What drivers said at Auto Club Speedway

1 Comment

Kyle Busch scored his first win of the 2023 season Sunday, leading the final 21 laps to win the 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway.

The win was the first for Busch at Richard Childress Racing.

Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick followed Busch to the finish line.

MORE: Kyle Busch wins at Fontana

Here’s what drivers had to say Sunday at ACS, which hosted the final race on its 2-mile oval:

Kyle Busch — Won: “I think it’s just phenomenal. I can’t thank Richard and Judy (Childress) enough. I can’t thank Austin (Dillon) for calling me and getting me talking and getting me this opportunity to be able to come over here to RCR and be a part of Chevrolet and be able to race this Lucas Oil Camaro today, to be able to put it up front like that, man. The guys did a great job, Randall (Burnett, crew chief), everybody that has worked so hard during the off-season. We’ve done a lot of sim stuff, we’ve done a lot of testing in general just with trying to get up to speed, systems and all that sort of stuff. But man, there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to go to Victory Lane. I think it ranks high just because it ranks to the fact of I can do it. I never doubted myself, but sometimes you do. You kind of get down on it, you wonder what’s going on and what’s happening and you put yourself in a different situation and you’re able to come out here and reward your guys. It’s not about me always winning, but it’s about the guys. I’ve been with a lot of great people that have given me a lot of great opportunities in my career, so it’s awesome to be able to reward them. I’m going to enjoy it for sure, and hopefully there’s many more left to go. There were a couple moments where I got loose. I about busted my ass on that last run. So I was like, please don’t. But fortunately was able to hang on well enough and tried to find another groove that my car would work better in, so it was always a constant evolution of where you needed to be and just trying to work. That’s what I enjoy the most about this racetrack. It’s a 2-mile racetrack. It’s big, it gets spread out, but man, you can move around and you can spread out and you can make your own destiny by trying to find something else that will help work for your race car. It’s a sad day for me to see this racetrack be in its last race being a 2-mile configuration. Glad I was able to win the final run here.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 2nd: “Just really proud of our team. We obviously didn’t run very good there toward the end of the year last year, and just everybody really went to work hard over the winter to try and get better. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. Obviously, I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that’s always a good thing. Congratulations to Kyle. For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He’s always been really good to me, so happy for them and looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins.”

MORE: Auto Club Cup results, driver points

Ross Chastain — Finished 3rd: “Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right. We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs, and at times it was enough, and at times they got way better. I felt like we were the steady force, our Kubota Chevy was. For everybody at WWEX Racing, Advent Health, Jockey and the Moose, to start off this year the way we have is a total 180 from last year when it was not like this, so as much as it stings, as much as it does hurt, hats off to Chevrolet for top four there, and pumped to be in this position with Trackhouse, and for our first crack at the big tracks here, it’s all we can ask for, and we will regroup and study and be back next week.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 4th: “I’m very, very proud of everyone at Trackhouse Racing. They keep building very fast race cars, and it’s a lot of fun to race like this. My No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevy team did a great job on pit road with strategy and adjustments. I feel like I made a few mistakes today that maybe cost us a shot at the win. I feel like our car was capable of running up front, but I just made too many mistakes. I just have to clean up a few things on my end, and I’m sure we’ll come back next weekend with another shot.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “Our Gearwrench Ford Mustang was really good on the long runs. I just really struggled on the restarts with the front end. In the end, we had a chance, but I couldn’t put us in the right position on the restarts to guard our track position like we needed to. It was still a great day. The guys did a great job on pit road all day and kept us up in the front. The track conditions were fine. I didn’t really see any weepers, and it was just really dirty every run. The second half of the race it cleaned up, but it was hard on the windshields. In the end, they did a great job preparing the track, and we were able to put on a good race.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th:  “Such a great race track – such a fun track. Wish we had a little more speed overall with our Sport Clips Camry, but still a solid day. I thought our balance was pretty good — just needed a little speed there and I thought we would be there in contention. I felt like we were a third-place car or so, so we just came up a little short of that. A decent day.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 7th: “We didn’t have a great start to the race — wasn’t driving really good, and I wasn’t really happy with it. Matt (McCall) and the crew just kept working on it. We had a couple of good adjustments there, got spun out and then recovered it. It was good to be able to recover. Just need a little more speed. Not quite where we need to be, but we weren’t terribly far off.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 8th: “I felt like we were good. I just couldn’t launch out of my pit box. The pit box was really slick and I struggled with that, and because of that, I lost a lot of spots on pit road. I had a good race car. I just had to come from deep every time. We will take it and move on. It was a good points day and we will keep fighting.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “It looks like we were in the hunt. We weren’t the best car, and we needed to make an adjustment to get better. I was falling off hard and was hoping we’d get back on track — just couldn’t. It fell off at the end even more. Running top five all day, finishing 10th, doesn’t feel that great. Overall, the momentum is there, we fought hard and got some stage points. So, it was still a decent day. Go back and look at the data. I didn’t do anything. I just rolled it and went like everyone was anticipating it. It’s part of the new restart zone – it’s bigger. So, you can’t anticipate as much as you used to without getting into trouble. I went late in the zone because the car to the inside of me was laying back, so I was waiting for him to get up next to me before I went. I didn’t brake-check anyone. It might look like it, but you can go back and look at it and see it’s not there.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 13th: “We started off really bad. It took us a good amount of time and some big adjustments to get dialed in. I’m proud of this Pela Casino Mustang. We really got a lot closer toward the end there. We’re not where we want to be – still. But, we’re much, much closer. It’s nice to see that gain throughout the day. I think we would’ve discovered some of that if we would have had practice, but obviously nobody did. We’ll just keep working on it – getting a little bit closer, so we can be in the hunt towards the end.”

Todd Gilliland — Finished 17th: “This is something for us to build on. It was the best mile-and-a-half car we’ve had. There’s still work to do, but that was something to definitely work from. I’m proud of the effort by all my guys.”

Erik Jones — Finished 19th: “Just a tough day for our No. 43 Allegiant team. We struggled from the start with having to start pretty deep in the field with no qualifying. Just never had a really good balance. We got some track position, but couldn’t do much with it. A tough day. We just didn’t have what we needed. Hopefully, we can get a little bit better and keep going forward.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 20th: “We definitely had high hopes going into here. This is one of my better racetracks, and we just completely struggled all day long from a lot of different issues. That’s not how we wanted to run, obviously. We’ve got a lot of work to do going into next week, but I feel like we can learn from it and move on.”

Justin Haley — Finished 21st: “Our No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro ZL1 was so fast. We ran free in comparison to my teammate, AJ (Allmendinger), but we knew we had so much speed and potential. Trent (Owens) made some great calls to help the ride quality of the car, and we knew if we could get some track position we would be in a good spot. Unfortunately, we got caught in a pileup on a restart and sustained heavy nose damage. P21 was a decent finish for the day we had.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 22nd: “A decent day for our Sunseeker Resorts Chevy. I thought we had decent speed, especially in the first half of the race. We stayed out in the final run of the second stage and got really, really tight. Crazy balance shift and had some damage on the nose, a little bit on the right side. We just kept working on it. We got back on the lead lap and then got it really good there at the end. Ran with the 1, who finished third, just nothing to show for it. We’ll keep working. We had really good speed at the end, ran with the guys in the top three, but we were a lap down. I’m proud of this team. We’re still learning, and we’ll get better.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 26th: “Certainly not the day we wanted with the Würth Ford Mustang. We had a good car early, led some laps and got stage points. Unfortunately, we lost track position, and I had nowhere to go after the big wreck on the restart. Not the way we wanted our day to go. We’ll look towards Vegas.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 28th: “We kind of bounced around inside the top 20 for a lot of the day. We had some good restarts and some bad restarts. I felt like we had worked to get the car in a good direction by Stage 3 and had a good restart, but we just got fenced. I got hit again and had a little too much damage to stay competitive for the rest of the race. It’s a bit of a shame because I felt like we were trending in the right direction by the end of the race, but overall tough start to our first two races finishing outside the top 20. Hopefully, we can go to Vegas and have a regular weekend and get some solid points.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 32nd: “Yeah, just the same thing that everybody already said – you can’t see what’s going on. You are just going off the guy in front of you and all of sudden he slows down and I got into him, and other guys got into me.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 33rd: “It’s kind of stupid, to be honest with you, on a professional level and we all wreck on a restart. I don’t know what happened, but just a victim of circumstances. It sucks. I was racing around Aric, and we were just trying to be smart and get to the end of the race. Something like that, you’re not expecting everyone to wreck coming to the restart line. It’s unfortunate. That adjustment could have gotten us a lot better and we could have kept on making little gains. That was our goal, not to beat ourselves and just be there in the last 50 or 60. That’s why we stayed out that run, to see what our car would do in clean air and if we needed to work on it, which we did, and I felt like we just kept on making it better and better.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 34th: “I saw it stacked up pretty bad. I saw the car behind me kind of laid off to get a really big run, so I kind of elected to make the decision to go to the bottom and get around it. Unfortunately, I think Ryan (Blaney) had the same idea. We just got collected and went through the grass and the right front of The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD was broke.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 35th: “I took off on the restart and went from second to third gear, and all of a sudden everybody in front of us just stopped. I think the leader was just playing games, trying to prevent the runs coming from behind, and they stopped in the middle of the restart zone — right about where they should have been accelerating. It was just a huge accordion effect. We were back in 16th, so everybody just started stacking up and you can’t stop on a dime. It’s disappointing to get wrecked out of the race like that on a silly Mickey Mouse restart, but I should have known better.”



NASCAR weekend schedule for Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s three major series return to the road this weekend with races scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series races are Saturday, and the Cup Series is scheduled to race Sunday afternoon.

MORE: Drivers expect North Wilkesboro surface to be challenging

Joey Logano, winner of last Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has led laps in both COTA races and will be among the favorites Sunday.

As the first road course of the year, COTA will begin a new approach by NASCAR to stage racing on road circuits. There will no longer be a caution to end stages, but points will be awarded for the finish order. In another change, the “choose” rule will be in effect on road courses.

A look at the weekend schedule:

Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning, sun later in the day. High of 86. 80% chance of rain.

Saturday: Sunny. High of 83.

Sunday: Partly cloudy. Temperature of 81 degrees with a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, March 25

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 2 – 10:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 26

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (68 laps, 231.88 miles; Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)




North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.

“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”

Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”

Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”

Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.

“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”

“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.

While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.

In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.

“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at COTA


Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has attracted an entry list that includes talent beyond that of the tour regulars.

Jordan Taylor, who is substituting in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet for injured Chase Elliott, brings a resume that includes 31 IMSA class wins, two 24 Hours of Daytona overall wins and two IMSA wins at COTA.

MORE: NBC Driver Rankings: Christopher Bell is No. 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One championship in 2009 and has five F1 starts at COTA. He is scheduled to be a driver for the NASCAR entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kimi Raikkonen, entered by Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 program, won the 2007 F1 championship and has eight F1 starts at the Austin track.

They will draw attention at COTA this weekend, along with these other drivers to watch:


Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best seasonal finish: 2nd (Atlanta I)
  • Past at COTA: 19th and 14th in two career starts

Keselowski hasn’t been a star in road course racing, but his 2023 season has started well, and he figures to be in the mix at the front Sunday. He led the white-flag lap at Atlanta last Sunday before Joey Logano passed him for the win.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 5th and 33rd in two starts

The Dinger is a road course expert. Last year at COTA, he was involved in tight racing on the final lap with Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman before Chastain emerged with the victory.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Auto Club)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top fours, including a win

Chastain lifted Trackhouse Racing’s profile by scoring his — and the team’s — first Cup victory at COTA last season. He’s not shy about participating in the last-lap bumping and thumping that often mark road course races.


Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 13th and 21st in two starts

Buescher has never led a lap at COTA and is coming off a 35th-place finish at Atlanta after being swept up in a Lap 190 crash. Although he has shown the power to run near the front this year, he has four consecutive finishes of 13th or worse.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas I)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top 10s

Bowman’s four-race run of consistent excellence (finishes of fifth, eighth, third and ninth) ended at Atlanta as he came home 14th and failed to lead a lap. At COTA, he is one of only four drivers with top-10 finishes in both races.

William Byron

  • Points position: 28th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past at COTA: 11th and 12th in two starts

Involvement in an accident at Atlanta ended Byron’s two-race winning streak. He’ll be looking to lead a lap at COTA for the first time.



Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended by NASCAR


Three members of the Reaume Brothers Racing No. 33 Craftsman Truck Series team have been suspended for three races by NASCAR after a piece of tungsten ballast came off their truck during last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The suspensions were announced Tuesday.

Crew chief Gregory Rayl and crew members Matthew Crossman and Travis Armstrong were suspended because of the safety violation. Mason Massey is the team’s driver.

MORE: Xfinity driver Josh Williams suspended for one race

In a tweet following the announcement of the penalty, the team said it will not file an appeal. “The ballast became dislodged only after the left side ballast container had significant contact with the racing surface,” according to the statement. “We would like to be clear that there was no negligence on the part of RBR personnel.”

NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Truck Series owner/driver Cory Roper, who had been suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy, has been reinstated.

The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series are scheduled to race this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.