What drivers said at Bristol Motor Speedway


What drivers said during and after Sunday’s Bristol Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Christopher Bell — Winner: “Man, let me tell you, these are some of the longest laps of my entire life. This place is so much fun, whether it is dirt or concrete. Whenever the cushion got up there on the top, it was very tough because you couldn’t drive it super-hard, otherwise you’d get sucked in. If you got your right front into it, you’d push a little bit. If you got your right rear into it, you’d slide. It was a lot of fun. Three and four, that was the scary corner for me because if you got into it too far, you lost all your momentum. One and two, I think I kept hitting the wall a couple times. Seems like there was a little bit more moisture up there; it would hold me better. I am like, ‘OK, I can really attack one and two.’ But three and four I had to be careful. (On Tyler Reddick being able to challenge him if the race had ended under green) I was fully committed to block the move. I’m sure that he would have given me a little friendly bumper. I don’t know, I might have spun out, I might not have spun out. I was prepared to block the move. Maybe that would have caught him off guard. I didn’t know the yellow flag had come out until I had already shown my hand going into turn three. It was probably going to be an exciting finish, that’s for sure.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 2nd: “It was a lot of fun, honestly. Really intense. Yeah, towards the end there definitely feel like I had a little bit more. I thought I had the edge, but I wasn’t quite there in the last couple laps. Definitely found it. Just hate it for everybody on this SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD. Just needed to be a little bit closer than I was. I think with two to go it would have been really bold to try to make that move work. Obviously, on the white flag coming into three … I was going to see. We will never know if it worked. But still a good rebound for us.”

MORE: Bristol Cup results, driver points

MORE: Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece explain what happened in their incidents

Austin Dillon — Finished 3rd: “I just have to thank SMI for all of the hard work they’ve done with this dirt racing. I don’t care what anybody says, that was an amazing show throughout the field. I felt like it was some great racing. Have to thank the good Lord above. It’s Easter and that’s what we’re really here to celebrate. But man, that was a fun time. I really wish we could have brought home the No. 3 Breztri Chevy into victory lane. We were second in both stages and getting a third-place finish was big for us. Getting the momentum rolling. I had a lot of fun out there. Just wasn’t good enough against the fence when it mattered. We needed the track to kind of go back to our run. Right there at the end, we were kind of circling the middle and the car was really good.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 4th: “It honestly felt like I hadn’t run dirt cars much. We just struggled a little bit yesterday. The guys worked really hard all night coming up with something different. We changed our No. 47 Irish Spring Camaro around, and we were better. We still didn’t have enough to run up front there, but we methodically kind of picked and chose lanes. We got to running the bottom really well and made up a lot of time on restarts. They all just kind of fell our way there. Really good to get a top five and a bounce-back after last weekend. I hope that was a good show. I thought the race track was as good as it could be. You could run kind of all over the place, so hats off to the track.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 5th: “I just needed a little bit more on the top. I felt like I was OK. I just wasn’t quite as good. I thought the 45 (Tyler Reddick) was definitely probably the best. The 20 (Christopher Bell), I felt like I could kind of pace him, but it was going to be nearly impossible to pass him. There were a couple times I was close in one and two. I feel like I had my hands tied the whole time. I needed to be a little bit better. Nevertheless, overall a good solid points night for us, which is something we haven’t had all season long. Wish we could have got the win. I thought the track was awesome. I thought that was the most realistic dirt race you’re gonna get with real dirt cars. I felt like we finally saw the dirt guys shine for that same reason, so I had a lot of fun running the top like that. It actually built a little bit of a cushion. It’s still not much, but it was just a lot of fun. I hope the fans enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can do it again in the future. I’m not really sure what the future of this race is, but I thought it was an awesome race from my vantage point, and hopefully it was for everybody else, too. I would love to see this race on a non-Easter weekend just to see the turnout. I feel like we don’t get a true read about what the fan base thinks about it. We have to have a dirt race, I think, at least one. Now, if it’s here or not, it really doesn’t make a difference to me, but I do think after tonight, even last year, but especially after tonight, I think it’s shown that it can put on really good racing. It’s just a matter of the track prep and all those things that go along with it. I would be fine if we move it. We just have to be smart about it and where you run it because it’s gonna be hard to just go and replicate something like this or replicate an Eldora (Speedway). They said today that I’ll do my x-ray first thing in the morning and depending on what it looks like I may not have to have surgery, so I don’t know what to think. As of now, I have absolutely zero pain. There were times I got a little behind, but it was literally the bulkiness of how big this thing is compared to what my normal hand would be that it kind of messed me up, but, from a pain standpoint, I feel 100 percent fine. I never had pain once in the race, so we’ll see how the x-ray goes tomorrow and go from there. That last restart, especially being on the inside, you just try to shove the guy in front of you as hard as you can. I didn’t get a great launch and shove down the front straightaway to him and then going into one I just tried to run as low as I possibly could and when I went in there I hit those big dirt turtle things after my spotter had warned me about it five times. As soon as I hit it, it just bottomed the nose out super hard and my car just shot right and hit Blaney in the left rear. I absolutely ruined his day. He’d done a really good job and was running third and honestly thought he had a shot to win it if I could give him the right push, and I just completely ruined it for him. It wasn’t a very good decision on my part. I just got in there and hit the turtle and it bottomed me out.”

Todd Gilliland — Finished 8th: “I think our car was good when it was really tacky. I got in that very first wreck and when I was a lap down it was so fun. I passed like 10 to 15 cars, so I think we were more just set up for when it was tackier. We didn’t really have the entry grip or the exit grip we needed when it got really slick. That’s how this place goes, though. It goes through such a big swing. I feel like for a majority of the race we were OK. Frustrating because I thought we could have got a better finish, but that’s racing sometimes.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “It just takes me too long to get going. It’s not that we don’t have a good car or can’t do it; it just takes me forever to figure out where I need to be. The more worn out and nasty the racetrack gets, the better I am, but it just took me too long to figure it out.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 11th:  “I don’t know how you could do that. I literally had two 360s without hitting anything. The first one was on my own. I just went full lock and ran out of steering to the right and I just stayed in it and it was straight and I’m like, ‘Oh, man. I only lost two spots.’ And then on the last one I’m not sure. I think there was probably some contact below me. I think it was maybe the 16 and the 38 and I saw one just turn right like he got knocked off into me and spun around and didn’t hit anything again. That is a very fortunate night when you can do two 360s and not get clobbered by the field. But we lost track position with that, so we had to stay out there on tires after that and not quite good enough at the end. We just lacked drive, but coming away with a top 10 (actually 11th) after two 360s is OK.”

Erik Jones — Finished 14th: “I’d say that was pretty good. We kind of just survived the chaos and obviously had an up-and-down day going three laps down early on. To come back and finish in the top 15 is pretty solid. We just need to find a little more in the car and get a little bit better for next year, but I’m definitely happy to get out of here with a decent finish after a night like that.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 19th: “Yeah, it was a pretty crazy night. I wish I could do it all over again with my experience from tonight and just kind of knowing where the track was going to go and what I needed out of my car. I feel like we could have saved ourselves from losing some track position early. I got to trying too hard to run the top and made a mistake, getting some damage. The team did a great job fixing it and getting the toe link swapped back on. We made some spots back up and clawed back through the field to get inside the top 20, avoiding some craziness. Overall, it was an OK day, but kind of a disappointment after a really good Saturday. I learned a lot.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 23rd: “I was excited to start on the front row. I thought that we were kind of making the middle work, and I was really pumped to start on the front row and see what we had, but we never got a shot. The 14 (Chase Briscoe) hit us from behind and that was it. I think the caution came at a good time because it gave us a shot to win the race. I kind of got the middle going there pretty good, and I was able to drive to third and not a lot of guys could really run the middle, so that’s why I was really excited to get a restart at it because I thought the middle could have been pretty good for a handful of laps and I could get to the lead, but I just never could get that shot.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 24th: “I think if we could have kept track position, we had I feel like a top-10 car, but when it got slick like that I don’t know how many people were actually moving forward, but it was just trying to hold on. Those last 75 laps or so, I mean, once you lose track position after Stage 1, man, you guys saw it, guys stayed out and they maintained it. What are you gonna do at that point? I don’t care if Chad Johnston had a magic wand and I had a special set of tires that were staggered special, it wouldn’t have mattered. You just can’t do anything. There’s no grip anywhere. That’s the third week in a row we’ve run top 10. It starts with, I’ve always said this, it starts with running there to winning races and we’ve shown speed, so that’s something. You’ve got speed, but ultimately it’s certainly frustrating when you’re not getting the results of where you’re running and not really due to something that you can really control. But at the end of the day the clock resets at midnight. We’re moving forward and we’re gonna go to Martinsville with every bullet loaded, so we’ll be good. I think you just get mad getting run in the fence. There was no meaning; it’s just from inside that race car you’re like, ‘I’m not gonna lift.’ When it comes to being run into the fence, every time you lift, if guys see you lifting when you’re at the right-rear corner, they’re just gonna keep running you up in the fence. I think when I meant game over, I meant just not gonna keep lifting and giving that respect of, ‘Hey, I’ll give you this room.’ It comes down to that. I was just trying to run the top. You guys saw it. He (Kyle Larson) was running the top and making ground, and I tried to move up and it’s really slick if you’re not in the right spot. Not racing dirt, I guess you figure that out.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 31st: “I tried. I was out of my comfort zone already running up there, and I was doing way better than I thought I was capable, and I started really getting a feel for it and a rhythm and started to get comfortable. Then I went down into Turn 1 and tried a little bit harder and slid through the cushion and got in the fence and broke the right rear toe link, and then we lost 10 laps changing the right-rear toe link. I’m just disappointed in myself and mad at myself for throwing away a good finish, but I was trying and just made a mistake.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 32nd: “We were able to run up front and lead some laps tonight in the Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, but we certainly didn’t get the finish we wanted. We started off strong and spent a fair amount of time in the top five, especially early in the race. We were third in Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2, so it definitely feels good to at least pick up a few stage points tonight. However, as the track changed so did the balance of our Chevy. We were loose and needed grip for much of the race. With about 20 laps to go, we broke our right-side shocks and spun. It just kind of ruined our night. It’s unfortunate. We’ll bounce back strong next week at Martinsville Speedway.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 33rd: “I felt like we had a much better No. 42 Sunseeker Resorts Chevy from the heat races to the race. Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the rest of the Sunseeker team really did a great job of making adjustments to the car and improving it, going from dead last in the heat race and starting 36th in the race, and then getting up into the top 10. The team did a great job, a great effort in making adjustments. I caught the wall in the second stage and then with probably about 40 or 50 laps to go, just broke a toe link, so that took us out of contention. But I felt like we had a really good Chevy. Just proud of everyone’s efforts from where we started the weekend to where we ended. I felt like we got way better. Just appreciate everyone’s hard work.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 35th: “I’m guessing he (Ryan Preece) was paying me back for whatever I did earlier. He ran me straight into the fence, and my car was broke and we crashed. It sucks, but I should just be mad at myself for spinning out earlier and putting myself back there. Just sucks. Yeah, just the tires seemed to operate better when they were hotter. Just didn’t get to run very long there at the end.”

Joey Logano — Finished 37th: “Someone wrecked in front of me, and I can’t say I really saw it. They came down the racetrack and hit it with the right-front and it broke the steering, and then I hit the wall really hard after that. That just kind of killed our car. It’s a bummer. We got caught up in pretty much everything from the beginning of the race. I was in the first couple of cautions right off the bat.  We had a really good Mustang that could run its way back through the field and we got our way back to 14th by the end of the first stage, and I was like, ‘All right, I think we’re pretty good.’  And then just got caught up in more of them. There’s a lot of lanes. It’s really slick and as the cars get more and more sideways they don’t really like it too much. They really want to come around easy and you just see cars spin out, which is just a product of not being dirt cars. I think that’s part of it, but when we do get to race it’s pretty entertaining.”

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. BuildSubmarines.com will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson on his NASCAR team and his approach to Le Mans

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns from injury

“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson is building a team and pointing to Le Mans

Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to track

MORE: Dr. Diandra: 600 tests man more than machine

And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”







Dr. Diandra: Charlotte’s 600 miles test man more than machine


This weekend’s 600-mile outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway is NASCAR’s longest race. It’s the ultimate stock car challenge: not just making a car fast but making it fast for a long time.

Although 600 miles is nowhere near the 3,300-plus miles in the 24 Hours of LeMans, the pace is similar. Most of NASCAR’s 600-mile races run between four and five hours.

The 1960 World 600 set the record for this race, requiring five hours, 34 minutes, and six seconds to complete — and it had only eight cautions. The second longest race, the very next year, ran 12 minutes shorter than the previous year’s outing.

The longest race in the modern era (1972 to present) happened in 2005. That race took five hours, 13 minutes, and 52 seconds to complete and set a record for cautions with 22.

Last year’s event was the second-longest modern-era race. With four fewer cautions than 2005, the 2022 race took just 44 seconds less to complete.

The field for the 1960 race included 60 cars. Only 18 of those cars (30%) crossed the finish line.

NASCAR disqualified six drivers for making illegal entrances to pit road. The reasons for the remaining 36 DNFs reads like an inventory of car parts, from “A-frame” to “valve.”

The number of cars failing to finish the race decreased significantly over the years. In the 1960s and early 1970s, it was not uncommon for 50-70% of the field to drop out of the race before its end. As the graph below shows, the DNF rate is now in the range of 10-30%.

A bar chart shows how DNFs have decreased over time and turned the the 600-mile Charlotte race inot more a test of man than machine

Last year — the first year of the Next Gen car — had an abnormally high 46% DNF rate. That doesn’t signify a problem with car reliability.

Quite the contrary, in fact.

Increased car reliability makes people more important

Racecar evolution has changed the nature of NASCAR’s longest race. The car have become so reliable that Charlotte’s 600-mile race is now more a test of drivers than their cars.

“All of the components in the car are pretty standard,” Chase Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson said. “So you just want to make sure you have it all in good condition and dot all your I’s and cross your T’s.”

That wasn’t how it used to be. Kevin Harvick remembers that drivers used to be warned to take care of their equipment early so it would last until the end.

“The engine guys freak out because you have to go an extra 100 miles, but the parts and stuff on the car are a lot more durable than they used to be,” Harvick said. “Back in the day, it was ‘take care of the motor.’ ”

Drivers worry much less about their car’s engine today. The graph below shows how DNFs due to engine failure have decreased since NASCAR started running 600-mile races.

A bar chart shows that engine failures have gone from 50-70% to 10-30%, turning the 600-mile Charlotte race inot more a test of man than machine

In 1966, more than half the field lost an engine during the race. Only six cars have retired due to engine failure in the last five years.

While cars are more reliable, their drivers are still human. Crash-related DNFs (crashes, failure to beat the DVP clock and inability to meet maximum speed) show no clear trend over time.

A bar chart shows how the number of DNFs due to crashes doesn't show any overall trend with time

Typically, between five to 10% of the cars starting a race will fail to finish due to an accident rather than a mechanical failure. Last year’s race was an exception, setting a record for the largest fraction of the field taken out by crashes since the 600-miler began.

It’s only one data point as far as 600-mile races are concerned. It is, however, indicative of a trend observed since the Next Gen car debuted. The car is so sturdy that contact is no longer the deterrent it used to be.

Man versus machine

NASCAR’s only 600-mile outing has become an endurance race for humans. Drivers draw upon research in hydration, nutrition and fitness, hoping to create an advantage by preparation and conditioning.

“As a driver,” Daniel Suárez said, “your goal is to be as fresh at the end of the race as you are at the beginning. It isn’t about making it to the end of the race. It’s about being at your best at the end and taking advantage of other drivers who are tired.”

Harrison Burton, who ran his first 600-mile race last year, was surprised by how taxing that extra stage was.

“I figured it’s only 100 more miles than 500 and we do that fairly frequently and didn’t think it would be that different,” Burton said, “but for whatever reason when that fourth stage starts it’s definitely daunting.

Burton also noted that last year’s Coca-Cola 600 was the first time he got hungry during a race.

“It’s actually a really important race to have something to snack on in the car during the race,” Ross Chastain said. “I typically have some sort of protein bar that I can eat during a stage break just to try and keep my stamina up.”

The driver isn’t the only one whose mental acumen gets tested during the Coca-Cola 600. Crew chiefs and pit crews must work at peak form for a longer time.

“There’s more pit stops, there’s more restarts, there’s more strategy calls and there’s more laps,” Gustafson said. “There’s more everything.”

That means more opportunities to make mistakes or lose focus — or to take advantage of other drivers who do.