What drivers said after Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

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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.”

Jesse Iwuji Motorsports seeks $4.125 million in lawsuit against sponsor

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Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, has filed a $4.125-million lawsuit against Equity Prime Mortgage, one of the team’s sponsors.

In the lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the team alleges that EPM committed a breach of contract. JIM alleges that EPM agreed to pay the team $2.25 million for sponsorship in the 2022 season and $3.75 million for 2023.

The lawsuit attempts to recoup what Jesse Iwuji Motorsports calls two missed payments totaling $375,000 from 2022 and the $3.75 million for 2023. The filing of the lawsuit was first reported by TobyChristie.com.

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The team scored one top-10 finish in 30 Xfinity starts in 2022. The team’s cars were driven by Kyle Weatherman and Iwuji. Weatherman had a best finish of eighth; Iwuji’s best run was an 11th.

The team was founded by Iwuji, former National Football League player Emmitt Smith and a group of investors.

The lawsuit claims that an EPM executive informed the team in September 2022 that EPM had been “margin called” and was dealing with problems because of rising mortgage rates and that EPM could not make any more payments to Jesse Iwuji Motorsports .

According to the lawsuit, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports sent EPM a Notice of Intent to terminate the sponsorship agreement after the payment due Oct. 1 was missed. The suit claims EPM “took no action” after EPM offered 30 days to remedy the situation.

The suit also claims EPM “allegedly continued to take advantage of their status as a sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series team, as EPM continued to make promotional posts on social media, which featured the company’s logo on the JIM race car.”

EPM is based in Atlanta.

Dr Diandra: The best driver of 2022

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NASCAR’s elimination playoff format means that the driver with the best statistics — arguably the “best driver of 2022” — doesn’t always win the championship.

Races unfinished

Drivers involved in a lot of crashes also failed to finish a lot of races. But not all accidents end drivers’ races. Comparing accidents and spins to DNF (did not finish) totals helps gauge how serious those incidents were.

Ross Chastain and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in the most accidents for a single driver with 15 caution-causing crashes each. The difference is that Chastain had only five DNFs (33.3%), while Stenhouse had nine (60.0%).

Ty Dillion tied Stenhouse for the most DNFs in the series with nine DNFs and 10 accidents.

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie tied for third place with eight DNFs each. Reddick had 10 accidents, while Dillon and LaJoie were each involved in 11 crashes.

No driver avoided DNFs entirely. Among full-timers, Michael McDowell had the fewest DNFs in 2022 with two. Justin Haley and Ryan Blaney tied for second with three DNFs each.

In 2021, only Denny Hamlin finished every race running. This year he had five DNFs, with four in the first nine races.

This year’s 225 DNFs are up significantly from 179 in 2021. and the most DNFs since 2017. I’ll be watching in 2023 to see if the rise in DNFs continues, or if this was a one-time phenomenon due to the first year with a new car.

Wins

“Best driver” doesn’t necessarily mean most wins.

This year’s champion, Joey Logano, didn’t have the most wins. That’s not at all uncommon in NASCAR. With 19 different winners in 2022, no driver dominated the season the way Kyle Larson did in 2021 with 10 wins.

The winningest drivers in 2022 were: Chase Elliott (five wins) and Logano (four wins). Christopher Bell, Larson and Reddick tied for third with three wins each.

Top-five and top-10 finishes

While wins matter more than good finishes, the number of top-five and top-10 finishes show how close a driver got to taking home the checkered flag. Running up front means being there to take advantage of other drivers’ mistakes and misfortune.

In 2021, Larson had the most top-five finishes (20) and the most top-10 finishes (26). This year, good finishes were much more spread out.2022's best drivers in terms of top-five and top-ten finishes

Chastain deserves a special shoutout for having 13 more top-10 finishes than he earned in 2021.

Also deserving of a shoutout, but for different reasons: Hamlin had the same number of wins this year as last, but nine fewer top-five finishes. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. also had nine fewer finishes in the top five.

Logging laps

While Truex didn’t make the championship race, he did tie Elliott for the most lead-lap finishes in the season with 29, or 80.6% of starts. Blaney, Byron and Kevin Harvick each had 28 lead-lap finishes.

Elliott led the most laps in 2022 with 857. He’s followed by Logano (784), Byron (746), Chastain (692) and Blaney (636).

I remain slightly wary of metrics that purport to measure quickness because so much of a car’s speed depends on where in the field it’s running. Lap traffic, or even being far back in the field, can slow fast cars. That’s especially true at short tracks.

For completeness, however, the next two tables show the drivers’ numbers of fastest laps and those with the best rank in green-flag speed according to NASCAR’s loop data.

Two tables showing the drivers with the most fastest laps and the highest rank in green-flag speedChampion Logano ranked 11th in fastest laps with 319, and eighth in overall green-flag speed with an average ranking of 9.281.

Best Finishes

The tables below show drivers’ rankings throughout the season for average finishes and average running position.

Two tables comparing 2022's best drivers in terms of average finish and average running position

Elliott ranks first in both average finish and running position. Chastain takes second for best average finish and fourth for best average running position, while Blaney is second for running position and fourth for finishing position.

Logano finished 2022 third in both metrics.

Passing

NASCAR defines a quality pass as a pass for position inside the top 15. Interpreting the meaning of the number of passes is a little tricky. A driver who runs up front a lot doesn’t make many quality passes because he doesn’t need to.

I focus instead on the percentage of quality passes: the fraction of all green-flag passes that qualify as quality passes. A higher percentage means that the driver is efficient: The passes mean something.

Elliott scores first in percentage of quality passes with 63.4%, just edging out Bell, who has 63.3% quality passes. Larson is third with 61.2%.

Who was the best driver in 2022?

I combined the metrics I think matter most for determining the best driver in the table below. I color-coded drivers who appear in the top five in more than one metric to make it easier to see patterns.

A table showing the top five in each of the metrics discussed in the hopes of identifying 2022's best driver.

This table confirms that the NASCAR playoffs format did a good job identifying the top four drivers in the series. Elliott, Logano, Chastain and Bell are well-represented in the top five in each metric.

The table also shows that Larson and Blaney contended strongly in 2022. With a slightly different distribution of luck, one (or both) might have found their way to the Championship Four.

Logano’s consistency is also evident, even though he doesn’t rank first in any of these metrics and fails to make the table in top-five finishes or quality passes. It’s not uncommon for the driver with the most wins not to win the championship. And this year has been anything but common.

But overall, it’s hard not to argue that Elliott had the statistically best year. He led the series in wins, laps led, average finish, average running position and percent quality passes. If his playoffs had been comparable to his regular season, he would have taken the trophy.

But they weren’t and he didn’t. That may have ended the 2022 season on a down note for the No. 9 team, but they can look forward to 2023 knowing they have a strong base on which to build.

While skill is reproducible, luck isn’t.

Kaz Grala, Connor Mosack join Sam Hunt Racing for 2023

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Kaz Grala is scheduled to run the full NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for Sam Hunt Racing in 2023.

Connor Mosack will drive a second Hunt car — No. 24 — in 20 races for the team. Grala will drive the No. 26 Toyota.

The new season will mark Grala’s first as a full-time Xfinity driver.

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“I’ve scratched and clawed for each opportunity over the past several seasons, and while it hasn’t been easy, it’s made me appreciate this sport and its difficulty more than I ever could if things had been easy,” Grala said in a statement released by the team. “I feel like everything has finally come together at the perfect time in my life with the right team around me to start that next chapter in my career.”

Grala, 23, has scored five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 44 Xfinity starts. He has raced in all three NASCAR national series and won a Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway in 2017.

Allen Hart will be Grala’s crew chief.

Mosack, who will begin his schedule at Phoenix Raceway March 11, was the CARS Tour rookie of the year in 2020. He drove in two Xfinity and two Truck races in 2022.

Kris Bowen will be Mosack’s crew chief. The team said it will announce other drivers for the 24 car later.

 

Ryan Truex to drive six races for JGR Xfinity team in 2023

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Ryan Truex is scheduled to run six Xfinity Series races in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023.

Truex ran five races for JGR in 2022, finishing in the top five three times. He ran third at Atlanta.

Truex also drove limited Xfinity schedules for JGR in 2011 and 2012.

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“We are looking forward to having Ryan back in our lineup in 2023 to run the No. 19,” said JGR vice president Steve DeSouza in a statement released by the team. “He has done well in the races he has run at JGR. His previous experience and driving ability will be assets as the No. 19 competes for an owner’s championship next year.”

JGR has not announced which races Truex will run or which drivers will be his teammates in the 19.

“I am thrilled to be behind the wheel of the No. 19 for a few races next season,” Truex said in a team statement. “It was fun to run well with this team this past year. I appreciate the opportunity to race for JGR again next year.”

Jason Ratcliff will be the team’s crew chief.

Truex, 30, has run 26 Cup, 84 Xfinity and 73 Camping World Truck Series races without a win.