What drivers said after the 64th Daytona 500

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Here is what NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after Sunday’s 64th running of the Daytona 500, which opened the 2022 season Sunday at Daytona International Speedway:

Austin Cindric, winner: “Oh, my God. Do you know what makes it all better? A packed house. A packed house at the Daytona 500. I’ve got so many people to thank. First and foremost Roger Penske, happy birthday. Oh, my gosh. Appreciate Ryan being a great teammate. Obviously, he wants to win this one. Everybody works so hard with this Next Gen car, through this whole process, and damn, I am so excited. This makes up for losing a championship last race I did.

“I’m surrounded by great people. That’s all there is to it. I know there’s going to be highs and lows, being a rookie in a field of drivers this strong. I’m just grateful for the opportunity, excited to climb the mountain we’ve got ahead of us on the 2 team. But we’re in the playoffs. That’s one good box checked. My gosh, what an awesome group of fans, what an awesome race car. Just really thankful.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished second: “Yeah, first of all, that’s pretty damn cool to win the 500, so congrats to Austin (Cindric). What could have been, right? Man, need to talk about some happy stuff here. Just dejected, but the thing that keeps me up is just the hard work that we put into our speedway stuff and the hard work from everybody at 23XI, proud of them, can’t thank them enough. I knew this was a big move last year for me to go out and be competitive, and we’re showing that. It’s always the first race of the season and you’re getting through everything, but when you come out of the gates like that, it’s empowering, it’s encouraging. So thanks, everybody, back at the shop, McDonald’s, almost got them another one — back-to-back superspeedway wins. That would have been awesome, especially with it being the 500. But just short. I thought our Toyota teammates did good work until they got picked off one, two, three throughout the race, so we just had to survive.

“Great Speedweeks, though. We’ll come home second. I’m going to be pissed off about this one for a while. I was happy on the first second place we got a couple years ago. This one sucks when you’re that close, but all-in-all, happy for our team, happy for our partners, and on to California.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished third: “It’s crazy.  You dream when you grow up racing just being in the Daytona 500, and I never in a million years thought I would ever get an opportunity to even run in one. To be restarting sixth with a green-white-checkered was pretty surreal in the first place, but I just couldn’t get to Brad.  I kept trying to get there and I just couldn’t. He was having to drag so much brake to get back to me.  I just wasn’t much help to him, to be honest with you, and then Kyle got me really good into three and I had such a run that I had to take it. I wish it was Talladega because I felt like if the start-finish line was a little further down I may have had a shot at that thing, but really cool to start our year off with Mahindra Tractors with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500.  It’s cool for one of my best friends to win the race.  It’s pretty cool.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished fourth: “Yeah, the last lap I got good pushes on the bottom from the 23 (Wallace) and then I was able to get Austin in front and off of four where we were good enough to make a move I got blocked and I ended up getting fenced.  I’m happy for Roger Penske, winning the 500 on his birthday.  I’m happy for (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and everyone that works on that 2 car.  It’s just one of those things.  It didn’t work out.  We still ended up fourth, but I don’t know another perfect position we could have put ourselves in to win the race.  It just didn’t work out. I made the decision of I wasn’t gonna make a move until I was 100 percent sure that one of our two cars was gonna win, and one of our two cars were going to win and one of them ended up winning.  I was committed to him until I was 100 percent sure that one of us was gonna win and one of us did.

“I wanted to try to win the race for Roger Penske.  Whether that was me or another car, that’s what I was doing and I didn’t want to make a move too early because that throws a big chance out the window.  That’s about it.” (Was the block by Cindric fair?) “I don’t know.  Congrats to him, I guess.  You’ve got to throw a block in that situation.”

Aric Almirola — Finished fifth: “I honestly thought I was in a really good position.  I knew it was gonna get kind of dicey and haywire there with the leaders and I thought that they would kind of shove each other around and come disconnected and I would have a bunch of momentum coming from behind.  We’d seen that in the Duels and other races, so I hate to come up short.  I had a really good feeling going into today.  I just felt like it was kind of gonna be one of those storybook type deals where the last Daytona 500 I thought we had a shot at going to Victory Lane and just came up a little bit short. Dang, that’s fun. That’s fun.” (Did you allow yourself to think about winning during the red flag?) “Absolutely.  Yeah.  I thought so.  We were coming there to the end and I thought for sure like, ‘Man, this is setting up nicely to have that kind of storybook ending.’ Yeah, I believed it. I really did. I believed it in my heart that it was gonna happen and I still felt like I was in a really good position off of turn two on the white flag. I’m like, ‘Man, if they let us race back and there’s no crash, we’ve got a shot to win this thing.’ We came out fifth, but it was still fun.  I’m proud of our team.”

Kyle Busch — Finished sixth: “Overall, a good day and a good effort. I’m pleased with how far we came from behind to get a decent finish there. We were tore up a lot most of the race so that was a good finish. (The damage) definitely slowed us down a little bit. Any time you get damage, it’s not optimum but otherwise we were able to hang in the draft well and race around some of the other guys that were fast, but there were definitely guys that were faster than us and they were noticeable.”

Michael McDowell — Finished seventh: “I was not exactly where I wanted to be. I would have liked to been a row or two up. It’s hard to win from sixth, but I had my Ford teammate in front of me, Aric Almirola, and saw that everybody was pushing hard.  You can’t see too much through the back window of the car, so you’re just kind of pushing and hoping it all works out. I thought we were gonna get to the finish line, so as I was crossing the line I just got hooked in the right-rear and went straight in the wall.  That was unfortunate because we had a pretty clean race. That’s not what we wanted.  We wanted to come back here and challenge for the win, but we were close to being in that position again – being in that top five coming to the white, but we just needed to be a few more spots further forward.  All in all, it was a great race. I thought the Next Gen car did really well and put on a good show. The pack stayed together quite a lot – more than I thought from the Duels and practice, and we had a fast Ford Mustang. All in all, other than a destroyed race car, we had a decent day going and it would have been nice to get across the line without destroying the car, but glad to come out of here with a top 10 or a top five, I’m not sure where we ended up and get ready for California.”

David Ragan — Finished eighth: “For some reason the outside lane just didn’t get the surge that maybe we got two restarts prior. I saw Brad back just a little bit and I was kind of surprised it was that clean on the white flag lap and then coming through three and four no one lifts and everyone is real aggressive. The first thing that I saw was the 12 car come across the racetrack and we all started kind of squeezing down and then I felt Michael McDowell come across my left-front fender and that kind of ran us into the wall.  It was right at the start-finish line. That’s unfortunate to tear up a lot of race cars for that reason, but you’re going for the win in the Daytona 500 and no one is gonna lift and everyone is gonna do what they’ve got to do. I couldn’t be more proud of our effort. We really did a perfect job executing the whole race long. We made some adjustments. We just kept fighting and tried to be careful and get aggressive when it counted, so happy to come home with a top 10, but you’re disappointed to have a torn up race car. It was a lot of fun and I’m sure we’ll come back one day.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished ninth: “I thought down the backstretch we were going to win the race and just the 12 (Blaney) and the 2 (Cindric) got a really good push from the 23 (Wallace) and basically cleared our lane and then our lane kind of broke up there at the end. It was really close, just green-white-checkers. (What happened in the crash with Harrison Burton) “I was just pushing and it just turned sideways and spun immediately out. I don’t know what happened there.  It was a shame to see it.  I hate it for him. I was trying to help him win the stage and certainly didn’t want to see him spin out.” (And with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?) “The same thing. I was just pushing. We weren’t even all the way up to speed, so I feel like it was a crazy time to be pushing, but obviously the results say different. Whenever somebody spins out obviously there’s somebody over aggressive, but in the moment I didn’t (feel aggressive). (On seeing his former car win) “I’m happy for them. There’s a great group of people over there and they deserve all their success.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 11th: “That was our goal today. Race smart and race when we needed to in order to get to the finish. I am really proud of these guys because we accomplished what we wanted; to get in position late in the race and have a shot at a good finish. It’s a great start for this team and we are looking forward to Fontana and the rest of the season.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 18th: “Our day was OK. We had a fast No. 99 Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevy, we just got behind there with the speeding penalty. The No. 42 (Ty Dillon) kind of pushed me to the grass and then we had a loose wheel. It wasn’t a clean day, but we’ll move onto Auto Club (Speedway).”

Cole Custer — Finished 20th: “I thought we did a pretty good job with our Mustang at the start of the race. We had good pit stops, we got off pit road well, things were looking pretty decent at the start of the race. We came down pit road the second time and it wouldn’t take fuel, so it’s just one of those things with this NextGen car. It’s one of those things we learned from for the next time how to make it better. You want to go out there and race for the win in the Daytona 500, but we still brought home a clean racecar and get to head back home to Southern California for the second time in three weeks. But, man, I wish we could’ve raced for the win today.”

Erik Jones — Finished 29th:  “Tough ending for our race. The Chevrolet was strong throughout, and it felt nice getting up front to lead laps and run inside the top five. The speed in our car was shown by earning stage points in the first stage and then driving our way back forward in the second. I’m proud of the effort that Dave (Elenz, crew chief) and the Petty GMS guys put forth all week long. We will now shift our focus to California and the West Coast swing.”

JACQUES VILLENEUVE — Finished 22nd: “It was amazing.  It was a handful.  The car was more difficult to drive than I expected. It was tight. It was loose and that was not expected after testing, but just getting the draft was complicated – especially at the start because everybody just jammed and hit the brakes and that was it. That’s frustrating.  It’s really hard to get back in the pack. It was amazing. All the energy. The concert. The show, not just the race, the whole atmosphere. It was really, really amazing. I want to do more, obviously. I’ve always wanted to do more and more racing. Right now, there was only this race planned, but we’ll see how it pans out. We got a good result. The car is intact and maybe we can get some sponsors and go racing again.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – Finished 28th: “We put ourselves in the perfect position really for us to come down to leading the Daytona 500 with five laps to go. All and all, our No. 47 Camaro just got pushed in the wrong spot. We did everything we could today to put ourselves in the right position. We’ve got to be happy about that and move on.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 32nd: “It’s disappointing. I had a run there on the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick). I didn’t realize how close he was to the No. 17 (Chris Buescher). I got to him right as he was getting to him and it got him out of shape. I hate that I did that. It’s so hard see in front of him, especially on the straightaway like that. I didn’t realize how close he was to him and it just got him all jacked up. I hate that it ended our day, as well as a bunch of others. Our No. 5 Chevy was fast and hopefully we can see a Chevy win here with Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) out front.”

Todd Gilliland — Finished 33rd: “That was like the one wreck that I thought I had missed from the beginning. I was going low. I was on the apron and the 43 was trying to miss it, too, and it looked like he got hit and hit my right-rear and right-reared me into the fence. That’s racing here at Daytona. They were joking in the infield care center that this place takes a lot more than it gives. I feel like I was having a really good day until then, though, so we’ll take the positives out. I still think this was a pretty good first points Cup race, so we’ll keep moving on. I was super happy with where I was at (with 10 laps to go). I thought I was in a great position. LIke Michael always says, he wants to be third on the last lap.  I felt like I could have easily been right where I wanted to be, so our car wasn’t the fastest out there today, but I feel like I made a lot of good moves in the draft. I was always hopefully going forward in the correct lane, so I just think overall I learned a lot and could have been in a great position at the end.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “We had a really fast Chevrolet all week and felt really good after our team worked hard to make adjustments during today’s race. We had a part break which caused me to spin and wreck on the frontstretch. With the shortage of parts for these new cars, that definitely puts more work on my team and that’s tough. I’m looking forward to getting to the west coast and improving our performance. The entire RCR team and everyone at ECR worked really hard to make these cars fast.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 36th: “It looked like the two cars on top. The 6 (Brad Keselowski) was pushing the 21 (Harrison Burton) and you could see the 21 was kind of getting out of control there, so you know the mindset was that you’ve got to back off but I think the 6 was just insistent on pushing him at all costs and eventually turned the 21 around. Tough, you know, considering it was just for the stage. We were kind of boxed in there where I noticed that something was going to happen, but I was boxed in, I was behind a teammate and I wanted to try to help. Again, just too aggressive pushing right there when they weren’t lined up and in control.”

William Byron — Finished 37th: “It looked like the bottom lane was pushing well; nice, balanced and controlled. The outside lane was getting a little squirrely the last lap or so. I noticed that, but there’s nothing you can really do. You’re just trying to push your guy out front. It was (Martin) Truex Jr. in front of me and Kyle Busch. We were doing a good job of kind of managing that gap on the bottom. I think the No. 21 (Harrison Burton) just got loose, slid down the track and I slid to the inside wall. There was nothing we could really do. I think we were definitely going to finish in the top-five in that Stage. Our No. 24 Camaro seemed really fast. It’s disappointing, but we’ll go onto California (Auto Club Speedway) and we’ll be fast there.”

HARRISON BURTON — Finished 38th: “I’ve hit a lot harder before, that’s for sure.  It’s just unfortunate. I hate it for the Wood Brothers group. They brought a really fast Ford Mustang down here and ended up on our lid, so that’s never good. I’d like to look back and see what happened. I don’t know. I just got pushed, and the car didn’t take it the right way or got pushed in the wrong spot. I’m not sure. I couldn’t really tell. I was looking out front to see what I had to do next to side-draft the next guy that was on me, so just a bummer. I don’t really know what we could have done different, but we’ll move on and get better from it. I don’t know if (Keselowski’s push) was too much. I just think it might have been in the wrong spot. It’s hard. These bumpers don’t line up as good as the old ones did. Through the testing I always found that dead center was the best, so when I was pushing Joey or whatever you want to push in the center of the bumper. I couldn’t tell. I haven’t watched a good video of it yet, so don’t take what I say to the bank. Obviously, I’m not questioning Brad’s ability, but I think he just got a little wide on my right side and kind of shot me on the inside there. We were working good together up to that point. There were a couple moments where I was having to save it kind of sideways and obviously just one too many and we ended up upside-down.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 40th: “They were just wrecking and I saw a car upside down. Just wrong place, wrong time for our No. 1 Chevrolet. Bummer. Everybody I was around was pretty calm. I saw the tandem up front. Everything looked fine. I was blind to what happened, so I don’t really know what went wrong.”

Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really the biggest, fastest, fiercest track?

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Talladega Superspeedway has a reputation as one of the wildest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

Is it hype? Or do the numbers prove the point?

The biggest

Talladega is the longest oval track in the NASCAR circuit. At 2.66 miles (14,045 feet), one Talladega lap is the length of about 468 football fields. Talladega is longer than Mauna Kea is tall.

If we measure lengths in terms of Talladega:

  • The distance from Charlotte to Nashville (the location of the NASCAR awards ceremony) is 339 Talladegas.
  • If you flew direct from Los Angeles to New York City, you would cover 2500 Talladegas.
  • Martinsville is just 0.20 Talladegas.

Talladega also holds the record for banking in current Cup Series tracks with 33 degrees. Talladega’s banking is so high that the outside lane of the 48-foot wide racing surface is 26.1 feet higher than the inside lane. That difference is about the height of a two-story house.

Talladega is a tri-oval. Think of it as three straight lines connected by three curves.

A graphic showing the tri-oval shape and how it got its name

 

While tri-oval describes the track shape, it is also used to refer to the frontstretch — the most triangular part of the track.

And Talladega’s frontstretch is formidable. The 4,300-foot segment is banked at 16.5 degrees. Talladega’s frontstretch has more banking than all three of Pocono’s turns.

The backstretch, known as the Alabama Gang Superstretch, isn’t too shabby, either. It’s 1,000 feet longer than Daytona’s backstretch. If you were to unroll Richmond, its entire 0.75-mile length would just cover Talladega’s backstretch.

Talladega’s infield is so large that it could hold the L.A. Coliseum, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover, Richmond and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A graphic showing that it's possible to pack five smaller tracks, plus the NASCAR Hall of Fame into Talladega's infield

The Fastest

Bill France Sr. originally envisioned Talladega as Indianapolis Motor Speedway with higher banking. At a time when raw speed was the big attraction, higher banking would allow Talladega to wrest away the closed-track speed record from Indy.

In 1970, just six months after Talladega hosted its first race, Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph mark on a closed course.

Baker’s breakthrough happened at a testing session. It wasn’t until 1982 that Benny Parsons became the first Cup Series driver to qualify over 200 mph. Just four years later, all but one of the 42 drivers starting the spring race qualified over 200 mph.

In May 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time Cup Series qualifying record at 212.809 mph. That record will likely never be broken. During the race, Bobby Allison got airborne and crashed into the catchfence. NASCAR subsequently mandated restrictor plates (and now tapered spacers) to keep speeds down and cars on the ground.

Restricting airflow to the engine makes drafting even more important. That, in turn, leads to large packs of cars racing within inches of each other. That’s why four of the top-10 closest finishes in the Cup Series happened at Talladega.

In the spring 2011 race, Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by just two-thousandths (0.002) of a second. That ties the famous 2003 Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch Darlington finish for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history.

Of all Talladega races run after NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in May 1993, 44 ended under a green flag. Of those races:

  • Seven (15.9%) were won by less than 25 thousandths of a second.
  • Fifteen (34.1%) were won by less than one-tenth of a second.
  • Thirty-nine (88.6%) were won by less than two-tenths of a second.
  • The largest margin of victory was 0.388 seconds.

The Fiercest

Pack racing leads to more contact. Out of 35 Talladega races run under the current green-white-checkered rule, 14 (40%) ended under caution. Rain caused one of those yellow/checkered finishes. The rest were due to accidents.

In 64 races since 1990, Talladega has seen 228 caution-causing spins or accidents, which involved 1,120 cars.

Almost half (49.2%) of these incidents involved only one or two cars. A one- or two-car accident is no less problematic for the drivers involved than a larger crash. But the more cars involved in accidents, the more likely a driver is to be knocked out of the race.

  • 3.5% of all accidents since 1990 involved 20 or more cars.
  • 5.7% of accidents collected 15 or more cars.
  • 16.7% were 10-car or larger crashes.
  • 38.2% involved five or more cars.

While probable, the Big One is by no means inevitable.

Neither are accidents in general. Three races since 1990 finished with no cautions, but all three of these races took place before 2003. The lowest number of cautions in a Talladega race since 2003 is three. That happened at the fall races in 2013 and 2015.

The average number of caution-causing accidents and spins in a Talladega race is 3.5.

  • Seven races (10.9%) had a single caution-causing accident or spin.
  • 14 out of 64 races (21.9%) had four caution-causing accidents or spins
  • 13 of 64 races (20.3%) had three caution-causing incidents.

Races with four or fewer accidents make up 71.9% of all Talladega races — which means that races with five or more accidents only account for 28.1%.

The numbers definitely uphold Talladega’s reputation. Although the track itself remains the same, the racing varies. Tune in to NBC (2 p.m. ET) to see whether this fall’s bout is accident-filled or accident-free.

Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

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AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

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Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.

Safety key topic in meeting for drivers at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Cup drivers met Friday with Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council, and discussed safety issues ahead of this weekend’s playoff race, which will be without two drivers due to concussion-like symptoms from crashes.

Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch will not race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Busch suffered his head injury in a crash at Pocono in July. Bowman’s injury followed his crash last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Both were injured in accidents where the rear of the car hit the SAFER barrier first.

Two drivers injured in less than three months — and the series racing at a track where crashes are likely — raises tension in the Cup garage. 

Denny Hamlin blasted NASCAR on Saturday, saying it was “bad leadership” for not addressing safety concerns drivers had with the car. Hamlin also said that the Next Gen vehicle needs to be redesigned.

Burton, who also is an analyst for NBC Sports, said in an exclusive interview that Friday’s meeting was lengthy because there were several topics to discuss. Burton didn’t go into details on all the topics.

Safety was a key element of that meeting. Burton, whose role with the Drivers Advisory Council is to coordinate the group and communicate with NASCAR, discussed the cooperation level with NASCAR.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” he said. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car. 

“We want to see that come to conclusion as soon as possible. They have made commitments to us and are showing us what is happening, communicating with us in regard to timing, and we want to see it come to conclusion, as they do. 

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some changes done before last weekend. It just takes a long time to test stuff.”

NASCAR has a crash test scheduled next week on a new rear clip and rear bumper. Even if the test goes well, there’s not enough time for any such changes this season with five races left.

The frustration from drivers — and voiced by Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — has been that NASCAR was informed about issues with a stiffer car for more than a year. Some questions were raised after William Byron crashed in a test in March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway.

“William Byron busted his ass at (Auto Club) Speedway and that should have raised a red flag right off the bat,” Harvick said Saturday.

Hamlin said more drivers needed to speak up about concerns with the car.

“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives,” Hamlin said.

Byron is looking for changes to be made.

“I want to have a long career, and I don’t want to have a series of concussions that make me either have to step way from the car or have to think about long-term things,” he said.

Chase Elliott also shared his frustrations Saturday.

“You come off a week like we had in Texas and somebody getting injured and then you come into here, where odds are we’re probably all going to hit something at some point (Sunday) and probably not lightly at that,” Elliot said.

So what do drivers do?

“Do you just not show up?” Elliott said. “Do you just not run? I don’t think that’s feasible to ask. There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. 

“My frustration is … I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had a choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry. 

“That should have just never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. So my disappointment lies in that that we had years and time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t, and now we’re having to fix it. 

“I just hate that we did that. I think we’re smarter than that. I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.”

Burton told NBC Sports that drivers did not discuss in Friday’s meeting running single-file in Sunday’s race as a form of protest.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for me to see single-file (racing Sunday) because of what happened at Texas and what could happen next week (at the Charlotte Roval),” Burton said. “Drivers need a period of calmness. 

“There was not a discussion, a collaborated effort or any sort of thing of how you race (Sunday). That conversation did not come up in that meeting.”

Harvick said Saturday that he’ll continue to be vocal about safety issues.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure these guys are in a good spot,” Harvick said. “Whatever I have to do.”

Harvick later said: “I don’t think any of us want to be in this position. We have to have the safety we deserve to go out and put on a great show and be comfortable with that. 

“Obviously, we all have taken the risks of being race car drivers, but there’s no reason we should be in a worse position than we were last year.”

Harvick said it was a matter of trust.

“The reality of the situation is much different than what they’re looking at,” Harvick said of NASCAR officials. “I think that the trust level is obviously not where it needs to be from getting it fixed. I think they’re going to have to earn the trust level back of reacting quick enough to do the things that it takes. The drivers’ opinion, especially when it comes to safety side of things, has to be more important than the data or more important than the cost. Safety can’t be a budget item.”

Corey LaJoie, who is a member of the Drivers Advisory Council board, said that while challenges remain with the car, he sees the effort being made by NASCAR.

“Nothing happens quick in this deal when you have 38 teams and you have seven cars per team,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “It has to be a well-thought-out process to implement the changes.

“It’s easy to get up in arms and prickly when we have guys like Alex and Kurt out. You don’t ever want that to happen. Every conversation I’m having is what we, as the Driver Council, is trying to communicate to NASCAR and NASCAR making proactive changes and moving timelines up aggressively to try to implement these changes.”