What drivers said at Talladega Superspeedway

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Here’s what drivers had to say following the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

Ross Chastain — Winner: “Holy cow. I’m always the one going to the top too early, making the mistake. There at the end it was like eight to go, I was like, I’m not going up there again. I did that a couple times today. I was like, I’ll just ride on the bottom. If it works, I’m not going to lose the race for us, I’ll just let them. … I have no idea. They kept going up, kept moving out of the way.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 2nd: “We came from eighth there on that last lap, just kind of rode the bottom and got people baited off the top. We had a good push there at the end. I think I was actually the one to push the 1 (Chastain) to the win. I gave him a good shove off of four and he kind of just drove away.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “It was just hard to pass all day. Really there at the end, if two lanes were formed and they were pushing, there wasn’t really enough for a third lane to form to get any speed going. It was just kind of a stuck in line, if you will, in the first few lanes, but overall, the Interstate Batteries Camry performed to the best we could. We got up front there and we got shucked out of line. Every time we got up front, we got shucked out of line. That was frustrating. Thankfully we were able to salvage and get back some of those guys that were getting a little bit squirrely at the end and get ourselves a P3, so we will take it and go on.” 

Kyle Larson — Finished 4th: “I feel like I did a pretty near perfect job for me at a superspeedway until the last lap there. Yeah, I should have, like, I think just kind of faked going high, then went back low. I had that run. Ross helped me with that run. It kind of baited me into going to the outside. Just a little inexperience probably there. But really proud of my team. We did a great job executing all race long. The car was great. I felt like we could push people great. I felt like we could receive pushes well. Yeah, like I said, really proud of them.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 5th: “It got a little hairy there at the end. Guys just made bonzai moves, coming from everywhere, but we were able to put our Bass Pro Shops Camry in a pretty good spot there. We ran up front all day. We are just outnumbered. We get outnumbered. You get up there and run with 10 Chevys and you are the lone Toyota, you can’t do anything. You are stuck. You just have to ride in line. It was a tough day from that standpoint, but overall, it was a good day. Top fives in both stages, I think, and the race. We have had a tough couple of weeks, so we needed that, but you always want to win.”

Erik Jones — Finished 6th: “I mean, just the last lap, right? It’s typical here. Been close here so many times, in this race and the fall race. U.S. Air Force Chevy had good speed, felt good to be up front. Coming there that last lap, we were single file. I felt pretty good about it. They kind of doubled up behind us. That top lane was getting some momentum. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed at the bottom and let the 1 push me. I didn’t realize they were coming with that much speed. But try to defend on the 5 (Larson), you’re too far ahead already right here. Obviously a defense on the 5 kind of gives the door to the 1. It is what it is. You’re trying to just win the race. You can only see how much is going on from the seat. You’re trying to make the best decision you can the last 1,500 feet.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 8th: “Unfortunately it wasn’t a great day for us but we salvaged a good finish out of it. We really struggled with just handling today which you wouldn’t think at Talladega. But at the same time, we got ourselves in position there at the end when it counted. I thought with three to go that something was going to happen so I repositioned myself and built a run and was able to weave through there on the last lap. It is just so hard to pass today. It was hard to make moves from sixth or seventh to the lead. In the front row, everybody was just kind of jammed up. It is just a different style of racing even more so here than it was at Daytona with this Next Gen car. I have a lot to study and go back and learn and figure out how to make the moves. I am proud of everyone. Coming out of here with a top 10 is a great day. I wish we could have had a shot at it but we just weren’t there at the end.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 10th: “We had a good Ford Mustang. We just got a little behind on that last pit sequence and lost some track position. I just would kind of get up halfway and fall back, get up, and fell back. That was just kind of how the day went for us and we made it to the finish.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 11th: “You can’t pass anybody here anymore. It is hard to pass everywhere but it is the same thing at speedways now. You can’t really make a third lane. I don’t know what the problem is with it. I thought we had a decent shot at going but we got stuck when someone jammed it in there three-wide and shuffled us out toward the end and we just couldn’t get it back up there.”

Justin Haley — Finished 12th: “It was a good day in our No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro ZL1. We stayed clean, we just didn’t execute at the end. I’m proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing for working hard and helping us to be able to stay up front and have an opportunity to contend for the win.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 13th:“We tried to play it safe in the first stage and stayed out of trouble for the most part all day. We did have a piece of debris shoot through the nose of our Smithfield/IHOP Ford early in the race and we had to pit to repair that. We had good balance all day for the most part. There at the end, we just didn’t get hooked up with the run we needed to push up to the front. We left Talladega in one piece, so there is something positive to take away from the day.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 30th: “I thought it was fairly smooth, really. I didn’t even see what happened, so I’ve got really no clue what actually happened. You wouldn’t think on a restart that you would have any issues, but apparently someone didn’t push in the right spot I guess. Again, I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know. I thought it was pretty calm, really, the whole race. Just kind of two-by-two. We really couldn’t get the third lane going.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 31st: “Our Camaro was fast. I was really happy with how the car was driving. I wasn’t good in traffic. I felt like we needed to make an adjustment or two. We made an adjustment and the car was much better by the end of the run. We just needed a little track position. I felt like we were being patient, just trying to wait for the right time to try and get aggressive and get in the right position. I don’t even know what happened. I just saw the No. 22 (Joey Logano) sideways, wrecking, in the top lane. Unfortunately, we were just in a bad position.”

Joey Logano — Finished 32nd:  “I felt a lot of things that didn’t feel good, I will tell you that much. The car got banged up pretty good there. We were getting pushed back and forth and I was the one that got shuffled to the right and hit the wall and came back in front of the field. That is superspeedway racing. … Yeah, it is going to happen again. It keeps happening every week and every time we come to a superspeedway and it is going to happen again here in a little bit. Hopefully everyone stays okay.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 33rd: “Yeah, that was tough. I felt like I shifted to fifth gear to get in high gear and then all of a sudden, I saw the 22 and there was no where I could go. Just a bystander. As soon as Stage 2 started, I could feel the energy just wasn’t the same and it had ramped up for whatever reason with way too many laps to go. Every year we come back; you have to finish the race to have a chance. So, we are bump drafting doing silly things with way too many laps to go. I’m bummed for our guys at Black Rifle Coffee and our guys at Petty GMS. We had a fast, fast Camaro and couldn’t keep it outside the top 15 and just kind of doing my thing that I’d been successful doing here at these speedways. Trying to be smart and stay out of trouble and manage the race. It’s a chess match and you’ve got to use your brain a little bit at these races to have a shot and some people don’t ever realize that every time we come back.”

Harrison Burton — Finished 34th: “Unfortunately we were just kind of a victim there. I tried to be smart all race and bailed out of a pack for like the first time in my superspeedway career but still found a way to crash. That is frustrating because I always want to try to learn to get better but I don’t know what I could have done differently there.”

Daniel Hemric — Finished 36th: “We were up there mixing it up, pushing and getting a little more aggressive. That had nothing to do with us getting crashed. We were simply riding in the bottom lane. We had been flirting on temperatures the whole run. I was able to poke my nose in and out enough to cool it down. It definitely got probably 10 to 15 degrees hotter than it had been all race. I tried to make a valid effort there to get it halfway lower on the back straightaway to get clean air to the motor. I had a tone change in the engine. We didn’t lose power, so I assumed it was just myself getting my car in clean air. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, then I lost a cylinder and the engine blew up. I ran out of time to get my hand out. To slow down at such a rapid pace, the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) got into me and I was just trying to catch it from there on. I hate it for everybody that got caught up in that. There were a couple of big hits it looked like; it felt like anyways. I’m disappointed, for sure. I’m super thankful for the opportunity with Kaulig Racing. Just not the way you want it to go.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 37th: “Just towards the end of the stage and we were trying to get stage points because at the end of this deal you never know what can happen. That is not normally the mentality I would go with. I normally try to ride around and wait until the end. It seems like we always get so desperate towards the end of the stages. I felt like if I could get to the bottom I could get to eighth or ninth if I was lucky. Looking back that obviously wasn’t the right decision. The 16, I don’t know what happened to him. I know I got into the back of somebody and then the 16, I saw him on the apron and he kind of landed in my lap when I came back across the race track. It was a hard hit but I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to when I saw the hit coming. All good. Unfortunate to kind of have a huge hole points-wise now. I guess we go to Dover next week and see if we can have a better result.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 38th: “That is speedway racing I guess. We were running there at the tail end of that lead group and it felt like we had time to react. I saw a car hit the apron and I am not exactly sure what happened. The last I saw they were straight and I didn’t expect anything. I don’t really know what happened as we were going by. Someone got clipped and I think we hit the 14 really hard. I am glad to see him out here walking. I am not even sure who the other car was. That is a bummer to be out that early for something as goofy as that.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.