What drivers said after Las Vegas

0 Comments

A look at what drivers said following Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – WINNER: “It’s another track we can cross off the list. There was a point here where I never thought I would even sniff a victory. We found a setup and – I shouldn’t say ‘we’, I didn’t do anything. The team has found a setup that has worked with my driving style. I know that me and (crew chief) Chris (Gabehart) really work hard on trying to shore up any deficiencies that we have or I have as a driver. I go to work on it, the team goes to work on what they need to give me to go fast. I try to give them the best information that I can. They take that information, they put their brains together and they come up with something that works. Really, the last two years, they’ve really changed the game for me at this racetrack. Again, it means a lot to cross off Las Vegas as a track that we won at now.”

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “…Circumstances kind of went our way (at the end of the race). We were able to get back on the lead lap when that cycle stopped. We were there in the middle with those guys making it on fuel. We were on the fortunate end because we got back on the lead lap, didn’t have to wave or get the Lucky Dog. We just kept tuning on it, felt like we really needed a little track position.”

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 3rd: “We got all we could. I felt like during the daytime, we were a little bit better than the 11 (Denny Hamlin). We could race with him. I felt like I was looking forward to the lights coming on and us picking up speed and being able to rip the wall a little bit faster. When we got hit into the fence there off of (turn) two the first time, it definitely knocked speed out of our car. We helped it a little bit coming to pit road putting the last set of tires on it and then I got into the fence again trying to get by a lapped car. Not enough room over there, I guess. Overall, great job by Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and my guys on this M&M’s Camry. They gave me a good piece. We moved forward all day long so that was good and just appreciate TRD and Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy and Ethel M for being here from Las Vegas and all of those guys were here today. Good showing.”

Martin Truex Jr. (playoffs) – Finished 4th: “We just could never get the balance quite right. We were really struggling off of turn four, no matter what we did. Not sure exactly why. It’s not something that we’ve had here in the past. Definitely something going on there that we couldn’t fix. We tried a lot. We made a lot of adjustments. James (Small, crew chief) and the guys did a really good job executing and we got all we could out of it. The Bass Pro Toyota was a little bit off tonight. I wish we could have been a little bit better, but all-in-all to grind out a fourth with that car is a good effort.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 5th: “I thought a couple of cars were a little quicker than us. We got behind the eight-ball a little bit there in that second stage having to pit at the end and take the wave around. That hurt us. We had a fast enough Menards Ford Mustang to finish fifth. That is something to be proud of. We will go on to Talladega.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 6th: “Our Cat Trials 11: Hot Wheels Chevrolet was extremely fast tonight at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I knew having speed in the car when the sun went down was going to be a key to finishing well. The track definitely tightened up as time went on, and I could feel it in our No. 8 Camaro. My crew chief, Randall Burnett, kept up with the changing track conditions though and we were able to post top-three laps times consistently. I think at worst we were a third-place car, and should have been competing for the win at the end. There weren’t a ton of cautions during the race and unfortunately waiting just a couple of laps from when (Denny Hamlin) pitted from the lead cost us valuable track position. A sixth-place finish is still a great night for our Richard Childress Racing team and we will now turn our focus to Talladega.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 7th: “It wasn’t a bad night. We executed really, really well and made the most of what we had. That was just all we had. We just kind of rode in 10th to 15th most of the day and at one point we got up to seventh or eighth, but couldn’t really hold it. At the end, we just really executed really well. The pit stops were great. The pit calls were good. No loose wheels or any troubles and we were able to get a solid day out of it to get ourselves a little cushion.”

Kevin Harvick (playoffs) – Finished 9th: “You know, it was about where we finished. That was about what we had tonight. We got the right-front fender nicked up a little bit, but that didn’t really change the car so we lucked out on that. We battle and gained ground on it. That is what we wanted to do, not give it all away today. We were able to gain ground and we will go from there.”

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – Finished 10th: “We stayed out (after Stage 2) and had to do the wave around. I wasn’t on fresh tires and stuck in traffic. Everyone is fighting so hard back there to run their race that I just got kind of stuck. Not beat around, but just stuck and having to race. It’s just hard. We were able to fight back for a top-10 and come away with an OK finish.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 11th: “We were better in the daytime for sure. Unfortunately in the daytime, we didn’t capitalize in the first stage with having a loose wheel and starting in the back after that in that stage. We were able to drive back through the field and that was our best run. It seemed like as the track cooled off we lost speed to the field for multiple reasons. That last run we had another issue with the wheel. It was a poorly executed day with a car that probably should have finished fifth in both stages and maybe a top-10 or so at the end. But instead, we are not out. We are six points to the good. We are ahead of where we were when we came in, I just wanted to be more comfortable than that.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 13th: “Good try tonight by everyone on the Richard Childress Racing team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The front end of our BetMGM Chevy was never really to my liking tonight. We were bouncing through Turn 2, but Justin Alexander and all of the guys made adjustments throughout the race to improve our handling issues. We just needed a little more a little earlier. In Stage 3, we were running 12th when we made the call to stay out and long pit. It was just a gamble to try and catch a caution and make something happen. We led laps and were in position but didn’t get the caution we needed. It was worth a shot. We ultimately finished 13th. We’re headed to Talladega Superspeedway next week, and we’ll do everything we can to try and snag a win.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 14th: “I thought our One Cure Ford Mustang was going to be really strong when the sun went down, but we just couldn’t get the handling right. The smallest changes would take it from loose to tight, and it was really tough to get it exactly where we wanted it. Fourteenth is still a huge improvement over what we did earlier this year, and it just shows how much I’ve learned as a driver and how far this team has come.”

William Byron – Finished 18th: “I thought we were really fast. We came from the back to the front, took the lead and then obviously had that caution. I chose the wrong lane there and had to run second there for awhile to Kyle. And then we had the strategy deal with not being able to make it on fuel and had to recover from that. We had to take two tires and that hurt us. We were able to drive all the way back to the front from the back again, so that was twice today. And then we had the flat tire. We had an awesome car. The No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet was amazing. I think it was right there with the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). We’ll just have to keep bringing that speed.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 19th: “We found really good speed and balance in our Mobil 1 Ford halfway through the race today and were good enough to race inside the top-10. Then we made one small adjustment, and something just flipped a switch and our balance was way off. We’ll move on to Talladega where we’ve had a lot of success. Excited to get there and compete for a win.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 22nd: “We weren’t great. The stage two strategy just didn’t work out for us and it put us in a tough spot there to start stage three. The valve stem got knocked off on a pit stop and the rest is history. Not a good day on any aspects. We had a decent car, we just didn’t have the pit road and strategy we needed.”

Cole Custer – Finished 29th: “Another rough race for our team. We struggled with the balance of our No. 41 Dixie Vodka Greyhound Cocktail Ford Mustang and just couldn’t get it right. We’ll head to Talladega.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

0 Comments

The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

0 Comments

Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

0 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.