Chase Elliott fastest in Clash at the Coliseum opening practice; Kevin Harvick second

Clash Coliseum practice
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Chase Elliott led the first NASCAR Cup Series practice Saturday for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum, turning a 13.455-second, 66.890-mph lap in the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick was second (13.457), followed by Chase Briscoe (13.470), Justin Haley and Kyle Busch.

“First off just props to NASCAR and everybody involved, all the men and women that put a lot of the effort into making it happen,” Elliott told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little.

SPEED CHART: Click here for the lap times from practice

VIEWER’S GUIDE: What to watch in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum

“Building a racetrack, paving it and all the logistics that have gone into this. Props to everyone for making it happen. They did a really good job with it. The workmanship and logistics of how this has worked has really impressed me. Happy to be here.

“It’s been a really busy winter and hasn’t felt like much offseason for any of us but super excited to be back. I feel we have a pretty good NAPA Chevy, and at this point, we’re just trying to make the right decisions and not let me mess it up too bad.”

NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash - Practice
Kyle Busch drives his No. 18 Toyota onto the track at the Los Angeles Coliseum (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill (who is making the first of at least a dozen starts in the No. 77 Chevy this season), Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10 in the lone session for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the first time in the 43-year history of NASCAR’s preseason exhibition that it’s being held outside the 2.5-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway.

The Coliseum short track will offer a vastly different experience.

All but three cars in Saturday’s practice were in the 13-second bracket, turning laps in the mid-60 mph range around the 0.25-mile temporary asphalt surface that was built on top of the famous field normally used for USC football games.

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There will be a qualifying session at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1) to set the field for heat four heat races beginning at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. The main event will feature 23 cars — the top four finishers in the heats, plus the top three in two last-chance qualifiers and a provisional.

NASCAR divided the 36 cars on the entry list into three groups of 12 during the two-hour practice Saturday with each group on track for three eight-minute sessions.

There were no major incidents, but several instances of contact on the tiny bullring that is a quarter-mile shorter than any other track on the Cup Series circuit.

Harvick and Corey LaJoie traded shots a few times during the first 30 minutes of the session. Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace and other drivers also ended the session with right-side scrapes after brushing the outside wall on the straightaways.

There was a yellow flag with just more than 30 minutes left in the Clash at the Coliseum practice when Briscoe stopped with a broken throttle cable in his No. 14 Ford. Briscoe said during the FS2 broadcast that it would be an easy repair.

Kyle Busch had the fastest 10-lap average (66.307 mph) in the session and told Little he was happy with his car and the track so far.

NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash - Practice
Chase Elliott takes a corner in his No. 9 Chevrolet during practice for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

“Our preaseson testings weren’t quite as great as we wanted to be, but I felt we made a lot of changes to try to get a lot of learning done,” he said. “Overall, all good. Real happy with the M&Ms Camry. Hopefully, that’ll bode well for qualifying action later on and heat races and racing.

“(The track is) cool, it’s fun it’s new, it’s different. It opens up a lot of opportunities for us. We’ll see how it races. Being out there with only 12 (cars), not 24 of us, is quite a different feel.”

Wood Brothers Racing rookie Harrison Burton‘s No. 21 Ford was the first car to take the track as drivers made their way into the Coliseum through an entrance ramp by the USC football locker room. The garage area was located a short distance from the stadium, so drivers entered via surface streets through the surrounding neighborhood.

Click here for the lap times and speeds from the Clash at the Coliseum practice,

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

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

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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.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.