What drivers said at Homestead playoff race

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What drivers said during and after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 playoff race at Homestead-MIami Speedway, where Kyle Larson won for the first time:

Kyle Larson — winner: “Yeah, definitely the best run we’ve had all year long. We’ve been capable of it I feel like many weekends, we just haven’t quite put it all together. (Crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) gave a great speech this morning and got us all ready to go and focused and did my best to keep it out of the wall. I got in the wall a few times but I could still make speed doing that. Amazing race car. I knew that that last run was going to be short enough where I was going to be in some sort of trouble there, but thankfully AJ and Ross were racing hard behind me.

“But yeah, happy for our team, and we get to go race for an owner’s title in Phoenix in a couple weeks. We’re still technically not out of it. I can’t win the championship, but it means more to me to win it as a team. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to get another championship.

(On the contact with Martin Truex Jr.  in the pits) “Yeah, so I was just going behind him, and he had a hard left and was hard on the brakes at the same time, and I ran right in the back of him. My team said he was late turning into his stall, but I don’t know. If it was my fault, I’m sorry. I don’t think it was. But it’s hard to see down this pit road. I don’t know if fans and people realize, when you’ve got debris all over your windshield, the sun is shining straight in your face, it’s hard to see your stall. So hate that that happened. He was definitely the one I was going to have to beat. He was really good that last long run, too.

“What a fun day. I’ve always wanted to race here during the day at Homestead where we could rip the wall. Finally have a car tough enough for me to be able to run the wall and finish the race. A lot of fun today. Hope you fans enjoyed the ass-kicking there, and hope we can do it again in a couple of weeks.”

Ross Chastain — Finished second: “Not the way you would have scripted it. I feel like we had a top-three or four car all day, all weekend, and a little too tight in qualifying, and come behind that with a driver that chose the complete wrong lane in 3 and 4, against everything I’ve ever trained for and prepared for. Qualified 20th, and it took us all day long. We need to get the car turning better from qualifying into the race. We were too tight. Phil Surgen and his whole team got it turning better, and pit stops were incredible again. Our guys were just — they’re just rock stars on pit road, and I’m so glad to go to battle with them.

“At the end of the day, I know we didn’t score a ton of stage points. We put ourselves in position at the end, and just keep executing. I almost spun off Turn 2 in front of Daniel, and I had my arms all crossed up and I just took a deep breath down the back, and thought, what can I control here? I can control not spinning out, so let’s go a little slower next time, and had a shot at it.”

(On feeling comfort heading to Martinsville) “I don’t know What’s it supposed to feel like? I’ve never been here. For Trackhouse, we’re learning all this together; we’re experiencing this together.

“We’ve got a lot of knowledge in our shop and I’ll lean on a lot of teammates, both in the GM camp and inside our shop of how to approach it, but I’m a racer. We’re just going to race. Go practice as well as we can; we’ll go qualify as best we can. And I’m late all the time, so a grandfather clock might do me a little good for the rest of my life. (To race for a championship is) just a life goal, a career accomplishment. Just to make it to the Cup Series, be here competing with my heroes. I train with Kyle, and he was better than us today. But he ran into the 19, knocked his diffuser flap down and he didn’t have quite as much grip, and we had a shot at it.

“I feel like that no matter what, this season is going to be a success, but in the moments where I hit the wall at the Roval and I realized this could all be gone and we could not transfer, it hurts, and I don’t want that. I’m a racer, and I want the next thing. I feel confident in our group and what we’ll take to Martinsville. We ran fifth there in the spring. We just continue to arrive on the scene of the Cup Series, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anybody else.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished third: “The short runs (felt really good). It was really hooked up. We still have to work on our long-run package in general. That’s something that’s kind of been weak for us at Kaulig Racing. We got that caution with 18 to go, I was like we’ve got a shot at this, and we lost a couple of spots on pit road but restarted eighth. Ross and I had a fun battle. I think I needed about an 11-lap run to catch Kyle. But overall just proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing to get the Chevy in the top five and just have another solid day.

“We know how it goes in the offseason. A lot of stuff changes. Everybody works on the cars. It’s all about trying to build a notebook and get ready for next year. This is just giving us confidence. This is part of the reason why I made the decision to go full time Cup because I felt like the group that we have on the Cup side can be really good. We have a lot of work to do, but it can be really good, and I want to be a part of that.”

Austin Dillon — Finished fourth: “It’s one of our best race cars of the year for sure. We started 32nd. I knew we had a good long run car, and it showed. We were able to drive up through there. I had a blast today. Homestead is so much fun. These cars were fun to race here today. So close there. Really felt like we could catch those next three cars. Just weren’t as good as we needed to be at the end, but we’re in the fight, and that was a lot of fun. The pit crew rebounded and had a good final stop.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished fifth: “We were solid all day. Great stops and the car was really solid. We weren’t in a spot to dominate the race but we were in a spot to run up front all day and that is what we did. We are starting to gel and click as a team. It is exciting for RFK, and I am really happy for Violet Defense and everybody on the team. We are pushing and getting better. It was a solid day all day. I am really looking forward to Martinsville. We had a great test there just like we did here at Homestead. I really want to get a win before this year is over. If we keep building momentum like this I think we can do that. (Are you improving?) 100 percent. It just can’t come fast enough. We want it bad.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished sixth: “Yeah, it was definitely a little bit of both of that. It’s really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it. I did see my box late for sure, so I slowed down before I turned out of the way of the 5 there. Obviously partly on me. I didn’t expect to get turned around. I’m glad nobody got hurt there. But overall it’s just disappointing. To have a good day going like that and have a shot at winning and couldn’t close the deal. I hate it for my team. It’s been one of those years.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished seventh: “We had some good stops. The pit crew did a great job the second half of the race. I was able to get a good restart to get the track position by taking the lead, but I just can’t get my car to go. I can’t get it to turn. We’re just too slow on the short runs. Something we’ve really got to work on for sure. Vegas, it hurt us as well. We’ll just continue to work on it, and I’ll try to work on my technique and try to do anything I can to try to get some more speed out of it. We weren’t fast enough to really compete with those guys even when we got the lead. We were just a sitting duck because I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s really tough to keep it up there all day, especially with the shadow into Turn 1. I had my fair share of times in the wall today. Luckily, the car stayed in one piece. I nearly crashed into (Turn) 1. That was exciting and just kept going.” (On Martinsville) “We’ve got to go get stage points. We can’t be outside the top 10 for the first two stages for sure. That’s the only thing that has really kind of hurt us. Not having a lot of playoff points, we always have to dig ourselves out of a hole every time a round starts. We just have to go there and get it done and perform well. I think we can. We have to qualify well and execute.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 11th: “I’m fine. I’m disappointed with our performance today, but at least that is in our hands. Last week, I was emotional about it because it was out of our hands, and we were performing well. Today, it was in our hands, and we just didn’t step up to the bat and do what we needed to do. That was disappointing, but we will move to Martinsville. We ran well in the spring. I definitely feel better about winning there than I did at the Charlotte road course.”

William Byron — Finished 12th: “We just had one bad run. We restarted second and kind of maintained in second for maybe a couple of laps, and then the car fell off and disappeared. That one run was just really weird, so we lost a lot of track position. And then we had the deal on pit road, but everybody kept focused and tried to get as many spots as we could. Twelfth is how we netted out after all of that, but I’m proud of the effort of the No. 24 Camaro ZL1 team. We have some things to work on for short runs to just get the balance right. Later in these races, it seems like that’s what it kind of comes down to more and we just struggled a little bit. Just have to work on that; but overall, really happy with the rebound and we’re in a decent spot, for sure.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 14th: “We were playing defense all day, but we were doing a pretty good job of it and staying inside the top-five there, so that was great. But that’s what happens when you’re playing defense, and you have something like that happen to you. You just get stuck. The other guys that got buried; they drove right back to the front. That’s just the difference. I think if we execute next weekend, we’ll be fine.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 17th: (What happened on the spin exiting the pits?) “Downshifted like a complete moron. It’s just disappointing, mainly to myself the last two weeks, I’ve not done a good job executing at all from wrecking last week and a bonehead move like that this week. The 12 group doesn’t deserve that. I’m disappointed in myself and can’t have that. It’s pretty unacceptable. Just go try to win Martinsville. That’s all we can do. Go try to run up front and have a good day, and that’s all we can ask for, just try to stay in the game and hopefully the driver doesn’t cost us anything.”

Joey Logano — Finished 18th: “We had a good car. It was a bit of a wasted car, unfortunately. We had a really fast  Mustang. Probably not good enough to beat (Kyle Larson) but good enough for second or third. We just lost too much track position anytime the caution came out or we went to pit road. We just kept losing spot after spot after spot and couldn’t settle into the top five like we needed to. It was a fast car and that is important. We just need to get a little faster on pit road. We have momentum. We had a really fast race car. We need a good day on pit road next week. That will be really important for us and hopefully, we can do that.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 26th: “We didn’t really have the speed we needed all day with our Sunseeker Resorts Camaro. In the first 15 or 20 laps, we just got so far behind and wasn’t really able to recover. It was definitely a struggle all day, and we lost some positions with the spin on the last lap too. Hopefully, we will get better for the last two races.”

Erik Jones — Finished 30th: “Today just wasn’t our day. I thought we found some things at the test that would help us, but we struggled all race with the handling. We’ve got some work to do for sure before we come back here next year. You’ll have weeks like this, especially as we continue to learn this car. Glad to have this one behind us and move on to next week at Martinsville.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “We started off our day running well. Stage 1 was really strong for our team. We ran up front, but our Chevy was just a little too free. From there, it was pretty tough. The balance of our Chevrolet was really tight, and we couldn’t free it up enough and that was frustrating. We crashed with just a few laps left and that ended our day a little early. Tough end, but this team will rebound and hopefully have a better result at Martinsville Speedway.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 36th: “The driver just made a mistake. I was really, really loose that run. We were really tight every other run. That green-flag run we tried to get really free on the other side of it and just started taking really hard. I was hanging on with everything I had. It felt like I was on ice. Honestly, I wasn’t even running hard. I was trying to just get to the caution. We kept getting freer. I got sideways and had the wheel all the way to the right and ended up head-on into the wall. It is really frustrating to have it be something of my own doing. I am better than to be crashing by myself. It is really unfortunate. It makes our job easier next week I guess. We don’t have to worry about points. We gotta go to Martinsville and win.”

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.”