What drivers said at Auto Club Speedway

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Here is what NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after a wild race at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

Kyle Larson, winner: “It’s always fun here to win in the home state. Hard work all weekend there. Didn’t feel great in practice yesterday. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody made some good adjustments overnight, and the car handled a lot better. There were definitely some guys that were quicker than us, but they had their misfortunes. Just kept our heads in it all day. Long race. Just restarts were crazy. The whole runs were crazy. Definitely wild but cool to get a win here in California and hopefully get on a little streak.”

Austin Dillon — Finished second: “Huge credit to the Lord and our pit crew. Man, they were unbelievable all day. They kept us in this race. We had to make a bunch of adjustments. We were terrible at the beginning. Just kind of learning the car myself and then communicating with Justin (Alexander, Crew Chief), we just made it better and better.”

Erik Jones — Finished third: “It was good. It feels good to be interviewed after the race, too. It’s awesome, but it’s frustrating too. You’re that close and you have a car that you feel like can do it. The No. 43 FOCUSFactor Chevrolet definitely had it today. It was a matter of getting up front and taking advantage of clean air, and we did that a couple of times. A couple restarts just didn’t go our way. I probably could have done a better job here and there, and it just didn’t add up. I just haven’t raced up front a lot in the last year and a half. There are some things I need to be better at. Hopefully I have a lot of time to work on that. We want to keep running upfront and if we keep doing that, we’re going to win some races.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished fourth: “We’re going to win a few races very soon here. I just can’t thank everyone enough in my team. We had a fast car, but we went through a lot of adversity. We had a few issues. We hit the wall once. We had an issue with a diffuser. My pit crew, those guys are legends; it’s unbelievable. It’s the best pit crew I’ve ever had, and it’s a lot of fun to race like that. … I can tell you that I’m going to work very, very hard to go to Victory Lane very, very soon here.”

Joey Logano — Finished fifth: “The guys did a great job of getting the car fixed after I wrecked in qualifying and we were fast right off the get-go. We were okay. The short runs weren’t really our cup of tea with our Auto Club Mustang here. We had a shot there at the end though going down the backstretch two-wide and I thought it was my chance. It was a low-percentage move and it was kind of too late down the straightaway to make the move but I thought I had a big enough run that I could maybe get position going in. It was just too late and I couldn’t get my amigo Daniel Suarez there to get far enough back on my quarter.

“He was on my door and I had to start chasing it. I don’t know. I probably could have finished second or third if I didn’t make that move but you have to go for the win. We were so close. I probably would do it again but maybe checked up the entry a little bit anticipating him washing up into Larson. But hey, I tried.”

Aric Almirola — Finished sixth: “We sure had our hands full. It was a crazy day, wow. These cars are certainly a handful and we worked on it all day and made it to where it was driving better. Then we got some damage and the guys worked on it and got it fixed. It was a solid day for us to come out and have a good start to the west coast swing and keep our cars in one piece.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished seventh: “We actually had a really good car and then every time we would get close we would have something go wrong. So we just had so many things go wrong that it was hard to keep our track position but I am really proud of my team. They did a great job of battling through everything and giving us a shot out there.”

Kurt Busch — Finished eighth: “I can’t describe what we went through today with all the adversity, all of the problems – the self-inflicted things, the oddball scenarios. Wow. What a top 10. That is a statement piece for us at 23XI, to get our top 10 like this with everything we have been through. I’ve got to thank all of my guys for staying focused. They showed me the way, and I showed them on what we’ve got to do this year to keep chiseling away. I think we are the highest finishing Toyota, so we know we have some work to do, and the restart fell our way on that last one, but that was the best our car had handled since the first stage, so lots to learn. Lots to go through.”

Daniel Hemric — Finished ninth: “What a day! I felt like we had a really good car, and we were able to maintain good speed and move forward. Unfortunately, we had an issue with our shifter and lost six laps. I can’t believe we got all of them back and were even able to contend there at the end. I’m super proud of everyone on this No. 16 Poppy Bank Chevy team, My crew chief, Matt Swiderski, and everyone else at Kaulig Racing put together an incredible race car. It was really good and super fast – it was just a matter of being back on the lead lap.”

Cole Custer — Finished 11th: “I was really happy with the progress our team made. We made really good adjustments all day and got our car better. We got a little off there at the end and I wish I did a few things different on the restarts but overall it was a solid day and we got some stage points and we can take that into the next one.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 12th: “It was a really solid day in our Menards Quaker State Ford Mustang getting points in both stages and being a contender in the top-10 the entire race. I felt like I was a bit married to the top lane. I will have to understand why that is and look over how I can be better on the bottom and do a better job on the restarts. It wasn’t our day as far as being involved the wrong things and even recovered back to the top 10 and got a wheel stuck on. We have some things to clean up but it was overall a solid performance and it was good to be in the top 10 all day.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 16th: “I think dirt guys like Larson and Reddick and me, we like it slick and worn out and you can move around and search for grip. I felt like I was able to try different lanes and try to find grip. I felt like our car was really good too and that obviously helps. But yeah, this place has always been really good for us guys and I think that is just because of how slick it is.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 18th: “We had really good speed today in our No. 12 WURTH Ford. It felt like the balance was pretty good and we were able to make our way through the field. Unfortunately, we’re still learning on the setup stuff and how that impacts the ability to get the wheel off quickly during a pit stop. We’ll learn from it and go to Vegas next week and hopefully carry over the speed we had today.”

Justin Haley — Finished 23rd: “Overall it was a good race. We stayed on the lead lap and raced in the top 15 quite a bit. We made the car better with each stop as the race went on, so l’m proud of everyone the No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy team for working hard all day. At the end, we were racing hard for 11th or 12th and made contact with the 12 car. It wasn’t the finish we wanted, and the car is a little torn up, but I’m happy with the performance of the car and the gains we made.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 24th: “Absolutely gutted by how our race unfolded but I couldn’t be prouder of this whole team and what we were able to do a majority of this race today. We will learn from this; we will become stronger from this and be hungrier than ever before. It was really fun having all of the Lenovo guests here today and it was really exciting to have such a strong run for them today. We will keep this momentum going to Las Vegas next week.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 29th: “To use a backup car and start the race without any laps on it was a handful. We were really loose to start and I was not sure if we’d be able to get on the other side of it. My crew chief Phil Surgen and the Trackhouse team kept changing a lot of things on the car and got the balance where I could drive it. At the beginning of the race, I was pretty worried that we were just going to be loose and slow all day. Obviously, we got a lot better and had a shot at a top five and I messed up. I made an unforced error running around the sixth spot. I was just riding along and hit a bump wrong and didn’t catch it in time. A mistake on my part. Seeing the transition from the beginning of the race to the end gives me a lot of hope.”

Harrison Burton — Finished 33rd: “It just looked like they stacked up in front of us there. I don’t know how many crashed but there was a lot of smoke and I couldn’t see where I was going. I kind of had to take a guess on where they wouldn’t be and ended up finding the 23 I think. It was a frustrating day. It felt like we weren’t running as well as we needed to be anyway. I guess those things happen when you don’t have great track position. We were fighting in the teens and 20’s all day and we need to be fighting further up to be able to avoid that mess.”

William Byron — Finished 34th“So frustrated I made that mistake for our team today. What a fast car and we were making our way back to the front. I got loose getting under the No. 8 (Tyler Reddick) who had a flat. Thankful for such a fast car and I know we’ll be back stronger next week.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 35th: “That was certainly a disappointing way to end our race. The Fastenal Ford was fast today and we were getting stronger as the day went on. We’ll just have to take what we learned here today and move on to Las Vegas where I’m confident we will continue to improve.”

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.

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 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.