my pace to make sure a tire or brake rotor didn’t blow. We were able to pick up a few extra spots since other guys ran out of fuel at the end, but we’ll definitely have to study this race and figure out how to be better next time.”

Erik Jones – Finished 20th: “It was a tough day for the No. 43 Black Entrepreneur Initiative Camaro ZL1 1LE. We had an OK qualifying effort in the top-10. We had to start in the back and we fought our way back into the top-10 early in the race, and then just kind of lost the balance from there. Tough day – it wasn’t the day we were looking for, for sure, but we stuck with it all day and got a top 20 out of it. We’ll go to Pocono (Raceway) next week. It’s a place I really like and we hope to have a couple good races.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 24th: “It was a long weekend for our Dent Wizard team. We didn’t have the speed we needed and then had a problem there at the end.”

Cole Custer – Finished 31st: “Just wasn’t the day we were hoping for at Nashville. Our car was strong and qualified in the top-10, but we had that right-rear flat in the second stage and after going to the garage, we just couldn’t recover. We’ll head to Pocono and try to turn things around.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 32nd: “We just lost the brakes getting into turn three. It’s super unfortunate. We had a really really good car. I feel like we were gonna be right there for a top five. We just needed a long run. Even on the short run we made our car so much better, so I really hate it because that was gonna be our best run of the year for sure and something like that happens. It’s really wild with all the brake issues we’ve had today. We were able to do the Goodyear test and knew that brakes were gonna be way worse than everybody else thought. We beefed them up and it still wasn’t good enough, so it’s unfortunate. We’ll go on to Pocono.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 37th: “My feelings are hurt right now more than anything. The Fifth Third Bank Mustang was pretty good. We were wrapping the bottom and able to do so pretty well. We were just getting going there, but right before I left pit road it looks like probably a piece of debris from the 77 cut our tire down on the way into the corner. It’s definitely unfortunate. It’s one of those luck things. It’s not like we did something wrong to cause our own DNF. That’s a bummer. I’m proud of these guys. This was a good weekend. We were strong. We had a good qualifying and practice was good. The race was gonna be a really good one as well, so that one is gonna hurt as we look at the next handful of races heading to the playoffs as well, so we’ll go out there and go win a race.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 38th: “It was not a very good start to our day and not a good end, either. We had an issue before the race and had to come and fix it. Then we had some brake trouble and we came in and pulled tape, and then on the restart I’m not sure if I broke a rotor — I think that’s what happened because something exploded into one and then no brakes and took a pretty big lick. It’s a shame. Just not a very good day for us and hate that it ended early. I hate it for Menards and everybody in our group and Ford, but we’ll come back strong at Pocono next week.”

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.