What drivers said after Cup race at Circuit of the Americas


Here is what Cup drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas:

Ross Chastain — Winner: “To go up against some of the best with AJ (Allmendinger) – I mean, I know he is going to be upset with me; but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one. But when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight. … (Crew chief) Phil Surgen, man. He is so good. People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe Justin Marks hired me to drive this car. … I don’t know how we got back by. I was so worried about AJ  on the second-to-last restart that I let Tyler (Reddick) drive right by both of us. And AJ is so good. I’ve learned so much from him. And it was like how do you go beat the guy? He taught me so much. I’ve learned so much from so many people from 417 Speedway back home with my dad.I was thinking about on those late restarts, my dad used to make me race on old tires, and back then I was not going to win. It was in my head before I even started. It crossed my mind, like, We’re not going to win, we’re on old tires, but I couldn’t think that way. I thought neutral. Chevrolet, everything they do for me gave me the tools to try to go execute and we did it.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 2nd: “I’ve been trying to do a better job as a race car driver at these road courses, and I felt like from where we started the weekend, I accomplished that. So proud of Greg (Ives) and all the guys. Hate that we can’t come away with a win, but happy for Ross getting his first win. It’s been a crap weekend, so I’m ready to get home and see the dogs and move on to next weekend. Glad to come away with a second-place finish.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 3rd: “It was a hard fought day that’s for sure. Losing power steering wasn’t ideal. I picked up an issue early on in the race, and I knew something wasn’t right and eventually lost power steering a couple laps later. That wasn’t good, but this 20 group did amazing getting us back out there. The DeWalt Camry was really strong on restarts. I was always able to pick off a couple spots and that’s ultimately how we got our finish.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “Yeah, I didn’t really have to do anything. They just kind of wrecked and they were out of the way so I just kind of ran it on the road and I got a free couple of positions, so I will take it. … I messed up earlier in the race (in contact with Kyle Busch). I got crossed up in the braking zone and hit him. Obviously, we were racing for last and probably weren’t even racing for stage points and I think he knows me better than that. But yeah, that was completely on me.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 5th: “Just didn’t get a good launch off Turn 1. And just almost had the 1 car cleared but didn’t quite. We were really on the loose side all day long and that make us pretty susceptible to getting aggressive at the end. So, was just easy to get moved around there and that was kind of a problem I had all day. Just a little bit of pressure I had from anybody, and the back of this car was out of the track. It could get through the esses pretty good and could do a lot of things really well, but we just missed it in a little way where if we had to battle with other cars in traffic, it was really hard to get the good launch off the corner and complete a pass or really battle hard. So, it was tough, but we will learn from it and go back to the simulator and go back to work.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 6th: “It was a hot day for sure. We got done with the first stage and it was hot. We were close to winning the first stage, but I just couldn’t get to (Daniel) Suarez. We ended up fourth in that second stage and that kind of put us back behind the eight ball and make our way through the field. We stayed out on old tires and were able to maintain track position pretty good there at the start of the third stage. Then we lost a bunch of spots on pit road when we had to wait on gas. We drove back up through there and just kind of survived. I thought our car was pretty decent. It is so hard surviving restarts and trying not to get turned. Overall it wasn’t a bad day. We got some stage points, so that is good.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 7th: “It was just a battle. We never could get the car where we needed it. I was definitely worried after practice – I was not feeling too good. Your hands are so tied to these things with these short practices. We just battled all day and fought on and got a decent finish but no stage points, so just a so-so day for this Bass Pro Shops Toyota team.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 8th: “On paper, it is pretty simple, right? Qualify 10th, first stage 10th. Second stage ninth, finish eighth. Easy right? It is definitely not that. A lot of adversity to overcome. I put some of it on me and some of it is just circumstantial I guess. They are tricky cars to drive and tricky to try to out-brake somebody. There were a lot of people out-braking themselves. Either way, a really strong effort by the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. We had the pace to run inside the top-three today and lead laps. I am just happy we got stage points and a top-10. That is what I wanted to come away with today and that is what we got.”

Erik Jones Finished 9th: “Wild day for our FOCUSfactor team. Dave (Elenz, crew chief) definitely made our car better from where we started the weekend at. We made adjustments before the race, which sent us to the rear, but we were quickly able to move ourselves forward. I made it inside the top 10 by the halfway point and then with just over 20 laps to go, the car lost all power and we went a lap down. The Petty GMS and ECR Engines guys quickly diagnosed and resolved the issue for us to continue. A quick yellow allowed us to receive the free pass and return to the lead lap, putting us back in contention for a solid result. To finish ninth and get our second top-10 of the year after everything that we went through today says a lot about our No. 43 team. I’m very proud of the hard work that is being put in.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 10th: “Finished top 10 and we were really good on those restarts at the end. Came from a long way back. You know we had a little pit trouble that sent us back, but we were able to just keep going and get all the way up there to finish where we needed to. Luckily these races are really long, so you can’t let an early penalty get you down. Just stay focused and we were able to progress and make the car better. To come back after two bad races getting taken out kind of out of our own hands, we kept this one in our hands all day and it was wild there at the end. It feels great to get a top 10. Probably not our best track that we would look forward to coming to and it’s becoming better and better for us. Really proud of our guys and the effort that we put in our Bennett Chevrolet.”

William Byron — Finished 12th: “Tough day. Definitely put us behind with the speeding penalty. We were going to cycle out there in between AJ (Allmendinger) and (Tyler)n Reddick and messed it up on my part. I thought our car was decent all day. Definitely some things to work on, but good to come home 12th, get a solid finish and we’ll be good at Richmond and Martinsville. Looking forward to it.”

Cole Custer — Finished 23rd: “We had speed, so that was good. I wish we had ended up better with One Cure on the car and all the donations and everything. It is just frustrating, everything about it in the second half of the race. We got spun and we should have ended up way better.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 24th: “I’m proud of our ChevyLiners.com team for fighting through adversity for another top-20 finish. After a tough qualifying effort, I knew we had our work cut out for us. The car started off so soft in the rear that the front wouldn’t have any grip and I would lose traction in the rear tires. I picked up some damage on restarts when we would fan out to three and four wide, but despite the contact, I was able to keep wheeling it. I think the damage might have actually helped us with the handling. I have confidence in our No. 42 team and once we get the speed in our cars, I know our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be running up front.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 30th: “We were able to keep making the car better through the race and at the end there it felt like we had a chance. The 1 (Ross Chastain) kind of ran me off, and I was trying to get back to him and made a mistake and let the 16 (AJ Allmendinger) by. Then I locked the left front up on a restart and from there every restart after we were just trying to hold on and we blew the right front on the last restart. We had another really fast Mustang, which is encouraging. We had the speed and we were able to run up front again. We just need to put it all together. That has been the story all year long. If we can put the whole thing together we are really tough. That is what we did in Phoenix and we just need to continue doing that.”

Joey Logano — Finished 31st: “It was up, down, down and more down kind of day. We got stage points, which thank goodness we got something. We got dumped by the 17 (Chris Buescher). Then we started recovering and had a loose wheel and started to recover again and got back up to 10th and then got dumped again. Then the toe got broken and everything else was bad. I limped it around and finished, I don’t even know where I finished but it was just kind of one of those days.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 33rd: “At the end of the day, we all have to look ourselves in the mirror. If you are okay with it, you’re okay with it. Each person is different. More than anything, proud of Kaulig Racing. Action Industry Chevy was so fast. If we had a long run, nobody was going to touch us. So pit stops are great. Everybody at Kaulig Racing, all the men and women, it’s just a lot of sleepless nights for them right now trying to just get these cars to the next race. So, I was doing everything I could do to try to sweep the weekend for them. We were that close. So like I said, at the end of the day each person has to make the move that they’re comfortable with, and that’s fine. So we’ll — at the end of the day it’s — we know we had a shot to win the race. It’s tough to win a Cup race, so when you put yourself in a position to legitimately run up front all day and have a shot to win it, it’s a pretty great day. Unfortunately, just we needed about two more corners.”

Joey Hand — Finished 35th: “We were trying to find our way a little bit and trying to make sure that the car didn’t have any issues from that tire, so I was a little timid with it and just working on it in the first stage. We had a struggle on power-down but we were really good on brakes. I could catch up to guys, but I just couldn’t get in the mix. Guys were bringing good changes. We kept changing the air pressure and wedge and got it going pretty good actually. Before these last couple of cautions, we had moved through guys fast. We moved through half the field. Then I just got pogo’d. I got wrecked early on. They come down inside and hit us pretty hard over in 11 and then this last one was just chaos with guys going down inside. I was on the inside and guys were pulling down four-wide and it was just everybody hitting everybody. I ended up getting a piece of the 11 (Denny Hamlin), I know that. I guess me and the 5 (Kyle Larson) got a piece of the 11 but it was just soft in there. That corner, Turn 1, it just gets four wide and you get pushed in there. It is down in tight and you are locked up. We took some hard hits to the front and that last one was enough to bend something in the right front. We thought it was a flat tire but we actually bent something. It was a good day at times but ended up as a bad day, really.”

Rick Hendrick hopes rough racing settles down after Chase Elliott suspension


LE MANS, France (AP) — Rick Hendrick fully supports Chase Elliott as he returns from a one-race suspension for deliberately wrecking Denny Hamlin, but the team owner believes on-track aggression has gotten out of control this season and NASCAR sent a message by parking the superstar.

“Until something was done, I think that kind of rough racing was going to continue,” Hendrick told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Elliott missed last week’s race outside St. Louis as the five-time fan-voted most popular driver served a one-race suspension for retaliating against Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The two had made contact several times, with Elliott hitting the wall before he deliberately turned left into Hamlin to wreck him.

Hamlin immediately called on NASCAR to suspend Elliott, which the sanctioning body did despite his star power and the effect his absence from races has on TV ratings. Elliott missed six races earlier this season with a broken leg suffered in a snowboarding crash and NASCAR lost roughly 500,000 viewers during his absence.

Hendrick, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with NASCAR’s special Garage 56 project, told the AP he understood the suspension. NASCAR last year suspended Bubba Wallace one race for intentionally wrecking Kyle Larson, another Hendrick driver.

“Pushing and shoving, it’s a fine line, and when someone puts you out of the race, you get roughed up, emotions take over and you react,” Hendrick said. “I think maybe guys will run each other a little bit cleaner moving forward. “We understand the suspension, and nobody really likes to have to go through that, but you just do it and move on.”

Hendrick said he believes drivers have gotten far too aggressive with the second-year Next Gen car, which has not only tightened the field but is a durable vehicle that can withstand bumping and banging. Contact that used to end a driver’s day now barely leaves a dent.

It’s led to drivers being more forceful and, in Hendrick’s opinion, too many incidents of drivers losing their cool.

“There’s rubbing. But if you just harass people by running them up into the wall, every time you get to them, you get tired of it,” Hendrick said. “And that’s what so many of them do to cause accidents, but then they don’t get in the accident themselves.

“I think everybody understands the rules. But you’ve got an awful lot of tension and when you’re out their racing like that, and you are almost to the finish, and somebody just runs over you for no reason, I think the cars are so close and it’s so hard to pass, they get frustrated.”

Elliott, with seven missed races this season, is ranked 27th in the standings heading into Sunday’s road course race in Sonoma, California. He’s been granted two waivers by NASCAR to remain eligible for the playoffs, but the 2020 champion needs to either win a race or crack the top 16 in standings to make the field.

An outstanding road course racer with seven wins across several tracks, Elliott will be motivated to get his first win of the season Sunday at Sonoma, one of the few road courses on the schedule where he’s winless.

Hendrick said when he spoke to Elliott he urged him to use caution moving forward.

“I just said ‘Hey, we’ve got to be careful with that,’” Hendrick said. “But I support him, I really do support him. You get roughed up and it ruins your day, you know, you let your emotions take over.”

Concussion-like symptoms sideline Noah Gragson

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Noah Gragson will not compete in Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway because of concussion-like symptoms he experienced this week after his crash at WWT Raceway, Legacy MC announced Thursday.

Grant Enfinger will drive the No. 42 in place of Gragson.

“Noah’s health is the highest of priorities and we commend him for making the decision to sit out this weekend,” said team co-owners Maury Gallagher and Jimmie Johnson in a statement from the team. “We are appreciative that Grant was available and willing to step in since the Truck Series is off this weekend.”

The team states that Gragson was evaluated and released from the infield care center after his crash last weekend at WWT Raceway. He began to experience concussion-like symptoms mid-week and is seeking treatment.

Gragson is 32nd in the points in his rookie Cup season.

Enfinger is available with the Craftsman Truck Series off this weekend. Enfinger is coming off a victory in last weekend’s Truck race at WWT Raceway for GMS Racing, which is owned by Gallagher. That was Enfinger’s second Truck win of the season.

NASCAR implements safety changes after Talladega crash

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NASCAR is implementing changes to Cup cars that strengthen the right side door area and soften the frontal area after reviewing the crash between Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece at Talladega Superspeedway in April.

The changes are to be in place for the July 9 race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Larson and Preece were uninjured in the vicious crash late in the race at Talladega. Larson’s car was turned and slid down the track to the apron before coming back up in traffic. Preece’s car slammed into the right side door area of Larson’s car.

Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR vice president of safety engineering, said the difference in velocity of the two cars at the time of impact was 59 mph.

“It’s pretty hard to find that on the racetrack normally,” Patalak told reporters Thursday during a briefing.

The severe impact moved a right side door bar on Larson’s car. NASCAR announced last month that it was allowing teams to add six right side door bar gussets to prevent the door bars from buckling in such an impact.

Thursday, NASCAR announced additional changes to the cars. The changes come after computer simulations and crash testing.

NASCAR is mandating:

  • Steel plate welded to the right side door bars
  • Front clips will be softened
  • Front bumper strut softening
  • Front ballast softening
  • Modified cross brace

Patalak said that NASCAR had been working on changes to the car since last year and did crash testing in January at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. NASCAR did more work after that crash test.

As for the changes to the front of the car, Patalak said: “From an engineering standpoint we’re reducing the buckling strength of those individual parts and pieces. The simplified version is we are increasing the amount of crush that the front clip will be capable of. That’s all an effort to reduce the accelerations that the center section and driver will be exposed to during these frontal crashes.”

Adding the steel plate to the door bars is meant to strengthen that area to prevent any type of intrusion or buckling of the door bars in a similar type of crash.

Patalak also said that NASCAR inspected the car of Blaine Perkins that barrel rolled during the Xfinity race at Talladega in April. Patalak said that NASCAR consulted with Dr. James Raddin, Jr., who was one of the four authors of the Earnhardt investigation report in 2001 for the sanctioning body, in that incident.

Dr. Diandra: Brad Keselowski driving RFK Racing revival


Brad Keselowski surprised many when he didn’t re-sign with Team Penske in 2021. Penske was his home since 2010, and the team who helped him to a Cup Series championship in 2012. But Jack Roush offered Keselowski something Roger Penske couldn’t — ownership stake in the team.

Keselowski knew an RFK Racing revival would be an challenge, but also that he was prepared for it.

“I’ve been studying my whole life for this moment, and I’m ready for the test,” Keselowski said during the announcement of the new partnership.

A historic team with historic ups and downs

Roush Racing entered Cup competition in 1988. It didn’t win that first year, but the company collected at least one checkered flag every year from 1989-2014 — except for 1996.

Roush was one of the first owners (along with Rick Hendrick) to appreciate the advantages of multi-car teams. By 2003, Roush Racing fielded five full-time teams. In 2005, all five Roush cars made the playoffs, accumulating 15 wins between them. Their dominance prompted NASCAR to limit teams to four cars. That limit remains today.

Roush sold half the team to Fenway Sports Group in 2007. The renamed Roush Fenway Racing team, however, never reached the highs of 2005 as the graph below shows.

A vertical bar chart showing the challenges Brad Keselowski has in driving RFK's revival

The 2015 season was Jack Roush’s first winless season since 1996. By the time Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won two races in 2017, RFR was down to two cars. The company had four consecutive winless seasons before Keselowski came on board.

Keselowski is a perfect choice to drive the RFK revival. After all, how many other NASCAR drivers run a 3D-printing business? Or worry about having enough properly educated workers for 21st century manufacturing jobs?

“I feel like I’m buying into a stock that is about to go up,” Keselowski said.

Keselowski’s record

The new RFK Racing team started off strong at Daytona, with Keselowski and teammate Chris Buescher each winning their Duels. During that week, NASCAR confiscated wheels from both drivers’ cars. Despite concerns about the team’s modifications, NASCAR ultimately levied no penalty. But after the fifth race of the year at Atlanta, NASCAR docked Keselowski 100 points for modifying single-source parts. Keselowski needed to win to make the playoffs.

It wasn’t Keselowski, but Buescher who won the first race under the new name. Unfortunately, Buescher’s Bristol win came too late to make the playoffs.

Keselowski finished 2022 ranked 24th, the worst finish since his first full-time season in 2010 when he finished 25th.

In the table below, I compare Keselowski’s finishes for his last two years at Team Penske to his finishes with RFK Racing in 2022 and the first 15 races of 2023.

Comparing Brad Keselowski's finishes for his last two years with Penske and his first two years (so far) with RFK RacingKeselowski’s lack of wins since switching teams is the most obvious difference; however, the falloff in top-five and top-10 finishes is even more significant. Keselowski was not only not winning races, he often wasn’t even in contention. In 2020, Keselowski finished 91.7% of all races on the lead lap. In his first year with RFK, that metric dropped to 61.1%.

On the positive side, his numbers this year look far better than his 2022 statistics. Keselowski finishes on the lead lap 86.7% of the time and already has as many top-10 finishes in 15 races as he had in all 36 races last year.

Keselowski’s top-five finish rate improved from 2.8% in 2022 to 20.0% this year. That’s still off his 2021 top-five-finish rate of 36.1%, but it’s a step forward.

I summarize the last four years of some of Keselowski’s loop data metrics in the table below.

A table comparing Brad Keselowski's attempt to drive RKF's revival with his last two years of loop data at Penske

In 2022, Keselowski was down between six to seven-and-a-half points in starting, finishing and average running positions relative to 2021. This year, he’s improved so that the difference is only in the 2.6 to 3.6-position range.

Two keys for continued improvement

Ford is playing catch-up this year, having won only two of 15 points-paying races. Ryan Blaney, who won one of those two races, has the highest average finishing position (11.3) among drivers with at least eight starts. Keselowski is 14th overall with a 15.7 average finishing position, and fourth best among Ford drivers. Buescher is finishing an average of 1.2 positions better than his teammate.

Kevin Harvick is the top-ranked Ford driver in average running position, coming in sixth overall. Keselowski is 13th overall in average running position and the fourth-best among the Ford drivers.

Average green-flag speed rank is the average of a driver’s rank in green-flag speed over all the races for which he was ranked. Harvick is the fastest Ford as measured by this metric, ranking eighth among all drivers who have completed at least eight races. Keselowski is the fifth-fastest Ford, but the 20th-ranked driver in average green-flag speed rank.

The other issue, however, is particular to Keselowski: He is involved in a lot of accidents. That’s not new with Keselowski’s move to RFK Racing. Since 2016, Keselowski has been involved in at least eight caution-causing incidents every year.

What may be new is that he has a harder time recovering from non-race-ending incidents now than he did at Penske.

In 2021, Keselowski was involved in 12 caution-causing accidents. Last year, it was 10 (nine accidents and a spin). He’s already been involved in 12 incidents this year, the most of any full-time driver.

Keselowski isn’t too concerned about accidents. He views them as a consequence of pushing a car to its limits. His competitors, however, have called him out for for his aggressive driving style.

Neither accidents nor Keselowski’s attitude toward them changed with his transition from Team Penske to RFK Racing.

Except now he’s the one paying for those wrecked cars.