What drivers said at Atlanta

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Here is what drivers said following Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, won by Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott – WINNER: “Obviously, I knew (LaJoie) was going to have a big run (on the final lap). I didn’t really want to give him the bottom, and I tried to give it one real good aggressive block. I felt like I had enough room to kind of give it a second one, and he was just right there on the right side of my back bumper, so was far enough to the backside of the bumper to launch me forward. I hate I tore up some cars, but I don’t know what you do.. either go for the win or don’t. I’m going to choose option A every day of the week.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 2nd: “I hate that I took the best car here and I tore it up a couple of times. Hats off to Chevrolet and Trackhouse Racing for bringing this fast of a Jockey Chevrolet. Our road crew and our pit crew did an awesome job to rebound through all of the damage repair. We had a shot and I got inside of the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) coming off of (Turn) 2 coming to the checkered and the caution came out. I hope everyone is alright back there. Awesome job to Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports. I really thought into (turn) one when we took the white that I was going to push him to the win. They all just fought for the top and almost gave it to us.”

Austin Cindric – Finished 3rd: “It came to life. We had to do a little CPR there early. We were struggling pretty bad. We were pretty loose to start the race and I’m just proud of the effort from the guys on the 2 car, being able to make the right adjustments and get us out of a hole there. We went from not being able to go full throttle by myself on the racetrack to being able to run close behind other guys wide-open, so I’m proud of that effort and proud of a top-three finish. I felt like we deserved to be up there by the end of the race after we established track position. It was a solid day. I wish we could have gotten the Quaker State Ford in victory lane in the Quaker State 400, but a top-three is pretty good.”

Erik Jones – Finished 4th: “I thought our day was good. Our No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevy was quick. We needed a tick more speed. I think we had to do some things for handling that slowed us down a little bit. We were up there, but I couldn’t really break out and do much. When I got in the lead there, I wasn’t really quick enough to hold it myself. We were close. It feels good to just have a good race. We’ve had a rough month, so it’s nice to get a top-five and get some points.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 5th: “It was a pretty good day. We got back in traffic there a little bit and it was just hard to make it back up. You just can’t go anywhere. It gets two-wide and you’re just stuck and you can’t really go anywhere, unless you were the 9 and you were the fastest car out there by a mile. It was pretty easy for him to go wherever he wanted. That looked fun, but, I’m just happy to end up decent. This race is just like a survival race pretty much. That’s what you’re gonna get when you’re speedway racing on a mile-and-a-half, so luckily we were able to survive it and get out of here with an OK finish.”

Justin Haley – Finished 7th: “It was a good day again here in Atlanta. I feel like this No. 31 LeafFilter Chevrolet team has succeeded in finding a good, fast, stable setup for the new Atlanta track. So overall it was a good day and just a little bit better than where we were in the spring.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 8th: “We just didn’t have the speed we needed to go up and compete. That one restart where I was leading the bottom lane we didn’t have what we needed to keep up. Our car was pretty good. We got it driving good there at the end, but we couldn’t muster up the speed we needed to go hang with those Chevrolets. The Chevrolets were really, really fast.”

Cole Custer – Finished 9th: “We got the car way better. The guys worked really hard and made great adjustments throughout the day. By the end, I thought we were just as good as anybody. We could have had a shot to win there. I think we were running in the top five on the last lap, but somebody wrecked in front of us and we got knocked back a little bit, but overall it was a good day of hopefully finding a direction and I think it was nice to go up there and run with those guys and show that we can have some speed.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 12th: “I just couldn’t do anything in traffic. The car was really tight in traffic, which made it hard to race close to anybody. When they were side-by-side I would lose the nose really bad. We hung around and finished the race. Sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do at these places.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 16th: “I felt like balance was definitely more of an issue than the first race, for sure, with the hotter temperatures. I felt like we got it to where we were pretty decent and I was able to start working the wall a little more than a couple other guys. I went to pass the 10 and as soon as I did I guess I just got too high and got to where it was dirty still and killed the right-rear quarter panel and everything else so that kind of affected the rest of our day. I’m happy we were able to somewhat salvage a 16th, but I felt like if we didn’t have the damage, it would have been a lot better day. We’ll go on to New Hampshire next week and see if we can improve on it.”

Corey LaJoie – Finished 21st: “I was going to school. That was the first time I’d been leading a restart at one of these superspeedway-style race tracks. How much you have to drag back, time your runs, cover the lanes – it’s all new to me. So when I get myself in that position again, I’ll be a little more prepared and hopefully, we can do a little better job and be the one to control the blocks as opposed to the one that’s trying to make that late-race move, because that guy usually is in the catbird’s seat. I just had some fun, I know that. Hopefully, we can have that 7 car up front more often.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 25th: “We were in really good position and we were about to be clear of the 1 (Ross Chastain) and be in third in the outside line. I was really happy with where I was at for sure. I think the 1 probably sensed that we were about to clear him so he chased us up there and got into us.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 29th: “We had a great Alsco Chevrolet today at Atlanta Motor Speedway, so it’s a shame that we weren’t able to capitalize on it. The day was going well. We were running up front and competitive. We made a mistake in Stage 3 when I overshot my pit box. That hurt a lot because we didn’t have a lot of time to recover, and it put us far enough back to get caught up in a wreck. We had nowhere to go, but that is the situation I put ourselves in. It’s pretty frustrating because it was very obvious that we had a fantastic car. We’ll head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to try and rebound.”

William Byron – Finished 30th: “The racing was fine. I thought the track had a little bit less grip. Our No. 24 Axalta Chevy was good out front. We could hang around the top-five. We struggled a little bit there on the pit stop sequence. We took four tires and we started way back, and we just got into someone else’s mess. We were eighth to finish the stage. Thinking that in the final stage some guys would stay out, we just seemed to net out further back than we thought we would. We ended up like 18th or 19th and had to restart there, and that’s where the wreck happened. It was just unfortunate that we were back there. I don’t know if there is anything we could have really done because we had taken right side tires before then and our tires were pretty old. We kind of hovered around the top-eight all day and unfortunately we’re out. Thank you to Axalta, Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We’ll keep working hard and it will change soon.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 32nd: “I don’t think we had a tire go down in March. Fortunately, I was one of the guys that didn’t have an issue. But it sounds like I’m the one guy that had an issue today. No warning, we were just cruising around. We had a phenomenal race car. Really proud of Greg (Ives, Crew Chief) and the No. 48 team. We struggled pretty bad back here in March and our Chevy was really, really good today. (The) No. 48 Ally Milestone Chevy was getting up through the field pretty good there. Bummer that it ended like that, but at least we had a fast race car.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 33rd: “It’s a different racetrack. It’s not the Atlanta that I grew up loving, but BJ came over and apologized already. I think coming off of Turn 2, it flattens out a little bit and it took off on him. While we all checked up and spun out we made just a little bit of contact with him while we were sliding and it sounds like it may have been enough to bend a right-front component and ultimately ended up blowing a tire.”

Noah Gragson – Finished 34th: “We had an early end to our day in the No. 16 Gold Fish Casino Slots Camaro. We were on track to have a really solid day and showed some speed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t avoid a wreck in front of us that caused heavy damage to the right front. We had nowhere to go, but I hate it for everyone at Kaulig Racing who have been working hard on these cars.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 35th: “Man, I’m so bummed out for this entire Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road team. We had a fast Chevy today – just ended up a victim of someone else’s mess. Our Chevy was really tight on the first run, then loose on the second run. After that, we were really good and coming. We just had nowhere to go. Thank the Good Lord above that we were okay. The hit looked bad, but the impact wasn’t as bad as it looked. I told myself that we were going to race hard all day rather than riding in the back, but when you got guys out there wrecking half the field, you might as well pick a different strategy. These Next Gen cars are hard to drive, and you’ve got to make them drive better when it’s hot outside. I thought we did a good job making my car get to the bottom. We were making a lot of headway in the race before we got caught up in someone else’s mess. We’re going to keep on keeping on, and work each week to get to Victory Lane. I want to thank Johnny Morris and all of the guys at Bass Pro Shops and TRACKER Off Road, along with everyone at RCR and ECR. We will get there.”

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”