What drivers said after Southern 500

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A look at what drivers said following Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, which kicked off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs…

Denny Hamlin (Playoffs) – WINNER: “We had so many opportunities earlier this year to win races, and we only really had the fastest car twice and we understood that. But the 5 (Kyle Larson) just went on a tear there, and for us, it certainly is significant. I’m not going to downplay the significance of it. It’s not just another win. This one is big for us and our team and the momentum. We didn’t have the playoff points that certainly we wish we had going into these playoffs. There was no room for error. And now to punch our ticket to the next round, we get to go out there and focus on getting through that second round, which I think is probably the most dangerous.”

Kyle Larson (Playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “It’s good to get a good start. I think everybody’s, you know, nervous getting ready for the final 10 (races) and just the anticipation of how it’s going to go. So good to get a good first week in and build some momentum and some confidence within the team, so hopefully go to Richmond, be a little bit better than we were earlier in the year.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 3rd: “I feel like I’ve put in work, but I always feel behind, so I never feel fully prepared. So I’m not going to say that. I’m going to say it’s probably a lot of hot Saturday nights in South Florida, racing at 417 Speedway. We don’t run up against the fence there, but it’s as sideways as we are here at Darlington, and I didn’t run up against the fence at all tonight. A lot of Florida Saturday night short tracks and a lot of older, wiser guys and other racers down there that taught me a lot. To come back here now three years later for the people that supported me then and put me in that car, we’re still here and we’re still fighting, and it means the world.”

Martin Truex Jr. (Playoffs) – Finished 4th: “It’s kind of been typical for how we’ve been doing things the last three or four months. Just really strong race car again, the Bass Pro Toyota was really fast. Made good adjustments all day and as soon as it started cooling off, the car started coming to me and we were really good on long runs. We needed long runs and when we would get them, we would go forward. That was good. Then just the loose wheel mistake and fought through that and then I sped on pit road when we had the lead. I feel like we had a shot at the win for sure there, we were really fast that last run. We came from a long way back and passed a lot of cars to get to fourth. Never know how it might have worked out. All in all, just really proud of the effort and of the fight. The never give up attitude that we have as a team. I think this summer, we’ve been through a lot together and it’s toughened our edges up a little bit I think. We kind of went through that like it wasn’t anything. A little bit of frustration on the radio and then it was gone and time to go forward and dig hard. Proud of that and hopefully we can build off it.”

Kevin Harvick (Playoffs) – Finished 5th: “We finished on a flat tire. We had to pit for a loose wheel or a tire coming apart or something and got a lap down, and then got the lucky dog and just a lot going on. That’s pretty typical of this race, though. I just want to thank everybody on our Busch Light Ford Mustang. Our guys have done a great job. We led a bunch of laps early and had a fast racecar and were able to capitalize on a good day. This is just always one of those races that has a lot of stuff happen and you have to keep yourself rolling and keep your car clean, and that’s what we did tonight. We had a few little issues, but we worked through them and were able to have a fast enough car that we could run top-five and the rest of it, for us to run first or second we would need to be first or second like we were earlier in clean air. When we had the clean air we drove away, so it’s just kind of the way it is everywhere.”

Kurt Busch (Playoffs) – Finished 6th: “That’s what was most impressive was the speed. It was fun to lead laps and be up front. It just seemed like we were juggling a ball of yarn and it was somewhat unraveling the whole race; whether it was the lane choice or a pit stop. And then handling, we were a little bit loose there and a little bit tight there. That last run, everything was back where we needed it; but I threw away all the track position with a couple of fender rubs. We gave away a few points. I would have loved to have had a shot at trying to win it. We might have ended up wrecked, but we gave away three or four points tonight. Not all that bad. It’s a great way to start the playoffs with this kind of speed in the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy. That’s what I’m really proud about with my guys.”

Brad Keselowski (Playoffs) – Finished 7th: “There was a lot of chaos. Every time there was chaos, I was thinking we just need to not dig ourselves a hole and take advantage of it.”

Joey Logano (Playoffs) – Finished 8th: “I felt like we were probably about a fourth-place car. That’s about right where we were running before the caution came out and we outsmarted ourselves a little bit with the adjustment at the end. I was just too tight the last run and plowing actually. I was nervous the right-front was gonna come apart as tight as we were, so I lost three or four spots there at the end unfortunately to that, and then those guys that pitted and put tires on was worth a little bit as well, but we only had one set left so you really couldn’t risk putting that set on then and run 15 laps and not have another set in the pits. Overall, we did what we had to do at the start of the playoffs. A lot of guys self-destructed and we were able to maximize our day and get every point, so we got what we got and we’ll move on.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 10th: “I’m proud of everyone on the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevy team tonight. To get a top-10 after all of the challenges we faced is a really good night and shows how hard this team works. We started off the race a little too free in the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet, so we pitted during the first caution for adjustments, which really helped our handling issues. Even though we started from the rear, we were able to race our way into the top-10 before finishing the stage 13th. We lost a little something in Stage 2 after the 18 came down on us. We got some fender damage that affected our handling the rest of the night. We also had a bad vibration in the second half of the stage and it took all we had to stay on the lead lap to finish out the stage. It was great get a top-10 after a rough few weeks. I just wish we could have seen what we could have done without that body damage because the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevy was fast tonight.”

Cole Custer – Finished 11th: “Today was an up and down day. Our Ford Mustang started to come to us there at the end. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) made a great call to keep us out in that second-to-last caution and put us back in the race. That strategy worked out in our favor, and we scored another top-15 for this HaasTooling.com Demo Day team.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 13th: “I feel like we were probably a top 20 car most of the day. We struggled. We made some adjustments to get it back and I thought we did a pretty good job keeping up with the race track and everything. But we just have to keep working. It was a good education day, but we didn’t have a lot of speed. So, we have to keep working to make more speed.”

Aric Almirola (Playoffs) – Finished 16th: “We had a good car today, and we had good speed. We had a great day and our pit crew was on fire until the caution came out late in the race and put us a lap down. The strategy just didn’t play out for us there, but that’s how it goes. We controlled as much as we could control and showed we’re serious contenders.”

Tyler Reddick (Playoffs) – Finished 18th: “It’s a head-scratcher because we were running there towards the end of the day. I mean, we haven’t been running back there all year. It’s definitely frustrating. I know everyone really pushes when the playoffs get here to be performing at our best level. We did the same but just weren’t even close.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 19th: “The HighPoint.com/Founders Federal Credit Union Ford Mustang was pretty good on the long run once we made some adjustments and the sun went down, but the handling just wasn’t where we needed it to be overall. We’ve still got time to get a win before the season’s over. This was just an off day that we’ll move on from and try to keep improving over the next nine races.”

Christopher Bell (Playoffs) – Finished 20th: “The positives were, once again like the last five or six weeks, we’ve been really competitive. Probably longer than that. I felt like our SportClips Camry was capable of running inside the top-two or three. We ran 20th. It seems like that’s happened a lot and obviously we can’t really have that in the playoffs. It’s a bummer because today was a great opportunity to try to capitalize on other people’s misfortune and we didn’t. Looking at the Playoff grid, we’re still ahead, but we could be way ahead.”

Ryan Blaney (Playoffs) – Finished 22nd: “At least our car is in one piece, so that’s good. After that problem you usually bring it back on a wrecker just like in Nashville, so luckily we got a car in one piece. A lot of other teams had their issues, so, overall, not a bad night. I wish we could have finished it off where we should have and been in the top 10 easily and got 10 or 15 more points, but we can’t complain too much.”

Alex Bowman (Playoffs) – Finished 26th: “I got into the wall into turn one. I was just really loose. The 8 (Tyler Reddick) got to us. I don’t know if he carried me off into the corner or if I just got loose. Either way, it’s just part of it. I just got loose and ended up in the wall right rear first and had damage. And then, that’s what eventually cut the tire to end up in the wall in turn three.”

Chase Elliott (Playoffs) – Finished 31st: “Yeah, just as soon as I was turning the corner (I knew the tire was going down). Just really appreciate NAPA for letting us run this special scheme and making it a special weekend for some of these kids from Children’s (Healthcare of Atlanta). On my end, just made way too many mistakes. That’s what you deserve when you make that many mistakes. Onward.”

Erik Jones – Finished 32nd: “Just a tough day for our Richard Petty Motorsports team. Our No. 43 Petty’s Garage Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE never had the balance all night. Then unfortunately we had a motor issue that ended our day just as we started to make some gains on the handling.”

William Byron (Playoffs) – Finished 34th: “Yeah, I’m fine. That was a big hit. It looked like on that pit stop, it looked like we dropped the jack and the left front was still finishing up. I took off and everything felt okay. I went to pass the No. 00 (Quin Houff) or somebody down the front stretch; and was just about to turn into (Turn) 1 and the left front went down. There was nothing we could do. The guys did an awesome job to fix it. We were running like Top-12, I think, even with all the (earlier) right rear damage and it’s just terrible. I don’t know, man. That sucks.”

Kyle Busch (Playoffs) – Finished 35th: “We’ll just take our lumps. We were running like (expletive). We got wrecked. It’s what you get when you run like (expletive). We shouldn’t be there. I don’t know what our problem is, but every time I go to sim and use sim and think we had a good sim session, we go to the race track and we suck. So, I’m done with that. We’ll have to use some other tools on figuring out how to be good. The M&M’s Camry was not very good and we were running terrible and we got wrecked. It wasn’t the No. 3’s (Austin Dillon) fault.”

Michael McDowell (Playoffs) – Finished 37th: “I’m not really sure (what happened). The 43 (Erik Jones) kind of got everybody jammed up. I think he started on the front there without tires, which is a tough spot to be in and I just went three-wide underneath him and just got into the patch with my left sides just a little bit low. I got loose enough into the wall and that was about it. I’ll have to see the replay, but just heartbreaking for everybody on this Front Row team. We had high hopes coming into the playoffs and this is not how we wanted to start it.”

2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

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The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season brought something new (a race inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!) and something old (a win by the No. 43!) and a lot in-between.

In many ways, it was one of NASCAR’s best seasons. There were new winners, the Next Gen car kicked up competition a bit and there was a race finish (see the Ross Chastain file) like none other in the history of the sport.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The name game

There were downsides, too: The safety of the new car came under fire (figuratively and literally, as wheel-well flames ended more than a few rides), drivers’ seasons were interrupted or ended because of hard wrecks and some races were less than stellar.

Looking back over the February-to-November marathon, some races stand out:

Rocking the City of Angels – Despite the naysayers, the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was a roaring success. A platter of questions, including whether the purpose-built track inside the stadium would hold up under heavy stock cars and generate good racing, awaited as teams rolled into LA. The racing wasn’t sensational, but it was good, and there were no problems with the track. A huge crowd showed up, and NASCAR left town with many ideas, having proven that it could run a race on a temporary track inside a large stadium. It has escaped no one’s notice that there are many other large stadiums in the country – and, by the way, outside it.

Wiggling at Watkins Glen – The venerable New York road course produced another hot finish as teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott battled for the win. Larson forced Elliott out of the main groove and took the lead for good with five laps remaining. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it’s what I had to do to get the win,” Larson said. Elliott didn’t publicly criticize Larson, but it was clear he wasn’t pleased with Larson’s move.

MORE: Fighting knights and pie in the sky

Six hundred miles, and then some – The long history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 600-mile race has produced some great competition – and some races that prompted long naps. This year’s was one of the craziest and, by the way, the longest. The race went to two overtimes, finally ending after 413 laps and 619.5 miles, making it the longest race in NASCAR’s 75 years. The winner – perhaps most accurately described as the survivor – was Denny Hamlin, who outran teammate Kyle Busch over the final two laps.

The King is back…but where is he? – The Cup playoffs opened at Darlington Raceway with the storied Southern 500, but the playoffs took a back seat to other storylines. Erik Jones scored an upset win in Richard Petty’s No. 43, marking the iconic car’s first victory since 2014. Petty, however, missed the Victory Lane festivities. He and Dale Inman, the No. 43’s former crew chief, left the race early for the drive home to North Carolina. The long night held several incidents, including one involving Kevin Harvick, who criticized NASCAR after his car caught fire, uttering his now-infamous diatribe about what he called “crappy-ass parts.”

No watermelon, but a lotta juiceThe finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway generated international interest. Christopher Bell won in a must-win situation to advance in the playoffs, but the post-race spotlight was on Ross Chastain, who rode the outside wall through the final two turns at speeds rarely seen on the short track and finished fourth, good enough to stay in the championship hunt. Chastain’s remarkable move drew comment from observers outside NASCAR, including Formula 1 drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 5: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

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The end of the season provides a chance to look back and each year I go through the photos on my phone and find those that show the highs and lows of a sport that goes from February to November. 

Here are some of the photos that stood out for me:

1. Daytona 500 

Although the time spent in Daytona Beach, Florida, has shrunk in recent years with a more compact track schedule, the intensity remains. As do the emotions. 

Cup rookie Austin Cindric accomplished “a racer’s dream” in winning the Daytona 500, accomplishing something in his second attempt that took Darrell Waltrip 17 times and Dale Earnhardt 20 times to accomplish.

Cindric blocked teammate Ryan Blaney coming to the finish line and beat Bubba Wallace by half a car length. 

It was the second time Bubba Wallace had finished runner-up in this race. Unlike 2018, when Wallace was excited with finishing second, Wallace felt no such emotion this time. 

“2018 was awesome,” Wallace said of his runner-up result in the Daytona 500. “2022 was not awesome.

“I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time in 2018. This one being that close, it’s like a gut punch.”

The photos that stand out to me are of the picture of Cindric’s car covered in red, white and blue confetti before going through post-race inspection and the disappointment Wallace wore on pit road after the race.

Austin Cindric‘s car after winning the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

A dejected Bubba Wallace after finishing second in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

2. Road America 

The Cup Series is not returning to the Wisconsin road course after two years there. Instead, this race will be replaced by the Chicago street course event in 2023.

This past season’s race was memorable. Tyler Reddick scored his first career Cup win on July 3. Nine days later came the announcement that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing in 2024 (That timetable moved up to 2023 after RCR signed Kyle Busch to replace Reddick in the No. 8.).

Among the special moments from the Road America race was Austin Cindric walking the length of pit road to victory lane to congratulate Reddick.

Austin Cindric hugs Tyler Reddick in victory lane at Road America on July 3, 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Walking with Cindric, I asked him why he was making the trip to see Reddick.

“I think of anyone in the field, he probably deserves that win more than anybody else,” Cindric told me. “I think he’s put himself in position. He’s a really likable guy, and I feel like you can see how hard he works. 

“I’ve seen him mature as a driver and a person and as a friend and a father. It’s cool to see somebody you’re close to go through that.”

When Cindric arrived in victory lane, he walked up to Reddick and gave his friend a bearhug, lifting Reddick well off the ground.

In all the excitement, Reddick’s son, Beau, was not impressed. He was sound asleep in victory lane.

Tyler Reddick’s son Beau sleeps in victory lane after his father’s first Cup win in July 2022 at Road America. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Special moments

One never knows what you’ll come across in a season that stretches so long through the calendar. 

These are a few such moments that proved special for one reason or the other.

As storm clouds gathered over Daytona International Speedway in February, the sun was settling, creating a sky both ominous and spectacular. The photo captures that scene as Cole Custer walks through the garage. After this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was replacing Custer with Ryan Preece in the No. 41 Cup car and that Custer would run in the Xfinity Series for the team.

Cole Custer walks under an ominous sky at Daytona in February 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo that stands out to me comes from the Clash at the Coliseum. There were so many questions about the exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, such as if the specially built track would withstand the rigors of cars, what would the debut of the Next Gen car be like and would fans really be interested in such an event.

The track held up. So did most of the cars and the fans came. While not a sellout, more than 50,000 people attended the event and NASCAR noted that many had not purchased tickets to a NASCAR event before. The event was a success.

What stood out to me was the lines of people waiting to buy souvenirs the day of the race. In some places, lines stretched well away from the merchandise trailers. 

Fans stand in line for merchandise at the Clash at the Coliseum in Feb. 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Sometimes you never know what you’ll see at at event. At an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Inman and Ray Evernham all stood together. That is 18 Cup championships (eight by Inman, seven by Petty and three by Evernham).

NASCAR Hall of Famers Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Dale Inman at the NASCAR Hall in April 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

4. New winners 

This season saw five first-time Cup winners: Austin Cindric (Daytona 500 in February), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix in March), Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas in April), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma in June) and Tyler Reddick (Road America in July).

I caught this scene of Suarez alone in his thoughts in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway in his first race since that Sonoma victory.

Daniel Suarez at Nashville Superspeedway in June 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

5. Martinsville

Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the playoff race was stunning. Needing two positions to advance to the championship race, Chastain put his car into fifth gear, planted his car against the wall in Turn 3, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his Chevrolet around the final two turns while he floored the throttle.

Amazingly, it worked. He passed five cars and earned a spot in the championship. Although he didn’t win the Cup title, Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

As I was leaving the infield late that Sunday night. I stopped to take a picture of the wall and the marks Chastain’s car had left on its remarkable charge.

Turn 4 wall after Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the October 2022 race. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Dr. Diandra: 2022 accidents steady, spins up 200%

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Cautions were up in 2022 despite fewer stage-end and competition cautions of any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the numbers focuses on the causes (and causers) of cautions.

Cautions

I divide cautions into those that are planned — like competition and stage-end breaks — and so-called ‘natural’ cautions. Natural cautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquid on track and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions are the most total cautions since 2014. That’s despite only 73 planned cautions, the fewest since stage racing started.

A stacked bar chart showing the planned and natural cautions from 2013 to 2022

The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions relative to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. That’s the most natural cautions since 2016.

Causes

Caution classification is subjective. Obviously, a car spinning is a spin and cars colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident happens at a stage break, do you record the caution as an accident or a stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more blown tires and wheels coming off cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris cautions, others as accidents.

To me, a blown tire seems fundamentally different from a stray car part on the track.

The myriad tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 cautions. I added three additional caution categories: wheel issues, fire and tire issues.

Tire issues were so labeled only if a blown tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that blow because of contact with the wall or flat spotting aren’t included. If I couldn’t tell for sure that the blown tire came first, I left the caution in its original category.

My re-categorization complicates comparing cautions by category to previous years. That concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The table below compares my breakdown of cautions with NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit that I’m not totally objective, either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

A table comparing breakdowns of cautions

The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the number of spins this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin statistics are a good argument that they’ve gotten their wish.

Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls

I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of the questions about differentiating between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all the spins, all the accidents and all the stalls.

And remember: being involved in an incident doesn’t imply that driver caused the incident.

The graph below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stalls

Remember also that this count doesn’t include wheel or tire issues. A driver crashing because a tire blew is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led in caution-causing incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch comes in third in total incidents, and first in spins with seven. For comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver evaded incidents entirely. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron tallied six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell came in at eight each.

Cautions by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. Its 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time, too.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition cautions because planned cautions don’t depend on race length.

The Bristol dirt race’s 14 cautions were the third highest total after the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’s 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

A vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 miles of racing

That gives the Bristol dirt race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol dirt race was also at the top of the list with 7.4 total cautions per 100 miles of racing.

Bristol’s asphalt race had the second-most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4  The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superspeedways?

The only superspeedway race in the top-10 cautions-per-100-miles graph is the second Atlanta race. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways claim more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents for an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars were involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is larger than the number of cars racing.

The fall Talladega race comes in second in terms of wreckage per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race ties with the Bristol asphalt race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage-break cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and the Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We normally use cautions as a proxy to count accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident causes a caution — especially at road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, some wheels came off on pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were a lot more spins that didn’t bring out cautions.

Next week, I’ll tell you all about those.

Front Row Motorsports Cup teams to have new crew chiefs in 2023

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Both Front Row Motorsports Cup teams will have new crew chiefs in 2023, the team announced Wednesay.

Travis Peterson will be the crew chief for the No. 34 car that has been driven by Michael McDowell. Peterson replaces Blake Harris, who will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman in 2023 at Hendrick Motorsports.

Peterson, 31, has been a race engineer. He spent the past five seasons at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He worked with drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth during that time. Peterson previously served as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and also at JR Motorsports.

“I think there are a lot of people in the NASCAR garage who are noticing what Front Row Motorsports has accomplished with the new car and their truck program,” Peterson said in a statement from the team.

“This is an opportunity to come into a winning and championship organization and help take that next step of getting more wins in the Cup Series and be in the playoffs. I’m ready to get to work. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a crew chief, and now I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Front Row Motorsports also announced Wednesday that Seth Barbour, who had been the crew chief for the No. 38 driven by Todd Gilliland, has been named as the organization’s technical director. Barbour will oversee all track engineering and car preparation processes for the Front Row Motorsports Cup cars.

A new crew chief for the No. 38 team will be announced later.

Also, Ryan Bergenty, car chief for the No. 34 team, has been promoted to performance director and will oversee all body and chassis assembly for all Front Row Motorsports entries.

“The past two seasons Front Row Motorsports has seen success and we’re taking the next steps forward,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement.

“We know that Travis is a person that can immediately come in, take the baton, and continue to move the No. 34 team to the front. We also made several changes internally to help with car preparation and engineering for all our race cars and trucks. Our final piece is finding a new leader for the No. 38 team. We’re confident that with these changes that we’ll be even better next season.”

Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup for next season. Both McDowell and Gilliland have said they plan to be back with the organization.