What drivers said at Atlanta Motor Speedway

0 Comments

Here is what NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after a chaotic race at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway.

William Byron, winner: “It was so different. You know honestly the last few laps there, just trying to manage the gap to Bubba (Wallace) and trying to not get too far out front. My spotter Brandon (Lines), it’s his first win so congrats to him and just thanks to this whole team. They’ve done a great job this year. There’s a lot of changes with the Next Gen car. The Liberty University Chevrolet was awesome there. We had a pretty rough practice; worked hard on it and got it handling well. It was kind of an intermediate style with a little bit of superspeedway to it, so it was lot of fun. Thanks to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Super exciting.”

Ross Chastain — Finished second: “That’s the fight in Trackhouse. This Gen 7 car to take a lick like that, blow a tire out of nowhere leading. Just cruising, blow a right rear, slam the wall, I thought our day was over. Our guys went underneath the car, got the tow closer and we got the balance back where I could drive it and this Advent Health Chevy was fast. It was so fast. I mean we were fighting with William (Byron) there at the beginning. So cool to race with buddies again. I only have a few, but the last two weeks I’ve been able to race with buddies.”

Kurt Busch — Finished third: “We were on a different planet today with the draft and the way the cars raced. Wow. I was catching air off of turn two. I had to lift to not hit the rev chip. I just had a little too much damage to not be on offense, and then we were just trying to ride around and pick our poison so to speak with the Monster Energy Toyota. We weren’t on offense, so if you are not on offense, you kind of have to ride and wait for the holes to open up and I got a top five again. A lot of sarcasm here. We know we need to get better with the handling and some of our race craft, but another top-five – we will take it.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished fourth: “It was just like that, up and down. Our No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet was fast. We did a good job on pit road. We had fast pit stops. When we have a fast Chevrolet Camaro, it makes things easier. Everyone at Trackhouse Racing has been working very, very hard to build cars like this. We just have to keep it up. We have a few trophies coming in the near future.”

Corey LaJoie — Finished fifth: “We did exactly what we set out to do today. We made Atlanta Motor Speedway like a superspeedway. We missed the wrecks and put our No. 7 Fraternal Order of Eagles Camaro ZL1 there at the end and got a top-five finish. It’s great to start our season with three top-15’s and now one top-five. Hopefully, we can maintain the momentum over the next couple of weeks and put ourselves in a good points position through the summer. Thank you to everyone at Spire Motorsports and the No. 7 team for all the hard work to continue to build fast Chevys.”

Chase Elliott — Finished sixth: “It was crazy, for sure. Hopefully it was fun to watch because I felt like it was wild from my seat. It was very much so like a Daytona or Talladega. Just trying to position yourself there at the right spot and hope it goes your way.”

Chris Buescher — Finished seventh: “The pylon looks better than our race, probably. It was a hard-fought race. We had a lot of balance gremlins that a lot of the field fought early on. A lot of it was just not knowing what to expect. It got better and were definitely a competitive car at the end. We needed a little more raw speed and then going through one and two coming to the checkered I don’t know what happened there. I haven’t seen all of that yet, but coming to the finish I had what I felt like was a decent run and went to pull down and go somewhere with it and I don’t think I realized the 31 was below me there. That was the end of the day. That wreck is probably on me, so frustrating to end that way but a decent finish for us still. I’m missing the old Atlanta a lot right now. To be fair, it was my favorite mile-and-a-half before, so it was gonna be hard for this one to compare and, to me, it doesn’t right now but we’ll keep working on it and see if we can get it better for next time.”

Joey Logano — Finished ninth: “A long day. We spun out and then the engine wouldn’t start. I don’t know why it wouldn’t start, but it wouldn’t start until I got pushed. We lost a lap and then got our lap back. We just battled and battled and finished ninth. No stage points.”

Justin Haley — Finished 11th: “Obviously, Chris (Buescher) and I were going for the same real estate there at the end, so neither of us were really to blame. I did not want to be forced down below the red and white line. I have been bitten by that rule in the past, so I obviously did not want to go below it, and I was not going to check up either. We had a really strong No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro ZL1 all day, but we were just unlucky at the end.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 15th: “There at the beginning I got a little bit of damage, but our car was honestly really good. We could never lead, but I could shove people really, really good and if I had somebody that was good in front of me I could just keep going and keep picking them off. There at the end I felt like with how my car was, and I kept going to the bottom, the top was just so fast down the straightaway so I knew I probably wasn’t gonna win with the damage I had on the nose, so I was just trying to stay committed to running the top to keep our momentum up. I thought we were gonna come out third or fourth and was trying to help the 12 and, honestly, to shove him to potentially the win and I went in there and I just got him loose into one and obviously we both hit the fence because of it. It’s unfortunate. We were both gonna have a really good day and I kind of shot ourselves in the foot there.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 17th: “The 14 just shoved me into one when we were stacked up and you can’t do that. You’ve got to get off people and we ended up just getting destroyed. We were in a decent spot to win and have nothing to show for it.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “Man we had such a fast Smithfield Ford all day. It handled great too. It was nice to run up front and get some stage points. We got spun by the No. 1 car there running up in fourth and I thought our car was fine, but we heard a rattle so we came to pit road and took tires to check on it and it looked fine. When we restarted we just didn’t have full power and some mechanical issues and just had to ride until the checkered flag waved. I think we would have had a good shot at it. This 10 team will continue to fight.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 23rd: “I don’t know. I haven’t seen a replay or anything, but I saw a hole there and tried to take it and we came together. I know he was coming down, whether or not – it kind of is what it is. Our DeWalt Camry was extremely fast today. We’ve been pretty fast all year, just haven’t got the results to show for it. Just have to keep digging.”

Cody Ware — Finished 26th: “We were just riding around. I had the 77 and a couple of guys behind me and a couple guys in front of me that we all just planned on riding around and we weren’t ready to race yet. We were still just trying to figure it out to get to the end and go racing with maybe five or 10 laps to go but got that taken away from us today. I’m just really disappointed because my team brought a great Nurtec ODT Ford Mustang to the track today and it’s just a real shame that this is how the day ended.”

Todd Gilliland — Finished 27th: “That was very unfortunate. I went high and we kind of split the field. Something for us to learn from and we didn’t want that to happen. Our Georgia Peanuts Ford was loose to start and then we broke a toe link. We fixed it, but we were laps down. We were racing it out and then got into the fence.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 28th: “Man, what a day. This was a tough one because this team brought me a really fast 3CHI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and we were up there battling hard for the lead for most of the first stage. We cut a tire while running at the front of the field and spun in front of everyone. Our RCR team worked really hard to repair the damage and keep us out on the track, but we were nowhere near competitive after that and it ultimately ended our race. This new Atlanta is wild and hopefully the tire issues can be resolved so we can come back next time and put on a really good show for the fans. My team has been working really hard to bring fast cars to the track each week and I’m proud of the effort of the No. 8 team today.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 29th: “We had a really fast FedEx Camry. I was just trying to help Kyle (Larson) there and I just needed to let him go off turn four. The track gets light there, the car starts to lift up and that’s where I needed to back off of him and I just didn’t and spun him out. It is a shame. Our car was really fast. We definitely slowed after the first part of the damage – we were involved in that first wreck. Overall, just frustrating, but we are running well, we are just finishing horrible. I’m just making some bad decisions. It’s easy in retrospect to say I should have done this, and I should have done that, but in the moment, you are trying to battle for some stage points there and we’ve got good grip, and I’m pushing him, and everything is going well and then all of a sudden the car lifts up and he’s gone. Just split-second decision making.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 30th: “We were just coming to the end of the stage. He (Denny Hamlin) was just trying to help me get a run down the front stretch. He just got to me in the corner and got me loose. I hate that happened, but it’s a product of this racing and product of pushing; trying to draft and get your lane going. Nothing is intentional. Obviously, I wish we were still out there and both of us racing. The good thing is we have a win already. Two DNF’s in a row isn’t what we want, but our No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevy is fast. We were able to drive to the front a few different times and avoid a couple different wrecks. I was happy with the car. The handling was off early, but we got it better. I know the speed was there to contend. We’ll move along and go have some fun on a road course.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 31st:  “I was just riding around and I felt really good with our No. 47. Kroger / SweetLeaf Camaro. It was really, really fast. We drove right up to the front from the back there at the start of the race. You saw a few tires let go with people leading, running in the front. I don’t know if with all the speed we have here, if the right rear can’t hang on or what. The JTG Daugherty (Racing) guys brought a really fast car. It was another race where I felt like we were running up front. We’ve done that quite often this year. We missed it last weekend in Phoenix, but we’ll go get them at COTA. Our guys are continuing to build really good race cars and that’s all we can ask for. We’ll keep trying to put ourselves in position. I had fun.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 32nd:  “It was something I’d been watching and waiting for the entire race, the leaders getting wrecked.  From my vantage point, just tried to slow down through the crash and got rear-ended by somebody. It’s just how it goes when there’s not a lot of room. This style of racing we’re all together and it’s a pretty large hit.  It’s a shame to be out of the race. We were fighting close to the top 10 range most of the day, but just kind of a victim and it’s a bummer.”

Cole Custer — Finished 34th: “The track is so narrow here that they got together up front and everybody stacked up with nowhere to go, so we hit the wall. We didn’t really hit that hard, but it broke some of the right-rear suspension and put us out.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 35th: “William (Byron) and I had a good run through (turns) one and two. Got to the lead and he pushed me down the backstretch. I knew the Toyotas were going to go opposite of us, so I felt like having the No. 24 block bottom and me go to the top would keep the Chevys up front. The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) decided to stick with me. I know he probably thought he was doing us a favor, but you can’t push on the left rear on exit off turn four going as fast as we’re going. He just turned me and it took us both out of the race. It was the end of Stage One. We were going to get a run down the front stretch right there, so I don’t know why he’s pushing dead center, at the three-quarter mark. It’s part of it I guess. It was fun racing there for a while with a really fast No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevy. My feelings are hurt. Just two weeks in a row we’ve been taken out of the race.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 36th: “We were taking it easy. We had a penalty on pit road, so we had to restart last there. I was just kind of chilling. I was trying to slow down with the wreck and the No. 14 (Chase Briscoe), I don’t know what he was looking at or doing. He just ran right through me and ended our day. I knew we had a good enough No. 42 Alsco Uniforms Camaro ZL1 to hopefully get up front with good track position and good pit stops. Just hate that it ended our day early.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 37th: “I just got loose there through (turns) one and two. It was still early in the race, so I wasn’t pushing it. I was just trying to bide my time and stay patient. It’s such a long race. It’s unfortunate. I hate it for the ChevyLiners.com team and everyone at Kaulig Racing. They’ve been putting in so many hours this year. My goal was to complete all the laps and finish the race. The No. 16 Camaro ZL1 was fast, it was just a mistake.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

0 Comments

The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

0 Comments

Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

0 Comments

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.