What drivers said after Pocono Race 1


A collection of post-race driver quotes following Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway:

Alex Bowman – Winner: “It was like a hundred feet (from the finish). I keyed up (the radio). I’m like, ‘I’m sorry’ – he’s blown a tire (laughter). I don’t really know what to think. This is the strangest win I’ve ever been a part of. I thought I was running second, which was still going to be a good day for us with how we struggled throughout the course of the day. Then he blows a tire, we win; can’t do a burnout because I have to race the car tomorrow. I typically stand on the roof of the car; can’t do that because I got to race the car tomorrow. I typically drink all the beers; can’t do all that because I got to race a car tomorrow (laughter). I have to be way more responsible than I really want to be right now. It’s definitely been a unique win. But, yeah, I’ve never been in a situation like that. I was literally keyed up, apologizing for burning the front tires off the thing. Saw his crush panel fly out, him have a flat. Yeah, I can’t believe it.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 2nd: “Just (needed) more front turn. Our cars kind of die tight in traffic, and just wasn’t able to turn as well as I needed too late in the going in order to get a run on them. I couldn’t even get any closer than I was. I was trying like hell to get there and get into that mix, but I couldn’t even get there. I was just hindered by traffic and dirty air, stuff like that. Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great piece. It was fast early on. We made minimal changes to it all day long, so when you are well-balanced, and your car is good – that’s as much as we have for them right now. Last week we saw that we were off just a little bit, and we got our ass kicked. We certainly have some work forward, and trying to find some more, but thanks to everyone on this M&M’s Minis Toyota Camry. The guys did a great job. Thanks to Rowdy Energy, Stanley, Interstate Batteries and Rheem. We will get back after them tomorrow.”

William Byron – Finished 3rd: “The things we thought coming here, we wanted to be a little snug. So, we just kind of gained tight center off and it was hard to make the straightaways long with that, especially with the PJ1. It seems to make your car tighter. So, our Axalta Chevy was good, especially at the beginning; a little bit on the splitter. But we had the lead there and lost it. Just wasn’t quite able to pass the top two guys, I should say. So, it’s just part of it. Luckily, we get a chance to work on those things. It’s the first time for Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and I here. It was a good run for us. We finished third and we’ll try to go win tomorrow.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 4th: “(Needed) track position. We had the fastest car. Just that restart – I had the chance to start on the inside, but we just couldn’t accelerate on the restarts. I thought the smart move was to start on the outside in the third lane, so we could go, and it turns out we should have gone to the bottom. Our FedEx Camry wasn’t good on the restarts coming through the gears, so I don’t know that we would have got past the 18 (Kyle Busch) like the 48 (Alex Bowman) did, but I thought we had the fastest car, but we just could never really show it. We were running down that front pack big time, but it was a little bit too little, too late.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 5th: “Starting a long way back was challenging and trying to get on some certain strategies that might help us out. I thought our strategy was really good. We were really fast for that last caution. I got really tight after that. We needed a good day in our Menards Ford Mustang after last week for sure. This is definitely something to learn about for tomorrow and make some changes and hopefully have a really good run.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 6th: “I thought it was a solid day. It was one of those days where we stuck to our strategy. We were going to pit twice; use that track position from our finish last week at Nashville (Superspeedway). That helped us stay up front; helped us stay in rhythm. I battled every lap with loose conditions. The car wanted to just keep getting loose with the rear. We just had to stay out. We just didn’t want to sacrifice our track position. Good calls by Matt McCall (crew chief) – utilized the speed of the track and the car together to keep that track position and to have a solid points day. We won a stage; we were up front. But we have to find a little more pizazz – get that rear stuck and that way I can be more on offense on restarts. Solid day for the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy.”

Joey Logano – Finished 7th: “We were okay. We were probably a fifth-place car. We ran about fifth most of the race. The car was pretty good the last run, I just lost too much track position on the final restart. We were able to get some decent stage points. I think we were fourth and third in the two stages and then we finished seventh. Not what we want but it is a gain on our 550 package if you look at where we have been. We were able to run towards the front and see the front and actually pass some cars. That is a good sign. Progress is being made.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 8th: “Our car was really good at the end. It just took us all day to kind of get the track position and get the loose into the center of the corner better. It took all day but then we were able to get an okay finish out of it.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 9th: “I guess that’s one thing that’s probably keeping me excited and not depressed, is that we get to go back again tomorrow. I’m sure our backup car will be just as good as that one. Feel like we learned a lot about our car today. The track came to us a lot. I think we should be good tomorrow.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “Our Detroit Engines Ford was really good. I got into the 41 (Cole Custer) early in the race and that got us behind.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 11th: “My No. 8 Kalahari Resorts and Conventions team did a great job today coming up with a strategy that helped get us a good finish for the first race of the Pocono Raceway doubleheader weekend. I fired off a bit too tight, but we were able to make the right adjustments to loosen up our car closer to where it needed to be throughout the race. Dirty air definitely played a huge role in handling today. It was like a light switch sometimes when the car would snap from loose to tight, so that’s good to be aware of for tomorrow’s race, especially with how hard it was to pass today. We still need to do some work to figure out how to get over the bumps better since that was my other big issue today. But overall, my team did a good job figuring out a pit strategy that got us up into a good spot when it mattered at the end. I’m looking forward to getting another shot at this track tomorrow and seeing how much better we can make our Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Chevy.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 13th: “It’s a gamble. You have to gamble and you have to stick with it; and unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us today, but hopefully it does tomorrow. We had, what I felt like, a top-10 car, sometimes even a top-five. We ended up 13th. We have to make a couple of adjustments to be a little bit better for tomorrow.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 16th: “This Smithfield Ford team fought all day to find more speed and just didn’t have it today. Proud of everyone for working so hard to gain as many spots as we could. It’s a doubleheader weekend, so the work doesn’t stop now. We’ll regroup and see what we can do to build on tomorrow’s race. We’ll have a better starting spot with the field invert, so we’ll take that as a positive.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 20th: “That was a tough day for sure. We had some speed early but got some damage there during the first stage and had a hard time getting the car right from that point. Track position is very important here at Pocono. So we knew how important picking that 20th spot up was and I was very pleased we were able to get the position. We’ll come out here tomorrow, start on the front row and see if we can’t make some noise with this Acronis Ford.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 21st: “Workrise is for the people who get hard work done, and that’s definitely what the 3 Workrise Chevrolet team did today at Pocono Raceway. We battled with a tight-handling condition for most of the race, but Justin Alexander and the team never gave up. The pit crew was fast all day today as well. We earned Stage points at the end of Stage 1, then got caught with a caution after a pit stop and lost some track position. The whole time, our team used pit stops to make chassis adjustments to our Chevy. By the final Stage, our handling was okay everywhere except for Turn 1, where we were plowing on exit. It was a chore to earn track position, especially after we were issued a penalty for speeding on pit road during a green-flag stop. I’m glad that this weekend is a double-header and we have another shot at getting Workrise a win on Sunday. We’ll go back to the drawing board for tomorrow.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 24th: “Our car was so good earlier in the race and I really felt like we had something to work with, but we fired off too tight on old tires, and in the end that hurt us. We’ve definitely got something we can build on for tomorrow, and we’ll give it another shot at putting the HighPoint.com/Webex by Cisco Mustang in the top-10.”

Cole Custer – Finished 38th: “Yeah, these restarts, you are trying to get up in those tight holes to make sure you don’t get freight trained by five cars on the straightaway. I don’t know. I haven’t seen a replay. I don’t know if it was just too tight or miscommunication or what. I really wanted a good day today. I thought we had a good car those first few laps with our HaasTooling.com Mustang but we will just move on to tomorrow. It is frustrating. I can’t tell you how frustrating this year has been. We will just have to keep surging on and go to tomorrow.”

Dr. Diandra: Data points to speed as key to breaking Blaney’s losing streak


Richmond Raceway presents a chance for Ryan Blaney to break a losing streak that started after his win at the regular-season-ending Daytona race in 2021. A fast scan of his stats suggests Blaney is off to a good start to do just that in 2023.

Despite a poor showing at COTA, where he failed to run any higher than 16th all race, Blaney has a season average finishing position of 12.8. He’s tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth-best average finishing position among full-time drivers.

Blaney finished second at Phoenix, where the new short track aeropackage debuted. But he has not won.

Things look good on the surface

Before getting too worried by Blaney’s drought, remember that the season is only six races old. Two of those six races were superspeedway events, and a third was a road course where running through other cars has become the norm.

With 30 more races in the season, it’s far from time to hit the panic button.

Basic statistics suggest that Blaney is matching (and sometimes beating) his teammate, defending champion Joey Logano. I’ve included the statistics for sophomore driver Austin Cindric in the table below, as well.

A table comparing wins, top-fives and top-tens for Penske drivers

Logano won Atlanta and has two top-five finishes. No driver has more than three top fives thus far. Despite Logano’s win, Blaney’s average finishing position beats Logano’s.

Cindric has two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 16.5. His best finishes are sixth-place finishes at Las Vegas and last week at COTA.

After the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty assessed to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team, Ryan Blaney occupies eighth place in the season points standings.

Things would appear to look good for breaking Blaney’s losing streak this year.

Digging Deeper

But a different pattern emerges upon diving into the loop data. The next table compares more detailed statistics for all three Penske drivers. I’ve highlighted the lowest-scoring driver’s numbers in red for each metric.

A table showing some of the metrics that must be improved for to break Blaney's losing streak

Cindric lags his more experienced teammates in number of laps led, number of fastest laps and number of laps run in the top 15. But in the other stats, Blaney is the third out of three at Penske.

Average running position measures driver performance across all laps of a race, instead of just the last one. Blaney’s best average running position of the season was at Phoenix, with a 7.47. His worst was last week at COTA, where his average running position was 29.28. Apart from Phoenix, Blaney didn’t break the top 10 in average running position at any race this year.

The average speed-on-restarts rank compares a driver’s average speed in the first two laps of each green-flag run to other drivers’ speeds. Blaney ranks 32nd out of 35 full-time drivers in average restart speed rank. That places him behind Logano and Cindric.

Speed early in a run and speed late in a run measure a driver’s speed compared to everyone else on track during the first and last 25% of each green-flag run. In both metrics, Blaney again ranks 32 out of 35.

The fact that top-ranking Penske driver Logano only ranks 12th and 16th in early and late speed respectively suggests that the problem is at least partly company wide.

In overall green-flag speed — the average speed over a full green-flag run — Blaney ranks 29th out of 35. Logano ranks 12th and Cindric 19th.

These numbers identify one challenge that must be overcome to break Blaney’s losing streak.

Year over year

I’ll set aside Cindric’s numbers in this section for the sake of clarity. Blaney’s first six races this year show a large drop-off in most metrics relative to the first six races of 2022. Logano, however, either improved or stayed relatively constant in the same metrics.

In the table below:

  • Green indicates a 10% or better improvement in 2023.
  • Red indicates the 2023 value is at least 10% worse.
  • Black indicates a change (either way) less than 10%.

A table comparing statistics for Blaney and Logano in 2022 and 2023

Blaney has led a little more than 10% of the laps he led in 2022 and has less than half the number of fastest laps. His drop-offs on the speed metrics (the last four rows) are much greater than Logano’s changes.

In 2022, Blaney was beating Logano in all four speed metrics. This year, Logano is ahead.

The Promise of Richmond

The encouraging news to pull from this analysis is that Blaney’s numbers for Phoenix are the best of the 2023 season so far. He ranked seventh in green-flag speed, second in restart rank, eight in early-run speed and fourth in late-run speed. All of that bodes well for a good finish at Richmond.

Blaney won the pole in last spring’s Richmond race and finished seventh. He finished 10th in the fall race after qualifying 10th.

And Blaney himself is optimistic.

“Richmond will be a good gauge of where you stack up – slow, a bunch of mechanical grip, tire conservation,” Blaney said. “So I’m optimistic for it, for sure. I thought we had good cars there last year in both races from the whole team, and I’m excited to get there.”

But breaking Blaney’s losing streak is only the start to a successful season. He must improve his speed metrics at other tracks if he is to contend for a championship.

NASCAR weekend schedules: Richmond/Texas


NASCAR’s three major national series will be in action this weekend at two locations.

The Cup and Xfinity Series will race at Richmond Raceway in Virginia, and the Craftsman Truck Series will share the weekend with the IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth.

MORE: Drivers to watch at Richmond

Tyler Reddick won last Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas to put Toyota in the win column for the first time this season.

Here is a look at the weekend schedule for both tracks:

Richmond Raceway (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 72. Winds 10-20 mph. 13% chance of rain.

Saturday: Light rain early. Sunshine later. High of 75. Winds 20-30 mph. 24% chance of rain at start of Xfinity race.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 62. No chance of rain at start of Cup race.

Friday, March 31

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. — Cup Series

Saturday, April 1

Garage open

  • 6 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 7 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 8:05 – 8:35 a.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 10:05 – 10:50 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:50 – noon — Cup qualifying (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity race (250 laps, 187 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, April 2

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (400 laps, 300 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Texas Motor Speedway (Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Scattered thunderstorms in morning. Sunny and windy later. High of 79. Winds 20-30 mph. 50% chance of rain.

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 74. Winds 10-15 mph. No chance of rain at start of Truck race.

Friday, March 31

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • Noon – 5 p.m. — Truck Series

Saturday, April 1

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10:35 – 11:05 a.m. — Truck practice
  • 11:05 a.m. – noon — Truck qualifying
  • 4:30 p.m. — Truck race (167 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)



NASCAR fines Daniel Suarez $50,000 for pit road incident


NASCAR fined Daniel Suarez $50,000 for running into the cars of Alex Bowman and teammate Ross Chastain on pit road after last weekend’s race at Circuit of the Americas.

Suarez was upset after a potential top-five finish was lost in an incident in overtime.

MORE: Appeals Panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers 

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“It’s uncharacteristic of Daniel,” Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “There’s no excuse for what happened.”

Appeals panel rescinds 100-point penalty to Hendrick drivers

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Alex Bowman is back leading the points after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 100-point penalty to each Hendrick Motorsports driver and team Wednesday. The Appeals Panel also rescinded the 10-point playoff to each Hendrick driver and team.

The Appeals Panel found that Hendrick violated the rule by modifying the hood louvers on the cars of Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Josh Berry at Phoenix. The louvers were taken after practice that weekend.

The Appeals Panel kept the $100,000 fine and four-race suspension to each Hendrick crew chief: Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Blake Harris and Rudy Fugle. All four sat out the past two races, meaning they’ll miss this weekend’s race at Richmond and next weekend’s race on the dirt at Bristol before returning the following weekend at Martinsville.

The Appeals Panel did not give a reason for its decision.

Bowman had been 16th in the standings with the 100-point penalty. He now has a 15-point lead on Ross Chastain after getting all those points back.

Byron goes from 22nd to third after getting his points back. He’s 29 points behind Bowman, 14 points behind Chastain and five points ahead of Kyle Busch. Byron also gets his 10 playoff points back for his wins at Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Larson goes from 27th to ninth with getting his points back.

“We are grateful to the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for their time and attention,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Today’s outcome reflects the facts, and we’re pleased the panel did the right thing by overturning the points penalty. It validated our concerns regarding unclear communication and other issues we raised. We look forward to focusing on the rest of our season, beginning with this weekend’s race at Richmond (Raceway).”

NASCAR stated its displeasure with part of the penalty being rescinded.

“We are pleased that the National Motorsports Appeals Panel agreed that Hendrick Motorsports violated the rule book. However, we are disappointed that the entirety of the penalty was not upheld. A points penalty is a strong deterrent that is necessary to govern the garage following rule book violations, and we believe that it was an important part of the penalty in this case and moving forward. We will continue to inspect and officiate the NASCAR garage at the highest level of scrutiny to ensure a fair and level playing field for our fans and the entire garage.”

The panelists on the appeal were former driver Bill Lester, Kelly Housby and Dixon Johnston.

Here is the updated points

1. Alex Bowman       226 points

2. Ross Chastain      211

3. William Byron       197

4. Kyle Busch           192

5. Joey Logano        186

6. Kevin Harvick       186

7. Christopher Bell   184

8. Ryan Blaney         177

9. Kyle Larson          170

10. Austin Cindric     166

11. Martin Truex Jr.   165

12. Brad Keselowski 162

13. Tyler Reddick       161

14. Denny Hamlin      161

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 159

16. Chris Buescher     157

17. Daniel Suárez        144

18. Corey LaJoie         139

19. Michael McDowell 125

20. Ty Gibbs                 118

21. Bubba Wallace      103

22. AJ Allmendinger    103

23. Erik Jones                99

24. Chase Briscoe         96

25. Todd Gilliland          95

26. Austin Dillon            93

27. Noah Gragson        86

28. Aric Almirola            70

29. Ryan Preece           69

30. Harrison Burton      66