What drivers said at Kansas Speedway

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Bubba Wallace stole attention from playoff drivers as he charged to the front in the final stage and won Sunday’s Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway.

Wallace led the final 43 laps of the race.

Following in the top five were Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman and Martin Truex Jr.

What drivers had to say during and after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway:

Bubba Wallace — Winner: “Man, just so proud of this team, so proud of the effort that they put in each and every week. Just thankful for the opportunity, right? Took this jump from an idea two years ago from a text from Denny before it all even happened. He was ready to get the deal done. … Pit crew was awesome today. We had one loose wheel. Just thankful. Thanks for the opportunity, and thankful to shut the hell up for a lot of people. I knew Denny was going to be strong. That’s the things I look at, is he wasn’t that good at the beginning of the day, and he comes up and finishes P2. And that’s what I want to start doing. When we don’t have the best days, just capitalize on moments like that. It’s cool to beat the boss, but, man, we were just lights-out today once we got to the lead, and it was a lot of fun.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “It’s a good overall day. Just still frustrated about the first half of the race. We just aren’t executing all that well. … Really happy for our 11 Toyota team. They really fought hard and in that last half, they really made the car quite a bit better. Just really happy about the outcome and really happy for the 45 team and Bubba Wallace and Bootie (Barker, crew chief). Bubba’s just really worked hard on his craft and we’ve given him fast race cars and now he’s showing what he’s got. I nearly wrecked to try to catch him and then I got bad loose and nearly got in the fence. I was driving as hard as I could. Nothing will ever come free if you’re driving for me. If you think I’m going to let you win, you better go get another job.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 3rd:  “Just got off a little bit on our balance that last run, but overall a great points day and very proud of everyone on this DEWALT No. 20 team. Great day for Toyota and happy for Bubba to get a win. He was really deserving, really fast all day. Great points day. We’ll move on and try and win one. I’m very happy that we’re finally getting the results that this team deserves. Our speed has been there all year, and I feel like we’ve given up a couple good finishes. Last couple of weeks we’ve been building on it, and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 4th: “We had a good day for our No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1. Proud of all of my guys. We had a good weekend. Obviously, we didn’t want to throw those stage points away in stage one like we did, but we overcame that in a hurry. I’m just proud of Greg (Ives) and the guys. We had a great racecar. The last 15 laps of a run is where we would fall off and get beat, but I’m still proud of all of the guys. We ended up with a solid points day.”

William Byron — Finished 6th: “For as far off as we started, we definitely made a really good rally. I just appreciate the adjustments and pit stops by everybody on the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet team. At the beginning, I thought if it was a long run, we would have gotten lapped. But we just got our car so much better through the middle part of the race. Towards the end, it was just really hard to know what we needed to be better. I’m happy with the finish and thankful for the effort. It looks like we’re plus 48-points going into Bristol, which is a tough track. It’s been a good two weeks in a row. We just need to put three weeks together and we’ll advance.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 7th: “Our No. 1 AdventHealth Chevy was on either side of tight or loose all day. It was just really a fine line. We just never really settled into a nice run. Our best run was the second-to-last, with our second-to-best run being our last run. We put the chips where they needed to go at the very end, but all day it was just a handful. We all just high-fived. It feels good. It’s been a rough couple of months here. There were times today where I thought we were going to run 14th and I thought we were just going to keep this going. We had a really good day on pit road. Our No. 1 pit crew is just incredible. We cycled ourselves back up there, and we were able to stay plugged in between the No. 48 (Alex Bowman) and the No. 5 (Kyle Larson). We were running with the guys we are supposed to be running with; and we finished around the guys we are supposed to finish by.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 8th: “For the restarts, I just didn’t have a good balance; but I also didn’t do a good job on the restarts. I think I only had two good ones. Gave up a lot of stage points early on because of that. Even when I thought I was in the right line, I was tight. There at the end, I finally got a good restart and was able to get to third. It was really loose; I tried to go for second and I got really sideways. After the green-flag stop, I felt good, but I was just a little bit on the tight side and couldn’t make enough ground in traffic to make a move and had to settle for eighth. Disappointed with that. I thought we had an opportunity to finish a lot better, but we’ll move on to Bristol.”

MORE: Kansas Cup results

MORE: Kansas driver points

Ryan Blaney — Finished 9th: “We were okay. We drove up through the field pretty decent there starting off and finished second in the first stage. I was proud of the progress we made. I had to come down pit road there after the first stage and had to kind of reset in the back. From there we just weren’t quite good enough to get back up into the top five. I was chasing it and adjusting the car after that. Overall, not a bad day. It was a good points day, and we are looking pretty decent going into Bristol. We will have to just go there and have a good day.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 10th: “Today was very inconsistent. It was a long day. At times, we were OK and then some other times, we weren’t good. We had a couple of situations there on pit road, and then we had a tire going down. We had an eventful day. But for a day like that and to finish in the top 10, I’m quite happy. We have some work to do. We are not where we need to be. At times, I felt like we were a top-five car; and at times, we were a 20th-place car. We have to be a little bit more consistent. We don’t really understand why it was so inconsistent, but we’re going to find some answers and move on to Bristol.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 11th: “Probably just bad lane choice. I don’t think we were good enough to go win. Bubba (Wallace) was really good, congrats to him and his team. That’s a big win for him and a deserving one, too. We just had a bad restart there and fell back a lot of spots. Our car wasn’t really driving any differently than it was earlier in the race when we were up front. You just kind of lose momentum, start going the other direction, and it’s difficult to rebound from that sometimes”

Austin Cindric — Finished 12th: “I felt like we made the car better all day, and we just got hosed at one point on a restart, the final restart there. We lost all the spots that I had gained, and we never got those back. I just drove the car too hard trying to make it up and got too loose by the end of the race. Overall, like I said, we didn’t beat ourselves. We check that box the last two weeks. Bristol will be a big unknown and big challenge. We can’t take points for granted. I feel like we gave a few away today. I want to win at Bristol. That would be awesome. I have had a lot of heartache at Bristol, okay? I would like to change that, but maybe I will just take moving on to the next round. I have a lot of work ahead and a lot of really good guys I am going to have to beat.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 13th: “Our balance was way different than in practice. I was worried at the beginning, but our team did a good job of making good adjustments and good pit stops and good restarts to get up to fourth or fifth there. We were able to run top-five if we could maintain track position. We came down pit road, and the 51 (Cody Ware) just buried us and pinned me in. I couldn’t get around him, and we went from running fourth to running 15th and was stuck there the rest of the day. I wish we could have got our Mustang up there. I feel like we had top-five speed. We just needed the track position to go with it, and we weren’t quite good enough to drive back through the field again. Going to Bristol not in on points isn’t the end of the world. I would love to be nine points up, obviously, but being nine points out, I feel like we can go there and get some stage points and be in good shape.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 14th: “We just fought balance on our No. 3 Get Bioethanol Camaro ZL1 all day. The same thing we’ve fought all year, really. We had high hopes because we qualified pretty decent. I’m proud of our guys, we fought hard. We kept ourselves in it and we have a shot at Bristol (Motor Speedway). Bristol is going to be wild and anything can happen. We’ve given ourselves a good shot. Nobody knows what to expect when we get there, but it’s a long race. If you’re there at the end of the day, you’ve got a good shot to make it.”

Joey Logano — Finished 17th: “Not a great day for us. We were hanging in there in the beginning for a little bit, and it looked like at one point, in the middle of the race, that we were the fastest car on the track. We were up to second and running down the leader and it was good. Caution came out and we put scuffs on and we lost a little bit of track position. Not much. We put new tires on and it just was not good. The balance was off without changing anything. Beats me. We are plus-40 in points, so that is a decent spot to go racing. I wish we were positioned first, but it is what it is.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 21st: “I thought we had a really good car. Having a motor issue in practice and not getting to qualify really just put us behind because we got given the last pit stall. I was having to come around the 12 (Ryan Blaney), and I kept getting blocked in by the 42 (Ty Dillon). So every time we’d drive from 30th up to 15th, we come down pit road and get blocked in and have to restart 30th. We restarted 30th one too many times, and I got wrecked on a restart and got a lot of damage, and the car was never as good after we got all the damage.”

Cole Custer — Finished 22nd: “It was just a battle and we couldn’t really find the balance on the car. We got it better through the race, but we just couldn’t really find it today. But we’ll come back stronger from it and figure out what we need to do the next time. The guys on pit road did an awesome job, so that’s definitely a positive.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 26th: “Just got really loose and it snapped around me. Then I had damage from going through the grass. Kind of ruined the rest of our day, but it was whatever happened on that pit stop that set us backwards to get us back in traffic there. Tried to make an adjustment to the car to make it faster and it did make it faster, but definitely made it looser. We’ll go and try hard and if what Bristol has always been to me occurs, we’ll be fine. With the way this year has been, if that occurs, it’s going to be ugly.”

Erik Jones — Finished 29th: “Definitely not the day we were looking for at Kansas Speedway with our FOCUSfactor Chevy. We were off in practice yesterday and made some adjustments to help today, but just never had a good handle on our Chevy. We started the day too tight, adjusted to then be too free. Had contact with a couple of other cars racing three-wide in stage two, and then the handling was just never where it needed to be. Not sure if we broke something when we made contact, but struggled the rest of the race. We’ll go back to the shop, look over everything and refocus on Bristol next week.”

Ty Gibbs — Finished 34th: “I don’t really know. We were just a little free and got ourselves back running in a bad area. We got a little bit of contact I think, but I haven’t seen the replay yet. … I feel like we should have run really well today and we didn’t. All of my teammates’ cars were good. I just need to work on my craft and need to make the car a little tighter. We had the right adjustments there and we were good right then, but just didn’t have enough time to go right after the green and then we were in the wall. Not really sure how, just haven’t seen the replay.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “The right-rear tire just blew like we’ve had a few times. At Fontana (Auto Club Speedway), I was able to save it. But here, it snapped at the worst possible point, and we just killed the wall. It broke the control arm on the right-front, so our day was over. We leave here with not a lot of points, so we’ll have to fight hard at Bristol (Motor Speedway).”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 36th: “When those two cars (Bubba Wallace, Ross Chastain) came up in front of me, I just got super tight. When I lifted it grabbed and got loose. I just wasn’t expecting them to come up and my car getting that tight. It is what it is. We were racing to win anyway today, so that is what we will do again next week.”

Dr. Diandra: Determining the 10 all-time best Cup drivers at Daytona

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Fourteen of the drivers competing for the 2023 championship have 17 Cup wins at Daytona between them. That total includes multiple winners Denny Hamlin (3), Kevin Harvick (2) and Austin Dillon (2).

How do these drivers stack up against the all-time best Daytona drivers?

The Data

I only include drivers with at least 10 races on the Daytona oval. If you’re going to be called an ‘all-time great’, you need enough races to prove it.

Between 1959-71, NASCAR counted some Daytona qualifiers as regular-season races. For example, while most record books assign David Pearson eight Daytona victories, two of those wins were qualifying races. But qualifier races, which are fewer laps and a smaller field, aren’t the same as 400- or 500-mile races.

I therefore don’t include any qualifying races in this analysis. Doing so creates a serious bias against recent drivers. So I credit Pearson with six win in this analysis.

Winning

It’s tempting to simply list the drivers with the most Daytona wins.

  • Richard Petty (10)
  • Cale Yarborough (eight)
  • Pearson, Bobby Allison and Jeff Gordon (six each)
  • Fireball Roberts, Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (four each)

But Petty needed 64 races to get those 10 wins. Yarborough won eight times in 48 races, so Yarborough’s 16.7%-win rate just edges out Petty’s 15.6%. Using numbers of wins disadvantages drivers with shorter careers, which is why I prefer win rate.

A table showing the 10 all-time best Daytona drivers in terms of winning percentageThe table shows that neither Petty nor Yarborough come close to Roberts’ 36.4% win rate. That’s four wins in just 11 attempts.

As far a current drivers go, Dillon takes 11th place with a win rate of 10.5%. The next active driver on the list is William Byron at 13th. Byron is also the last driver with a win rate at or above 10%.

But I want the best driver, not simply the winningest driver. Plenty of great NASCAR drivers never won at Daytona.

Average Finish Position

Luck plays more of a role at Daytona than at most other tracks. A driver can run a brilliant race but finish in the 30s after being taken out by a late crash. Average finishing position measures driving ability and ability to finish races.

Here’s a list of the best all-time drivers in terms of average finishes.

A table showing the 10 all-time best Daytona drivers in terms of average finish

Darel Dieringer raced in the Cup Series from 1957-69. He returned to run Daytona, Talladega and two Charlotte races in 1975.

Although Dieringer won 6 races, his only trip to Daytona’s Victory Lane was the first 1965 qualifier race. Nonetheless, he’s the only driver with an average finishing position below 10 at Daytona.

Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt finished between 10th and 11th position on average.

Bubba Wallace ranks fifth in average finish at Daytona. He also ranks first among all drivers in percentage of second-place finishes with 27.3%, or a little more than one in four.

Only one driver — Pearson — appears on the top-10 lists for winning rate and average finishing position.

Top fives

Again, I’m using rates to account for different drivers having run different numbers of races. Here’s a list of the top-10 all-time best drivers for finishing in the top five.

A table showing the 10 all-time best Daytona drivers in terms of top-five finishes

Lorenzen comes in first with a 62.5%. No one else gets close. Second on the list is Jack Smith with a 50% top-five rate.

Hamlin comes in 15th on this list with a 32.4% top-five rate. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are right behind him with 31.6% and 31.0% rates respectively.

The all-time best Daytona drivers

My algorithm gives half of the emphasis to average finishing position, 35% to win rate and the remaining 15% to top fives. In all cases, I’m using their rank compares to other drivers. Thus, the driver with the smallest total is the best Daytona driver. A perfect score would be 1.

But no one’s perfect.

A table showing the final list of the top-10 all-time best Daytona driversOnly Pearson ranked in the top 10 in all three of my metrics. That lands him the title of all-time best Daytona driver. He didn’t win any of the categories, but posted strong numbers across the board.

Pearson and Smith are the only drivers with a final ranking below 10. Smith was hurt by his low win rate, as was Earnhardt. It’ll be interesting to see how Earnhardt fares when we do the same ranking for Talladega.

Dillon is the only current driver to make the final list. Here’s how some other recent drivers rank compared to the all-time greats:

  • Gordon (11th)
  • Hamlin (13th)
  • Wallace (18th)

Who do you rank best? Tell me in the comments.

Even more importantly, tell me what metrics you think are most important in determining the all-time best Daytona drivers.

Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.

 

Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona

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In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”