Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott to talk about Auto Club incident

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Meetings and apologies are in order at Hendrick Motorsports after Kyle Larson forced teammate Chase Elliott into the wall late in Sunday’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway while contending for the lead.

Elliott unleashed a string of expletives on his team’s radio after Larson sent him into the wall and damaged his car. Larson went on to win the race. Elliott finished 26th.

Jeff Andrews, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, talked with Elliott after the event and said discussions will continue within the organization.

“I think certainly nothing intentional there by Kyle, and I think we’ll go back — I know we’ll go back and talk about it in our meetings (Monday) and Tuesday,” Andrews said. “We’ll look at all the facts. We’ll look at what happened, and we’ll talk about it as a company. 

“At the end of the day we’re going to — as we always do — we’ll do the right things for the company and get ready to go to Las Vegas (next weekend) in a good spot for really everybody.” 

Larson and Joey Logano were racing side-by-side for the lead with 21 laps go when Elliott, running behind them, moved to the outside to pass both. 

As Elliott made his move, Larson moved up the track. That forced Elliott into the wall, damaging his car. 

Larson explained his viewpoint of the situation:

“I didn’t get through (Turns) 3 and 4 very well. Joey did a good job on the bottom, and then we were side drafting each other. I’m not even looking in my mirror at that point because all I’m worried about is Joey, and I’m looking out of my A-post window.

“I had a run, so I went to peel off. As soon as I peeled off, my spotter is yelling, “Outside! Outside! Outside!” I had no clue (Elliott) was even coming.

“I hate that I ended his day after they worked so hard to get back to the lead lap and back in contention to win, but it was just an honest mistake on probably both of our faults. I should have had more awareness in my mirror. 

“My spotter could have told me he was coming with a big run, and we would have avoided that mess. I would have probably not been side drafting on Joey as hard as I was. I would have been more so protecting on Chase than worrying about Joey.

“It happened, and I hate that it did. I know they’re upset. But we’ll talk, and hopefully we’ll get on the same page. I would never run into my teammate or block him that aggressively and that late on purpose.”

Larson’s spotter, Tyler Monn took responsibility for the incident.

A few laps after the incident, Elliott asked the team if anyone had looked at a replay to see if something happened differently from what Elliott saw. 

Crew chief Alan Gustafson told him: “It’s what you saw. … We’ll try to finish the best we can. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

With nine laps left, Elliott’s damaged car got worse. He radioed his team: “It’s getting worse. It’s a lot worse the last half.”

Gustafson said: “Bring it to us and we’ll fix it.”

Elliott stayed out and spun to bring out the 12th and final caution of the race eight laps from the finish. Larson led at the time. 

Andrews discounted the notion that Elliott spun intentionally. 

“I don’t believe he was taking out any frustration,” Andrews said of Elliott. “He came on there pretty quickly after the contact with the wall, and it was a very similar issue that had happened to them early in the day with the bent toe link, and that puts a bunch of toe out in that right rear tire and rear assembly and that makes it very difficult to drive.

“They were trying to stay out and finish as well as they could and had the issue late in the race there, had to come in and put a toe link on it.”

Although the caution gave those behind Larson one more chance to get by, no one could and he scored his first win of the season and 17th of his Cup career.

Larson’s crew chief, Cliff Daniels, said he spoke with Gustafson after the race.

“I walked over there and talked to (Gustafson), said ‘Hey, we’ll take our share of the responsibility.’ They’re great teammates, always have been, and I know we’re all good teammates together.

“Like (Larson) said, that’s nothing that he would ever do intentionally, and that’s a tough racing deal. I don’t blame Chase at all for what could have been the race-winning move, and he just told his side of the story. 

“Obviously they had an amazing recovery on the 9 team today, so to see that get cut short is really tough for us as teammates because you want all four teammates to run 1 through 4. So unfortunate, but I know that we will all get together and be on the same page.”

That Elliott was in contention for the win late in the race seemed remarkable considering his woes early. 

Elliott hit the wall on Lap 33 of the 200-lap race while leading. He continued but said he felt a vibration with the car. He soon reported that he thought something broke. A couple of laps later he spun.

Elliott fell back to 34th after the incident, two laps down. He climbed to 19th by the halfway point in the race. He returned to the top 10 on Lap 153 and moved up to second when the contact was made with Larson, ruining his race.

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.

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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.