What drivers said at Martinsville Speedway

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Here is what drivers said following the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway:

William Byron — Winner: “It feels awesome. When that last caution came out, I thought everyone behind us would pit and luckily we stayed out. We were aggressive. We felt like we could re-fire on the tires and be okay; and you’ve got one of the most aggressive guys behind you in (Joey) Logano. I knew I chattered the tires in (turns) 3 and 4 and kind of left the bottom open, but was able to block my exits and get a good drive off. This one is for my mom. This same weekend last year she had kind of a mini-stroke and was diagnosed with brain cancer. It means a lot to have her here and it’s been a crazy year. But she’s doing great. And thanks, everybody, for the support. I kind of felt like she was riding in there with me. It’s cool to have her here and I’m definitely going to enjoy this one.”

Joey Logano — Finished 2nd: “I could have tried to hit him harder. That might have been what I needed to do. William did a good job of executing up front on the restart there. I was able to get to him because he made a mistake off of four taking the white flag and I thought, ‘OK, this is my chance.’  My car didn’t fire off real fast, but kind of gave me the opportunity to get to him. I got to him and kind of rooted him up a little bit and then he came back down and just brake-checked me pretty good at the two-thirds as he should. I’m not mad about that. He should do that and that just killed my momentum off of two and gapped me by two car lengths almost into the final corner. I was too far back to get to him at that point, so I just hate being that close. It was a solid run for our car today. Our Mustang was solid, especially on the long haul.  We just didn’t fire off as fast as we needed to and it kind of came down to that at the end.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 3rd: “I’m a little bummed. I like to pride myself in when we get in those situations being clutch, and that was anything but that on that last restart. I spun the tires pretty good through the gears. Once I got back in line there, I had some grip, and I feel like we had good forward drive all night long and I just felt like if we got to the gears we were going to have a shot at him. But our Get Bioethanol Chevy was really fast. We’ve been working our tails off. I’m not going to say we haven’t because we’ve been in a simulator. We’ve been working really hard to make this car as good as possible. We want to get RCR a win, and that’s what we’re here racing for. I want to shout out to my wife and (son) Ace back at home and thank the good Lord for bringing us a good run. That was a lot of fun.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 4th: “It was overall a decent night. We had a pretty fast car, but never got out front and never got to where we could race for the lead. You have to be a half-second faster than somebody to pass somebody. You’d run someone down by four seconds and then get stuck behind them, so that was pretty disappointing.  Overall, it was a really good night. I thought our car was fast, just never got the lead or even got a chance at the lead. Overall, not a bad night.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 5th: “It took 300-something laps just to where I could see the leaders. I don’t even know if we made any adjustments tonight. I don’t think we did, which was incredible because yesterday we needed a lot. For once I wish one of these Cup races went the full 500. That’s odd, I never think that. Proud of the effort. Proud of the rebound from yesterday for Trackhouse (Racing).”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “I did all that I could on the loose side of things with the 45 Toyota TRD Camry. I mean, I have never been told how to drive so many laps in my life. And then when I go back to my line, I’d feel the most comfortable and the lap time would be off by a little bit. So it’s like just comfort versus what I know for as many years. It was really fun though to drive Martinsville this way with this Next Gen car, but really had to work hard and I just think we maximized today. Our loose run was Stage 2. We were 12th and then just couldn’t quite attack you know, steering wheel and throttle at the same time. And I needed the pace to drop off and longer green runs seem to help us. All in all, really happy. We know that sixth is good to right the ship for what we need to do at 23XI Racing. But overall, we need to pick it up.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 8th: “We had a great Smithfield Spiral Ham Ford Mustang tonight. It was a challenge at times. The track position game was so tough. I mean, everybody would just start running the same speed after about 30 laps, but our car would take off OK and then it would just build looser and looser in. I rolled the middle good enough and I launched off the corner good, but I couldn’t quite keep the pace as those guys that were ahead of us. All in all, it was a solid night for us, bouncing back after a couple finishes that weren’t great, so (crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer) and all the boys have been doing a good job. Hopefully, we can get back on a string of running up front because if we run up front, we’ll have a shot to win.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 9th: “I wish I could get my qualifying lap back after seeing how crucial track position was. That was definitely unfortunate. I wish it would have turned out better. We continued to make the car better and was able to make some passes and was really good on the long run, so we’ll see if we can apply anything when we come back later in the year. Overall, it was great to get another top 10.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 11th: “It was a super solid race for our Menards/Moen Ford Mustang. The guys had great pit stops all night. We had really good speed. I felt like we were decent enough on the short run and could hold on better than most on the long run to get some more spots and ran in the top 10 almost the entire night. We got pretty unlucky with some traffic under green flag stops and put us behind with not enough laps to recover. Overall, a representative effort plus or minus a few positions for this group, so I’m proud to be able to do my part.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 18th: “It was a long weekend for our No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet team, but all of these guys at RCR never give up. Our Chevrolet was really fast during practice on Friday, but we missed a little during qualifying and had to start the race 22nd. Even with a mid-pack starting spot, we were feeling good heading into the race because we learned so much on Friday. The race was a little bit more challenging than we anticipated. We struggled with a tight-handling condition throughout the whole race, and really needed help making our car turn through the center of the corners. We gave it everything we had, but just couldn’t seem to make our in-race adjustments stick. We rallied into the top 10 in Stage 3 before the last caution of the race. I just couldn’t fight the traffic when we went into overtime and ended up falling back. We’ll regroup and get ready for Bristol Dirt next weekend.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 24th: “We didn’t start the night off great with a pass-through penalty that cost us a lap, but we fought hard. Our No. 16 Action Industries Camaro struggled on the long runs, so I think that hurt us the most. I think we learned quite a bit and got the most out of our day. It’s something small to build on, and we will keep pushing forward.”

Justin Haley — Finished 31st: “It wasn’t the day we were looking for at Martinsville. We had some good short-run speed, but we just struggled on the long runs. Trying to get the dynamic of the car to work throughout the whole run is key for our short-track program. I’m looking forward to Bristol, which I think will be good for us.”

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.

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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.