What drivers said after Talladega


A look at what drivers said following Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway…

Bubba Wallace – Winner: “It’s really cool and humbling. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff as every athlete would. I’ve thought about this moment a lot and it’s not your traditional burnout and celebration in victory lane, which is unfortunate. This was the same feeling I had going into Martinsville 2013. Just prepared more than ever and I didn’t even do anything different. Just something clicked. I was like, I want to be more aggressive and make sure that we’re there at the end. Didn’t know the end would be the rain, but just had to be there. I had a good feeling about it. Thanks to everybody at 23XI Racing, Toyota, McDonalds, DoorDash, Root, Dr. Pepper. I didn’t dream about being here when I was a kid, but this is kind of a dream come true.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “It was a good day for us, not the win. Gosh, if I would have known it was gonna rain right then I had a move I could have made and I was like, “No, we’ve got five laps in the stage left, I don’t want to burn that move yet,’ and then it rains, so I feel like I kind of let one slip away here. All in all, it’s still a great day. We scored a lot of stage points, which is really positive and put ourselves in a good position next week to go to the Roval.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 3rd: “(Brad Keselowski) had a run on (Bubba Wallace) to take the lead and enough push from me to be able to kind of continue that and try to get the both of us clear. Hindsight is 20/20. He didn’t know that they were gonna crash on the backstretch and there is still five to go in the stage. It took probably three or four minutes after they crashed before it actually started raining, so it probably would have got to the end of the stage. It would have been kind of hard to decide when to make that move or not to. Overall, though, take that piece out of it and with the points we scored today it’s a big win, I think, for us. (Wallace) winning doesn’t hurt anybody because he’s a non-playoff contender, so no big deal there and able to score solid stage points. They had us second, but then changed us back to third, so I don’t know. We’ve got to kind of go back and see where we actually finished, but, either way, it was a good points day and puts us in a good spot.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “Yeah, I raced as smart as I could and raced on the unselfish side. The teamwork has to be there and has to be there at the right moment. For us, with the rain and the end of the Stage, we wanted to get everything we could and I am really proud of the way our car drove. This Monster Energy Chevy was fast and did everything we needed it to do. I stayed committed to the low lane and it was just a matter of when the low lane versus the high lane had the momentum and whenever the yellow was going to come out. So, we just didn’t quite have all the luck on our side today.”

Christopher Bell (playoffs) – Finished 5th: “Just disappointing not to get stage points in stage one, that was a big turning point, but the guys that we’re racing all had good days. We’ve got a long way to go and we’ll head to the Roval, which is a good track for us, but it’s going to take a little bit of luck.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “We were really focused out there today. We were having a lot of fun with the Violet Defense Ford and I think we had a really good chance to be there at the end if the weather could have held out.”

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – Finished 7th: “It means so much (to see Bubba Wallace win). It’s a learning process and we knew it was going to be a learning process. I’m so happy for the team and I’m so happy for his sponsor, McDonalds as it’s been decades since they’ve been in victory lane. Just great that we’re able to show off our partners here at 23XI and this is just a building step. We’re still in just the beginning stages of our team and we’re still growing. We have some great things on the horizon, but this is just a great moral booster for everyone.”

Kevin Harvick (playoffs) – Finished 8th: “We got a little bit behind. I got shuffled out there too late for the rain storm, but our Ford Mustang was fast and we were able to make up some ground and get back up closer to where we needed to be. I hate that it started raining. Our car was fast.”

Erik Jones – Finished 9th: “Good day for the Air Force Chevy. Thought we had good speed all day and kept it up front. Thought the race was coming to us and then the rain came. Proud of the effort to have a top ten and hopefully keep it rolling at the Roval.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 11th: “What a weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Our No. 3 BREZTRI AEROSPHERE Inhalation Aerosol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was strong this weekend so I wish that Mother Nature would have cooperated a little more and we could have raced to the finish. Spotter Brandon Benesch did a great job helping to navigate us around the track, and we raced our way into the top-three several times. It was a really intense out there today, so I’m glad we were able to skirt our way through several wrecks. We’ll take this top-10 finish and head to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval next weekend.”

Cole Custer – Finished 13th: “We had a fast Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Mustang today. We were able to drive to the front, even after we took a pretty decent hit from behind during that first wreck. The guys did a great job making sure everything was buttoned up, and I think we could have ended up with a really good finish if the race went the distance. Congrats to Bubba (Wallace) on getting his first win.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 14th: “The damage early on really put us behind, but once we got back on the lead lap we were able to still draft really well. I wish we had more time to get a better finish out of it, but I’m happy with how it turned out, and I’m ready to move on to the Roval next week.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 15th: “I would have liked to have been a little bit more points to the good. I think we’re 17 or something like that, which is nothing to complain about by any means, but coming out of here less than what we came in here with points to the good is like, ‘Man, I wish we could have capitalized a little bit more,’ but that’s the way it goes. We could definitely be in a worse spot, so we just have to go and have a good race next week.”

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 18th: “Well, the A SHOC team survived the day. I just got into the wrong lane there in the closing laps. Once that got sorted back out, I didn’t have a ton of options and we just ran out of time with the rain. Not the finish we needed, but we will head onto the Roval.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 24th: “It was just kind of uneventful for us. I was just biding my time, and we just didn’t get to do what we wanted to do. We kept seeing all the activity out front and let them all wreck. Luckily, we were able to avoid all the wrecks. We just needed a restart.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 26th: “We had a fast Smithfield Ford. It handled really well and had a lot of good speed today. We stayed out of trouble all day. After the last pit stop we had a serious vibration, so I just hung at the back until the caution came out. Unfortunately, the rain hit at the same time and at the wrong time for us.”

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 27th: “Just go to Charlotte and have a 10th place day – that’s all we need. You look at the guys that you’re racing around a little bit. A couple of the Hendrick (Motorsports) cars are right around us. They’re out right now, but they’re fast on the road courses so any one of them could possibly win. We just have to keep ourselves above the cut line.”

Ryan Preece – Finished 32nd: “Just superspeedway racing. This is just a common cause in this kind of racing. There is strategy and it’s a game of chess; but when the rain is coming like it was, everybody starts pushing harder and harder. Unfortunately, I was on the bad end of it. Like Chris (Buescher) and I work really good together and it was just a bad situation I guess.”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 35th: “We went up there early and led some and were feeling our car out. We had good speed and was as good as always. The Quick Lane Mustang and Wood Brothers always bring really fast race cars here and really wanted to feel it out. We got shuffled a little and was just riding. We were committed to that before the day started. Leverage the situation to our advantage that we don’t need stage points, so we were gonna cruise and let the wrecks happen and then in stage three go and try to run up front and go for the win, but Mother Nature threw a little kink in our plans here and obviously we see what happened.”

William Byron (playoffs) – Finished 36th: “(Ryan Preece) was just coming down the track and I was kind of trying to run a third lane. Just part of Talladega. We’ll go to the Roval, try to win that one and advance that way.”

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – Finished 37th: “I didn’t even see what happened and had no time to react or anything like that. It’s just part of this racing when you are not situated in good track position and just got collected there. So, yeah, a bit of a bummer, but could have been worse today.”

Alex Bowman (playoffs) – Finished 38th: “Just dumped over on the left rear and turned us around really bad. Bummer for the Ally (No.) 48 team. We had a fast car; we were leading there. That’s just superspeedway racing and the box that we’re put in by these racetracks. You’ll have that. Bummed to have torn up racecar, but we’ll move on and try to go win the Roval.”

Trackhouse Racing picks up additional sponsorship from Kubota


Trackhouse Racing announced Friday that it has picked up additional sponsorship for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez from Kubota Tractor Corp. for the 2023 season.

Kubota sponsored Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last October at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is expanding its sponsorship to six races for the new season.

Chastain will race with Kubota sponsorship at Auto Club Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami. Suarez’s Chevrolet will carry Kubota livery at Texas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy seeks breakout year in 2023

The team also announced that a $10,000 donation will be made to Farmer Veteran Coalition for each Kubota-sponsored race in which Chastain finishes in the top 10. The FVC assists military veterans and current armed services members who have an interest in farming.

“The sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us,” said Chastain, whose family owns a Florida watermelon farm.


Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22


While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three


A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”