Speedway Digest Staff
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Alpha Prime Racing is proud to announce that Rajah Caruth will be returning to the team for select races during the 2023 NASCAR XFINITY Series season.
“Rajah is a special young racecar driver who is exactly the type of person we want in our building,” said APR Vice President David Schildhouse. “Keeping him here at Alpha Prime Racing for his Xfinity starts was a top priority for us this offseason. We look at Rajah as a vital part of our future and look forward to giving him the best tools possible to continue his growth in this sport.”
Caruth made 7 starts in the Xfinity Series in 2022, all with APR, and experienced the highs and lows of competing at the second highest level in NASCAR. Despite 2 DNFs in his first 4 starts, Rajah finished his campaign with 3 straight top-20 finishes including a 12th place run at Martinsville last October. For Rajah, his desire to return to APR was not only fueled by the performance of the team but also the people within it.
"I'm so enthused to bolster my NASCAR schedule this year by returning to Alpha Prime Racing for some Xfinity races,” said Caruth. “Tommy and his family took a chance on me before I had even ran an ARCA race, and to represent them as well as Caesar (Bacarella), his family and every man and woman in the APR fold is a blessing. I can't wait to build on the finishes we put together late last year and continue to show what both myself and this team is capable of.”
Details regarding sponsorship and Rajah’s scheduled events will come at a future date.
The opportunity to further develop business-to-business connections is what prompted BDO, the world’s fifth-largest advisory and accounting network, to become an IMSA Corporate Partner, in an announcement made today.
BDO’s specialty areas include advisory, tax and assurance services provided to a diverse range of clients with a broad array of needs. By making this service platform available to new and existing clients within the IMSA paddock, BDO’s aim is simple: helping businesses thrive in a complicated and dynamic environment that is in many ways similar to the challenges faced by an IMSA participant.
“Racing and business are very similar; strategies to win are formed under pressure, tough decisions arise quickly, risks must be mitigated and cash flow must be managed” said Brad Knight, Managing Director. “With that in mind, this partnership only made sense, and provides BDO with a unique opportunity to live our core purpose of “helping people thrive, every day”. We look forward to building new relationships and working with new partners to achieve exceptional outcomes in their businesses, families and communities.”
As part of the multiyear agreement, BDO will also provide VIP experiences for current and prospective clients at IMSA events across the U.S. that include credentials, at-track hospitality, behind the scenes paddock/pit tours and IMSA Hot Lap rides. In turn, this presence affords BDO the opportunity to make important B2B connections with companies already involved with IMSA, as well as leverage the excitement of IMSA racing with clients and prospects with a passion for sports cars.
“IMSA welcomes BDO as a Proud Partner,” said IMSA Vice President, Partnership Marketing and Business Development Brandon Huddleston. “This is important because it brings a new, global, non-endemic partner to our sport. BDO sees IMSA as a great place to do business, introduce clients to the exciting world of sports car racing and make effective connections.”
The agreement recognizes BDO as a Proud Partner of IMSA, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. In addition, a new BDO Knows Strategy Award will be featured during IMSA Radio broadcasts of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship throughout the season. The award is designed to recognize a winning strategy or decision made by those who embody BDO’s core values.
Kubota Suits Up with Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez to Sponsor Trackhouse Chevrolets in Six 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Season Races
Kubota Tractor Corporation and Trackhouse Racing announced today that drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez will carry the familiar orange Kubota paint scheme in six races in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. With the sponsorship, Kubota becomes the Official Tractor Company of Trackhouse Racing after serving as the primary sponsor of Chastain’s No. 1 Chevrolet last season at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 23, 2022.
“Kubota's accelerated entry into the world of NASCAR is about more than just a commitment to racing,” said Todd Stucke, Kubota Tractor Corporation Senior Vice President of Marketing, Product Support, and Special Projects.
Chastain will drive the No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet at the Feb. 26 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The 30-year-old Alva, Florida native will also race the Kubota paint scheme at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 16, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on Sept. 10, and Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway on Oct. 22.
“Growing up in a farming family, the hard work and lessons I learned are what has molded me into the racecar driver you see on the track today,” said Chastain, who is an eighth-generation watermelon farmer. “This sponsorship from Kubota is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to use my platform to shine a bright light on agriculture and on the men and women who work so hard to feed all of us. I’m excited to get the Kubota orange paint scheme back out on the track this season and also help military veterans get their start in farming with each top-10 finish.”
Suárez, 31, of Monterrey, Mexico, will drive the No. 99 Kubota Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 24. The Texas race marks Suárez’s first time in a Kubota-liveried race car.
“I feel like I am joining a new family,” said Suárez who became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Xfinity title in 2016 and a Cup race in 2022. “Ross has told me so many good things about Kubota and their equipment, so I’m looking forward to joining him in Kubota Country.”
Kubota and Trackhouse Racing are taking this sponsorship the extra mile in support of farmer veterans. In the five races Kubota is serving as the primary sponsor of Chastain’s No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet, a $10,000 donation will be made to the Farmer Veteran Coalition for a top-10 finish. The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is a national nonprofit organization that assists military veterans and currently serving members of the Armed Forces to transition into careers in farming, and since 2015, Kubota has partnered with FVC on the “Geared to Give” program which has provided $800,000 to the coalition in the form of organizational support, grants to veterans and 36 pieces of donated equipment.
Trackhouse Racing has high expectations for the 2023 season after serving as the breakout team in 2022. Competing for the first time as a two-car team, the two-year-old Trackhouse team won three races, posted 21 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes. Chastain finished second and Suárez 10th in the standings – career bests for each.
Kubota is known for its versatility, reliability, and durability across its complete lineup of equipment–from sub-compact, compact, and utility tractors, hay tools, and construction equipment, to residential lawn and garden, commercial turf equipment, and utility vehicles. Kubota customers take pride in getting things done on their properties and jobsites, and it’s that ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit that led Kubota to become the #1 selling compact* and sub-compact** tractor brand in the U.S., as well as #1 rated for durability and owner experience in the U.S. ***
Trackhouse Founder and Owner Justin Marks credits the team’s corporate relationships as key to his organization’s quick success in the sport. “We are very proud to carry the Kubota brand on our race cars in 2023. I know many NASCAR fans are Kubota customers and will welcome Kubota’s increased involvement with the sport this year.”
The NASCAR season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash non-points race at the Los Angeles Coliseum before the sport holds the 65th-running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 19.
* Based on EDA tractor sales data of under 20 horsepower models from 2009 to 2020
** Based on EDA tractor sales data of under 40 horsepower models from 2009 to 2021
*** Award based on 2021 Progressive Farmer Reader Insights Tractor Study
Trackhouse Racing PR
2021 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion Grant Sexton has his eyes set on another title in 2023. The teenage racer will open his first full season of 410 sprint car racing and his campaign for “Rookie of the Year” when the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series visits Arizona’s Cocopah Speedway this Friday and Saturday, January 27th and 28th. It will be his first ever time racing at the track known as the “Diamond in the Desert.”
Sexton, who lives in Lakeside, California, did have a few runs in full-size sprint cars in 2022. They included four events with USAC/CRA, three shows at Ventura including the Turkey Night Grand Prix, and an open comp show at the Imperial Valley Raceway. The talkative teen won his first-ever start in a full-size sprinter at Ventura on April 16th. His second-best finish was when he made the podium with a third at Imperial Valley in October.
The well-spoken teen’s initial efforts in a full-size sprinter came in an older car. He then switched to another car that was a little more modern than what he started in. However, things are going to change from the dark ages as soon as he arrives at Cocopah.
“I ran an older Ellis (first) and then a newer Ellis,” the 18-year-old said with a laugh earlier this week. “Well, it was new for us but it was pretty much the same car.”
Last year his father, Brent Sexton, decided it was time for a big-time upgrade. A three-time lightning sprint car titlist (including last year’s POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint championship), the family patriarch realized his youngest offspring was ready to move up and he purchased a brand new Triple X chassis. He hid the new chassis in the rafters until he figured Grant was ready. That time is now and the youngster will make his debut in the car on Friday at Cocopah. The team was headed to Perris to shake down the car for the first time on Thursday and would head straight to the Arizona speed plant after.
It will be a new car on a new track for Sexton’s first run of 2023. While he has seen races at Cocopah, he has never raced there, but he knows what to expect.
“I have not had any practice in our new Triple X car, but we are going to test at Perris Auto Speedway tomorrow,” the teen said on Wednesday. “I know it (Cocopah) has really long straightaways and a lot wider turns. So, it should be a little bit more forgiving if I do make a mistake. Hopefully, I do not find that wall because I know it will hurt.
“I watch a boatload of films,” the young racer continued. “I mean, I sit there on YouTube for hours and go back to the old Flo events. I try to gather anything I can by watching the leaders and others on all the tracks. How they enter the corners and how they exit the corners. Sadly, Iracing does not have any California tracks, but I do hop on the simulator as much as I can. Mainly I just want to make every main event we go to and hopefully bring a car home in one piece. Try to use patience to learn the car itself before I try and get a little more ballsy.”
In addition to some new venues, Sexton will be competing on several tracks where he has raced lightning sprints over the past few years. Those tracks include Perris, the Bakersfield Speedway, Mohave Valley Raceway, the Ventura Raceway, and the Santa Maria Raceway. When asked which track he was looking forward to going to, he quickly named Bakersfield because it is a quarter mile and very racy. Another part of that answer may have had to do with his thrilling victory at the “Okie Bowl” when the CLS competed on the same card as the World of Outlaws on March 24th, 2022. The teen stole the show by rim-riding through the cushion in a daring display of bravery that saw him take the lead and win with less than a foot to go in the race.
Like many young drivers, Sexton had some challenges early in his lightning sprint car career. Some nights he was fast, and some nights he was not quite as fast. He did tear up some equipment along the way. Through it all, there were flashes of brilliance that were shining through. But things changed halfway through the 2019 season. The then 15-year-old only finished better than 14th one time in the first seven races of the year. Near the end of June, he began to turn things around. In six starts between June 29th and August 24th, he placed in the top 10 four times. Included was a second-place finish in the CLS race at Santa Maria on July 27th. However, the best was yet to come.
On August 24, 2019, he won an open comp race at the Barona Speedway. While not surprising, it was still not expected. What happened next was shocking and totally unexpected to everyone. That is, everyone but himself. Two weeks after the Barona triumph, the family team journeyed to Missouri and the Lake Ozark Speedway for the POWRi Lightning Sprint Car Nationals. There, they met up with top drivers and cars from several states. On the first night of the two-day show, Sexton sent shockwaves through the lightning sprint car world by handily winning the main event. For a teen upstart to come to a track he had never raced on before and compete against veteran drivers, many of whom were on their home turf, and beat them, ended up being popular with fans. Surely the triumph had to be a fluke. No way could a teen repeat that performance. He then stunned everyone again by leading 23-laps before finishing second. In less than 24 hours, he went from being an unknown to being the hottest lightning sprint car driver in North America.
Like everyone else, Covid pretty much ruined the 2020 season for Sexton. He came back in 2021 with a vengeance. He proved his adaptability by winning four of the last seven main events, including three in a row, in the POWRi Southwest Series. Two of his victories came while running with a wing and the other two were wingless. When the checkered flag fell at the end of the final series race, he won the championship by a comfortable 122-points. In addition to his prowess in the SWLS, he went back to Missouri and finished third in the finale. The team also journeyed to the upper Midwest for the “Minkota Nationals.” Once again competing on four new tracks against veteran drivers from several states and Canada, Sexton won the opening night and placed in the top eight in all four races.
2022 was not the normal season for Sexton. Perhaps more importantly than racing, he was graduating from high school. So, that took a little away from racing with all the festivities you only get to participate in once in your life. Also, of instead running a lightning sprint car-only schedule, he was moving up to full-size sprint cars. All told, he visited victory circle four times during the year.
Sexton sends out big thanks to his crew chief, 2011 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year David Bezio, Tava Lopez, Cody Griggs, Nita “Nanna” Gatlin, and his father Brent. They have all been busting their tails to get the Triple X Chassis, Johnny Motorhead 410 ready for this week’s openers at Cocopah.
Sexton/Gatlin Racing would like to thank the following companies for making the 2022 season possible. Keys Brothers, East County Electric Works, Maxima Oil, Automated Interiors, Sexton Fire Protection, BK Wings, Johnny Motorhead, Troy Dirt, Victory Graphix, and Swift Powdercoat.
Before the iconic Big Gator trophy is awarded at the 52nd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 6-18, some of DIRTcar’s most hardcore racers will take the road less traveled and pursue the UMP Florida Modified Speedweeks championship.
The three-week grind compacts 13 races into 15 days, spread across North Florida Speedway in Lake City, East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, and Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville. An overall points tally will be kept, with drivers earning points for their finishes in each Feature to determine the champion after the final race day at Volusia on Saturday, Feb. 11.
A $2,000 check is on the line for the points champion with additional cash bonuses going to the rest of the top-10 points finishers. Past champions include Tyler Nicely, of Owensboro, KY, Oklahoma Modified veteran Jason Hughes and the defending Speedweeks champion from Paris, TN, Lucas Lee.
North Florida Winternationals – Jan. 28-29
North Florida Speedway in Lake City, FL, hosts the kickoff to the 13-race grind with a two-day Winternationals event at the 3/8-mile oval. The track is under new management this year and is set to host its first headline DIRTcar UMP Modified event with new owner/promoter Tom Bell at the helm. Bell, a former UMP Modified racer from Indiana, begins his first full season as head of the track this weekend.
Saturday’s Feature pays $1,000 to the winner with $2,000 going to Sunday’s winner. Past Winternationals Feature winners include Nicely, Illinois regional champion Allen Weisser and local favorite Jason Garver.
East Bay Winternationals – Jan. 31-Feb. 4.
After a day of practice on Monday, the Speedweeks intensity picks up with the start of a five-race trek at East Bay Raceway Park as part of the track’s 47th annual monthlong Winternationals event. Standing as one of the most unique racing venues in the State of Florida, drivers will navigate its one-of-a-kind black clay surface over five-straight nights for increasing grand prizes as the week progresses.
Tuesday and Wednesday’s Features are $1,000-to-win, Thursday and Friday offer $1,500-to-win, while the Saturday finale pays $5,000 to the 75-lap Feature winner. Seventy-five laps stands as one of the longest UMP Modified events run anywhere in the country, adding a unique endurance element to the event, and also includes a planned competition caution for refueling.
The famed “Clay by the Bay” track surface offers another challenge found at few other dirt tracks. Located on the east side of the Hillsborough Bay in Tampa, the nearby water has been shown to soak through the dirt and bleed back up onto the surface during high-tide, changing the track conditions mid-race.
52nd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals – Feb. 6-11
The final push for the Florida Speedweeks championship goes through the single toughest test in DIRTcar UMP Modified racing. The previous two editions of DIRTcar Nationals featured a roster of over 100 total UMP Modifieds competing over the six-day stretch. A similar, if not larger, car count is expected again this year.
The event format has been completely overhauled for 2023, featuring six separate Features on each of the first five nights of competition. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday’s Features will be lined up by Qualifying laps, while Thursday will set the field according to points accumulated by each driver over the previous three nights. Friday’s field will be split in half for the Gator Qualifier night before the $5,000-to-win Gator Championship event on Saturday.
The driver with the most points at week’s end will be crowned DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator champion and hoist the iconic Big Gator trophy. The Florida Speedweeks champion will also be determined after Saturday night, awarded to the driver with the most points over the three-week series.
DIRTcar Series PR
The event schedule for the inaugural ASA STARS National Tour race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL, has been released. Officials made the announcement today regarding the event structure for the 200-lap Pavement Super Late Model contest on Saturday, March 11, 2023, which is also part of the ASA Southern Super Series.
Tickets for the event are available online by visiting https://bit.ly/ASA5FlagsTixs.
"I have vivid memories of being in the pits at Montgomery Motor Speedway in 1981 for the inaugural All Pro Series race. There was something really special about that night,” said Tim Bryant, Promoter of Five Flags Speedway. “On March 11th, I think we're going to bring back that same feeling. This could be a monumental event for short track racing and we're humbled that Five Flags Speedway was selected to host it."
Saturday’s kickoff to the ASA STARS National Tour will include practice, qualifying and the main event. The Pavement Super Late Models will also be joined by the Five Flags Speedway’s Outlaw division on the racing card.
The event also includes available practice sessions for teams on Friday, March 10 while the track holds competition for two local divisions, the Pure Stock and Sportsman classes. Scheduled tech times are also open to teams on Friday by appointment only.
All DRIVERS are required to have an ASA License, and cannot participate in any on- track activity until an ASA driver license is fully executed.
Team owners who wish to participate in the 2023 and 2024 “Winners Circle” program will also need to purchase an ASA Car Owner License. Eligibility for point fund monies and contingency awards also require car owners to be fully licensed.
Applications for teams are now available to download at www.asastarsnationaltour.com. Those forms are available via a PDF document. Teams will be required to complete the form and return as instructed on the application.
Tickets are on sale now for the inaugural ASA National Tour event at Five Flags Speedway. Please visit https://bit.ly/ASA5FlagsTixs to get yours today.
The ASA STARS National Tour on March 11, 2023 will open the 10-race, six-state tour.
For the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule, plus Super Late Model rules and other information, please visit the series website at www.asastarsnationaltour.com, and be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: STARS National Series | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
ASA STARS National Tour
The ASA STARS National Tour will debut in 2023 for Super Late Model racing in America. Announced in October, many of the best drivers in America are expected to compete in the 10-race national tour with a minimum $100,000 point fund. The championship team will be guaranteed $25,000.
The national series is made up of three races from each of the regional pavement Super Late Model Series under the Track Enterprises banner; the ASA CRA Super Series, the ASA Midwest Tour and the ASA Southern Super Series.
A Winner’s Circle program will also be part of the ASA National Tour for licensed drivers/teams with perfect attendance. The program details will be announced at a later date, but it will be in the same vein as ASA utilized in its heyday.
Track Enterprises, a Racing Promotions Company based in Illinois, will operate the ASA STARS National Tour. It announced the acquisition of the CRA sanctioning body in January and followed that up with the purchase of the Midwest Tour in July. In October, Track Enterprises President, Bob Sargent announced a partnership with the Southern Super Series which set the table for the formation of the ASA STARS National Tour.
ASA Stars PR
Looking to the 19th season of competition, the American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region presented by Smiley’s Racing Products is slated for 21 events in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas.
Keeping the bulk of the racing in the “Sooner State”, 16 dates will stay inside Oklahoma borders. Oklahoma tracks include Arrowhead Speedway (1 night), Creek County Speedway (7 nights), Elk City Motorsports Park (1 night), Longdale Speedway (3 nights), Salina Highbanks Speedway (1 night), and Thunderbird Speedway (3 nights).
Races outside Oklahoma land at 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan. twice, plus single nights in Missouri at Lake Ozark Speedway, Lucas Oil Speedway, and Nevada Speedway. Dates in Missouri are paired with the ASCS Warrior Region presented by Impact Signs, Awnings, and Wraps.
The tour will race from April through October, with each regional event paying a minimum of $2,000 to win, and $300 to start. National Tour events pay a higher purse.
For other news, notes, and information on any of the tours under the ASCS banner, log onto http://www.ascsracing.com
2023 ASCS Sooner Region Lineup:
4/7/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
4/8/2023-Nevada Speedway - Nevada, MO
4/21/2023-Thunderbird Speedway - Muskogee, OK
4/22/2023-Elk City Motorsports Park - Elk City, OK
5/5/2023-Lake Ozark Speedway - Eldon, MO
5/6/2023-Lucas Oil Speedway - Wheatland, MO
5/19/2023-Longdale Speedway - Longdale, OK
5/20/2023-Longdale Speedway - Longdale, OK
6/2/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
6/3/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
7/14/2023-Thunderbird Speedway - Muskogee, OK
7/21/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
7/22/2023-81 Speedway - Park City, KS
8/25/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
8/26/2023-Salina Highbanks Speedway - Salina, OK
9/1/2023-Arrowhead Speedway - Colcord, OK
9/2/2023-Longdale Speedway - Longdale, OK
9/22/2023-Thunderbird Speedway - Muskogee, OK
9/23/2023-81 Speedway - Park City, KS
10/20/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
10/21/2023-Creek County Speedway - Sapulpa, OK
*Subject to change without notice.
CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang – HOW IS IT KNOWING YOU HAVE A LONG TERM DEAL AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEXT GEN ENHANCEMENTS? “It’s really nice to have stability, especially being a young father now. I think that’s the biggest thing for my family. That’s the nicest thing is just having that comfortability, knowing that for the next few years I’m gonna have a job. That’s really important, especially when you’re raising a little one. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. That’s most important about the whole thing is how it affects my family versus how it affects me, so that’s really nice. I’ve never had that my entire career, so that’s gonna be something new for me to navigate, but I’m looking forward to showing my worth, hopefully, to the organization. Outside of that, I’m really excited for the Ford Mustang. I haven’t honestly seen it yet. I know there’s not a ton of huge changes, but I feel like last year we were pretty good, but you could always be better and I know that whenever we came out with something new it’s gonna be better than what we had before. I’m excited to finally get it on the racetrack. I know testing is one thing, but when you go and finally race against the other competitors, you see where you stack up and we should be in a really good spot. It’s just a matter of getting out there and see where we finally stack up to everybody and go from there.”
DID YOU PUSH TO GET THIS EXTENSION DONE OR DO YOU FEEL SHR, KNOWING THERE COULD BE SOME DRIVER MOVEMENT, DIDN’T WANT YOU TO START LOOKING? “I felt like it was definitely Stewart-Haas took the initiative. I mean, we mutually wanted to do something, for sure, but I think Stewart-Haas took a little bit more of the initiative, just knowing the situation I was gonna be in coming up and then the situation with Kevin, obviously, and Aric, not knowing when he’s gonna be gone. It felt like we all obviously wanted to get something done. I’ve said it for a really long time that I’ve wanted to be at Stewart-Haas, the personal tie for me to the 14 is important, so I felt like we were both kind of pushing to get something done, but at the same time it was probably a little bit more them than me. At the same time, it was definitely me wanting to get it done, too. I would say all-around it was 50-50.”
WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM TESTING AT PHOENIX WITH THE MUFFLERS AND SMALLER SPOILER? “I think every race car driver would agree that we always want more power and less downforce. I feel like that’s always our answer because we’d feel like it puts more of the control in our hands versus the car, the team or things like that, and I feel like it just makes the racing better a lot of the time as far as being able to pass other guys. I felt like that was kind of the same thing I heard from one of the other drivers when they took downforce away. It seemed like it got better. I think they went from, I don’t know what the normal spoiler is, but they went to 2-½ and it didn’t really change a lot, and then they went to 2 and changed some underbody stuff, and it sounded like that changed a lot of things as far as for the better, so I don’t know where they’re gonna go with it. Testing is just kind of one thing and then applying it to everybody is another. I think anytime you can get less downforce, especially on the short tracks, it typically makes it better, and I feel like this car everywhere we went when it’s 60 laps into a run and the tires are finally starting to get worn out and we’re slipping and sliding around a little bit more, at least on the short tracks, we race a lot better and I feel like less downforce and more power – just even less downforce – is gonna make it easier to get to that point. Instead of 60 laps into a run, maybe 30 laps into a run, so I think less downforce is definitely the answer for the short tracks and road courses. I don’t think we need to change anything on the mile-and-a-halves, but it sounded like all the drivers were in agreement on that from who I’ve read texts from.”
WHEN DOES A DRIVER START TO FOCUS ON THE CLASH? “I think it all depends on how you ended the season. For us, I felt like we were on such a run of momentum and just strong runs that I was instantly thinking of The Clash and wanting to go there next week, but I think you definitely take a couple of weeks off. This offseason, I probably had two or three weeks where I didn’t have anything I really had to do. Outside of that, it was a pretty busy offseason, but I would say, for me, when I got back from Chili Bowl – a week or two weeks ago – I started thinking about The Clash. I went and sat inside the car yesterday, so you start thinking about it pretty quickly – kind of mid-January that you’re gonna be going racing in two or three weeks. I think, for me, leading up to next week I’ve got a busy week-and-a-half. I’ve got to go to Ohio this weekend for an appearance. I’ve got to go to Raleigh next week. I’ve got some stuff at the shop I’ve got to do still. Outside of that, I’ll just try to spend as much time as I can with my family, just trying to spend that quality time before we kind of get busy and on the road.”
WHAT ATTRIBUTES OF THE SHR TEAM DO YOU BELIEVE HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO FIND SUCCESS IN NASCAR? “I haven’t been with a ton of teams. I think I’ve been at three or four organizations my entire career, but Stewart-Haas has definitely been the one that I’ve been at the longest. I think the biggest thing is just the amount of resources you have from just an experience level. Everybody at Stewart-Haas and the marketing team and everybody always talks about how we’re just a bunch of racers and it’s the truth. Everybody there from literally the top guy to the bottom guy they all have just raced their whole life. They race on their off weekend. They go racing in the middle of the week at Millbridge and places like that, where other organizations you have groups of those guys, but not the whole organization. For me, being a relatively young guy in the sport and inexperienced, I had so many different guys I could go to, whether it was Tony Stewart or Zippy or Kevin Harvick and all these guys for perspective. They’ve seen the same scenario, but they all have a different outlook on it or a viewpoint on it, so, for me, to be able to go and ask questions, whether it’s on or off the racetrack stuff, and just get different opinions on it, different perspectives on it was one of the biggest things that made Stewart-Haas feel so much like home. We just all have the same kind of background and things like that, and I feel like that just makes a huge difference.”
WILL THIS EXTENSION CHANGE YOUR APPROACH TO THE SEASON? “I don’t think so. I feel like I always race with this mentality of every lap is making a difference, even if you’re 10 laps down because you have a mechanical issue. I always feel like I’m running 100 percent just to try to show my team that I’m not giving up. I don’t think my mentality changes now that I’m secured for years to come, so I don’t think it really changes anything for me. It maybe makes you a little less stressed at home, but, outside of that, I feel like you’re going to the racetrack every weekend to win and try to set the fastest lap every single lap, every single session and things like that. I don’t think it will really change my outlook on anything as far as that goes.”
YOU WERE COUCH SURFING NOT THAT LONG AGO AND NOW YOU’RE WITH ONE OF THE TOP TEAM IN NASCAR FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE? “For sure. In 2013, 2014, 2015 and part of 2016, part of 2016, but those three years prior I was sleeping on a couch and volunteering at different places. Now, to be where I’m at is pretty crazy. One of my buddies, we had this group chat of all of our friends and we race online together. We’ve had it for 10 years and I remember when I was going through that couch to couch thing and they were giving me a hard time telling me how I was wasting my time and things like that. One of my buddies texted me today and said, ‘I’m glad you didn’t listen to me.’ It was six or seven years ago. It’s pretty crazy to see what it’s turned into, so it’s crazy to look back on and think about it. I still, honestly, every day find myself just thinking how crazy it is and how it’s all worked out, how not only to make it to the Cup Series but then to make it to the Cup Series and drive the car that you dreamed of driving. That was your favorite car growing up. Things like that. It’s crazy the amount of doors that have opened up for me. I’ve definitely been extremely blessed to be able to be in the spot I’m in, so I definitely find myself every day questioning how I got here because it was not that long ago where I was ready to give up. It’s crazy to be sitting here today talking about a contract extension and driving for this company that I feel like is a powerhouse company in the sport. It’s pretty unbelievable, for sure.”
IT MUST BE SOMEWHAT LIBERATING AND RELIEVING TO KNOW YOU HAVE A STAFF THAT WORKS ON SPONSORSHIP FOR YOU AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ON YOUR OWN LIKE YEARS AGO? “I remember when I was couch to couch I would sit at least an hour almost every single day and would type in CEO, COO, anything I could think of and type it on LinkedIn and every name I could find I would send an email. I mean, I bet I got who knows how many thousands of no’s, but even to this day – I don’t get on LinkedIn – but I’m still trying to sell myself to new people and things like that, but I think the biggest thing for me is I’ve always tried to be my true self. I don’t put on an act for anybody. What you see is kind of what you get and I was trying to treat everybody with respect and I feel like that goes such a long way. I try to make sure that all of my partners always feel appreciated, even if it’s a new partner or whether it’s somebody that has no chance of ever sponsoring me ever, I still try to treat them with respect and treat them how I feel they should be treated. I feel that has gone a really long way with all of my partners and even ones that have seen me from afar doing that goes a long way for them. It’s always kind of been who I am and if it’s enough, it’s enough. If it’s not enough, it’s not enough, but I feel like it’s worked to this point and hopefully it will continue to.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOUR VOICE HAS DEVELOPED WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION? “I feel like, for me, I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much. I mean, I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen. Then this past year, I definitely talked a lot more and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. So, I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and I guess be a little bit more of a leader. But where we’re at as a company, for me still, Kevin Harvick is the guy. He’s who steers our ship. He’s the guy that when he talks people listen and, for me, I’ve just tried to watch as much as I can knowing the Kevin’s not gonna be there one day and especially with Aric leaving in the next few years or whenever he does, I’m gonna be the guy that’s been there the longest, so, naturally, the leadership kind of falls on you to a certain extent, so I think how Kevin gets his points across and how I get my points across is probably two different ways, but you can still learn things from Kevin in just how he approaches certain situations. He’s seen so many different scenarios, but I feel like I talk to Kevin a lot about it and even just watching how he handles certain things and how he always can circle back around to get his point proven is something I’ve definitely been taking notes on, just knowing that one day that potentially could be me that has to have more of a leadership role. Yeah, it’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization, but, truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff, so, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability, but I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you. We have to see how we run and things like that, and let the cards fall where they fall. In a couple of years, we might be in a totally different situation. We don’t know, but I’ll definitely try and take as many notes as I possibly can and just watch and learn as much as I can to kind of how to be that leader in our company.”
CAN YOU ALSO EXPLAIN WHAT IT’S LIKE GOING INTO THE CLASH THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR? “Truthfully, I would say I’ve been really motivated about The Clash and wanting redemption. Last year, I felt like that was a race that if I wasn’t gonna win, I was for sure gonna run second. I felt like me and Reddick were the two best cars. I went from eighth or ninth to third or fourth in a matter of like 20 laps and I just felt like my car was really, really good, and then we had the mechanical issue, so that’s one that I feel like kind of got away from us and one that I definitely want to go and try to win. I’m excited from that side of things. My outlook on the race is definitely different because last year it was such an unknown. Nobody knew what to expect. Nobody knew what the car was gonna drive like, what it was gonna race like. I feel like this year it’s gonna be way more competitive. Everybody is gonna have an understanding of what they need to do to their cars – the teams are and the drivers. Last year, I was probably the only guy in the field that was shifting every single lap, every single corner and this year probably everybody is gonna do it just because they’re way more comfortable with it, where last year nobody even really knew that was a possibility. All of those things have me a little bit, not nervous but it’s a big question mark as far as what it’s gonna look like this year. The field is gonna be way tighter, so it’ll be a lot harder to separate yourself from the pack, but hopefully we can go there and have a good car and do that.”
HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE THE CONTRACT EXTENSION WHEN TEAMS DON’T KNOW WHAT THE TV MONEY IS GOING TO BE STARTING IN 2025? ARE THERE A LOT OF PROVISIONS INCLUDED? “I should probably know what I’m allowed to say and what I’m not allowed to say so if I get myself in trouble that’s probably not good for me. I remember when the contract first started getting talked about, I talked to all of my teammates. I leaned on Kevin a lot and even Aric a lot and they both were adamant, don’t sign anything past ‘24 and things like that, but with the opportunity that was there, we just had to put a lot of provisions in it if it gets re-structured. It’s not fair to the team and it’s not fair to me, obviously, either if the whole structure of the money going into the sport changes. We just had to have a lot of wording in there to where if it does get changed and when it gets figured out we’ll obviously come back and sit down and try to figure out what’s fair for both of us.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OBJECTIVES FOR THIS SEASON? “There are for sure a lot of unknowns and to your first question, I would say the biggest thing for me is I just want to be way more consistent. It’s no secret that last year we started the season strong and over the course of the summer was non-existent with the exception of two or three races, and then the playoffs was right back to where we were at the beginning of the year. So, I feel like 99.9 percent of that was me and just not putting good races together. If I had a 15th-place car that given day, I was trying to win the race with a 15th-place car and at this level you’re not gonna do that. In the playoffs, if I had a 15th-place car, I just tried to run 10th or 11th with it and just try to be a couple spots better than what my car was, and when I did that I felt like you’d find yourself in that 10th or 11th spot. You’d have a restart at the end of the race, well now you’re up to seventh. You have another restart or on pit road you might pick up one or two spots and you’d find yourself in the top five at the end of the day. I feel like it’s kind of similar to Kevin. I tried to mirror him as much as I could, where he just doesn’t eliminate himself from races. A lot of the time at the beginning of the race he might not be the best car, but at the end he’s always up there and he gives himself an opportunity and a chance if a restart comes out. I felt like in the playoffs when I let the race just come to me, instead of forcing stuff, I became way more consistent. The top 10s became way easier to get and if I can take that same mentality and approach and just keep reminding myself of what I did different in the playoffs versus the rest of the season, then hopefully our consistency will be a lot better throughout the season. And then going to your second question, there are definitely a lot of unknowns still. The car is still changed. Things have happened where there’s new racetracks, there’s just new structures. The teams are constantly trying to find things on the car to make it better, so the setups that you ran last year probably won’t work this year, but you just have to go to the racetrack and react and just do the best you can. Like I was just saying, do the best you can on that given weekend and if it’s enough, it’s enough. If not, just try to make the most of it and I feel like if we can do that, then the unknowns will be what they are, but you’ve got to adapt and you’ve got to adapt quickly, obviously, but you still have to adapt and just figure it out. Whoever figures it out the best that weekend will probably win those races at the places that are new for us.”
DOES THE 14 FEEL LIKE YOUR CAR NOW? HAVE YOU PUT YOUR STAMP ON IT? “Yeah, for sure. I tweeted about it a little bit ago. The first two years I definitely felt like I was always getting in Clint’s car or getting in Tony’s car and it was just kind of my name on it, but I was just filling in. Like that wasn’t me. I wasn’t the long-term guy for it, where now I feel like it is mine to a certain extent. It’s still Tony’s, obviously, but I feel like it’s my car now. When people think of the 14, I want them to think about me because that’s how I feel, where before I was thinking it was Clint’s car or Tony’s car. So, yeah, I definitely want to add a lot of history to the 14. It’s known for being this car that is always battling for championships and battling for wins and the driver is just this down-to-earth, just normal dirt racer and I feel like I want to add my history to the 14. So, I definitely feel like it’s mine now, which is nice. It definitely feels a lot better going into it, my third year, and even if I didn’t have the contract extension I would say it probably would feel a little bit more like mine, but now it definitely does just knowing it’s gonna have my name on it for years to come now. I’m looking forward to that side of it, for sure.”
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