Friday 5: More Cup drivers look to run races outside of NASCAR in 2022

0 Comments

Team owners are allowing — and even encouraging — their drivers to compete in races outside of NASCAR this year after Kyle Larson did so and won the Cup championship last season.

The result is that fans should have more chances to see Cup drivers at local tracks this year. 

Owners, who once were not in favor of their drivers racing outside of NASCAR due to the risk of injury, recognize how little track time Cup drivers get. Cup practice is limited, and rules restrict how many Xfinity and Camping World Truck races Cup drivers can run. Even with simulation and iRacing, there’s nothing like actually racing, no matter the vehicle.

“When I think of somebody that spends as much time in a race car as possible, trying to learn and trying to get better, (Larson) has got everybody beat by a lot,” Tyler Reddick told NBC Sports. “You could probably add the amount of lap time or track time that he has and you could probably throw five or six other drivers together and you wouldn’t still get the amount he has. He’s just raced so much.”

Larson, who won 10 Cup races last season, said he has “a little bit more racing” on his schedule this year compared to a year ago. His Cup title completed one of the greatest seasons in U.S. motorsports history. He also won the Chili Bowl Nationals midget race, the Knoxville Nationals and Kings Royal sprint car races and the Prairie Dirt Classic late model race in 2021.

“I race so much, and I openly talk about how it makes me a better race car driver and then to have the results on the Cup side has, I think, definitely convinced some owners that it works,” Larson told NBC Sports about running multiple series. “They probably want their drivers to do a little bit more.”

Among other drivers following Larson’s path:

  • Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman says he looks to run a sprint car “30 to 35 times” and also might run a pavement midget “a little bit” this year after running select races last year.
  • Chase Briscoe, who said he ran two dirt races last year, plans to run 15-25 dirt races this year.
  • Justin Haley, who has a dirt modified team, says team owner Matt Kaulig has encouraged him to run 30-40 races this season. 
  • William Byron looks to run select Super Late Model races to prepare for a possible run in the Snowball Derby this year.
  • Former Cup champion Chase Elliott said he’s not sure how much he’ll run outside NASCAR this year but has “a couple of things that I’m working on.”
  • Ryan Blaney said he could “venture out a little bit” with Team Penske softening its stance on its drivers competing in races outside of NASCAR.
Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson, shown in a midget car, is proving to car owners that Cup drivers can compete in other events and still be successful in NASCAR’s premier series. (Photo: Kyle Larson)

Cup drivers look to race more because of how little time they spend in their cars. 

Only six of the 36 Cup points races will have extended practice this season. There will be no practice at both Talladega races and the August Daytona race. Teams will get 15 minutes of practice at all other ovals and 20 minutes of practice at road courses. 

Cup drivers with three or more years experience in the series are limited to no more than five Xfinity and five Truck races a season. Cup drivers are not permitted to run the final eight races in Xfinity and Trucks and other select races in each series.

Elliott, who ran midgets, sprints, the Rolex 24 and the SRX race at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway last year, said even though many of those cars are unlike his Cup ride, driving them can prove valuable. 

“Just seeing new challenges, seeing things that you’ve never seen before, car tendencies, and just those fine details it takes to be successful in different disciplines,” Elliott told NBC Sports of the benefits of competing in various cars.

“I feel like that learning curve of getting there is helpful. As these (Cup) cars change this year, you might have just learned one little spec of something in a different car that might translate. There you go. You’re a step ahead.”

Every driver seeks any advantage with the debut of the Next Gen car this season. There are few similarities between the new car and last year’s car. Drivers have had only a few test sessions to learn the vehicle before the season begins. Next week’s organizational test at Phoenix is the final one before Cup teams begin racing.

Alex Bowman at Chili Bowl during hot laps. (Photo: Alex Bowman)

Bowman told NBC Sports that he looks to do more sprint car races to “get outside my comfort zone and hopefully make myself a better race car driver for Sundays.”

“Staying in the seat the most I possibly can, I think, can only help you for Sundays. Winged (sprint) cars are so fast that I think it somewhat slows things down when you get back in a Cup car.”

While Team Penske’s philosophy has been to restrict its drivers on what they race beyond NASCAR, Walt Czarnecki, vice chairman, said this month that the organization is open to races that will help its drivers.

“I think you’re going to see a couple of our drivers, perhaps, participating in other series,” he said. “It will help them, I believe, in developing those skills for some of the new venues that we’re going to, going back to dirt.

“I know it was interesting to watch Joey Logano last year run in a super modified race. … It was quite a whole new experience for him, but it really benefited him when they went to Bristol, so we’ll pick and choose and work with the drivers.  

“We want to be flexible. We want to give them opportunities to expand their skill set. Is Ryan Blaney going to be running full-time in the World of Outlaws? I don’t think so, but there will be opportunities that will present themselves.”

Blaney and Logano have both said they’d like to race more, but both don’t have any firm plans at this time. Team Penske’s Austin Cindric will team with Wood Brothers Racing’s Harrison Burton in the four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge on Jan. 28 at Daytona International Speedway. Cindric also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GTD Pro Class on Jan. 29-30.

Byron will branch out more beyond his Hendrick Motorsports ride this year. He plans to run six to eight Super Late Model events, including a 100-lap race at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway a week before the Daytona 500. He will run some karting events to help him with road courses. Byron also might find himself racing on dirt, something Larson has talked to him about.

Justin Haley, shown driving his dirt modified car, says car owner Matt Kaulig has encouraged him to run more races beyond NASCAR this season. (Photo: Justin Haley)

Racing beyond NASCAR — and having success — could prove helpful on Cup weekends in various ways.

“Getting in the dirt car and going out and winning a feature boosts my morale,” said Haley, who moves to Kaulig Racing this season. “I think that’s why they want me to do it. 

“If I’m at a dirt track, I’m usually in a pretty good mood and having a good time with a bunch of my buddies. It’s just laid back, relaxed racing. I think (Kaulig Racing President) Chris Rice and (team owner) Matt Kaulig, not only want me to be successful but also really care about my personal attitude.”

One of the major concerns about racing outside of NASCAR is the chance for injury. Santino Ferrucci, who ran select Xfinity races last year, said he suffered a “minor concussion” in a flip at the Chili Bowl earlier this month. Elliott was uninjured in a separate flip. 

Those incidents were at a quarter-mile track. It’s understandable that a car owner could be concerned with losing a driver for a Cup race or more because of an injury suffered in another series.

“The risk is always there,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “You could get hurt driving down the interstate.”

Briscoe will start his season competing in the Jan. 28 Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona, sharing his ride with Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan. That’s just part of what Briscoe hopes will be a busy season that could include midgets, wing sprint cars, non-wing sprint cars, dirt late models and a pavement late model.

“I think more owners see it makes their drivers happier and makes their drivers better,” Briscoe said of the extra racing. “The past couple of years, with no practice and no qualifying, they have to find a way to let their drivers have seat time. That’s opened the door for us to do things.”

It’s not just owners backing drivers. Sponsors are starting to follow along. Ally sponsored Bowman when he ran a few sprint car races last year and at this year’s Chili Bowl. 

Mahindra Tractors, which signed a multi-year deal to be a primary sponsor for Briscoe in Cup beginning this season, also sponsored his midget at the Chili Bowl this year.

“They flat out told me last week at Chili Bowl, ‘If you feel like you need to go run more dirt races to be better on Sunday, then we’re going to support that,’’’ Briscoe said of his sponsor. “As a race car driver that’s huge to have that support.”

2. Chili Bowl bound?

Earlier this month, seven drivers who ran full-time in Cup last year competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals: Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Larson, Elliott, Bowman and Briscoe. Bell led the contingent, finishing second in the main event to Tanner Thorson.

Bell, though, could have a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate join him at the Chili Bowl some day.

Former Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. says he’d like to run a midget and possibly compete in a future Chili Bowl. 

Drivers said Richmond
Martin Truex Jr. would like to race a midget car. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“I played around in a midget with Toyota last summer,” Truex told NBC Sports. “Had a friggin’ blast. I’m definitely going to race one of those cars one day. 

“Bell, he tried to talk me into the Chili Bowl. I kind of procrastinated too long. I would love to race one of those cars one of these days. Preferably a small track (like the quarter-mile track at the Chili Bowl). I’d like to get a little more experience before I go to that race with 400 cars.”

So what is it about racing a midget car that is so alluring to the 2017 Cup champion?

“Just watched midget racing for years,” Truex said. “I remember growing up watching Thursday Night Thunder from (Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park). Just always intrigued by them and watched them.

And when he got into a midget car for the first time last year?

“It was like throwing a duck into the water,” Truex said. “I just got in there and went. It felt really good. I definitely want to do some more of that.”

3. Fighting chance

Harrison Burton quickly realized that he was not well prepared to fight when he got into an altercation with Noah Gragson after the July 2020 Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson and Burton raced for fourth in the final laps when the cars made contact and hit the wall. They both continued, falling outside the top five.

After the race, they had a heated conversation before Burton shoved Gragson a second time and Gragson responded by punching Burton.

It was after that experience that Burton said he began to do mixed martial arts training.

“It was the first time I had ever been in a real fight, and I was like ‘What the heck do I do?’ Burton told NBC Sports. “I tackled him and he tried to take my head off with a punch. So, that was why, but now it’s become a training tool, and it’s something that I just enjoy doing.”

Burton, who enters his rookie Cup season with Wood Brothers Racing, said mixed martial arts has helped prepare him for the longer Cup races.

“I’ve found it’s more similar to racing than I thought it would be because you’re tired, you’re focusing on things that are happening really quick, have to happen right now and it’s become kind of a really great tool,” Burton said.

There’s motivation not to lose focus when training.

“You better not mess up or you’re going to get punched in the face,” he said.

At some point, Burton would like to attend a UFC fight to see how those athletes handle fighting. And maybe pick up a thing or two. As for Gragson, Burton says no worries.

“Noah and I are fine now,” Burton said.

4. Ready to go

Bubba Wallace is set to take part in next week’s organizational test at Phoenix Raceway, marking the first time he will test the Next Gen car since a test at the Charlotte Roval in October. 

Wallace had shoulder surgery after the Cup season in November and missed two Next Gen tests at the Charlotte oval and the Daytona test earlier this month. 23XI Racing teammate Kurt Busch drove the car at those tests and at a tire test earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500
Bubba Wallace says he is “100%” after having shoulder surgery in the offseason. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wallace told NBC Sports that he’s “100%” after having surgery for a torn labrum.

“Just aching after races last year,” he said. “Just getting that out of the way was good. Just wear and tear from my career. I haven’t had anything dramatic to it.”

Although he didn’t test at Daytona, Wallace, who scored his first Cup win last fall at Talladega, kept up with the session and how the car drove.

“Just hearing feedback from so many guys that were a part of the test,” he said. “They said it wasn’t too much different, but I think, as a whole, the car is a little bit of a handful to drive, which is good. It puts it back in our hands. 

“So, it will be the best of the best going at it. So, we’ll see how some of my speedway tactics pan out with the new car.”

5. A new feeling

Since announcing this month that he will retire from full-time Cup racing after this season, Aric Almirola said he’s heard from a number of people.

“So many people just happy for me,” Almirola told NBC Sports. “Some people jealous. Some people wondering what the heck I’m doing. Why would you walk away from the sport you love and you make good money doing it? I’ve had every range of questions and emotions but overwhelmingly positive and people extremely supportive. 

Aric Almirola
This year will be Aric Almirola’s 11th and final full-time Cup season. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“From my seat, I am just excited. I am free. I feel so free that I’m going into this season, and I know it’s my last one.

“I’m not racing to hang on to my job, to hang on to my career. I’m not racing and trying to fly all over this country to appease sponsors and corporate partners to make sure they’ll continue on for one more year. It is a very freeing feeling knowing that I’m going to race this year purely for the joy and love of it.”

But the Stewart-Haas Racing driver also makes clear that he has some work left before he climbs out of the car for a final time at Phoenix in November.

“I am competitive just through and through, so this is not a ride around, farewell tour, collect a paycheck and just cruise,” he said. “I’m going to get after it.

“I am going to race my heart out, and I would love nothing more to have a quote-unquote drop the mic season where I win several races and race for a championship.”

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

0 Comments

Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”

IndyCar driver Conor Daly to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500

0 Comments

Conor Daly, who competes full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, will seek to make his first Daytona 500 this month with The Money Team Racing, the Cup program owned by boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather.

The team also announced Tuesday plans for Daly to race in up to six additional Cup races this year as his schedule allows. Daly’s No. 50 car at Daytona will be sponsored by BITNILE.com, a digital marketplace launching March 1. Among the Cup races Daly is scheduled to run: Circuit of the Americas (March 26) and the Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13, a day after the IndyCar race there).

“The Money Team Racing shocked the world by making the Daytona 500 last year, and I believe in this team and know we will prepare a great car for this year’s race,” Mayweather said in a statement. “Like a fighter who’s always ready to face the best, Conor has the courage to buckle into this beast without any practice and put that car into the field. Conor is like a hungry fighter and my kind of guy. I sure wouldn’t bet against him.”

Daly will be among at least six drivers vying for four spots in the Daytona 500 for cars without charters. Others seeking to make the Daytona 500 will be seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Legacy Motor Club), Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing) and Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports).

“I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to attempt to run in the Daytona 500,” Daly said in a statement. “It is the most prestigious race in NASCAR and to have the chance to compete in it is truly an honor. I am also excited to be running the entire IndyCar Series season and select NASCAR Cup events. I am looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait to get behind the wheel of whatever BITNILE.com race car, boat, dune buggy or vehicle they ask me to drive. Bring it on.”

Daly has made 97 IndyCar starts, dating back to 2013. He made his Cup debut at the Charlotte Roval last year, placing 34th for The Money Team Racing. He has one Xfinity start and two Craftsman Truck Series starts.

 

Will driver clashes carry beyond Coliseum race?

0 Comments

LOS ANGELES — Tempers started the day before the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum when AJ Allmendinger, upset at an aggressive move Chase Briscoe made in practice, “sent (Briscoe) into the fence.”

The action gained notice in the garage. It was quite a change in attitude from last year’s inaugural Clash when drivers were more cautious because teams didn’t have as many spare parts for the new car at the time.

But seeing the aggression in practice made one wonder what the races would be like. Such actions carried over to Sunday night’s exhibition race, which featured 16 cautions and many reasons for drivers to be upset. 

Kyle Busch made it clear where he stood with Joey Logano running into his car and spinning him as Busch ran sixth with 65 laps to go.

“It’s really unfortunate to be raced by guys that are so two-faced,” Busch said of Logano to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio after the race. “We were in the TV booth earlier tonight together and when we were all done with that, just like ‘Hey man, good luck tonight.’ ‘OK, great, thanks, yea, whatever.’

“Then, lo and behold, there you go, he wrecks me. Don’t even talk to me if you’re going to be that kind of an (expletive deleted) on the racetrack.”

Logano said of the contact with Busch: “I just overdrove it. I screwed up. It was my mistake. It’s still kind of a mystery to me because I re-fired and I came off of (Turn) 2 with no grip and I went down into (Turn 3) and I still had no grip and I slid down into (Busch’s car). Thankfully, he was fast enough to get all the back up there. I felt pretty bad. I was glad he was able to get up there (finishing third).”

Austin Dillon, who finished second, got by Bubba Wallace by hitting him and sending Wallace into the wall in the final laps. Wallace showed his displeasure by driving down into Dillon’s car when the field came by under caution.

“I hate it for Bubba,” Dillon said. “He had a good car and a good run, but you can’t tell who’s either pushing him or getting pushed. I just know he sent me through the corner and I saved it three times through there … and then when I got down, I was going to give the game. Probably a little too hard.”

Said Wallace of the incident with Dillon: “(He) just never tried to make a corner. He just always ran into my left rear. It is what it is. I got run into the fence by him down the straightaway on that restart, so I gave him a shot and then we get dumped.”

Among the reasons for the beating and banging, Briscoe said, was just the level of competition.

“Everyone was so close time-wise, nobody was going to make a mistake because their car was so stuck,” he said. “The only way you could even pass them is hitting them and moving them out of the way. … It was definitely wild in that front to mid-pack area.”

Denny Hamlin, who spun after contact by Ross Chastain, aptly summed up the night by saying: “I could be mad at Ross, I could be mad at five other guys and about seven other could be mad at me. It’s hard to really point fingers. Certainly I’m not happy but what can you do? We’re all just jammed up there.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

After going winless last year for the first time in eight seasons, Martin Truex Jr. was different this offseason. Asked how, he simply said: “Mad.

“Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year.”

Sunday was a start. After a season where Truex was in position to win multiple races but didn’t, he won the Clash at the Coliseum, giving him his first Cup victory since Sept. 2021 at Richmond. 

The 42-year-old driver pondered if he wanted to continue racing last season. He had never examined the question before.

“I’m not really good at big decisions,” Truex told NBC Sports in the offseason. “I didn’t really have to do that last year. This sport … to do this job, it takes a lot of commitment, takes a lot of drive, it takes everything that you have to be as good as I want to be and to be a champion.

“I guess it was time for me to just ask myself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this? Am I committed? Am I doing the right things? Can I get this done still? I guess I really didn’t have to do that. I just felt like it was kind of time and it was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he examined things, Truex found no reason to leave the sport.

“I came up with basically I’m too good, I’ve got to keep going,” he said. “That’s how I felt about it honestly. I feel like I can win every race and win a championship again.”

Things went his way Sunday. He took the lead from Ryan Preece with 25 laps to go. Truex led the rest of the way. 

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that,” Truex said, the gold medal given to the event’s race winner draped around his neck Sunday night. 

“We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

Asked if this was a statement victory, Truex demurred.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” he said. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

While the tire marks, dented fenders and bruised bumpers showed how much beating and banging took place in Sunday night’s Clash at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until after the race one could understand how much drivers were jostled.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said the restarts were where he felt the impacts the most. 

I only had like one moment last year that I remember where it was like, ‘Wow, like that was a hard hit,’” Larson said. “I think we stacked up on a restart at like Sonoma or something, and (Sunday’s Clash) was like every restart you would check up with the guy in front of you and just get clobbered from behind and your head whipping around and slamming off the back of the seat.

“I don’t have a headache, but I could see how if others do. It’s no surprise because it was very violent for the majority of the race. We had so many restarts, and like I said, every restart you’re getting just clobbered and then you’re clobbering the guy in front of you. You feel it a lot.”

After the race, Bubba Wallace said: “Back still hurts. Head still hurts.”

Kyle Busch apologizes for violating Mexican firearm law

0 Comments

Kyle Busch issued a statement Monday apologizing “for my mistake” of carrying a firearm without a license in Mexico.

The incident happened Jan. 27 at a terminal for private flights at Airport Cancun International as Busch returned with his wife from vacation to the U.S.

The Public Ministry of the Attorney General of the Republic in Quintana Roo obtained a conviction of three years and six months in prison and a fine of 20,748 pesos ($1,082 U.S. dollars) against Busch for the charge. Busch had a .380-caliber gun in his bag, along with six hollow point cartridges, according to Mexican authorities.

Busch’s case was presented in court Jan. 29.

Busch issued a statement Monday on social media. He stated he has “a valid concealed carry permit from my local authority and adhere to all handgun laws, but I made a mistake by forgetting it was in my bag.

“Discovery of the handgun led to my detainment while the situation was resolved. I was not aware of Mexican law and had no intention of bringing a handgun into Mexico.

“When it was discovered, I fully cooperated with the authorities, accepted the penalties, and returned to North Carolina.

“I apologize for my mistake and appreciate the respect shown by all parties as we resolved the matter. My family and I consider this issue closed.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that Busch does not face any NASCAR penalty for last month’s incident.