What drivers said at Bristol cutoff race

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What drivers said after Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series first-round cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Chris Buescher became the third consecutive non-playoff driver to win in the first three races of the 2022 playoffs:

Chris Buescher — Finished first: “This is so special, this team did such a great job. Love this racetrack, love the fans. Love every time we come here. It’s so special to me. We had a really fast Fastenal Mustang. Just so proud of everybody. We knew we had a good race car after practice and didn’t quite get the job done in qualifying, but what a race car. It’s just special. Get RFK in Victory Lane for the first time, and we had great race cars. Brad had really good speed, too. I don’t know what else to say right now. I’m out of breath. This place will wear you flat out, and I love that about it, but such a special night.”

Chase Elliott — Finished second: “I actually really liked my car. I thought our Chevrolet was driving really good, and honestly, I don’t think I could realistically ask for anything more balance-wise. I just needed to be able to do a better job getting in some different lanes. And then being second there, the top had gotten so dominant there at the end. The bottom was pretty good there early in the night, and you could run down there for a long time, and then as the night went on the top got better and better and better, and that momentum was hard to beat. Unfortunately for me, we never got to any lapped traffic to make him move, but we were starting to there in those last three or four laps. I felt like we were gaining, but I wasn’t close enough to do anything with him. But I appreciate the effort. We had a long day yesterday. Was able to battle back from a bad qualifying effort to get a top 2, so proud of that. Glad to be moving on, and looking forward to some more opportunities here these coming weeks.”

William Byron — Finished third: “Honestly, with this Next Gen car, the pace is so fast around here and I didn’t really have a chance to see what was going on around me. I would see guys up in the wall, having flat tire issues or blowing up, so I just tried to avoid it. Our team did a great job tonight. We were a little bit timid early and didn’t really quite have the car in stage one. We wanted to get those points so we could advance. And then they told me after stage one that we were locked in. We were a little bit freer after that. We really didn’t change much, but we got the car better and had a good second and final stage. I’m really proud of this team. This whole round, we’ve been getting better each race. Just really proud of the effort. After a rough summer, this is really good to see how we brought ourselves to the playoffs. Thank you to all of our partners and supporters back home. We’re really excited.”

Christopher Bell — Finished fourth: “It’s terribly disappointing. That’s two weeks in a row we have had speed, and the car underneath me to win the race and haven’t done it. Extremely proud of this 20 group. They keep bringing Camrys that are incredible to the racetrack. It makes me really excited about where we are going, especially Texas, which is one of my best race tracks. I’m proud of everyone on this group. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum. Looking at the next seven races, I would say Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix. Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys. Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a playoff car.”

Ross Chastain — Finished sixth: “I’m proud of the effort from Trackhouse Racing, the No. 1 Worldwide Express team and Chevrolet to minimize things that take you out of the race. The minimal amount of flat tires. None for Trackhouse. That’s what we need; we needed extra air in the tires and extra clearance off the ground. We struggled just being tight all night. We put a couple rounds in the right-rear there at the end and drove up to sixth. We were up there where we needed to be all night. … To be honest, I’ve only had Homestead on my mind next for the test this week. We have a lot of questions to answer there. Good, bad or indifferent – Wednesday night, we’re going to know a whole lot more and that’s what tests are for. We’re taking a lot of spare parts. I need to work on running up top more, running the wall. That’s a big thing we’re going to focus on.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished seventh: “I’m happy to run 500 laps at Bristol anytime I can do that. That’s a good night. I was pretty happy with our Camaro ZL1. We just needed a little bit more I think to get to the next level, but really happy when we can run anywhere from about seventh to 10th all night. We had good strategy, and our pit stops were really good. So overall, I’m just really, really happy with the night.”

Cole Custer — Finished eighth: “We had a really solid day. The guys brought a really fast car the whole weekend from when we just unloaded. It was a lot of fun to drive, so we had a solid day.  We executed well and stayed out of trouble and was able to end up with a top 10.  Hopefully, we can carry that momentum to next week.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished ninth: “Had good track position from our qualifying effort but passing was just impossible. It was just a type of day where you needed to stay up front at all costs and we just couldn’t quite do it and ended up having a blown tire that set us back and we were trying to play catch up from that point. (The Next Gen car) was tough. I would like to see the racing improve overall. Some lap time variation a little bit. We’re just running around there and it’s like we’re running faster in the corners than we are on the straightaways. Just extremely hard to pass. We had some steering issues, and it looks like our Toyota teammates also had steering issues. We just battled through it and held on to a ninth place today. … We can win anywhere we go to. We’ll go to Texas and try to win like we always do. Just need to get a good, solid round going. Just seems like mechanical stuff with this Next Gen and wrecks are the X-factor in moving on so you just have to be really consistent and with five races to go, that’s when you have to start winning.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 10th: “It was pretty tough (on the last pit stop). We pitted in front of (Buescher), so just kind of the way the year has gone. Just went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade. Just difficult to pass. The car is way too fast through the corners. Can’t race.”

Justin Haley — Finished 12th: “That’s a really strong night. We fought hard all night, played some excellent strategy and just had an overall good car. That was a good, good run for the company. We are definitely building something. We will take this and keep improving.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 13th: “There are 40-some of the best cars that nobody is going to give you anything.  You scratch and claw for every little bit every day and every hour and, if you’re lucky and you don’t wreck, you don’t blow up, you don’t have a problem and you finish 10th to 15th, and if you’re lucky and you’re damn good, you win.  If you’re damn good and you’re not lucky, you still finish 20th or worse, so we had two cars that were really good today and one that was unlucky and one that executed and everything came the right way for them. … Oh yeah, I’m proud as hell (as a team owner).  Everybody has some level of ego and I’m not going to say I don’t have any ego, but it’s easy to get over ego when you see that.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 14th: “I was kind of worried pretty early in the race that I was going to struggle and was able to get fourth in that first stage, third in the second stage and really set us up to where I think we were right at the cut line starting that final stage.  We had some luck with the 18 blowing up and a couple guys getting wrecked and there at the end it was unfortunate, we kind of just rode around making sure we didn’t eliminate ourselves, so I’m super proud to be able to move onto the Round of 12.  That’s a really big accomplishment.  We’ve just got to do what we did today, not eliminate ourselves.  That’s going to be the key to this next round, especially with how many wild card races there are, so if we can go there and do that, guys are going to keep eliminating themselves.  We just have to limit our mistakes and if we do that, we know we’ve got to have a little more speed, but if we can just limit our mistakes it gives us a chance to move on in the next round as well. … I didn’t have (power steering) the whole race.  My arms are smoked.  That was not the most fun.  It was ripping the wheel out of my hands every time I ran the bottom and up at the top it was a little bit easier, so I kind of had to run the top no matter what just to try to last, but luckily there wasn’t a ton of long, long runs.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 19th: “It was a long day. It wasn’t pretty, but we did what we needed to do. We thought we were going to be able to make our car better from yesterday to today, but it was not. We have to regroup. Hopefully, we can find some answers and come back stronger. I think the next round is pretty good for us. Texas, we’re going to be strong. A road course is in our wheelhouse. A superspeedway, anything can happen. I’m very thankful for our team. They never give up. The car wasn’t what we needed, but we’re still on the good side of it. You have no idea how easy it’s going to be for me to reset (for the second round) because that car was not fun. For me, to be able to make it to the next round with the way the car was driving, is a huge plus. Thank you to everyone on our team. They did a very good job. We had the speed, but there were a lot of mistakes; on pit road, myself, overall. We’ll come back stronger for the next round.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 20th: “For a while I was just trying as hard as I can and as they fell off like flies just trying not to force any issues, try not to force any more right-front tire failures.  From there, I think I was tied with the 18 for 100 laps, but just one hell of a night.  I still don’t think this place loves me back, but it probably showed me a little mercy tonight, so I’ll take it and run with it.  We’ll be on offense for the next three races just like we were to start Darlington this round and have some fun with it. … Yeah, there’s a part of me that wants to go, ‘Man, that’s kind of b.s. I blew a tire and didn’t get a caution,’ but I would also think that NASCAR probably recognized there might be some issues with tires and probably understand that, ‘OK, it’s not just a one-time deal.’  Mine was the first to go. I’m happier about it because I made it in. I’d be less happy about it if I didn’t make it in, but certainly there’s something to be said about coming to a very important race in the year with a new tire, but it’s not my decision to make and just understand how we can make that better on our side.”

Erik Jones — Finished 21st: “We knew this week may be a test with the new car at Bristol and it proved to have its challenges tonight. We struggled with the handling early in the race and were making the right changes, but spun missing a wreck and that put us a few laps down and then had a couple of tire issues late in the race. A disappointing night for sure. We have seven more races to build for next year and I know we are capable of running up front and winning races, just need to turn things around. We’ll had to Texas next week, one of my favorite tracks, and see what we can do.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 25th: “Frustrating for sure. We didn’t quite have the pace or the balance really to make our car better, and unfortunately, the balance issues we were fighting, we were pretty much limited. We couldn’t really adjust on it without hurting downforce of the car overall, so we were kind of boxed in. Then we just kind of got collected in that accident back there. I checked up in time, but I got absolutely ran over from there. Caught the right front and broke the upper control arm for the second week in a row.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 26th: “Such a bummer way to end an otherwise pretty solid night out at Bristol. Our No. 42 team was able to make some pretty good changes to our car to help us throughout the race, and that put us in a position for a top-15 finish. Unfortunately, a mechanical issue of some sort took us out early. It’s a shame because we had made some good gains up until that point, but that just how it goes sometimes. Looking forward to heading to Texas next weekend and put this one behind us.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 30th: “You never know what can happen and having that flat, there’s nothing that we can do about it.  You’re lucky you have that cushion going into this race.  The most unfortunate part is our car was super fast, too.  That was the terrible thing about it.  The worst part about it now, looking back.  The car was really good and just had no indication.  It seemed like a lot of guys had right-front problems tonight, but I’m proud of everybody for getting it fixed up and just out there to finish the race.  There really wasn’t much we could do, just log laps and let everything play itself out.  That’s why you try to have two good races beforehand because you never know when you’re gonna need some points.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 31st: “I heard Daniel (Suarez) just wrecked (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and caused a big one. Part of it. Wish we would have been in a little better spot. Just broke the suspension on the left front. We had gotten stage points and had a pretty good race car. Feeling pretty good about it. We just needed to miss that one. That was the best race car we brought. We put ourselves in a bind the first two races and brought something to race with today. We’ll just try to win a race before the year’s over.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 32nd: “Cars stopping in a hurry and no way for me to get stopped. We lost power steering and tried to work our way through it. We stayed out to get stage points, which thankfully we had a great race car and we were able to get stage points even without power steering and lock ourselves in. But the flip side of that was restarting in the back there and just getting collected. It’s a bummer, but at least we’re onto the next round and we can focus on Texas next weekend.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 34th: “It just goes with our year. I don’t even know what to say. I’m flabbergasted. I just feel so bad for my guys. They don’t deserve to be in this spot. They work too hard. We are too good of a group to be this low, down on the bottom, fighting for our lives just to make it through. Two engine failures in three weeks, that will do it to you. I really feel bad for all of Rowdy Nation, everybody at M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy, all of the partners that get us going every week. This is not our normal.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 36th: “It blew the seal out and pushed all the (power steering) fluid out on the right-front tire. Just unbelievable. What did (Kevin) Harvick say? Crappy parts. … You literally can’t drive the car here without power steering. You lose it, you’re done. It’s been a horrible string of luck for us, and we had another strong car tonight. We were working our way forward, every run going forward. Ready for this year to be over and start over.”

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

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Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.