William Byron

What Drivers Said at New Hampshire

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Kevin Harvick — Winner:  “We’ve run well enough a few times this year to win, and we’ve just made mistakes, and to finally battle and get over that hump is a great day for everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing, everybody on the 4 car. I was really questionable about how that was going to go, and the thing took right off. The only thing that was not good for us was we got the traffic and my car started pushing. I knew (Denny Hamlin) was going to take a shot. I would have taken a shot. I just stood on the brakes and tried to keep it straight. I just didn’t want to get him back on the inside and let him have another shot. I at least wanted to be in control of who was going to have contact in (Turns) 3 and 4. It was a heck of a finish, closer than we wanted, but like you said, it was our only chance. I would have never done it, but that’s why he’s on the box and not me.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “I kind of shoved (Harvick) up a little higher and tried to get him out of the groove. I wanted to just tap him there, but I didn’t want to completely screw him. I at least wanted to give him a fair shot there. Down the backstretch, I kind of let off, and I’m like, all right, well, I’ll just pass him on the outside and kind of do this thing the right way, and once I had that big run, he just turned right. But I would do the same thing. It was a fun race, and congratulations to him and his team. They made a great call there at the end.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “It was kind of a sloppy day in my opinion, but it was a good day. Got good stage points in the first stage and finished well at the end. But the Stanley Camry was good. All day I felt like we were close, we just needed to get up front and never quite did it and never quite got the lead, but we were there. Again, up in the top five you can’t complain, and especially with the points we gained today, it’s good. We can definitely get more aggressive with that gap. We’re getting close there to having almost a race on them; if we can have a couple more good weeks we’ll be there. Pocono is a good one. We’ll keep doing it, but today was definitely testament I think to our speed and this team. We keep fighting through it. We never gave up.  We did what we needed to do, fixed the damage when we needed to and got a good finish out of it.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 4th: “I didn’t think we had leader speed all day. We got better throughout the day for sure, but I thought maybe second or third. We got to second there towards the end and I was starting to fade a little bit, but I thought we could probably run second. The last caution when we started sixth, we got up to fourth and just kind of stayed there.  We just needed a little bit more speed, but, overall, not a bad day.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 5th: “That was awesome. Great comeback for us. We raced up there all day and had to adjust on the car a good bit because we missed basically all of the final practice. Just shows how good my team is and my guys. They’re the ones that deserve it – Procore, our sponsor, for sticking by my side and believing in me to do this deal and all the folks at Toyota. Gosh, I know I reiterate it, but it took a lot of people for me to get this deal. I’ll never go a day without appreciating it. It’s awesome. Great day for the team.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 6th: “We were set up strategy-wise to be right there with (Kevin Harvick) and (Denny Hamlin) and we were right behind those guys, so I think so, but you never know how these things are going to play out. The SiriusXM Camry was really fast when we could get near the front. It wasn’t quite good enough on restarts, and I kept getting inside restarts and just lost track position. Each time the caution came out we’d lose a spot or two and it’s just hard to overcome that, but proud of the battle that we came through to come from the back to get back to sixth with a tore up race car.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 7th: “Honestly, it was the most fun I’ve had all year in a race car, and that’s mostly because we had a good, competitive Oscar Mayer Ford. I slid through the box. We had a bad coil wire. We had a bunch of things that set us back, being in a back-up car starting last and to have the finish that we did at a track that is usually difficult to pass at, but I will say that I did pass a few guys three-wide and that doesn’t happen very often here.  I’m proud of the team effort and it’s something to build on for sure.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 8th: “We had a good car all day. Just got into it on a restart I guess with (Kyle Larson) and that got us damage and that got us behind the eight ball. We would have been on strategy with where (Denny Hamlin) was the whole rest of the day, but we had to fix damage.”

Joey Logano — Finished 9th: “We were off when we unloaded and we just kept trying to find a little something here and there to keep moving forward on things and never really did. We qualified eighth and ran about 12th to 15th most of the race.  We grabbed some stage points in the second stage and came home eighth or ninth, so that’s kind of the best we had. I’m a little disappointed with that. I want to be better here, but we learned what not to do and sometimes that’s very valuable.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 11th: “We scored a lot of points, but we just got behind. It’s kind of a double-edged sword when the caution comes out late like that in the stage. You’ve got to make a decision on scoring points or trying to win the race, and we chose to score stage points and that paid off.  We won the stage, but in the end we got behind and couldn’t recover from track position.”

William Byron — Finished 12th: “It was okay, we were just tight. We never had super-great track position and its tough to pass. I felt like our last run was decent, so going on to Pocono I think we will have a good race there.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I wouldn’t call 14th relatively good. We had a pretty bad day, really struggled on restarts. We put a lot of right rear spring in it trying to get it to turn the center and it was just real popped-up on restarts. I don’t know. We did what we could and didn’t need those late race cautions. But we will move on to Pocono and be better there.”

Ty Dillon — Finshed 16th: “We brought a great GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 up here to New Hampshire. We had a loose wheel early on in Stage 1 that put us in a hole, but this team didn’t give up.

Daniel Suarez — Finshed 19th: “We had a fast Haas Automation Mustang today, but unfortunately we don’t have the result to show for it. We had that issue and it was hard to recover from, but the car had speed, which is good.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 30th: “Well, it was certainly a letdown to say the least. We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case. So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck. It looked like the guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best day either, so maybe I got a pass on this one. I’m just disappointed to say the least.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 32nd: “The Behr Ultra Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really fast all weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, so it’s a shame that we weren’t able to showcase that speed on Sunday. I could feel a vibration early in Stage 1 but wasn’t able to get to pit road before we cut a right-front tire and ended up in the wall. We still don’t know exactly what happened, but I’m sure the guys will be able to make a complete diagnosis on Monday. From there, it was a long day making a trip to the garage for repairs and then playing catch-up during the race. This No. 3 team has no quit. By staying out we were able to gain several spots that we wouldn’t have earned otherwise, so I’m proud of the guys for that. We’re focused on getting a win and making it to the Playoffs and we still have a few chances to do that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 36th: “The 20 (Erik Jones) ran over us. He’s been known to do that to us a couple times now lately. He’ll get one coming his way before it’s over with, or at least before I’m through with it. Our Fastenal Ford just wasn’t near as good as what we wanted it to be. Felt we were OK in practice. We qualified well and the first stage was going OK, but then we just lost the front turn in our car and never really could get it back. We were looking forward to hopefully making some more adjustment there before the end of the race and we just didn’t get the opportunity to after blowing that left-front. All in all it was a frustrating day for us, but hopefully we can learn something from it and come back with something better.”

Daniel Hemric — Finished 37th: “I hate that this is how our weekend ended at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the No. 8 Okuma Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We worked on the handling of the car all weekend long and felt like we had something for them once the green flag dropped. We were racing inside the top 15 and just waiting for the car to come to me on the run when I saw the No. 48 car dive to the left down the frontstretch to avoid oil. I just tried to stay as far to the right of the oil and hold on into Turn 1, but I don’t think the No. 41 car saw the fluid and lost it underneath of me. The contact sent us spinning into the wall and caused some heavy damage to the nose and the right front, causing further damage to the motor. I feel like we had a strong car and had a solid day ahead of us, but it just wasn’t our day.”

Today’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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After a harrowing series of practice sessions for some teams at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s premier series is scheduled for 301 laps Sunday at the Magic Mile.

Five drivers — Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin — will start from the rear in backup cars after crashes the past two days.

Brad Keselowski will start first after capturing his first pole position since October 2017.

Here’s all the info for today’s event:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The green flag is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

PRERACE: The garage will open at 9:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Driver introductions will begin at 2:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Whitney Doucet at 3:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150

TV/RADIO: Prerace coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN, followed by  Countdown to Green at 2:30 on NBCSN and the race broadcast at 3 on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race. PRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast, which is also available at goprn.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 90 degrees and a 24% chance of scattered thunderstorms for the start of the race. 

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick bumped Kyle Busch from the lead on Lap 295 of 301. Aric Almirola finished third. 

TO THE REAR: Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin will drop to the back because they are in backup cars.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Practice mayhem at New Hampshire as Alex Bowman crashes backup

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LOUDON, N.H. — Alex Bowman will be moving to his third Cup car of the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and this Camaro isn’t even his.

After suffering a driveshaft failure in qualifying Friday that ruined his primary car, Bowman crashed his backup No. 88 Chevrolet in final practice Saturday on the 1.058-mile oval.

Hendrick team members immediately began scrambling to prepare the backup No. 48 Chevrolet of teammate Jimmie Johnson for Bowman (Hendrick’s fourth driver, William Byron, already was in a backup after crashing Saturday morning).

Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition Jeff Andrews told NBCSN’s Dave Burns that the team elected to use Johnson’s car instead of Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 because Johnson’s car had a traditional paint scheme that made the switchover more favorable to wrapping the car in the No. 88’s sponsor colors and logos.

“To rewrap the 48 vs. the 9, that’s a better option for us in terms of body tolerances and things like that,” Andrews said. “There’ll be only decals to rip off (Johnson’s car) due to the fact that the base coat is a paint and then we’ll apply the 88 wrap to that 48 chassis and body.

“Obviously we’ve got a great group of guys. Unfortunately, we’ve been put through a lot the last couple of days, but we’ll get through it, and we’ll line up and go racing tomorrow. It’s been a tough day, but we’ll get through it.”

Crew chief Greg Ives gathered all of Bowman’s team in the No. 88 hauler after the wreck.

“I think for Alex and the team, you just have to keep track of the big picture here, and we have to stay focused and not panic and go out tomorrow and do the best we can in the race,” Andrews said. “Certainly yesterday was not Alex’s fault. We had a mechanical failure there, and today we’re not really sure what happened there, but obviously at this point in time, we just need to get the best car underneath Alex and the race team.”

There are five drivers who will start from the rear in backup cars for Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Bowman, Kyle Larson, Byron, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.

Newman and Hamlin crashed in practice Friday, and Byron and Larson had trouble in the first session Saturday morning.

Matt DiBenedetto also suffered two tire problems on his No. 95 Toyota (without sustaining major damage) during the final practice, which was paced by Ryan Blaney.

Erik Jones tops secind Cup practice; William Byron, Kyle Larson to backup cars after wall contact

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Erik Jones was fastest in Saturday’s first Cup Series practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, posting a top speed of 133.427 mph.

The top five was completed by pole-sitter Brad Keselowski (133.394 mph), Aric Almirola (133.366), Kyle Busch (133.240) and Ryan Blaney (133.138).

Joey Logano was sixth fastest, putting all three Team Penske cars in the top six.

Blaney recorded the most laps in the session with 54. Blaney is among five drivers who will be docked 15 minutes in the final practice.

Jones had the best 10-lap average at 132.854 mph. He was followed by Blaney (132.635 mph), Busch (132.332), Martin Truex Jr. (132.283) and Keselowski (132.227).

William Byron and Kyle Larson will go to backups cars after incidents in the session. Byron hit the wall in Turn 1 with about 45 minutes left in the session. He was 16th on the speed chart at the time of the incident.

“We have just been really loose and I tried to drive through it and see if it would come to me better and it didn’t,” Byron said. “It was even looser yet, and that was kind of the story, just got loose. Hopefully tomorrow we can have a good, solid day and go from there.”

Larson scraped the Turn 2 wall at about the same time as Byron’s wreck.

“I just locked up the brakes,” Larson said. “Simple as that, locked them up.”

Byron and Larson make it five drivers who will have backup cars this weekend, following Denny Hamlin (wreck), Ryan Newman (wreck) and Alex Bowman (drive shaft failure in qualifying). All will have to start from the rear of the field. Byron had qualified 22nd. Larson qualified 15th.

Click here for the speed chart.

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Long: Aretha sang about it, Kurt Busch says he has it with Chip Ganassi Racing

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SPARTA, Ky. — As Kurt Busch decided last year where he would drive this season, it didn’t take long.

A short meeting with car owner Chip Ganassi laid the foundation for a deal that was completed in about three hours, announced in December and bore fruit last weekend with Busch’s first victory of the season.

In the 30-minute conversation Busch had last year with Ganassi about driving for the car owner, Busch found what he sought.

“(Ganassi’s) level of commitment as a racer is something that I saw,” said Busch, who had run the previous five seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing. “Yes, Tony Stewart is a racer, but I was more on the Gene Haas side. When Chip said, ‘I want you to win for me, I want you to make these guys winners, and if you can bring that (Monster Energy) sponsorship with you, I’m going to pay you this,’ it was just like the most respect that I had felt in a long time when it came to a contract negotiation.”

Respect was a word the former Cup champion used in multiple interviews Saturday in discussing his move to Ganassi.

Busch said on NBCSN’s post-race show that when a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t work, he called Ganassi and quickly had a deal.

“That’s just the respect factor that I was looking for,” Busch told Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.

Busch went on to say in the media center after the race about how quickly a deal was agreed upon: “It meant that I was wanted. And when you have that, that’s that extra desire to push and to make this group a winner.”

When the deal was announced in December, Ganassi said: “It’s not oftentimes that a NASCAR champion, a Daytona 500 winner becomes available. When you’ve got a guy that is a racer like Kurt … you’ve got to take a serious look at it. It didn’t take me long when he became available.”

As Busch, who turns 41 on Aug. 4, looks ahead to the playoffs, he also has to focus on what he’ll do next season. The deal with Ganassi is only for this year. So what’s next for Busch?

“For me, it’s a matter of just having the dominos line up and everybody fall together and to make it happen,” he said. “I guess the easiest way to move things forward is request for proposals are going out Monday with sponsors, with manufacturers, with team owner. 

“Yes, a win, that might have happened last week at Daytona, is one of those moments. Tonight is one of those stamps on — this 1 team is a powerful team, and it would be stupid not to keep this group together, and that’s part of my leverage, but at the end of it, we just want to make it work for all parties.”

After a night like Saturday, Busch said: “It gives you that energy of, yeah, it’s fun, and let’s get our sponsors lined up and let’s do this (again).”

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Ryan Newman has a simple rule on blocking, a tactic that has become more prevalent with the race package this year.

“I don’t do that personally, that’s not the way I race, I race hard,” Newman said. “Because it’s not the way I want to be raced. It’s not right.

“You don’t change the way that you enter a corner to choke somebody off knowing that it’s going to slow you down. You as a racer are supposed to go out there and race as hard as you can to try to catch the guy in front of you, not let the guy behind you stay behind you.”

Newman also noted a conversation he had with Ryan Blaney earlier this season after he was blocked by Blaney multiple times.

“Ryan Blaney and I have had it out after the race, not in a mean way,” Newman said. “(I) just told him, I said, ‘Listen, the next time you do that, it’s not going to be good for you. That’s not the way I race. You want to block me, it’s not going to be good.’ I don’t mean it as a threat. I’m just telling him that’s the fact of it.

“I don’t race that way. If I block you, you’ve got the right to turn me around, but if you choke me down going into the corner just to try keep me behind you, expect to get loose.”

Blaney admitted he threw “a couple of big blocks” on Newman in the Charlotte races in May.

“You make those decisions in a split-second,” Blaney said. “You’re not trying to screw that guy over, you’re just like ‘I have to help myself.’ Between me and Ryan (Newman), I’ve always liked that you could talk to someone afterwards and have an understanding about it.

“Newman said that was a big block, that was a kind of a late one. I said, ‘Yeah, I knew it was close, sorry.’ You could tell how close it was by how hard he hit you on the bumper. It’s good to talk about it and not kind of let it brood over. Me and Ryan have always been good friends. He’s someone I’ve looked up to for a long time. He’s been a friend of my family’s for a long time. It was good to talk to him and understand it.”

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To NASCAR,  it was a simple call in penalizing William Byron for jumping the restart at Kentucky Speedway.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, explained the penalty on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.

“(Byron) fired first in the restart zone, and he wasn’t controlling the restart,” Miller said. “It’s kind of as simple as that.”

In the rules video that was played in the drivers meeting at Kentucky, it stated: “It will be the control vehicle’s discretion to restart in the zone between the double marks and the single mark on the outer wall and on the racing surface.”

Clint Bowyer was the leader at the time.

The penalty took place on Lap 184 of the 267-lap race. Byron went from second place to a lap down after serving the penalty and never recovered. He finished 18th.

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Paul Menard confirmed this past weekend his contract status for next season, saying:

“I have a good job, for sure. I love the Wood Brothers. I love my race team. They are good people. I have a contract for next year. I guess it is getting to be that time of year when people start talking about things. I have a contract and I love my team. We just have to perform better, that is all.”

Menard finished 11th Saturday. He is 20th in the season standings, 54 points out of the final playoff spot.

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Sponsorship issues nearly cost eventual Truck champion Brett Moffitt his playoff eligibility last year and threaten the playoff eligibility for Tyler Ankrum this season.

Ankrum won last weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky but lack of sponsorship could be an issue for him.

Ankrum was set to run a full season for DGR-Crosley once he turned 18 in March. He announced in June that he would not be running a full season with the team because of lack of sponsorship.

He started races at Iowa and Gateway for NEMCO Motorsports and retired after less than 20 laps in both races, finishing 31st at Iowa and 30th at Gateway. By starting those races, he kept his playoff eligibility. Ankrum received a waiver from NASCAR for missing the season’s first three races because he was not 18 years old at the time and could not run at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. He’s run the remaining races.

DGR-Crosley is a Toyota team and it leads to the question of what responsibility Toyota has to ensure that one of its playoff teams remains eligible for a championship run.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the company will help in ways its best suited to do so.

“Our focus is on providing technical support to our team partners, and David Gilliland and his family, they’re not maybe at the (Kyle Busch Motorsports) level but make no mistake, we do have a strong technical partnership with them,” Wilson told NBC Sports after Ankrum’s win.

Wilson said that Toyota had been with the team when they took what was the winning truck to a wind tunnel earlier.

“We obviously are engaged and hopeful that they can put enough (sponsorship) together to keep Tyler moving forward, and we’d love to have him in the playoffs,” Wilson said.

Wilson admits a focus for Toyota is on Kyle Busch Motorsports. Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland are both outside a playoff spot with three races left in the regular season.

Toyota has two teams in the playoffs as of now with Ankrum and Austin Hill, who won at Daytona for the reigning Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship team, Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Whatever Toyota teams are in the playoffs will get Wilson’s attention.

“Obviously we’re going to focus our resources on whomever is fighting to win the championship,” Wilson said. “There’s not a question about it. If it happens to be non-KBM trucks, so be it.”

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