What drivers said at Richmond

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Here is what drivers said after Saturday night’s Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER: “It’s a big day. It’s an important day in our history. I think all of us here – yeah, we’re proud to win, and this car is amazing and there’s so many people to thank, but what a day to win on. It reminds you of the honor and the privilege it is to get to come out here and do this. All these great fans that come out here, we couldn’t do any of these kind of things without the men and women that take care of us and all the first responders, police officers, firefighters, the military, you name it. NASCAR is very patriotic and we’re very proud, and Johnny Morris is very patriotic; that’s why this thing is red, white and blue. So very proud of everybody to be able to do this today. … (Penalty at the start) That was frustrating; I’m not going to lie. But I knew we’d have a good enough car to overcome it. It felt pretty good the first couple laps. Just one of those things; you’ve got to put it out of your mind and you’ve got to go race, and we knew there was a lot on the line tonight. Very happy to get to do this and go to Bristol without any worries next week is always fun.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “Our pit stops were a little slow there and we lost about two or three seconds, maybe four on pit road on those two stops, and about a second and a half behind. We were coming, just we got off track with our car right there in the middle stages of the race, but overall Chris (Gabehart) and the team made great adjustments there at the end on the FedEx Camry, just needed a couple more laps, that’s all.

Christopher Bell — Finished 3rd: “I think obviously all of our Joe Gibbs Racing cars were extremely fast, so hats off to everyone back there at the job, Toyota, TRD that gives us the resources that we need to come out here and do good. We knew going into Richmond that this is one of our better racetracks, so we needed to capitalize on that and get all the points we could. … Bristol is a really good racetrack for our company and me and a driver, but it’s a little bit – it’s just you can get caught up in stuff so easily at Bristol. It’s nice to have a buffer and hopefully we can go to Bristol and have an uneventful event.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “I’m super proud of our effort. Our entire Kelley Blue Book team did a great job preparing for this week and then coming and executing a really fast car. I’m really proud of that. I hate our incident on pit road happened. I don’t know what I would have done any different. I guess let him go is a safe thing, but it’s so close and always hard to tell kind of when they’re going to get done on the left side. I hate that. I thought I was long in the box and backed up out of a precautionary measure, but yeah, I hate that. I know that Kyle and Martin were really fast there at the end. I’m not sure if we would have had anything for them, but I sure would have liked to have found out.”

Joey Logano — Finished 5th: “That’s about where we were – a fifth-place car. Maybe sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse depending on the kind of run. I’d say we averaged out as the fifth car and that’s where we finished. We got some good points. I think we were third in the first stage and fifth in the second and a fifth finish, so that’s some good points. I don’t know where that’s gonna stack the Shell/Pennzoil Mustang up in the playoff standings, but it should put us in a decent spot going into Bristol next week. That’s what it’s all about right now. It’s about being solid and getting every point, so we’re getting them. We’re doing what we’ve got to do. We’re grinding them out, but had nothing for the Gibbs cars tonight.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “Yeah, it’s a lot better than we were here at Richmond earlier in the year. At the beginning of the race, I thought I was going to have a really good shot to win, but we kind of lost the balance there and got it back a little bit there at the end. So, we probably finished where we deserved. The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) kind of had his problems, so maybe we finished one spot better. Not a bad day. To go to Bristol and know that we’re locked in is nice. We’ll try to be aggressive and get a win this week.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “From the spring race here I thought we could run right there and we ran 11th in the spring. I thought we figured some stuff out and we worked a little bit more on it, so we got some stage points and had a couple runs that were bad, a couple runs where we got better and better, and at the end we were able to pass a handful of cars to get home 10th. I’m proud of the team.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 11th: “We came to Richmond Raceway this weekend to finish what we started last year, when we had a great run but didn’t win. Even through we came up a little bit short in the Roland Chevrolet this weekend, I’m proud of the entire team for hanging in there. We started off the race with a very loose handling machine, but we made a big swing at adjustments at the end of Stage 1. Those adjustments helped the handling tremendously. The No. 3 Roland Chevrolet was strong tonight through the middle portion of the race, but we lost forward drive in stage 3 and never got it back to where we wanted it. All-in-all, 11th isn’t horrible. We’ll head to Bristol Motor Speedway with the goal of winning.

Alex Bowman — Finished 12th: “We struggled to start. We were really good at the end of stage 2. We didn’t make any adjustments and we were really bad at the beginning of stage 3. We just had a set of tires that didn’t agree with our racecar and got a lap down there. It’s hard to overcome that. Bummer for all of our guys. I feel like we did a good job throughout the course of the race at getting our car better from where we started. We just didn’t end where we needed to end. On the bubble going into Bristol, but just have to go do my job and hopefully we have a fast Ally Camaro there and go get the job done.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 13th:  “Disappointing day. Didn’t have any speed. Just ran a whole race and didn’t really make any mistakes, but that’s all we had. I was hoping this was going to be a big day for us, but we never really showed any strength.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 14th: “We didn’t have a race-winning car, but I thought we could have run fifth to eighth, so I’m a little frustrated but it’s a team sport and we’ll go to Bristol and keep fighting. … I think we’re competitive. We’re in the hunt.  Like I said, today we should have ran fifth to eighth. We had a loose lugnut and I had to pit again under green, and then got us behind. I don’t know where we finished. I think we finished 14th instead of sixth or seventh, which is about where we were running, so frustrating that we gave up those points. This situation we can’t really give up any points. It would have been a lot nicer to go to Bristol plus 12 instead of plus three or four, but it is what it is. It’s no big deal. We’ve got to put our head down and go race. It’s the same situation. We’ve just got to go racing and score as many points as we can. You just hate to five up six, seven, eight points.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 15th: “Tonight didn’t go as planned for our Childress Vineyards team, but this Richard Childress Racing team never quit fighting. We spent the first half of the race too loose on entry and tight in the center. Our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE struggled to rotate the middle. Once we made adjustments that positively changed the handling, we had already lost track position and the cautions didn’t fall our way to get back on the lead lap. The positive coming out of tonight is that we are still in contention to advance to the Round of 12 next weekend. We will give it everything we have in Bristol to see if we can keep our Playoffs run going.” 

Chase Briscoe — Finished 16th: “This was one of my best runs at Richmond, for sure. I think we still have a long way to go, but I don’t hate it as much as I used to. It certainly helps when the car is handling the way it’s supposed to. The result doesn’t show the effort put in and how strong we were, but I feel like it was something that I can build on now that I kind of understand how to drive the track.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 17th: “It was okay. We’ve got some work to do. I think we were better than that, towards the end with the speed that we had. We were struggling a lot with the rear of the car. We will keep working to keep getting better.”

William Byron — Finished 19th: “We were just really bad. We finished seventh here in the spring and felt like we had something decent. We tweaked some stuff to try and get a little better. I think the best we got was we got to 11th one time. We just had a lack of grip. Some runs I could run with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 12 (Ryan Blaney). Some runs I was way off the pace. I don’t know. I fought both; tight center at the start of the race. I thought we got some more drive in the car. I thought that was kind of making us faster, but that kind of ran out too.”

Erik Jones — Finished 21st: “Decent day for us with the 43 Chevy. Cool to have the special 9/11 remembrance scheme on the car today. Lost the balance in the middle part of the race and just got a bit behind and couldn’t make it up from there. Looking forward to Bristol next week, my favorite place to go.”

Cole Custer — Finished 22nd: “Today was just a rough day at Richmond. We struggled with the balance of our No. 41 HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford Mustang throughout the entire race. We’ll take what we learned today and move ahead to Bristol.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 28th: “Just another missed opportunity. We’re just making too many mistakes. We sped on pit road. The first time I thought, ‘Maybe it was close.’ And then I sped on my sped and it was not close, so obviously we missed the configuration on the lights, and then I backed it down again and still sped again. It’s unfortunate. Everybody did a really good job. We actually had good speed. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang and we just lost all those laps with penalties and unfortunately I didn’t adjust enough or quick enough. I thought I knocked enough speed off, but obviously it wasn’t enough. It’s really unfortunate.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 37th: “I was just impressed with our speed and the way we unloaded and (the speed) we had in that first 30-lap run. After the pit stop, something in the left rear wasn’t right. The guys said they got the tire tight. They made an adjustment and there was no rub and the left rear let go. I just radioed to them how loose the car was. Something happened with that left rear. It let go. It let go of our points and it let go of our whole season right now. I don’t know what we’re going to have to do at Bristol other than win.”

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.