What drivers said at Daytona

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A look at what drivers said at Daytona International Speedway following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale

Austin Dillon – WINNER (Clinched Cup playoff spot with win): “It’s crazy. You just never give up and have faith. We had some tough finishes this year, like Charlotte. I beat myself up over that. I made a good move and just didn’t finish it off. Today, we finished it off. I’m so proud of these guys and I’m glad to be going to Victory Lane.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 2nd: “Because we had to pit before pit road was open, before the rain came; I never got to line up behind all the lead lap cars when they started to pull up for the restart. I knew I was going to have to try really, really hard on that restart. Thankfully, (Kyle Busch) and some of those cars let us go and we were able to get in the mix. Just had to fight really, really hard when everyone singled out and there weren’t many cars left at the end there and tried to get to Austin (Dillon). I knew he was going to need some allies there at the end of the race to go make the move on (Austin Cindric). As it just kind of turned out, he didn’t really use his teammates for that move, but after everything kind of happened with the second pack catching us, I was really glad to be on his rear bumper to pretty much keep anyone from really creating that energy to pass the lead car. A lot of energy comes from that second car and when you have a teammate in that position to be that car absorbing those runs, you can really kind of control what is happening in front of you.”

Austin Cindric – Finished 3rd: “I got hit by another race car going 190, 200 miles an hour. Glad I saved it. Glad I tried to come back through the field, but (Austin Dillon’s) racing for a playoff spot. I totally expect to get drove through. It was just kind of a matter of time. Pretty bummed, you know? We had a shot to win today… We put ourselves in position – not a scratch on (the car). Just… (laughs) Dang it!”

Landon Cassill – Finished 4th: “It really is awesome. We were sitting in a good spot with the rain delay; and even if they would have called it, we would have been happy with that finish. But we wanted to race for it and earn the top-five finish at the end. We did have to survive. There were a lot of fast cars that weren’t in contention at the end, but it’s pretty cool to see the checkered flag that close.”

Noah Gragson – Finished 5th: “It was a strong run for this team, considering that we have one employee at Beard Motorsports. To come home with a top-five, that is big for us. We were in a good spot running third there when (Austin Cindric) was out front and (Austin Dillon) was running second. It seemed like (Cindric) got loose and started down the racetrack and it was a hell of a save by Cindric, but that killed all our momentum. We were in a four-car breakaway; I thought I was going to set myself up to be in a pretty good spot and it just didn’t transpire. We had to regroup and come back for a fifth-place finish and we will take it. Congrats to everybody at RCR and the ECR motor department. They help us out tremendously on this Beard Motorsports team and with one employee, this is a pretty big deal to go up against these organizations with 500-600 employees. So, for the goals that we have, the budget that we are on and the race team that we are; it’s pretty rewarding to be kicking yourself over a fifth-place finish in the Cup series. Very grateful for the opportunity and appreciate all the fan support and for NASCAR in letting us go to the end. I just want to say congratulations to Austin Dillon and his team. It was a lot of fun.”

Cody Ware – Finished 6th: “I think the big thing was just perseverance. There was a lot of attrition in this race and we made sure to be cautiously aggressive in the first part of this race, so to walk away from it and get the chance to race with the leaders and battle all the way up to third and try to fight for the win was really an awesome day. I think this will give us a lot of positive energy and momentum heading into Darlington next weekend, another track where we’ve had some success this year already, so being sixth is a good day. I wish we could have got more. I think it just shows how good of a day we had and I”m definitely gonna go to sleep tonight happy.”

B.J. McLeod – Finished 7th: “First off, it was a crazy day but it was fun executing our plan and getting it to work in our favor because we’ve been doing this a lot, but it’s still hard to pull off. We’ve had small wrecks in the back take us out. There’s really no safe spot, other than the front row or really conservative and today we were able to put it all together and not lose a lap under that first green flag stop and just made things work. There at the end, we had a couple cars behind us to help. (Joey) Logano helped us for a second and when they were helping me I had a shot, but coming to three and four on the last lap I tried to get the right of (Noah Gragson) and it stalled out a little bit and (Gragson) pulled up. When he pulled up, I had to wait until he went back down to even try to get another run and it was just too late. Still, an awesome day for a small team.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 8th (Missed final Cup playoff spot by three points): “We just had too much damage at the end. We had a good spot on the restart and we got a good restart. We got (Austin Cindric) up front, which is what we were trying to do, but just couldn’t keep up. Just too much damage. It’s s shame. We knew it was going to be tough with so many cars out of the race and the distance between me and (Ryan Blaney). It was going to be hard to hang on to fourth or better with a car that torn up.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: (Referring to Lap 138 crash before red flag): “Honestly, it was just the previous lap, there was nothing there and then that lap it was just – it just dropped. So what do you do? You can’t checkup that fast so you just have to try to drive through it. Thankfully, I was on the high side and I saw water and I saw everything and saw everybody wrecking in front of me and I got on the fence right there and started rolling right on the wall. Everybody was coming across the track in front of me. I was then just trying to figure out everybody to slide back down and get out of the way and for me to continue on my merry way. There’s really nothing you can do in that situation. It was way too late to call anything and overall, I felt good about our car all day. Our Interstate Batteries Camry was fast and we had good speed. Ran up front, led some laps and won a stage.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished 11th: “I didn’t have that feeling that I’ve had at previous speedway stuff. Our DoorDash Camry TRD was good, but it wasn’t great. Made the necessary moves to get us up to the front, but I didn’t do a good job of keeping it at the front. At the same time, you’re kind of focused on the big picture. Fell to the back a little bit and knew we could get back up there and we did. But then luck ran out. We did miss two wrecks and got caught up in the third and the fourth. We salvaged a good finish, but what we needed was a win. All in all, it’s Daytona and it’s a crapshoot.”

Joey Logano – Finished 12th: “I think we’re in great shape (for the playoffs). …We scored a lot of points the last few weeks, so we’re doing a lot of really good things here recently. We just have to keep pushing and trying to figure out where a little bit more speed is, but we just have to keep executing with what we’ve got. We’ve got great execution, a great pit crew, great calls on the box. We’ve got to keep that going.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “We had a good day going. Led some laps. Was super aggressive all day. Hate that we got into (Chase Briscoe). When he moved up in front of me, I just couldn’t get off of him. Bummer to crash him like that and get caught up in that, that ruined our day, too, but yeah, 14th with the way our day went, I’ll take it. Excited for Darlington.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 15th (Clinched final Cup playoff spot by three points): “It definitely didn’t start out very good. We had to battle through adversity all day, but props to the whole 12 group for continuing to work on it and fix it and just trying to keep it in the game. After that wreck everything was kind of out of our hands and we were just trying to do the best we could to try and complete all the laps. You never know what can happen, so props to them. Fortunately, we were able to gain some points there at the end and locked us in. It was definitely nerve racking, but a lot of props to the 12 team.”

Cole Custer – Finished 16th: “That was a long day but I appreciate the guys sticking it out and giving me a chance to make it to the end. Our Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang doesn’t look as nice as it did to start this morning but we gained 10 or 11 spots just by putting in the work to make it drivable after the wreck. I’m ready to get to Darlington and see what we’ve got next weekend.”

Erik Jones – Finished 17th: “We had a really fast FOCUSfactor Chevy today and were able to run up front, lead laps and thought we had a really good shot at winning. Unfortunately, we had damage from the caution that brought out the red flag and couldn’t make the repairs to meet minimum speed and finish the race. I hate we aren’t in the Playoffs this year, but proud of everyone on the 43 team and the hard work they’ve put in this year. We’ll keep building and use these next 10 weeks to continue to learn this car and try to get the FOCUSfactor Chevy in victory lane.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: (NBC Sports red flag interview – On Lap 138 crash before red flag) “We made it through the first part of the wreck there and obviously, there was a lot of carnage. I saw the bottom two cars starting to come back up the racetrack so I gassed it up and, so close, but the car maintained plenty of speed. You can see it come out of there, so I guess that’s all subjective. You have to be subjective to what is minimum speed because when the caution comes out we are the leader – when the light comes on. I don’t know.” (NBC – Is this something you want to discuss with NASCAR on how they make that decision?) “Well, I think they’re making it up as they go. It’s just one of those deals.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 21st: “A few things didn’t work out. I was in position and there was maybe a move I could have made differently to try and get to the lead, but my help that was pushing me – (Chris Buescher) – wasn’t clear, so I didn’t take the run. Looking back on it, maybe I wish I would have, but I would have just been in the lead and I would have been the first one to the rain, so I feel like I would have wrecked either way. I just hate it. I obviously wanted to win so we could get our team into the playoffs, but we’ve still got a lot of racing left to do this year and proud of everybody on our race team. I’m just thankful to Smithfield and Ford and everybody that supports this program. We’ll go race hard for 10 more weeks and get ready for next year then.”

Todd Gilliland – Finished 23rd: “Track conditions seemed fine, I guess, up until they weren’t right there. I was obviously at the back of that pack. I’ve never seen everyone spin out that quick, so I guess the track was probably pretty wet. That sucks, for sure. I felt like we had a good First Phase Ford Mustang today. We got sixth place in the second stage. We were racing up there with the guys that were supposed to be. Overall, I felt like our car was OK. That kind of sucks to end it like that, but it was typical Daytona.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 24th: “We knew the rain was coming… It was raining next door. It was just a matter of time. Why would we wait for that?… I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front, but there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes, you are running 200 mph and you’re able to turn left. And then you see a few drops hard and you’re just spinning.” (Do you think they should have called cars to pit road earlier?) “I feel like they have a lot of technology to know that the rain is very, very close. I don’t think it’s hard to not put us in that position.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 25th: “We ran into rain in the middle of turn one and just lost it.” (Is there anything that could’ve been done?) “Just throw the caution before the rain came. We had rain down the front. So about 10 seconds before we got into turn one, it was raining. I’m sure the fans felt it and then they watched us all pile in there.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 27th: “We saw rain. Our Fifth Third Bank Mustang was really fast. Everybody did their jobs and I felt like I was doing mine fairly well up there and had a run. We were definitely in a good spot and it was raining when we got to turn one and we all wiped out. We wiped out all the lead cars, so whoever wins this race wasn’t even in contention. It’s just ridiculous from my point of view.”

Justin Haley – Finished 28th: “Yeah, it was raining for a good lap before we got into turn one, my spotter said. Coming out of (turn) two the previous lap, it was raining and we just lost traction. It’s pretty unacceptable. I thought we did a good job all day with our Celsius Chevrolet and we put ourselves in position. Brett Griffin (spotter) and Trent Owens (crew chief) called that; we stayed out hoping for rain earlier. It’s just tough. I fight for my ride, fight for my life, every day. We take these small opportunities and try to make something of it.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 31st: “Down on the back straightaway off of (Turn 2), Joey (Logano) decided to go to the bottom, so I felt like following him was probably my best decision there. We got such a big run that I kind of shoved him out that I felt like if I could get up, I could maybe take the lead. Looking back on it, I should have just stayed behind and shoved him. He’s just really good around this place and is always there at the end. When I got up in front of (Alex Bowman), he started shoving me pretty hard through three and four and was getting me loose. He got to my left-rear and that was a little bit on me just being lazy covering it and not knowing and whenever we lost the banking out of four it just spun me around. It’s unfortunate for my Mahindra Tractor guys. We kind of just rode around early in the race just trying to get to the end and then once we got our track position was just gonna try to maintain it. I don’t have a lot of experience leading races here and that’s what happens whenever you aren’t aggressive enough making moves, so I just have to put it in the notebook and go onto Darlington next week to start the playoffs and hopefully start a good run.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 32nd: “I’m not really sure what happened. Obviously, we were all racing pretty hard there knowing that there’s weather coming and we’re past halfway. I just have to go back and look at it. I don’t want to say anything silly, but felt like I had a good push from (Tyler Reddick) and had a run on (Joey Logano) and pulled out. I’m not sure if (Reddick) got me a little bit or if (Logano) just blocked a little bit too hard. It’s superspeedway racing trying to get ourselves locked into the playoffs in our Horizon Hobby Ford Mustang. We were going for it. You can see the weather is right there, so it’s unfortunate. We fought so hard to put ourselves in position to have a shot at making the playoffs. I felt like that was our shot. We had to go for it and it didn’t work out, but if I’d have lifted and the rain would have came and finished second, I would have been pretty upset with myself.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 33rd: “I’m proud of the effort by our No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet team and Trackhouse Racing. It’s been an incredible 26 weeks. Now we can reset and be ready for 10 weeks of experiencing something I’ve never experienced with the Playoffs; my crew chief, my spotter and my team haven’t experienced.”

William Byron – Finished 34th: “It just looked like they checked up in front of us. I don’t know exactly what happened in the front of the line. I hadn’t checked up and was just going to keep rolling straight through, but they came across me from the top. It’s just unfortunate. We had just gotten our No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1 a little bit better. I felt like we were in a good spot. I was happy with how the car was handling and it felt good to be in the mix.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 35th: “It’s frustrating, but whenever your season is down to one race, you’ve got a lot more going on than just that one race. Our team put a lot of effort into getting this car ready. They brought a great car, so I hurt for them that we didn’t get a chance to show it.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 36th: “It looked like (Erik Jones) just got a little bit loose and then the rest of it was, you know, ‘along for the ride.’ … Looking at it – just a stack-up. Normal speedway race. Disappointed for our group. This Rheem car was obviously competitive. Started up front and was able to stay up there. We’ll go on to start the playoffs next week.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 37th: “I guess it was the timing belt maybe, or something like that. I didn’t really have much of an indication. I’m sure they’ll dig through the data and see if it was happening earlier than when it really let go there. Bummer. I’m sure we’ll drop a few spots in the points, so that will hurt for the playoffs. But I guess there’s one positive – I didn’t get caught up in a crash. We’re safe, good to go race next weekend and get our playoffs started.”

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.

Sunday Clash at the Coliseum: Start time, TV info, race format

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LOS ANGELES – NASCAR is back and back at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Nearly three months after Joey Logano won the Cup title at Phoenix, Cup drivers return to action this weekend to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race on Sunday night.

This marks the second consecutive year the series has raced inside the Coliseum, which has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics.

Details for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum 

(All times Eastern)

HEAT RACES: There will be four 25-lap heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top five from each race advance to the Busch Light Clash. The first heat race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIERS: There will be two 50-lap qualifiers for drivers who did not advance to the Clash through their heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top three finishers in each of the qualifiers advance to the Clash. The 27-car Clash lineup will be finalized by adding one provisional spot for the driver highest in points last season not yet in the Clash field. The first of these two last chance qualifying races is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.

CLASH STARTING LINEUP: To be set by heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers. Winner of heat 1 will start on the pole for the Clash. Winner of heat 2 will start second. Winner of heat 3 will start third. Winner of heat 4 will start 4th. Runner-up in heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver intros are at 7:50 p.m. … Invocation by Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome, at 8:07 p.m. … The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform the national anthem at 8:08 p.m. … Actor Rob Lowe will give the command to fire engines at 8:15 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to be waved by USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams at 8:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Clash is 150 laps (37.5 miles) on the 1/4-mile short track.

STAGES: There will be a stage break at Lap 75 (halfway in the Clash). Wiz Khalifa will perform during the break.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the event, beginning at 4 p.m. . … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 63 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the start of the heat races. Partly cloudy with a high of 61 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the Clash..

LAST TIME: Joey Logano held off Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. Austin Dillon placed third. .

Catch up on NBC Sports coverage

New NASCAR season features several changes

Clash at the Coliseum provides a reset for RFK Racing 

Harrison Burton looks for progress in second year in Cup

Dr. Diandra: Muffling racecars won’t change fan experience

Drivers to watch at Clash in Coliseum

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

Looking back on 10 historic moments in the Clash

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

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NASCAR drivers are scheduled to hit the track today in competitive mode for the first time in 2023.

Practice is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on the oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Single-car qualifying for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum is scheduled to begin at 8:35 p.m. (ET). The 36 drivers will be divided into three 12-driver groups for practice.

Cup practice groups

Cup qualfying order

Saturday’s qualifying will set the starting lineups for Sunday’s four 25-lap heat races. The top five finishers in each heat race will advance to the main event. Two 50-lap “last chance” races will follow, and the top three finishers in each of those events will join the feature field.

The 150-lap main event is scheduled at 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, the Clash is being held on a purpose-built track inside the LA Coliseum, one of sport’s iconic venues. Joey Logano won last year’s race and last year’s series championship and will be among the favorites Sunday.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High 71.

Saturday, Feb. 4

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

New NASCAR Cup season features several changes

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While NASCAR looks back in celebrating its 75th season, there’s plenty new for the sport heading into the 2023 campaign.

Driver moves and schedule changes and are among some of the big changes this year. Here’s a look at some of the changes this season in Cup:

Drivers

— Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch has a different look, as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Tyler Reddick. 

— Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Kurt Busch, who was injured in a crash last summer and has not returned to competition.

Ryan Preece goes from being a test driver and backup at Stewart-Haas Racing to taking over the No. 41 car formerly run by Cole Custer, who moves to the Xfinity Series. 

— Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson returns to Cup after running the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. He’s now a part owner of Legacy Motor Club and will run select races for the Cup team. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500, driving the No. 84 car.

Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity Series champion to Cup rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Noah Gragson goes from Xfinity Series title contender to Cup rookie for Legacy Motor Club (and teammate to Jimmie Johnson).

Crew chiefs

— Keith Rodden, who last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne, is back in that role for Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing, as Dillon seeks to make back-to-back playoff appearances. Rodden comes to RCR after working with the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors.

— Chad Johnston, who has been a crew chief for Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, will serve as crew chief for Ryan Preece at Stewart-Haas Racing.

— Blake Harris goes from being Michael McDowell’s crew chief at Front Row Motorsports to joining Hendrick Motorsports to be Alex Bowman’s crew chief. 

— Mike Kelley, who served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief when Stenhouse won Xfinity titles in 2011 and ’12, returns to the crew chief role with Stenhouse this season at JTG Daugherty Racing. 

Races

— What’s old is new. The All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, marking the first Cup event at that historic track since 1996.

— July 2 marks debut of the street course race in Chicago, marking NASCAR’s first street race for its premier series.

— The spring Atlanta race and playoff Texas race have both been reduced from 500 miles to 400 miles.

Rules

Ross Chastain’s video-game move on the last lap at Martinsville will no longer be allowed, NASCAR announced this week. 

— Stage breaks are gone at the road course events for Cup races. Stage points will be awarded but there will be no caution for the end of the stage.  

— If a wheel comes off a car while on track, it is only a two-race suspension (last year it was four races) for two crew members. The crew chief is no longer suspended for the violation. 

— Cup cars have a new rear section that is intended to absorb more energy in a crash to prevent driver injuries after Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman each missed races last year because of concussion-related symptoms.

— Elton Sawyer is the new vice president of competition for NASCAR. Think of the former driver as the new sheriff in town for the sport.

Achievements 

— With a win this season, Kyle Busch will have at least one Cup victory in 19 consecutive seasons and become the all-time series leader in that category, breaking a tie with Richard Petty.

Denny Hamlin needs two wins to reach 50 career Cup victories. That would tie him with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 13th on the all-time list. 

Kevin Harvick, running his final Cup season, is 10 starts away from 800 career series starts. That would make him only the 10th driver in Cup history to reach that mark.