What drivers said at Phoenix Raceway

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Here is what NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after a thrilling race at Phoenix Raceway that saw a first-time winner in Victory Lane.

Chase Briscoe, winner: “That’s unbelievable. I was crying the whole last lap. I mean, this is definitely a team win. I got to thank everyone that has gotten me to this point. Seven years ago, I was sleeping on couching, ready to give up. They gave me an opportunity and it’s led to this. I am so blessed to be driving at the organization, the team, the car that was my hero growing up. To get this 14 back in Victory Lane, to do it with Mahindra Tractors, their first year in the sport, everybody that’s believed in me. It’s unbelievable.”

Ross Chastain — Finished second: That was so much fun to get to race like that at this level. Trackhouse Racing believes in me and AdventHealth and The Moose, these people they believed in me early in the season when stuff wasn’t going great. That’s so cool to race with Tyler (Reddick) and Chase (Briscoe). I mean that’s like everything I’ve ever wanted and my crew chief Phil Surgen, like people don’t know how good he is. His adjustments this year have been so incredible and gave me exactly what I needed. Just came up one spot short. I’m so happy.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished third: “I thought we got a good launch considering all things going right there into (turn) one. I know about how deep I could drive it in turn one all day. I thought I got pretty good heat in the tires. I still overstepped it. I couldn’t have drove it any deeper than I did. I still thought I was going to get him in the fence. Chase was able to drive it off in there, clear, high, take the lead. It was a lot of fun. Great to claw back from the hiccup we had earlier in the race. Everyone on this No. 8 Guaranteed Rate team did a really good job all day. One little miscue that took us from second to 12th. My pit crew did an amazing job, had a good restart at the end to put ourselves in position. It was a fun day. Nice way to recover from a mistake that late in the race, be battling for the win. Great day. We’ll see what else we can learn from this and see what lies ahead.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished fourth: “I lost the lead there on pit road and just could never get back. I don’t know. I just didn’t have quite the speed and was kind of too tight. I could drive up through the field and make good spots and nobody could really do that. You would just get really tight behind people. Not a bad day. A good recovery from last week. We had a fast car, just a shame we couldn’t contend more for the win. It is cool to see Briscoe get his first win and we will go on to next week.”

Kurt Busch — Finished fifth: “It was surprising, and it was fun. I’m normally a sticker guy. I need sticker tires and this car reacted really well to scuffs today, so that’s good for our notebook at 23XI (Racing). The restarts – I was able to find the right spots to be. Thanks to MoneyLion, Toyota. We were the top Toyota today, which is somewhat of a surprise. We were just trying to get to 10th, but we will take a top five. It’s really cool for our program, this car number, No. 45. To get a top five, check mark done. This was a good West Coast Swing. Not so much on points with stage one and stage two, but our finishes were there, and we will keep chiseling away.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished sixth: “It was a good day for us. Restarts weren’t 100% our strong point. We had a bit of a brake shake issue that kept pulling the car to the right under braking so I couldn’t get into corners like I wanted to. Still a good day and the car ran good. I just couldn’t really connect all the corners altogether through the day. Putting a (Stewart-Haas Racing) car in Victory Lane and running inside the top five all day for us is always a good day.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished ninth: “It was a rollercoaster, up and down. I don’t feel that we had the greatest speed, probably top 15 somewhere in there. I made a mistake on pit road, the speeding penalty. We had a couple slow stops. I feel like it was just ups and downs. We were able to recover a little bit. Travis (Mack, crew chief) made a good call right there with the right side tires only and we were able to get a couple spots back. Overall, it wasn’t a good day, we have to learn and come back stronger.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 10th: “That was a really solid day. Phoenix is self-admittedly not been my best track, probably one of my worst. To have a day where we come out of here with a top 10 is a small win. I want to be better but definitely a strong Phoenix for us. I am proud of everyone in this group. It was a tough weekend again with just a 20-minute practice and not much time to work on it but we were able to dial it in and be competitive in the race. I think we learned some good stuff for our short-track program and we have a lot of those coming up shortly.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 12th: “Congrats to Chase. So happy for them. We had speed and just fought some balance issues all day, but kept getting our Smithfield Ford better and better. We continue to fight all day to try and be there in the end. I’m so proud of this team for another hard-fought day. We didn’t keep the top-10 streak alive, but we’re still competitive at every track we visit, and that’s all you can ask for. It was a good day for our entire organization. Looking forward to Atlanta next week to keep it going.”

Cole Custer — Finished 16th: “It was a solid, mistake-free day. We had good long-run speed, but we just couldn’t get it on the short run. Overall, it’s something we can build on, just wish we had a little bit more.”

Justin Haley — Finished 17th: “Our No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro ZL1 started off building tight but were able to make some positive gains during our first pit stop. Track position here is crucial. I think we had a solid run overall and learned some things we can really build on for our short-track program.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 20th: “We fought some more handling issues today – I lacked rear grip and stability. We made a few major swings on pit road, but just couldn’t quite get the No. 16 Action Industries Camaro ZL1 feeling the way I wanted it to with the speed we needed. It was frustrating for sure, but we learned all we could and salvaged a top 20. This is a track we have been spending a lot of time putting our focus on, so hopefully the gains we made today carry over to the next time we come here in the fall.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 21st: “This No. 3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet team continues to work so hard. We had a top-five run going today so I hate that our day ended the way it did. During the race, we fought a tight-handling condition that caused our tires to chatter and made us snappy loose on exit to the corner in Turn 2. Solid adjustments all day had us running in the top five by the time we got to Stage 3. We were as fast as anyone in clean air. Our pit crew fired off great stops all day. On the last restart we were running sixth when the field went three-wide and someone tagged our (left)-rear. We got collected and it ended our day. Not the way we wanted to end the race after having such a strong run. It’s unfortunate to get tangled in someone else’s mess, but we’ll regroup and head to Atlanta Motor Speedway with even more fire underneath us.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 34th: “I felt it four or five laps before, well it was just getting worse. Hate that. Our Valvoline Chevy was pretty good. I thought that we were a fourth- or fifth-place car. Just was just hoping to be a little better than that. I know they’ll address the issue that seems like we have had the last couple of weeks with some of the engines. We’ll come back strong and reliable. The good thing is we have fast cars, fast engines and great drivers driving these Chevys, so we’ll get some more wins here.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 35th: “We had been getting really loose all day on the longer runs. I was just out there trying to take care of it, and we gained a few spots on the restart and I was just trying to take care of the rear tires. Coming off of turn two there, I’m kind of neutral free and then all of a sudden it shot straight into the fence. I cut a right front down running up there in the glue or something.”

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.