What drivers said at Las Vegas playoff race

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What drivers said during and after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Joey Logano won to advance to the championship round:

Joey Logano — Finished first: “We’re racing for a championship. Let’s go! Man, what a great car. Penske cars were all fast. All of them were really fast today. Oh, man, all you want to do is get to the Championship 4 when the season starts and race for a championship, and we’ve got the team to do it. I don’t see why we can’t win at this point. Things are looking really good for us. Awesome Mustang, this bad boy, and man, just a lot of adversity fought through the last 50 laps or so. I thought we were going to win and then we kind of fell out and then had the tires, and racing Ross was fun. He was doing a good job air-blocking me, and just trying to be patient, and eventually, I was like, I’ve got to go here. Just great to win out here in Vegas again, and it means so much getting to the championship.”

Ross Chastain — Finished second: “That was all we had. There was a clear difference in tires there, so we fully believed that we could hold him off and win the race on the tires we had, and Joey did a good job of getting through the field. At the end there, I hope I’m racing that guy for a really long time, and like we’ve been saying all year, this is the arrival of Trackhouse, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anybody else. (Could you have done anything different with Logano?) “Yeah, I don’t know. Just instinct takes over and it’s all camera based. (Spotter) Brandon McReynolds is up in my ear from the top and just giving me information and coaching me, but I’m the one making my decisions and my moves. I’m sure I can go back and find a few things, and to run the top there and let him get inside of me, I thought I had one more corner to do that, and he just got positioned on me there on the frontstretch, and we were just really tight.”

Kyle Busch — Finished third: “Just kept fighting in it and digging hard all day long. We had a really fast Camry anyway. Not as good as the Penske guys. They really have a hold of this place. We worked on ours all day long and got it better. Certainly, a top-five car and a good third-place finish. Just salvaged what we could there after a lot of ups and downs. Thanks to the guys. They had good pit stops all day. I left a little early on that one that we had a loose wheel, but all in all, we had a good recovery. It keeps us a good finish here and hopefully try to get back in the top 10 in points. That’s where it’s at.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished fourth: “At the beginning of the race, I definitely didn’t think we were going to be able to be in contention. I honestly thought we had a motor laying down. We were so slow in the corner. Johnny did a really good job getting the car driving better as he always does. We put ourselves in position and I wish that when I was running second and Justin (Haley) was in the lead, that run would have gone to the end. I feel like I was probably going to get by him in the next five laps. We had such a big gap compared to everyone else. Nobody else had tires. We were all on equal tires.

“On that last restart, I just didn’t get the job done. (Haley) stalled me out and let Ross put us three wide which put me in a really bad spot into three. When you give up the lead you are kind of just stuck. Who knows? Those guys were coming on tires and I doubt I would have been able to hold them off, but I would have felt better about it if I had the opportunity. We kept ourselves in the ballgame and still have a lot of work to do but we still have a chance. We are running the best we have all year long and that is about all you can ask for.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished fifth: “I don’t know we had a winning car. I struggled on restarts. I couldn’t hold my position. Yeah, just needed to be faster, honestly. The competition has stepped up. My car drove pretty decent. Certainly a lot better than yesterday coming from 31st  and fifth in the second stage, fifth in the race. It’s an OK day. We were kind of mediocre hung around third to seventh all day and luckily had a really good restart. We just need to get a little faster and I need to be better on restarts. It’s up to me and the engineers and Chris Gabehart to figure out how we can come off the truck better (for qualifying). We tested Homestead. We have a baseline there so we know we aren’t going to venture too far from there. Same with Martinsville, we tested there. Now that we’ve created some more data points we can lead into next year. We just need a little more potential in the car to have more speed. In qualifying, all of us were kind of off. It’s just something we have to work on. Right now, I don’t believe we’re the heat by any means, but we’re executing well, and that’s something we didn’t do well early in the season. I love (Homestead) for sure. We unloaded best, but the field caught up to us (at the test). It’s a track I love racing at, the driver can make a difference with so many options. In the end, have to execute and not make any mistakes.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished sixth: “We ran well and led a good bit of the race early today in our Chevrolet. The balance of our car went from too loose to too tight during the first two stages. Randall Burnett and the guys kept making adjustments and late in the race we were pretty good. It’s certainly nice to get another top-10 finish. The restarts here are frustrating, but we came away with a good finish. Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of my favorite tracks and I can’t wait to get down there next week.”

Erik Jones — Finished eighth: “We had a good, uneventful day in Las Vegas with another solid top-10 finish. We had speed all weekend, didn’t qualify where we wanted, but were able to adjust on our Chevy all race to improve throughout the day. We were there at the end, just needed a little more to get up front and be in the mix for the win. We’ll head to Homestead next weekend where I feel like we made gains at the test a few weeks ago and see what we can do.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished ninth: “Overall, I felt like it was a solid day for our No. 16 Chevrolet team. We fought being a little bit tight most of the day. Track position was critical and we lost that a couple of times. I was fairly happy with the speed we had. The car was fairly comfortable. We had one run where we got really loose, but other than that, we just fought the front issue. We had good speed, and it’s something to build on when we come back to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. To get another top-10 was really solid and I’m proud of both cars. Justin (Haley) was fast. We’ll keep working on that.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 10th: “Today was my 333rd NASCAR Cup Series start, so it’s really cool to be able to add another top-10 finish to our season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We started the race with a tight-handling Chevrolet, but our Chevy got freer as we ran. Justin Alexander and the team did a good job addressing various balance issues throughout the day. We definitely made the right call to take tires at the end of the race. We restarted 16th and ended up finishing 10th. We maybe could have had a sixth or seventh-place finish if we would have had a better restart. The No. 22 car won it, and he took tires, too. He took the top from me on the restart, so we were right there. Overall, another solid day.”

William Byron — Finished 13th: “I think it was the right call (to pit with 19 laps to go). You never know what’s going to happen there. Could have had a better restart. Ultimately just struggled all day with the same thing. Just kind of balancing. I’d run the middle OK the middle of the race, but as soon as the bottom and top came in, I wasn’t great in either one of those. I hate we got loose under (Ryan Blaney), that definitely wasn’t my intention. I couldn’t get it on the bottom all day. I couldn’t make it work. Ultimately, kind of struggle of a day. So have to go to work for Homestead and try to get it better.”

Justin Haley — Finished 14th: “The caution came out, and the tires cycled way too tight to stay in the lead. Heck of a call by Trent Owens. It’s cool to run up there and battle for the lead in the closing laps. The speed of this Kaulig Racing team is kind of coming around. We had a rough summer, but with AJ working wth us, a lot of sim time at GM, we’re starting to make forward progress. It’s so hard to build a race team from the ground up. It takes time. Super proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. Got AJ in the top 10. Good runs. We keep building this into the offseason and hopefully next year will be really good.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 21st: “I did a really bad job all weekend. Not driving the car like it needs to be driven. Not being able to give good information to fix it. All-around poor effort on my behalf. When you perform that poorly, you get poor results. That’s how it works. We’ve got to get home and digest everything from today. We’ll see next week. I’ve got to do a lot better job driving the vehicle to have a chance for it to even matter.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 28th: “Got loose, hit the fence, that’s about it. It was nice we were fast today. Unfortunate the way it ended but thought we had a decent test at Miami a few weeks ago. Hopefully, speed carries over. Stinks to not capitalize on a fast car today, making a driver error but got two more of them to try to make it up and see what we can do.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 33rd: “We had a good day in Las Vegas and were on our way to a strong run but made contact with the wall late in the race and broke something in the suspension that ended our day early.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 34th: “Just Bubba (Wallace) got run into the wall and obviously, retaliation on his side. We got the short end of the stick. The good thing is I feel better about winning (at Homestead or Martinsville) than I did winning the Roval. We’ve just had really, really strong Camrys – really all year long. We will see if we can go pull another rabbit out of the hat. It’s disappointing because our performance is capable of racing for the championship, and it doesn’t appear that we’re going to get to. Just disappointing.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 35th: “I obviously made an aggressive move into (Turn 3); got in low, got loose and chased it up a bit. (Bubba Wallace) got to my right front, and it got him tight and into the wall. I knew he was going to retaliate. He had a reason to be mad, but his race wasn’t over until he retaliated. It is what it is. Just aggression turned into frustration and he retaliated. I think with everything that’s been going on here lately, with head injuries, fractured ligaments and all that, I don’t think it’s probably the right thing to do. We’ve all done it – maybe not all of us – but I have. I’ve let the emotions get the best of me before, too. I know he’s probably still upset. I’m sure with everything going, he’ll know that he made a mistake in the retaliation part and I’m sure he’ll think twice about that next time. … I saw him walking over, so I figured he would do something. Like I said, he had every right to be upset. I would rather him do that than tear up our cars in a dangerous manner. It is what it is.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 36th: “When you get shoved in the fence, deliberately like (Larson) did, trying to force me to lift – the steering was gone, and he just so happened to be there. I hate it for our team. We had a super-fast car – not on short run speed, we were kind of falling back there, and Larson wanted to make it a three-wide dive bomb. He never cleared me. I don’t lift. I know I’m kind of new to running up front, but I don’t lift. I wasn’t even in a spot to lift, he never lifted either and now we are junk. Piss-poor move on his execution.” (At this speed, is retaliation acceptable?) “Stop fishing.” (What is the message you wanted to send to Larson by going at him after the incident?) “(Kyle Larson) knows. He knows what he did was wrong. He wanted to question what I was doing, and he never cleared me.” (What is your reaction to Christopher Bell being involved in this?) “Sports.”

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 originations 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.”