What drivers said after Michigan Cup race


Here is what drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway:

Ryan Blaney — Winner: “We were going to be fourth and the front row was open. You have to take the front row. It gave us a shot to win the race and Kyle (Busch) gave us a really good push to get us clear into Turn 1 and then I was playing defense. We were wide open. Especially with (Kyle) Larson and William (Byron) laying back and trying to get runs. That made it tough. It was cool to persevere all day. We didn’t start off very good but we worked on it all day and found ourselves in a spot to capitalize on it at the end and did that. A very cool day and nice to be in victory lane here in Michigan. This is huge for Ford and Mr. Penske and a lot of fun. … The first run wasn’t very pretty. We slid backwards pretty good and we put packer in the right front and did a lot of stuff to try to free it up. There were a lot of changes but hopefully it paid off in the end and the last restart went our way too and we were able to hold those guys off the last 10 laps or so. That was stressful. That is not the ideal way to race, just blocking everybody, but it is what you have to do nowadays and Josh did a really good job up top. It is nice to be in victory lane.”

William Byron — Finished 2nd: “Just (needed Denny Hamlin) to stay with us. He tried to shuck us into (Turn) 1. I had to stay with him to not sacrifice my right rear. Once you get put three-wide middle, it’s game over. I gave up the lead trying to protect the top. Just didn’t have the loyalty there to kind of push me to the lead. Overall really good car. Axalta Chevrolet was extremely fast. Definitely know we can bring that to the playoffs. Stinks to finish second, but feel like we had a really good car to go to battle with.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 3rd: “The restart, worked out a little better than I thought it was going to for me. (Denny Hamlin) tried to stick (William Byron) three-wide. They got loose. I got to the middle. I think came out third or something there. Was able to get to second. Just made a couple bad moves, I guess. I think honestly just a little too patient behind (Ryan Blaney). Could have made some later, you know, dives I guess to the inside. Who knows. I need to watch the replay. Just made a couple wrong moves, allowed William to get by me. Once I was in third, I hoped they would get racing, get side drafted. I was never close enough to William to help him generate a run on (Blaney). Ended up third. A good points day. Wish we could have had more, but all in all a good day for the Cincinnati Chevy.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 4th: “I had an excellent No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro ZL1 1LE thanks to (crew chief) Matt McCall and all my Chip Ganassi Racing guys. They’re digging hard. The first little sequence, I knew we had a good car today. I just made a couple of mistakes in the aero-situational events. It’s like a mini-superspeedway race out there. And then you have handling mixed in because it’s a 2-mile track. We did really good today. We were right in the mix. Fourth place is bittersweet. I wanted to win so bad. I had three different plans in my head and I cannot believe a Chevy didn’t win today.”

DENNY HAMLIN — Finished 5th: “We were really fast there right before that last green flag stop. We had run down the leaders from way back, I guess we restarted 18th. It was fast. We just didn’t need that caution – the second-to-last one. We got a good restart on the second-to-last one and then I tried to make a move on the 24 (William Byron) and he was so concerned with me that he lost the lead as well. Just crazy racing. Everyone is just sliding on each other, but it was a decent amount of fun. … I think we’ve got good momentum. We’re fast. Every single week we can win. There’s only maybe three cars that can say that every single week. Just feel like we’re in a good place. We’re steady. We just have to keep climbing towards the top.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 6th: “We had a rocket for a while. Then, something went sideways. We didn’t change anything but we lost the handle on it. I am not sure what exactly happened. Either way, we made good calls and the team did a good job. We got the day going really good and were really fast and then had some things go wrong. We had trouble on a pit stop and had the car go a little off and then had to rebound at the end and fight. My spotter Doug (Campbell) does an excellent job and we work together well. We were super aggressive and made it back up. It was a proud team effort.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 7th: “We had an eventful day with our Interstate Batteries Camry. We had a good car and for some reason the set of tires we put on it were not good. Ben (Beshore, crew chief) decided to put four tires on the next stop and then I also slid through the stall. We battled hard and got back up there, but we needed the track position to have a shot to win.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 9th: “We were really good in the sun. Those scattered clouds at the end took away a little too much handling I think. We had a pretty good Discount Tire Ford. I am bummed. I wanted of course to get a win and I hate that I had that contact with (Austin Dillon). That really sucks for everybody. It really hurt our day and obviously ruined his. That was crappy. So it goes.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 11th: “We definitely didn’t start off how we wanted to. The guys kept working on it and making it better, and I felt like at the end we got two really good restarts. I thought I was going to be looking really good for a top-five finish, but Kurt (Busch) got loose and I had nowhere to go. It caved the nose in, and obviously we were struggling those last few laps. From where we started to where we finished it was great. I just thought for a second we would finish way better than 11th. We’ve made big gains the last month and a half. It’s really encouraging, and we have one more week to try to make it in the playoffs at Daytona, where anything can happen. So we’ll go there and try to get in.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 16th: “Man, we definitely wanted to finish better for Ally at their home track. We received some damage early on and we just battled tight conditions throughout the race. Just really tight. We made some gains on pit road, which was what we needed. We will come back strong in Daytona for the final race of the regular season.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 17th: “Our Smithfield Ford Mustang had the handling we needed after making some adjustments, but we just didn’t have the speed to contend up front today. We had to really play defense on the restarts and then hope our long-run speed gave us a shot to pass more cars. Ready to head to my hometown race to cap off the regular season in Daytona and gear up for the playoffs.”

Erik Jones — Finished 18th: “It ended up being an OK day; it was just up and down. We got caught a lap down early with a loose wheel. The middle part of the race, there just wasn’t much going on. It was good to get back on the lead lap and at least salvage a top 20 out of it for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Medallion Bank Camaro ZL1 1LE. We were just tight all day and couldn’t really get it to do much other than that. We’ll go on and see what we can learn from it. Hopefully, we’ll go to Daytona (International Speedway) and get a win.”

Cole Custer — Finished 23rd: “It was a frustrating day, for the most part. We started out really, really loose with our Feeding America/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Mustang and kept working on it. We made improvements each time, but it never quite got to where we could make significant forward progress. This is a tough track to get everything right, especially with no practice or qualifying. It’s on to Daytona next week, where anything can happen, and we’re certainly going to try and make something happen in the last race before the playoffs.”

AUSTIN DILLON — Finished 36th: “I was just trying to get as many Stage points as I could get right there and did a good job of side-drafting and came down to the apron and I’ve seen just one quick replay, but it was after the Start/Finish Line. I was starting to come up off the apron because it’s so rough down there. But I figured by that point, he would have given me a little room. I hate it. I’m thankful that the good Lord kept me safe today. That was a heck of a wreck, but I feel fine. I hate it for BREZTRI and my guys, most of all. The built a rocket ship. They really wanted this one, and I did too. Just working our tails off right there. I think we would have had a shot to do something there at the end with our race car. It’s the best race car we’ve brought to the track at RCR this year, I feel like. It’s just a bummer but we’ve got Daytona left and I just hate it. I don’t know why it happened, really. I thought I had a little room to come up and he just held me down there a little bit too long, I guess.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 10th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 22nd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 16th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron returns to No. 1


After last Sunday’s crashfest at Circuit of the Americas, the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings experienced another jumble, and William Byron returns to the top spot.

Byron took fifth place in the chaos of the triple-overtime finish. He and winner Tyler Reddick were the top dogs in the Cup Series’ first road race of the year, Byron leading 28 laps and Reddick 41. No one else led more than two laps.

MORE: COTA finish — Entertaining and messy

Christopher Bell, last week’s No. 1, fell to fifth place after a 31st-place finish at COTA.

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. William Byron (second last week) — Byron, the season’s only multiple winner with two, finished fifth Sunday, marking his career first top five on a road course. He won the pole and the first stage.

2. Kyle Busch (third last week) — Busch continues to make his new partnership at Richard Childress Racing look good. His second-place run Sunday is his fourth top-10 finish in the season’s first six races.

3. Ross Chastain (sixth last week) — Despite being pushed around in the late going Sunday, Chastain persisted, re-emerging at the front to challenge the leaders and finish fourth. He has finished in the top four in all three COTA races and leads the points standings.

4. Alex Bowman (fifth last week) — Bowman continued his seasonal consistency, finishing third at COTA. He has finished in the top 10 in five of six races.

5. Christopher Bell (first last week) — Bell falls from the top spot in the rankings after being booted from Sunday’s race in a late-race accident. He dropped three spots in the Cup points standings to fifth.

6. Joey Logano (fourth last week) — Logano was mostly absent from Sunday’s front-of-the-pack jousting. He limped home in 28th and drops two spots in the rankings.

7. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick bursts into the rankings in a big way, easily outclassing the rest of the field on the way to victory at COTA. Challenged repeatedly by cautions that extended the race into three overtimes, he refused to give up the shot at his first win of the year.

8. Denny Hamlin (seventh last week) — Winless this year, Hamlin nevertheless keeps popping up around the front. Sunday’s late-race mess dropped him to 16th at the checkered flag.

9. Kyle Larson (eighth last week) — Larson seemed to be the race’s pingpong ball Sunday as he was bounced around during some of the tightest racing. He rallied to reach 14th.

10. Kevin Harvick (ninth last week) — Harvick’s final season has been a mix of the good and the bad, with two top-five runs, challenges for wins and a 33rd-place finish at Atlanta. He was 13th Sunday.

Dropped out: Brad Keselowski (10th last week).


Ross Chastain after COTA race: ‘Are you not entertained?’


One driver evoked the movie “Gladiator” after Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas. Another could be penalized for his actions after the checkered flag. Others expressed dismay at what the end of the event became.

A race that had been a thrilling duel devolved into a demolition derby over the final laps, leaving feelings as bruised as some of the cars.

While Tyler Reddick celebrated his first win of the season, other drivers stewed at what the racing became. Three overtimes were needed to finish the event due to incidents in the Turn 1 hairpin. Then again, it should not have been surprising, coming a week after Kyle Busch said: “We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers”.

“Are you not entertained?” Ross Chastain exclaimed, evoking Russell Crowe’s famous movie line. “This is what we love. I don’t love doing it, but … as a sport we’re not boring.”

Chastain is correct, the sport is not boring. But it’s fair to ask if the sport has crossed a line. Is it OK for races to end this way? If not, how to change it is a more difficult notion.

The action has been getting more aggressive this season. It was evident in the Clash at the Coliseum when drivers charged into the corners and slammed into the back of cars as a way to slow down to make the tight turns.

Sunday marked the third time in the last four road course races that the event went to overtime. In the previous 28 road course races — dating back to 2012 — only three went to overtime.

It makes one wonder what could happen this weekend when the Cup series races at Richmond Raceway, beginning a three-week stretch at short tracks that includes the Bristol dirt race and Martinsville.

“These cars are so tough,” Chastain said. “We can run into each other. There are just lines of cars all pushing each other (on the restarts) on the brakes. Nobody is going in there saying, ‘I’m going to hit somebody,’ but it’s just the leader has to check up and it just magnifies itself.”

Chastain’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, was not happy after the race. He ran into the back of Chastain’s car, knocking him out of the way as they entered pit road and then hit the back of Bowman’s car on pit road.

Section 4.4.B of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be penalized for “Intentionally damaging another vehicle on pit road.” Such a penalty could result in the loss of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine. Violations may also result in a suspension.

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.

“The problem is if you don’t peek out and bomb the guy in front of you, the guy behind you does it to you,” Bowman said. “So what do you do there? It’s not right. The way we race is embarrassing, and if 12-year-olds were doing it, we’d be yelling at them, but here we are saying it’s the best thing in the world on TV.”

Chris Buescher simply called Sunday’s race “our first bumper car race of the year.”

Austin Dillon said: “The end of the race became a typical NASCAR road course race. It was just a mess. We drove up into the hill on a restart and everyone just pile drove into each other.”

Jordan Taylor, making his first Cup start as he filled in for an injured Chase Elliott, was struck by what the restarts were like.

“Every restart, you just get smashed in the front, rear, side,” he said. “So yeah, it was pretty much just survival.”


Sunday’s race was scheduled to go 68 laps but was extended to 75 laps by the late cautions.

Here is a look at the drivers who gained the most and lost the most positions from where they were running on Lap 68 to where they were running on Lap 75:

Most positions gained

18 – Kyle Larson (finished 14th)

17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (finished 7th)

16 – Kevin Harvick (finished 13th)

12 – Todd Gilliland (finished 10th)

9 – Ryan Blaney (finished 21st)

8 – Noah Gragson (finished 20th)

7 – Austin Cindric (finished 6th)

6 – Corey LaJoie (finished 11th)

Most positions lost

23 – Daniel Suarez (finished 27th)

20 – Joey Logano (finished 28th)

15 – Kimi Raikkonen (finished 29th)

12 – Christopher Bell (finished 31st)

12 – Martin Truex Jr. (finished 17th)

10 – Aric Almirola (finished 30th)

9 – Jordan Taylor (finished 24th)

6 – Michael McDowell (finished 12th)


Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch, who switched rides before this season, have both won in the first six races.

This marks the third year in a row that two drivers with new Cup rides have won so early in the year.

Last year, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain each won in the first six races of the year. Cindric had driven a few Cup races previously for Team Penske but last year was his first year in the No. 2 car. Chastain did have the same crew chief and other crew members at Trackhouse Racing after it purchased Chip Ganassi Racing.

In 2021, Kyle Larson, in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, and Christopher Bell, in his rookie Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing, each won within the first four races of that year.