What drivers said after Watkins Glen

Leave a comment

Chase Elliott — Winner: “Holy cow! What a thrill! I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thrilled and so emotional. There’s so much relief you know; it’s been working on three years and I hadn’t won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done. But, just thanks to all the fans. I hope all my buddies are ready to get rowdy tonight because it’s going to be a good one.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I gave it everything I had for our guys at Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY and Toyota, and all of our partners. I gave it everything I had every single lap. I could catch him but right when I got close, I’d get loose and fall back. I was too loose all day. Traffic made it worse for sure. He had the upper hand there at the end. We were a little faster but hats off to him. He did a great job. He put his car exactly where I needed mine to be. I couldn’t get it and I was sideways. Congrats to him on his first win. We ran out of gas the last lap anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. I’m proud of my guys. I am proud of the effort. I love coming to these road courses.”

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “I think what impressed me the most was just that (Elliott) was hammer down and elbows up and flying – loose here, loose there and going through everything and doing everything right and really attacking the race course and not putting the wheel too far out of shape. He did a really good and he was really hustling it and keeping the car under him. He looked like a pro. That was cool to see. It’s pretty early for him – like what third year – to be able to come out here and run like that at Watkins Glen and to be able to win, so pretty impressive. Overall, wish we could’ve raced with him and certainly think we would’ve had a shot for him.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 4th: “It was a decent race. I felt like we had a top five, top seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We’re getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I’m going to be a happy boy.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 5th: “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve only had one bad race since Daytona and that was New Hampshire. Two top fives in a row for us, so we need to keep going that way and hopefully we can contend for a win at Michigan. That’s the goal. We want to win another race. I know we can do it. If we’re this close on a road course, I know we can do it on an oval, so we’ll keep working on it.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “Yeah, a lot better finish than I thought we would have. I always feel like I don’t race well at these places, but able to run a nice smooth race, so I was happy about that and I think we finished sixth or seventh, so yeah, pretty cool. … Today was a fun day, finally, on a road course.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I think we finished sixth or seventh and that was about where we were when we unloaded and we had a really clean race, we had good fuel mileage.  Just a really good day for our GearWrench Chevy. “

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Good for those guys to get the win. I feel like we are just getting faster and it’s just being easier. I don’t know if we hit everything just right today, but it was easier to run where we were. It’s fun, it’s getting there. I’m excited.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “We had a surprise flat right-rear (tire) and that forced us into taking two tires and we had to improvise from there. It’s kind of a bummer, but we made the best we could with it and got a top 10. We want to win, but the car can’t quite steer from the rear and the front is chattering a little bit. We’re close, but we’re not quite there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “That was a tough day for the Rush Truck Centers Ford, but we fought hard. It was hard to pass out there. We were struggling to make grip. We tried to play the strategy game, and that got us a decent finish. It was a long weekend, but everyone worked hard.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “It was a long day. We struggled all weekend, really, and just couldn’t really go anywhere. We’d fire off OK and then just fade terribly, so we’ve got some work to do here.” 

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I really feel like the car was a little better than the driver all day. But it still wasn’t a terrible day for us. Just a little off of where we needed to be. Still a good points day and the pit crew was really good, they did a good job. We will move on and got to Michigan.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 15th:  “I was just kind of in the train of cars there just trying to be patient and they just stopped. I tried to get checked up and just got into the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and it just got the nose. Did decent amount of damage and took a lot of the front aero away and the car wasn’t the same, obviously. … The guys did a good job to kind of button it back up and at least make it somewhat drivable. It didn’t have the speed that it was going to have. I don’t think we had the pace all weekend to go win the race, but for how the car drove with that much damage, I thought we could have easily run in the top 10 and got a decent result out of it, but that is just the way it is.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 16th: “All in all it was a decent weekend. Practice was good and qualifying not so good. The first quarter of the race we obviously had a lot of issues, but we were able to bounce back and get a good, decent finish. We had good, decent speed at the end of the race, so it’s something to build off of on the road course for sure. I look forward to getting to Michigan and hopefully keep improving.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 19th: “The start of our race went as planned. Our goal was to earn as many stage points as we could and we accomplished that in the first stage by finishing sixth. That’s a positive. But 20 laps into Stage 2, we got spun out by a competitor and it was costly to us, resulting in the 34th-place running spot. We regrouped and drove up into the top 20 but that’s all we could get by the time the checkered flag waved. We had a good run against the No. 2 car, but our handling needed a little more work. We just battled with Turns 5, 6 and 7 all weekend. I feel like our Lucas Oil Camaro ZL1 was an improvement from last year so we’ll take it and keep digging.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “I don’t know what happened there. I’d have to see it, so it’s hard to say. The 12 (Blaney) diving inside of me, I guess, kind of dive-bombed in there. It’s really hard for the spotters to see over there because we’re coming out from behind the trees and I honestly didn’t know he was there. I guess he hit the curb and wiped us out, so it’s disappointing. I thought we had a car we could have run in the top 10 or top 12 with and just didn’t do it. This is a couple weeks of bad luck and we’ve got to battle back from this and rebound and get going before the Playoffs start.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Making the trip up to The Glen is always interesting. We only come to this track once a year, and we came this year with a new crew chief, a new body style and a new inspection system to adapt to. We had decent practice sessions with our GEICO Camaro ZL1, and I felt good going into the race today because I like road-course racing. We just struggled through the esses all weekend. I was loose all the way up the hill at the start of the race. We improved it a bit with air pressure adjustments, but then the front end was struggling to turn and we had to address that with changes too. We made the adjustments that we need to throughout the day to make it to the end of the race. I wish we could have cracked into the top 20, but this team worked hard. We’ll have all of these notes to build on next year.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “What a day for the Dow Racing team. Going into the weekend, I had high hopes for our team because I felt like our car was really good on the long run. We were challenged throughout the race, but we were able to run solidly in the top-20. When the caution flag was displayed with 53 laps remaining we decided to gamble and pitted for fuel only, which put us in the second spot for the restart. We fought hard for the remaining laps to keep track position on old tires, knowing that we would have a fresh set ready for a late-race caution. Our strategy proved challenging, though, because tires meant so much today and the late-race caution we gambled on never came. Oh well, it was worth a try. We have a lot to work on when it comes to road course racing, but we will get there as a team.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 33rd: “I think we exploded a gear. I felt a drive line vibration for a little bit and it finally let go, so these places are tough on cars. Those kind of failures can happen, so we’ll see. We struggled with the car all weekend, so it was a tough weekend.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 37th: “We were just racing hard and I tried to make a run off the carousel. Pulled out on (Kyle) Larson and tried to keep the nose out going into the bus stop. I saw they were all racing in front of me hard and thought I could make a run and get some momentum off the carousel and I was right on Larson. I think they checked up in front of him. He lifted, and I was right there. I guess my bumper bar went underneath his bumper and just knocked into the radiator and punctured a whole in it. … I went from hero to zero pretty quick.” 

Friday 5: A long waiting game for Christopher Bell

Leave a comment

While winning on the race track, the key question for Christopher Bell is if he’s losing off it.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver heads into Saturday’s Xfinity race at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on NBC) seeking a record-tying fourth consecutive series victory.

Saturday’s race will be his 81st career start in either the Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series. While Bell has won 15 percent of those races, he has yet to make his Cup debut. That puts him behind many drivers who have since moved to Cup full-time.

There seems to be little doubt about Bell’s ability to move to Cup, it’s just a matter of when.

He said Wednesday that his preference is to run in Cup next year if there is an opportunity.

“I don’t feel like I need another year of Xfinity,” said Bell, who has won five of his 27 career Xfinity starts. “I think the best way for me to win at the Cup level is to get there and start trying at it.

“You know, I feel like I’m different than the guys that have been coming up here over the last couple years, and everyone is saying that they’re moving guys up too quick, and the difference is that I’m 23 years old, I’m not 18, 19 or even 20 years old. I’ve got a lot of racing experience, and right now I feel like I’m in my prime as a race car driver. If the opportunity comes to go Cup racing next year, I definitely don’t want to waste another year in my prime, so to speak, of not learning and not getting that experience of Cup racing.”

Many of the drivers he hopes to race against in Cup made their series debut after fewer Xfinity and Truck starts than Bell.

Consider the list of how many races in Xfinity and Truck that current Cup drivers competed in before making their Cup debut:

12 races — Joey Logano (12 Xfinity, 0 Truck)

33 — Erik Jones (12 Xfinity, 21 Truck)

36 — Kyle Larson (30 Xfinity, 6 Truck)

36 — Alex Bowman (36 Xfinity, 0 Truck)

46 — Chris Buescher (46 Xfinity, 0 Truck)

47 — Chase Elliott (38 Xfinity, 9 Truck)

48 — Trevor Bayne (48 Xfinity, 0 Truck)

49 — Matt DiBenedetto (49 Xfinity, 0 Truck)

54 — Ryan Blaney (20 Xfinity, 34 Truck)

57 — William Byron (33 Xfinity, 24 Truck)

58 — Austin Dillon (11 Xfinity, 47 Truck)

80 — Christopher Bell (27 Xfinity, 53 Truck)

84 — Ty Dillon (36 Xfinity, 48 Truck)

95 — Daniel Suarez (68 Xfinity, 27 Truck)

130 — Bubba Wallace (85 Xfinity, 45 Truck)

Every driver progresses at their own rate and what works for one driver isn’t going to work for another. Still, five of those drivers on the above list (Logano, Jones, Buescher, Bayne and Blaney) won a Cup race by their second full-time season.

The bottom line on what Bell does next year will be money. If there’s enough sponsorship money backing him, there will be a way to get him to Cup. Without that money, he seems headed for another year in Xfinity with Toyota’s Cup lineup seemingly set.

Cup organizations are limited to four teams and Joe Gibbs Racing already employs former champion Kyle Busch, former Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, 2017 Cup Rookie of the Year Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, who is coming off a career-best runner-up finish last weekend at Pocono.

The only other high-profile Toyota organization is Furniture Row Racing, which cut back to one team this season because of sponsorship and faces new sponsorship questions after 5-hour Energy recently announced it won’t return after this season. While reigning champion Martin Truex Jr. is a free agent at the end of the season, he said last month at Kentucky that “I don’t plan on doing anything different” for next season.

Bell said Friday at Watkins Glen that he was not aware of any plans to put him in a Cup car for a race this season.

“Right now, we’re right in the middle of closing out the regular season with three road courses in front of me, so I’ve got my hands full right now, especially going into road course season here and trying to maintain our points lead,” Bell said. “Nothing’s been talked about or said to me about that.”

He said he would be open to running a Cup car this year even if it came during the Xfinity playoffs. Bell said he believes it would still help him.

2. The mystery of Kyle Larson and road courses

Kyle Larson has an average starting spot of 5.2 in his Cup career at road courses.

His average finish in those races is 18.1.

Only once — Aug. 2014 at Watkins Glen — has Larson finished in the top 10 at a road course.

“I didn’t grow up racing anything close to a road course, but I always enjoy the challenge of competing at places like Watkins Glen,” Larson said. “We usually have pretty good speed at the road courses on short runs, but just need to be better a few laps after we fire off.

“I’ve got two poles at Sonoma now and have started the last two races at Watkins Glen on the front row in second, so we have speed but unfortunately haven’t been able to carry that speed for the whole race. Even though the tracks are fairly different, hopefully we learned a good bit about a month ago at Sonoma that we can put to use this weekend and put together a good race up until the finish.”

Larson’s frustration with road courses was evident at Sonoma in June. After starting on the pole, he finished 14th.

“I just don’t understand how I can try and take care of my tires and still be the worst car on long runs here. I don’t understand,” Larson said on the radio to his team during the race.

“That makes two of us,” Larson’s crew chief Chad Johnston responded.

To help his road course ability, Larson is running in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

3. Extra laps for many Cup drivers

Several drivers who score points in the Cup series are competing in other events this weekend at Watkins Glen International to gain extra experience on a road course.

Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace are entered in today’s K&N Pro Series East race.

Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola are entered in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

Logano won the Xfinity race at Watkins Glen in 2015 and ’16. Keselowski won this race in 2013.

This is the first time Allmendinger, who won the 2014 Cup race at Watkins Glen, has competed in the Xfinity race at Watkins Glen. He last drove in the Xfinity Series in 2013. He ran two races that season, winning at Road America and Mid-Ohio.

4. Could history repeat?

Chase Elliott seeks his first career Cup win. If he gets it this weekend, he would match his dad Bill in scoring his first career Cup win at a road course. Bill Elliott’s first career Cup victory came at Riverside International Raceway on Nov. 20, 1983.

Already Chase Elliott has matched his dad in runner-up finishes before scoring that first win. Chase has eight runner-up finishes. That’s how many his dad had before he scored his first Cup win.

5. Something to shoot for

While the Big 3 of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have seemingly won everything this year, there’s one are they’re short.

They’ve yet to score a win on a road course, restrictor-plate track, short track and a 1.5-mile track in the same season.

The last to do it was Joey Logano. He won the Daytona 500 and the fall Talladega race for his restrictor-plate wins. He was conquered Watkins Glen for the road course element and added wins at Bristol (short track) and Charlotte and Kansas (1.5-mile tracks).

 and on Facebook

Matt DiBenedetto: No ‘ill will’ toward Aric Almirola after ‘overreaction’ at Pocono

1 Comment

Matt DiBenedetto said he and Aric Almirola have talked via text messages and are “fine” with each other in the days following their run-in after the checkered flag at Pocono and DiBenedetto’s heated confrontation with Almirola on pit road.

In an interview Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dialed In,” DiBenedetto said he has “no ill will toward Aric” and that his intentional spin of Almirola after the checkered flag was an “overreaction” fueled by a disappointing finish.

“The only bad news that I have for everybody is that Aric and I have talked,” DiBenedetto said. “We texted back and forth after he did that interview (Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). … We talked and we’re fine. No problem with Aric. Honestly a week or two before, he was racing for the lead and I was actually pulling for him to win. So I have no ill will toward Aric.”

Almirola had said he was “baffled” by DiBenedetto’s actions.

“I was blown away after the race when he come and run into the side of me and spun me out,” Almirola said. “I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was so upset about.

“I understand. I guess when you’re running back there and you’re fighting to stay on the lead lap week in and week out, racing like that, 25th is a big deal. But I was racing. I caught him off Turn 1 and drove underneath of him and passed him in the Tunnel Turn and we came back to the checkered. I finished 25th and he finished behind me (in 27th) and apparently was pretty upset about it.”

The driver of GoFas Racing’s No. 32 Ford blamed “testosterone and adrenaline all mixed together” and “a bad sequence of events” for both him and Almirola for what happened.

DiBenedetto shared his side of the story.

“We were both frustrated, because obviously (Almirola) had a strong car and he ended up with some damage, had to go to the back,” DiBenedetto said. “And our team, we’re a small team … we were probably going to finish 16th, 18th, at least top 20 at worst. The last two restarts for me worked out very, very poorly. The second to last restart the line that I was in, turned out really bad. So we stacked up and I lost a couple of spots. But on the green-white-checkered, I was going into Turn 3 and (the field) stacked up really bad. I ran into the back of (Paul Menard), we all checked up and I lost like five more spots, four or five more spots and I was absolutely furious. Just out of being passionate, because that would have been a really good run for us if we finished where I thought we deserved to run.

“So I’m all ready, really mad. On the white flag Aric and I were side-by-side and as he said, 25th, and every spot matters. … So we went into Turn 2 and he went up the race track and we were side-by-side and he kind of cleared himself, he thought he was clear, whatever happened. If I wouldn’t have checked up, I was going to hit the wall.”

After the checkered flag, DiBenedetto said he gave Almirola “a little bump” on the backstretch and then Almirola “tried to brake check me.”

“I started it,” DiBenedetto said. “Whatever, I’m not mad about that. That sparked me again and then he came back up beside me and slammed into my right-side door and then I reacted by crashing him on the back straightaway, or spinning him out. It was just an overreaction and way too much adrenaline and testosterone mixed together and … in hindsight I would never race him like that nor would he and it was a crazy situation.”

The 27-year-old driver said the incident “was more of a thing that’s conversational for after the race” and “That’s how it should have been handled after the race by me. But when all that happened, he’s frustrated, I’m frustrated. I was too angry and after the race I went up beside him and expressed my displeasure.”

 and on Facebook

Retro Rundown 2018: Paint schemes for Southern 500

Leave a comment

The 69th Southern 500 is just around the corner. You only have to wait 33 days for the Sept. 2 race at Darlington Raceway, which will air on NBCSN.

That night, the latest batch of throwback paint schemes will race for our affections and the win.

MORE: Cole Custer, Jeremy Clements Xfinity throwback schemes

Here’s a roundup of the paint schemes that have been announced so far.

No. 00 – Landon Cassill: The StarCom Racing driver will pilot a car with Bobby Allison’s 1988 Miller High Life paint scheme. Derrike Cope, StarCom’s team manager, drove for Allison from 1994-96. Matt DiBenedetto drove the scheme in last year’s Southern 500.

No. 2 – Brad KeselowskiWill drive Rusty Wallace’s paint scheme from the 1990 Cup season.

Team Penske

No. 4 – Kevin Harvick: Will drive a scheme based on Busch Beer’s can design from 1996.

Stewart-Haas Racing

No. 9 – Chase Elliott: The Hendrick Motorsports driver will have a scheme based on one driven by his late cousin, Casey Elliott. He passed away from cancer in 1996.

Photo: Dustin Long

No. 12 – Ryan Blaney: Will drive a scheme based on the car his father, Dave Blaney, raced in the 2003 Cup season.

No. 14 – Clint BowyerBowyer will driver a paint scheme based on the car NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett drove to a win in the 1965 Southern 500.

 

No. 17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr: The Roush Fenway Racing driver will have the John Deere paint scheme driven by Chad Little from 1997-2000.

Top: Roush Fenway Racing/Bottom: Getty Images

No. 18 – Kyle Busch: The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pilot the original Skittles paint scheme first driven by Ernie Irvan in 1997.

No. 20 – Erik Jones: The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to the Camping World Truck Series career of his spotter, Rick Carelli.

No. 21 – Paul Menard: Wood Brothers Racing will pay tribute to Cale Yarborough’s win in the 1968 Southern 500, which was the first for the team and Yarborough.

No. 22 – Joey Logano: The Team Penske driver will pay tribute to Steve Park with the Pennzoil scheme Park drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the early 2000s and won two races with.

Logano picture: NBCSN/Steve Park picture: Getty Images

 

No. 24 – William Byron: Will drive Jeff Gordon‘s iconic DuPont “Rainbow Warriors” scheme he raced full-time from 1993 -2000.

Hendrick Motorsports

No. 31 – Ryan Newman: The Richard Childress Racing driver will honor the late Neil Bonnett with his scheme. The car will be painted like the Mom & Pop’s sponsored car Bonnett drove in two Cup races in 1993. He was the first RCR driver to drive the No. 31.

RCR

No. 32 – Matt DiBenedetto: Will drive Jeff Burton‘s paint scheme from the 2000 Cup season.

 

No. 41 – Kurt BuschWill drive his own paint scheme from the 2003 season when he was part of one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history at Darlington Raceway, losing to Ricky Craven by 0.002 seconds. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the race.

 

No. 43 – Bubba Wallace: The rookie driver will boast the first STP paint scheme Richard Petty drove in 1972 at Riverside International Speedway.

Richard Petty Motorsports

No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson: The three-time Darlington winner will drive the scheme he used in 2012 when he won the Southern 500 and gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th victory.

 

Richard Childress Racing

No. 99 – Derrike Cope: Cope will be sponsored by Bojangles and will have the paint scheme Cope drove in the Cup Series in 1993 when sponsored by the company.

 and on Facebook

Aric Almirola ‘baffled’ by Matt DiBenedetto’s actions after Pocono race

2 Comments

Aric Almirola said Tuesday he was “baffled” why Matt DiBenedetto spun him after Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway and approached him on pit road.

Almirola was asked on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about what happened with DiBenedetto.

“He was frustrated or upset, I guess, that I passed him on the last lap,” Almirola said. “I don’t know. I guess he thought that I shouldn’t race for 25th. I mean I race for every spot all race long. I don’t care if it’s for 25th or the lead.

“I guess he thought I should have let him finish 25th, and I wasn’t going to do that. I passed him in the Tunnel Turn on the last lap. He said I took his line away from him. He was upset about it. I don’t know. I hate it for him that he didn’t finish 25th. We were racing. It’s called racing.

“I was baffled. I was blown away after the race when he come and run into the side of me and spun me out. I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was so upset about.

“I understand. I guess when you’re running back there and you’re fighting to stay on the lead lap week in and week out, racing like that, 25th is a big deal. But I was racing. I caught him off Turn 1 and drove underneath of him and passed him in the Tunnel Turn and we came back to the checkered. I finished 25th and he finished behind me (in 27th) and apparently was pretty upset about it.”

Almirola was back there after making contact with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick on pit road with about 40 laps to go. Harvick had Alex Bowman to his outside and Almirola to his inside as they went down pit road when William Byron exited his stall. Almirola moved up and bumped into the left rear of Harvick’s car with his right front.

“Cost (Harvick) a chance at winning the race, cost us a chance of running probably sixth to eighth, I thought,” Almirola told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Just bad timing, bad circumstances and it created a lot of damage to our right front fender.

“We got back in traffic, and then they wrecked on one of those restarts and we got caught up in that as well. A lot of bad circumstances kind of compounded and just not the weekend, not the result, we were looking for with a good car, not a great car, but a good car.

“Any time you have a good car like that you want to capitalize on it and run top 10. We didn’t do that. There’s going to be weekends like that. It’s just about going there and trying to forget about it and bounce back and go to Watkins Glen this weekend and have a good run.”

 and on Facebook