What drivers said after Pocono Race 1

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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.”

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.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.