What drivers said at Sonoma Raceway

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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in northern California:

Daniel Suarez — Winner: “It’s a crazy day. I have so many thoughts in my head right now. I mean, it’s been a rough road. It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series. These guys believe in me — Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me to get to this point. A lot of people in Mexico: Jay Morales, Carlos Slim. My family, they never give up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. Just very happy we were able to make it work.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 2nd: “This team did a great job and put a really fast Fifth Third Bank Mustang underneath me this weekend. What a way to return and come back to the race track, but I didn’t get the job done there at the end. I feel like we should have had the win and I didn’t get it. We were close, just needed more. I needed to make it happen on that restart and I didn’t. But if we can keep getting cars like this then a win will come. It was an awesome run, and I should be happy, but I am disappointed to be that close and not get it.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 3rd: “You know, we just fired off a little on the slow side, but we were really good on the long run. We started to reel the leaders in there the last five laps, but it just took a little too long to get going. I am proud of the entire team. … You have to run second, third, fourth, and fifth consistently to put yourself in a position to win a race, and we were close today. We just needed a little more on the front end to challenge. I am really proud of everybody’s effort. We are getting closer. We are doing it week in and week out so I am really proud of everybody.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “We had our minimum of once-a-week catastrophic failure on pit road and got back as far forward as we could, as usual. It is what it is, I guess. We didn’t finish where we should have. We took away all of our chances. We should have been second at worst, but we keep screwing up every week.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 5th: “I would say this weekend was a real team effort. I appreciate Jeremy (Bullins) and the Discount Tire team for believing in me with flipping the stages like we did when we probably could have taken a stage win and a bunch of stage points. We made a lot of adjustments and some bold decisions overnight. I am really happy for Daniel Suarez. To see a first-time winner, that isn’t great to have another first-time winner on the season and stacking up on those but otherwise, it was a really solid day.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 6th: “We had decent speed but needed a little bit more. Struggled being tight early in the race and track position was tough to come by. At the end when the sun came out the track took a big swing, which hurt our Menards/Knauf Ford Mustang. We’ll take a top 10 day and go into the off weekend and get ready for Nashville.”

William Byron — Finished 9th: “Good run for our team. Fought hard all day and got the balance right and the second half of the race was good. Happy with that and going into the off week with some good momentum.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 11th: “This team has worked hard, and I have worked hard personally, on improving our road course performances. We qualified 13th on Saturday and came into Sunday’s race knowing that we had a strong car and a solid plan. We maintained our position throughout  Stage 1. We tried to play the pit strategy a few times and got caught on the wrong side of a caution flag. During the final stage, we were making a green-flag stop right as the caution came out. It put us back about seven spots, but we had newer tires than the guys in front of us which gave me a little more leverage.”

Justin Haley — Finished 13th: “Overall, it was a good day for us. We fought a loose car for most of the race, but we had some good adjustments and strategy on pit road. We kept track position for most of the day and ultimately ended up with a decent finish. It’s another solid race for us to build on. I’m looking forward to the off weekend and then keeping the momentum going at Nashville.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 14th: “A few more laps and I think we would’ve had a top 10. Our long-run speed was really good today. The timing of the caution in the last stage wasn’t in our favor, so we had to battle back. Those last few laps we really had the speed.”

Joey Logano — Finished 17th: “We had a good day in terms of stage points and getting a stage win. That was on our list of objectives going into the race. We just got trapped by that last caution which made it really tough to get that track position back.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 19th: “Tough day for us at Sonoma. I haven’t had the best luck at this track despite how much I love racing there. We started in the rear and had some power steering issues off the bat that we battled the whole day. It made for a difficult day, but we fought back into the top 10 until the very end when unfortunately I spun out. We showed speed but have some things to work on to be better for next time.”

Cole Custer — Finished 21st: “Another solid day taken away late after getting spun in Turn 11. The guys brought a fast Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Mustang, but nothing to show for it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a year where so many things just don’t fall right. Ready to regroup after the off week and get it turned around.”

Erik Jones — Finished 22nd:We just missed the mark this weekend with our FOCUSfactor Chevy. We made some adjustments after practice that didn’t really help us in qualifying. We put ourselves in a hole with where we qualified and decided to make additional changes to better our car for the race. Unfortunately, those changes didn’t help much and we fought the handling all day.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Our Allegiant Chevrolet needed some tweaks off the truck yesterday, so unfortunately we started behind with qualifying in the back. The adjustments our No. 42 team made before the race definitely helped and we kept working on it throughout the race.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “We started the race fifth and spent most of stages 1 and 2 in and around the top five. We were running fourth with three laps remaining in stage 2 when we made a green-flag stop. Unfortunately, we were caught speeding on pit road and had to restart at the tail end of the field to start stage 3. We got mirrored back in traffic. Everyone was bunching up and another car ended up making contact with us. It destroyed our left rear and we had to go to the garage for repairs. We made it back out, but finished 14 laps down in 35th. It’s definitely disappointing to get a finish like that after running so strong today.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 36th: “Off weekend, that is what we need to reset. I guess the mustache needs to come off. Really just biding our time. I was doing less shifting than I was doing in practice – just trying to conserve some tire. Never had an overrev, never went the wrong way, and she just blew. I hate it. I hate it for our team. I hate it for all of our partners. We deserve to be finishing a lot better than we have been these last couple of months.”

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.

Dr Diandra: Delving deeper into 2022 NASCAR season statistics

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As I discovered earlier this year, cautions don’t capture everything. Sometimes drivers spin, crash, lose wheels or blow tires, but racing continues. Cautions are inaccurate proxies for counting these incidents.

Improving accuracy requires re-visiting each race in detail to find those incidents that didn’t produce cautions.

So that’s what I did.

Non-caution incidents

I use the same categories for non-caution incidents as for cautions. Only incidents significant enough to cost drivers spots count, regardless of where in the field they happen. I don’t claim to have found every incident, but I think I caught most of them.

The table below summarizes my counts for caution and non-caution incidents in the 2022 Cup Series.

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Non-caution incidents comprise 30.1% of total incidents. The percentages, however, vary widely within categories.

For example: While non-caution accidents are just 14% of all accidents, non-caution spins are almost 40% of the total spin count.

Non-caution incidents by race

The graph below shows total incidents — caution and non-caution. I show the races in chronological order from left to right. The totals do not include planned cautions.

The largest number of non-caution incidents happen at road courses. These tracks’ length and sprawling nature allow drivers to recover from a spin or accident without drawing a caution.

  • The Indy road course had the highest overall number of non-caution incidents — nine spins, six accidents and one car on fire. That comes to a total of 16 non-caution incidents and three natural cautions.
  • COTA had the second-highest total of non-caution incidents with 13 — two accidents, nine spins, one tire issue and one wheel issue. Seven natural cautions bring COTA’s incident total to 20.
  • Bristol’s asphalt race came in third in total incidents. Although all of the accidents, spins and stalls recorded there caused cautions, six tire issues and five wheel issues did not. Bristol wins the award for most non-caution incidents at an oval.

Road courses accounted for one-third of all spins in 2022. Capturing total spins is important because spins indicate how easy it is to lose control of the car.

The first third of the season tallied 34 spins. The number rose to 40 in the second third, but fell to 25 in the last 12 races of the year. The numbers from the first two-thirds of the season included 10 spins each at COTA and the Indy Road Course.

The strong dependence of spins on track type makes it hard to draw a conclusion about whether drivers improved their ability to manage the car during the year.

Tires blown

The Next Gen’s symmetry makes the car harder to turn, which demands more from the tires. Crew chiefs also gained the ability to adjust rear camber. Goodyear reported force spikes of 200 to 300 pounds in the tires. Force spikes load a tire quickly, which can lead to blowouts.

I only counted situations in which it was clear that the tire went flat before any other incident, like a spin or accident. If it was possible that another incident caused the tire to blow, I didn’t include it as a tire issue.

I counted a total of 59 blown tires in the 2022 season, which includes those that caused cautions and those that didn’t.

Teams used around 26,600 tires this season. The 59 tire failures represent about 0.2% of all tires run.

Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric had the most blown tires with five each. Bell’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. had four. Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe and Daniel Suarez each had three.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s four cars totaled 13 blown tires or 22% of the total number. Hendrick Motorsports, with the same number of cars, had eight blown tires, while Stewart Haas Racing had only six.

The Bristol asphalt race had the most tire issues, with 13. Texas came in second with eight and Kansas third with five. Atlanta, which was repaved and reconfigured, had six tire issues across its two races.

The number of tire issues at Kansas decreased from five in the first race to two in the second. I expect the overall numbers to go down next year as crew chiefs use what they’ve learned this year to refine their setups.

Wheels lost

The Next Gen’s single-lug wheel challenged pit crews, despite built-in indicators that confirm when a wheel is properly tightened. I counted 13 times cars had to back up on pit road to deal with a loose wheel and 19 times cars pitted right after a tire change to re-tighten wheels.

The four-race suspension for crew chief and pit crew members makes teams extra cautious.

I counted 14 wheels coming off cars during the 2022 season. Seven merited cautions. The remaining seven either happened on pit road, or a car that lost a wheel on track was able to make it back to pit road.

Fourteen wheels is 0.05% of all tires used. Again, this number reflects human error more than any design flaw in the wheels. More concerning to me are the handful of stops where teams couldn’t get wheels off cars. For example, debris between the wheel and hub at Darlington ended up costing Ross Chastain four laps.

The good news is that fewer wheels left cars as the season went on.

  • Eight wheels came off cars in the first third of the season.
  • Four wheels were lost in the second third of the season.
  • Only two wheels failed to stay on in the final third of the season.

As is the case for most statistics in the first year of a new car, these numbers will become more meaningful next year, when they’ll serve as benchmarks.

Goodyear renews agreement to remain NASCAR tire supplier

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NASCAR and Goodyear have entered into a new multi-year agreement maintaining Goodyear’s role as the exclusive tire for NASCAR’s top three national series. 

Goodyear also will be the title sponsor for the Cup race at Darlington Raceway in May 2023. Goodyear and NASCAR’s relationship dates back nearly 70 years and is one of the longest-running affiliations in any sport.

“From our manufacturing plants to offices around the world, racing is ingrained in our culture, and the importance of our relationship with NASCAR is reflected in the quality, performance and engineering we put into every Goodyear Eagle race tire,” said Richard J. Kramer, chairman, chief executive officer and president at Goodyear, in a statement. “Our performance on the racetrack plays an active role in the success of the sport and inspires the development of our consumer tires, fueling our commitment to take performance and innovation to the next level.”

Goodyear produces more than 100,000 tires for NASCAR’s top three series each year at Goodyear’s global headquarters in Akron, Ohio.

“Goodyear has been a trusted partner to the NASCAR industry since 1954, playing a critical role in our shared pursuit to deliver the best racing in the world,” said Steve Phelps, president of NASCAR, in a statement. “For more than 25 years, Goodyear Eagle tires have been the only component that connects the stock car to the racetrack. Our continued partnership will allow us to push boundaries and innovate our racing product for generations to come.”  

Jes Ferreira selected as Comcast Community Champion of the Year

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Comcast announced Jes Ferreira as the 2022 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, the eighth to receive the annual award. Among all the turmoil of the pandemic, Ferreira looked for an opportunity to give back. Despite her heavy workload, she decided to take on an even heavier challenge, becoming a foster parent to two young girls. 

“I am overwhelmed, humbled, and blown away to be recognized as the Comcast Community Champion of the Year,” said Jes Ferreira, 2022 Comcast Community Champion, “the amount of support this will provide for the Charlotte foster families ensures the best services for these children. I hope this sheds light on the foster community and encourages everyone to support in many different ways.” 

Ferreira, originally earned a foster license to become a foster parent for one child, but a few months later, the child’s younger sibling needed a new foster home. Although Ferreira, Senior Director of Live Shows for CSM Production, already had a crazy work schedule which included traveling to the race track most weekends on top of fostering one child as a single parent, she knew without a doubt these two siblings deserved to be together while in foster care. Now two young siblings who are going through the most trying time in their lives have been reunited thanks to Ferreira. 

On any given day, there are nearly 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2019, over 672,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. On average, children remain in state care for over a year and a half, and five percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.  

Ferreira’s affiliated charity is Foster Village Charlotte (FVC), an organization that allows foster parents to connect with and support each other. FVC collaborates with 16 private foster parent licensing agencies, local government, child welfare organizations and the community to serve families holistically and represent the foster family voice to Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS). 

To further honor Jes’ incredible dedication, Comcast will donate $60,000 to Foster Village Charlotte (FVC).

“Jes encompasses everything the Comcast Community Champion of the Year stands for. Anyone that is at the track knows how dedicated Jes is to the sport of NASCAR and, we are so glad we expanded the eligibility for this award so we can uncover and honor the compassion, selflessness and generosity Jes provides off the track, and that is what makes this honor so special, ” said Matt Lederer, Comcast’s Vice President, Brand Partnerships and Amplification.  

 Ferreira, was chosen by a panel comprised of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as Curtis Francois, the 2021 Comcast Community Champion, who received the award for his work with the Raceway Gives Foundation 

For the first time, Comcast opened the eligibility for anyone in the NASCAR community with a 2022 annual credential or NASCAR full season license, and with this expansion, Comcast is now able to share these exceptional stories.   

Josh Williams, driver of the #92 DGM Racing car for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sherry Pollex, founder of Sherry Strong, were selected as finalists and will be awarded $30,000 each towards their respective selected charities – the Ryan Seacrest Foundation and Sherry Strong. 

Comcast has a long track record of community service, aiding in the advancement of local organizations, developing programs and partnerships, mobilizing resources to connect people and inspiring positive and substantive change. To learn more about these efforts, visit the Comcast Community Impact site. 

About Comcast Corporation’s Partnership with NASCAR 

Comcast’s Xfinity brand entered NASCAR as entitlement partner of the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2015 and is now Premier Partner of the NASCAR Cup Series. Since then, the company has donated $840,000 to more than 20 different NASCAR-affiliated organizations to honor their efforts and to help further the impact of their worthy causes. Fans can visit ComcastCommunityChampion.com to learn more about past and present finalists and their acts of selflessness.