Speedway Digest Staff
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It’s been a great week for you because your son, Brexton, is racing over at little Texas. From a parent standpoint, how exciting is it to see him race against these competitive drivers? And secondly, given how Texas is such a tricky track, what are some of the keys in getting around here successfully?
“Yeah, I mean it’s definitely been fun to come out to Texas a little early and have some dirt track action out on the backstretch there Thursday night and last night, as well. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good night last night for Brexton – something in the engine quit running and shut him off. But we won the first night, so that gives us a decent starting spot for him for tonight, but it could have been a lot better. Wish we were able to finish yesterday.
And then, as far as Texas (Motor Speedway) goes with the new configuration a couple of years ago - it really changed the dynamic of Texas a lot with how you drive it and what you do to get around here and what makes it fast. It’s really tricky in turns one and two – knowing where to lift and knowing how much to arc out the corner. You’ve got to get down to the bottom, and then how soon do you get back to the throttle to drive up off the corner and clear the wall on exit. So there’s just a lot of different variables down there. But three and four is still old Texas, per say - just a little bit more action down there with the bumps and such, especially with this new car. You run lower to the ground anyways, you run stiffer, so it already kind of reacts to those bumps a lot more than the old car did. But yeah, just try to be as fast as you can. You want to try and make that turn two exit back to that turn one entry as long of a straightaway as you can and stay in the gas in three and four as much as you can.”
Last Sunday, NASCAR announced that the Mexico Series is going to join you guys at the Clash next year. Just how important is it to have that crossover with an international series to showcase one of those series that you don’t really have that crossover with on a weekly basis?
“Yeah, I think that’s cool. I think we had a little bit of that crossover a couple of years ago at Phoenix (Raceway), they were there. But other than that, we haven’t seen much of the Mexico series, so that will be cool. Daniel Suarez spent a lot of time there in that series. I know there’s a few other drivers that are coming up through the ranks that have been in that series. One of those guys at Rev Racing with Max Siegel’s team in the ARCA Series, and then also Max Gutierrez, I think is his name, is another one that’s there. So yeah, there’s some notable names that I’ve heard of that’s come through there. It would be nice to get them some more recognition on a bigger stage.”
How do you feel about this round? You look at your stats – you won at Talladega Superspeedway, but plate races are plate races. Road courses, you’ve been up and down. Do you have any clue whether you’re going to be good in this round or not?
“Realistically, I mean I have no clue. I have high confidence here, just based off of how the No. 8 Chevy was here last year, and how the No. 24 Chevy was here last year. So we based most of our stuff off of that – just kind of jump in and go, and hopefully it’s good, fast and it’s where we need it to be. And then with Talladega (Superspeedway), it’s a crap shoot.. it’s luck. Go read my post-race presser – I can’t tell you how many times I probably said ‘we just got lucky today’, you know what I mean. And then with the (Charlotte) ROVAL, last year, I ran third there. There was a tire strategy at the end – we took tires and we were able to make it work for us. I feel like our road course program this year has been strong. Our results at Watkins Glen (International) weren’t indicative of that because of coming to pit road, the light turning on, having to go back out, cycling to the back, not being able to pass as well as you want to come back up through. So yeah, just lots of stuff. I would like to think that normal races, normal circumstances, we can make it through this round.”
Is there any different feeling for you in the playoffs, so far, compared to when you were at Joe Gibbs Racing? I think everybody expected you to challenge year in and year out, and here, there were a lot of questions going into the year. Is there any different – I don’t want to say pressure, but a different feeling about this playoff run versus others?
“Yeah, to your point, the pressure is always there. As a JGR or an HMS guy, you’re expected to transfer through – make it through and be in contention for the final four spots. And so, probably where I’m at, I think the Round of 16, a lot of people had us out. And so the Round of 12, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more that will probably have us out. Honestly, it’s just as simple as winning at Texas (Motor Speedway) and winning at Las Vegas (Motor Speedway) and you’re going to Phoenix (Raceway), you know what I mean. That’s all we can really focus on right now – what’s in front of us and this weekend is Texas. We’ll go out here with it being hot and sunny and go get the most we can.”
Being at RCR and looking back on the season, did you expect the success and the things that have gone your way so far this year with the No. 8 team?
“I would not have expected as good as we fired off – almost winning the Clash, almost winning the Daytona 500 and winning Fontana (Auto Club Speedway). I felt like that was a really, really good kick in the pants, and just an awesome feeling to be able to come over to a new team, a new organization, and have the opportunity to go out there and run that well and run that strong. There’s been a lot of ups and downs since then. We won, convincingly, at Gateway. We got lucky and won at Talladega. So we’ve got three wins on the year, which is great. But there’s been a lot of races where we’ve had top-five cars and something happened and not get a chance to show that. And then there’s been races where we haven’t had top-five cars and we finished top-five because we just stretched it out, made a pit call or something like that to get some spots. I feel like everybody is kind of that way though. There’s just so many variables and difference that you really don’t control your own destiny with this car as much as you used to. And so I think it’s a lot more equal, there’s a lot more parity. So when you do get drug down, it’s hard to make your way back up that ladder and it’s getting increasingly more difficult as guys figure this thing out.”
Can you talk about Kurt’s retirement and how he’s been since making that announcement?
“Yeah, I mean honestly, I haven’t seen him a lot. I feel like it was a burden kind of weighing on him, a lot of people always asking him. It’s like when you first get married - it’s like people asking you when you’re going to have kids, you know what I mean. So it’s like everybody asking Kurt – well when are you going to get back into the car.. when are you going to get back in the car. So you just kind of have to get it out there, make that announcement. I feel like it was a weight off of his shoulders. I feel like he’s a bit more relaxed now that he can try to figure out what his next steps are and what he wants to do. I think he talked about that.. going and running some different forms of racing and not long, 500 mile events, like the NASCAR Cup Series is. Also, his dedication to all the teams that he’s been with, and now being with 23XI - he works within there and does a lot of consulting stuff and whatnot. So it’s good for him to have something to do, but he’s got some sponsor stuff that he always takes care of, as well. He’s just busy.. living what he can right now. Probably just trying to collect a check (laughs).”
Back in January at the COTA tire test, you were asked about your persona coming over to Richard Childress Racing. And if you recall, you said you wore the black hat for a reason.. there needs to be excitement on and off the track. This year, you’re hearing cheers. Denny Hamlin is now the villain. I’m just curious, is villainhood in your rear view? What do you make of all of this change?
“I’m sure I can put myself right back into that category real easy (laughs). It only takes something spectacular to do. But yeah, I mean it’s different, right? I don’t know that I’ve ever been in this spot because when I first came into this sport, my brother had made a lot of enemies, both on and off the race track, and so I was kind of thrown into that right off the bat. But it’s been good to just kind of get a different light, be in a different light. And it’s been fun over at RCR. A lot of people have just kind of told me how much excitement there is around that, and me being a part of the No. 8 car, with RCR and everybody over there. Yeah, just keep rolling with it. When you’re in that spot like I was, and I guess Denny (Hamlin) is, you have to do what Denny is doing. It’s perfect.. you have to play with it, go with it, roll with it and egg them on. I mean I did it – there were so many quotes in the years past when I was talking about Jr. Nation and other stuff. Trust me, you’re never going to win those battles.. they’re hard, hard, hard to win. But I guess it makes you feel better inside.. it makes you feel bigger to say stuff like that. It’s fun to watch.”
There’s some rumors that this race will go from its current date in September to April. Obviously the schedule has been delayed a little bit. Given this weekend, both days are going to be 100 degrees, do you feel like April would be more preferable to have a race, or are you fine with this current date?
“Yeah, I mean for whatever reason, say it for what it is.. speak the truth – Texas (Motor Speedway) has been very lack-luster lately. So being a playoff race, I’m not sure that we’re indicative of that. I’ve actually seen a lot of people say that it shouldn’t be on the calendar, period. All of us drivers would highly, highly, highly not want it to be reconfigured again into an Atlanta-style race track, but I hear rumblings of that’s where it’s heading. So that wouldn’t be fun. But yeah, I think the heat – if you strictly talk about weather, the heat and stuff like that - look I give NASCAR fans all the credit in the world because they are a damn strong bunch. They are passionate and they are loving to our sport as much as we want them to be. But to be out in the 100 degree heat in aluminum grandstands, I’m not paying to do that. I’m getting paid to do that (laughs). So I give them credit where credit is due. That’s what it’s all about. You can talk about TV and everything else, but it’s all about putting people in the grandstands. If we have empty crowds, we’re not going to be on TV. Get people in the stands and make it easier for them.”
Since drivers may not want this as a playoff date, are there certain tracks where like – this should be in playoffs.. this should not be, or is it relatively interchangeable with the tracks that are currently there?
“No, I think it’s interchangeable. I think we’ve all kind of talked about how Phoenix (Raceway) needs to be moved around and not be the final race every year. So for me to say what race track should be in the final 10, I’m not going to pick because I really don’t care. I think it’s just a matter of what works; what tracks you kind of need and what mixture you need to be in there. You need some intermediates. You need a superspeedway, a road course, you need some of that stuff. You need variety, so yeah I wouldn’t pick, necessarily.”
You first started racing at 13 years old and you look at how many more kids are racing at a younger age. What do you see in that sense? If you were starting at 13 now, could you have moved up the ranks like you did? Is there still that place for someone who comes in late, or is it if you’re not racing at seven, nine, 10 years old, you’re not going to be able to make it because you just don’t have the laps?
“No, I think William Byron bunks that, right?”
I mean that was 10 years ago..
“Yeah, no I’m with you. He started at 13 years old, I believe, in legend cars or something like that. And so he was a late start, kind of like me.
You ask Joey Logano and he said he wouldn’t start his kid young. I think there was somebody that wrote something with what he said. But honestly, I think if your kids want to do it and just go out there and have fun and you don’t push them too hard early on, then let them go do it. That’s what we did with Brexton. I was pushy on him to get him better than what we were when we first started. But honestly, I think everything that we’ve done, he’s come so far and has been a really good listener and his growth of how fast he’s been in all the different things that he drives has been cool to watch. It’s only going to get tougher as you get older. Kids racing against kids – yeah, if your kid is really, really good, they’re going to win a lot like we do. But as we get older and as we get into other classes – right now, he’s eight years old and racing against 16 year olds, so it’s only going to get tougher as you get higher.. the competition, the cars, everything.
I think 10, 11, 12, you could probably get started around that age and still make it. I don’t see a problem in that. Obviously money and a name is going to take you there a lot faster than being a nobody with no money.. it’s just a fact. So I think there’s a lot of drivers out there that I get to see racing with Brexton that do have the potential and could make it someday. It’s just a matter of if they’ll ever get seen and picked up.”
You referenced the heat earlier. Is there a point where it’s too hot to compete? Are there any other extra precautions you take for a weekend like this?
“I don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t know if there’s ever ‘too hot’, but like Gateway this year, I think we saw a couple of people in the grandstands that had to be taken out of the grandstands because it was too hot.. had a heat stroke or something. I think we saw that the first year at Gateway. I think it was 98-99 degrees, the track was coming apart and everything else. People were falling out of the grandstands. Heat is sometimes a dangerous thing, right? These cars are really hot. We’re in 140-150 degree cockpit temperatures, so it gets warm out there, for sure. But you have to be conditioned for it, for us, to withstand that. And a lot of us are, so I feel like our bodies are more accustomed to that than some others.”
How would perceive your career evolution in the past 20 years, in terms of what you experienced both as a person and as a driver?
“Wait for my book.. I’m not writing a book (laughs).
I don’t know, just everything, right? Just learning, growth and figuring things out - whether it’s in life, on the race track, working, work ethic, professionalism, all that sort of stuff. I’m not professional anyways at speaking, so hard for me to say exactly. I’ve done a lot of really cool things and been fortunate in the positions I’ve been in. I’ve had a lot of great experiences and have won a lot of races; won a lot of championships and it’s been amazing. To me, I feel like since having a family and things like that, it’s been really fun on that front to kind of learn, see perspective from a different set of eyes. That’s been really, really cool with my growth and who I’ve become the last few years. Just excited for the future.. still of what’s ahead. Like I said earlier, a lot of dumb stuff in the past. You learn from those and you try to better yourself forward, and I feel like a lot of that has happened.”
BUBBA WALLACE, No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Can you talk about starting up front as we kick off the Round of 12?
“I set there, and I was trying not to overthink it before the first round climbing in the car. I was thinking qualifying has become my road course resume – I suck when we get through the first round. I usually blow it going into the second. There’s nothing like putting that in your head and then you’re the fastest in your group. I really just wanted to execute for my team and show that I’ve been working hard not to do that and it paid off, but I really thought I gave it up in (turns) one and two so it will be interesting to go back and watch the broadcast and see just where we lined up. You have to have a car to be able to do that and to do that you have to have people to build that car. It’s all about the people at 23XI. Our team, the 23 team – the 45 as well. We are pushing each other to be better and better. It’s paying off, so I’m proud of the efforts. It’s nice for a moment, but tomorrow is the real job.”
Were you expecting to get the pole?
“Was I expecting it? I don’t know. Like I said, qualifying – I tend to try too hard, and overthink things. That’s my problem in life. I just need to go out and do. That was a good surprise. I knew in practice. Our car felt a little different the first lap, but I was like there is a lot of capability in this car. We found some adjustments that were okay and some that helped, but I knew for qualifying that I really needed to step up because I knew the car was there. The rest speaks for itself – now it’s like, do I need to trust it more? It’s not about trusting the car or trusting the team, it’s just this race track. You put me at Dover, I know what I’m going to do to nail it, but when you only have a lane-and-a-half to mess with, and you are using the majority of that, you can put yourself in a bad spot. There is nothing like trying to get something that – it’s definitely a massive payoff for us at the start, but in the end rebuilding a whole new car – you can’t get everything that you had in your best car. So trying to find that fine line of too much, and not enough and living right in the middle of it.”
What was it like behind the wheel?
“I held it wide open. SMT should say so. I know I didn’t lift. I thought round one was a little, and it showed that and I was pissed, so I was like I’m going for it. Only because, I really, really thought I botched (turns) one and two, so now you are telling me it’s great. That’s my thought process – I’m trying too hard. I was ahead, but you don’t know that. You are just going off of feel. A good car allows you to do those things and get away from some of the mistakes that I can create.”
What does it mean to you to move to the Round of 12 as one of the first diversity drivers that has had the success that you’ve had?
“We can’t discredit (Kyle) Larson and what he’s been able to do and win a championship there on the diversity side of things. I guess I’m following him – I’m second fiddle. Much like the rest of the field on any given weekend (laughter). I think it is just incredible to be where we are at, and just accomplish the things that we’ve been doing. I knew that we were a Playoff contender starting the year. We liked to make that stressful on ourselves and wait till Daytona to lock ourselves in, but about halfway through the season, you start figuring out where you lineup. I felt like we were an eighth-to-12th place car every weekend. Eighth is the round of 8. This weekend we are better than the majority. You never know what can happen in a race. You look at Kansas, and we were having a really good day until we weren’t. You have to live in the moment and conquer every moment. Things are evolving each and every lap, each and every minute. It’s trying to stay on top of that, not get complacent or let your mind wander. Stepping up to the plate and delivering and that is what that team has done today, so super proud of them.”
Did the track feel any different with this new tire?
“I don’t want to get up high and figure out that question for you. It feels the same as normal, but I’m in my normal little box. Not getting too high, not putting on too much of an edge. For the most part, it feels relatively the same. We will see tomorrow. It is going to be slick in lane two for sure.”
What is your focus on qualifying?
“I’m going to say all of what you just said. It takes everything. It takes everything to find out who you are as a person, who you are as a driver, how hard you can push yourself, how hard you can push the car. It takes a lot of understanding of self – that is the first step I believe. And then believing in yourself. That is the mental side of it, but when you surround yourself with the right group, the right people, the right team, right equipment – it helps all of those things consign with the others. I think this is just a really good start to my career. I know I’ve been doing my Cup career for six years now, but where we are at right now – we are getting hot at the right time and stepping up and delivering. It’s hard because I don’t want things to age bad, but we are talking about our start being so good, and tomorrow can just be a different day, but I think just from the outside of the car, appreciating where you are at in a sport and being at this level. I feel like I do belong in the Cup level, and we are continuing to prove that point, so it’s been fun to guide that ship.”
When you talk about pushing yourself – is it about pushing yourself to get that extra tenth or is it about backing yourself down to get that extra tenth?
“Both. This Next Gen car is so hard to drive, and you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. You sail it off in the corner anywhere too hard, then you get loose. You push the limits of the tire, so I’m going to underdrive that corner. Same results happen, because you didn’t get your diffuser down. We are talking thousandths of an inch, that’s what makes the difference between the best and just the okays, so trying to live in that best realm. It takes pushing those limits. I think you find that a little earlier on in your career, whether that’s in another series or not, you have to find where the limits are at. Working on your race craft, qualifying speed, solo speed – it takes a lot of trial and error. It's quicker for others, and I think I used to get really frustrated with that because I felt like growing up – I was beating all of these guys, so it’s like what the heck? But progression is different for everybody. Even in y’all’s line of work, it takes a long time for others. You have to sit back and enjoy the journey and trust the process and bust your ass all the way to the end.”
Are those words that you are saying or is that something that you now believe?
“I’m making it sound really good, but I’m like damn I should listen to myself, it sounds okay, unless someone tells me otherwise.”
You said earlier that the Round of 12 is the hardest round. Is that still true after getting the pole?
“Yeah, it’s just qualifying. They don’t pay anything. It looks good on paper. This track is very treacherous. We have the best track position right now, but we know with strategy, everything is going to change and evolve. We are going to get behind at some point, so it is just a matter of making the most of every situation that we are in. Right now, we start on the pole, if we lead all the laps – some people may pit and cut it. You are going to get behind at some point, so we’ve got to figure out how to get back up there, but you can’t get complacent on the small victories. It takes a lot of them to get to a big victory, but it’s a good start.”
Ford Qualifying Results:
2nd - Chris Buescher
3rd - Brad Keselowski
17th - Michael McDowell
20th - Joey Logano
21st - Aric Almirola
22nd - Kevin Harvick
23rd - Ryan Blaney
25th - Ryan Preece
30th - Harrison Burton
31st - Chase Briscoe
32nd - Austin Cindric
33rd - Zane Smith
35th - JJ Yeley
36th - Todd Gilliland
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang -- (Qualified 2nd)
“That was definitely encouraging. It stinks to get bumped by the last car at the end like that. That is a bummer. But it is the first part of the weekend. Our Fastenal Mustang had a ton of speed there in qualifying and it is our best qualifying effort of the year so I am really proud of that. I am proud to have both the RFK Fords up here. It is a good start for us at a track that we have been looking forward to for a long time. It is hot and slick and we were still able to put good speed down, so I am happy with that. It is a good start for us.”
WITH HOW HOT IT WILL BE TOMORROW, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO START UP FRONT TOMORROW? “It is huge. This is a very track-position-sensitive race track and with the heat this weekend I think it will be even more. With that in mind, I guess this probably puts us in the non-preferred lane for the start but we will be watching this Xfinity race very closely and try to pull what we can out of it and see what we can learn for tomorrow.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 6 BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang -- (Qualified 3rd)
YOU AND CHRIS BOTH HAD SPEED AGAIN TODAY IN QUALIFYING, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TOMORROW AND FOR THE MOMENTUM YOU HAVE GOING AS AN ORGANIZATION? “It was a solid day for us. We didn’t have the speed that I think what we saw from the 23 car but both Chris and I had really strong laps and put ourselves in position for a great day on Sunday. We are pumped to see what we can make of that and hopefully score a lot of points and maybe win the race.”
TRACK POSITION IS ALWAYS KEY HERE, BUT ESPECIALLY WITH HOW HOT AND SLICK IT WILL BE TOMORROW, SO HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO QUALIFY WELL HERE? “Yeah, track position will be key all day and having a good pit stall is going to be super helpful and I am thankful for that. But it is also a good sign of the speed you have in your car too.”
Ford Performance PR
Round 9 of the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season changed the landscape of the title battle in dramatic fashion. The drivers made the first EuroNASCAR 2 race in NASCAR GP Germany a memorable one: with intense battles and all across the field, there was plenty of action in the division’s first race at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben. After sixteen exciting laps, Paul Jouffreau drew all the spotlight on himself with his second victory of the year. The RDV Competition star led the race from start to finish and beat Alberto Naska by six seconds, but they both came out as victors in the grand scheme of things because championship leader Vladimiros Tziortzis failed to take the start.
Starting from the pole, the driver of the #3 RDV Competition Ford Mustang managed to defend his lead at the first turn and tried to distance Naska. The Italian driver did his best to keep up with the talented youngster, but he lost some time in traffic and had to settle for second place. The win provisionally puts Jouffreau on top of the EuroNASCAR 2 standings with eight points on Naska and 30 on Tziortzis, but all drivers will drop their two worst regular season results at the end of the NASCAR GP Germany and that will further shake up the classification. With one race to go in the regular season, there will be plenty at stake for Round 10 on Sunday.
“For sure this victory is good!” said Jouffreau, who after Qualifying declared that he wanted to focus only on winning races to conquer the title. “The pace we have was just really good, but we had some issues with lapped cars that slowed Naska down. Since that moment, I think we both decided to lift off a little bit to preserve the tires for tomorrow. Every time I was lifting, Naska was doing it even more. We preserved our tires well, so I expect it to be a close fight tomorrow!”
Martin Doubek fended off multiple challenges from both his teammate Gil Linster and Claudio Cappelli to claim the final podium position. A slow puncture put a stop to Linster's offense, but there was no such issue for Cappelli. Fourth under the checkered flag, the Italian came close to his first overall podium of the season and was rewarded with the win in the Legend Trophy for drivers aged 40 and above. Patrick Schober secured fifth ahead of Melvin de Groot, who was also second in the Legend Trophy ranks.
A five-second time penalty for a false start did not stop Thomas Toffel. The Swiss driver finished seventh, more than seven seconds ahead of Thomas Dombrowski at the line. The two also climbed the Rookie Trophy podium in the same order. Riccardo Romagnoli completed the top-3 in Legend Trophy in ninth with Roberto Benedetti rounding out the top-10 finishers. The final spot on the Rookie Trophy podium was filled by Jack Davidson, who had to put up a comeback after an incident with his teammate Nick Schneider on lap five. Arianna Casoli scored her seventh Lady Trophy win of the year in 20th place.
Round 10 of the exciting and unpredictable EuroNASCAR 2 season will start the NASCAR GP Germany action on Sunday at 10:10 AM CEST. Be sure not to miss the races from the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben as they will be broadcast live on EuroNASCAR’s YouTube channel, Motorsport.tv and several TV services from all around the world.
You started driving in a car at age 14, several years after a lot of other competitors. As more and more kids are racing at an earlier age, do you think that somebody could be in your position a decade later by not competing until the age 14 on the track? Is there still that path that you were able to do through iRacing?
“I mean, I think you can still do it that way, just because I feel like it’s more of a maturity thing. I don’t think that me starting younger would have yielded the same results. I just feel like me starting when I did, I felt like I understood things. I watched racing for a long time and I had a little bit better idea of what I was looking to do. I feel like starting really young is fine, if that’s what you choose to do. But it’s easy to get burnt out, too. So you don’t want to be burnt out at 14 years old - have raced for so many years, so many weekends, that you don’t have much of a life outside of that. I feel like I’ve learned a lot of things by starting when I did and kind of going from there, and still having the desire and the drive now to do it every weekend.”
Can maturity still overcome laps run?
“Yeah, I think it’s quality of laps. I don’t think just any laps are good. I think I’ve spent plenty of time at go-cart tracks and going to race different things, and I can’t say that all of those laps were valuable to what I do on Sunday’s. I think some of them were. It’s more quality than quantity, I think, and getting yourself in competitive environments where it’s very difficult to compete and win. I think that’s really important because having that false sense of confidence that you’re going to win every race is not real. So you have to put your kid in different situations that he’s going to be challenged – see how they perform and see if they enjoy it. If they enjoy that challenge, that’s usually what it takes. When you get to this level, you’re only going to win maybe 10 to 20 percent of the time. So it’s very difficult – you go a lot of weeks losing.”
The temperature Sunday is supposed to be around 100 degrees. Is there a point where it’s too hot to compete and what precautions are you taking?
“Yeah, I mean it’s certainly going to be really hot. Last year was around 96 degrees.. I was looking at that, for reference. But I do think it’s going to be tough. These cars are really hot. We take a lot of measures to help cooling on our side, with the cool shirts and all those things. So hopefully all of that stuff works well and we can have a smooth day. It’s nice that it’s 100 miles shorter. It’s a bigger race track, so there’s a little bit more airflow and less work in the corners. I feel like if you were at Bristol (Motor Speedway) and it was 100 degrees, you’d have guys really falling out. But here, I think it will be a little bit easier.”
I assume you watched last year’s race – what’s it like to watch and see all those tires blow, and you had your deal with (Denny) Hamlin that created drama for a couple of weeks. What are those feelings when you’re watching it – you’re trying to learn, but there was all this stuff going on?
“Yeah, there was a lot of chaos last year. I think what I looked at is how fast our car was. What inspired me was how good we were last year – how we could pass through the field. We missed out on a couple of stage points here and there, I thought, during the race. Stage Two, just the way that it went at the end there, we probably missed out on two. And then Stage One, as well. I feel like we could have had even more points that day. So that’s kind of what I look at – how do we maximize that day a little bit better if we have the same speed this year, or hopefully a little bit better. I like this race track and I feel like I was able to navigate through traffic. I’m hopeful that tires aren’t an issue this year. They did a tire test here, so I’m trusting all of that stuff. And for us, just hopefully bring similar speed.”
It's been a great season for your team to this point. Looking back on what you’ve accomplished so far, personally, how does that make you feel to say – I’ve had a dominate season to this point?
“Yeah, I haven’t really reflected on that too much. I thought about that over the last couple of weeks, or really the last week, in general, as we start the next round – trying to enjoy what we’ve accomplished if this doesn’t work for me. I haven’t thought about how good of a season it’s been or anything like that, so definitely not where my mind is. Maybe in November, I might look back and reflect and say it was a great year, but there’s still a lot to accomplish and I feel like we’re just starting to get into the meat of the season. This is an important time of the year and it’s hard to just reflect and look back.”
Getting through this race and looking forward to Talladega Superspeedway and the ROVAL, being the two wild card races, so to speak for the next couple of races – that momentum, those points, are going to help you. But how do you tackle those two races to move onto the next round?
“Yeah, I mean Talladega (Superspeedway) has been hit-or-miss for us in the last couple of years. We’ve had solid finishes. We’ve been good at avoiding crashes with my spotter and we’ve been good at managing our way to the front. I think we can get a little bit better at getting some stage points here and there. So I look at that – try to make better decisions. Definitely a lot of studying that’s going to go into this week to figure out what we need to do a little bit better for Talladega, based on Daytona (International Speedway) and Talladega in the spring. I’m a little nervous about that one.
The (Charlotte) ROVAL, I’m confident in it. I think we’ve always been fast there. It’s always been a good track for me, and just winning Watkins Glen (International), I think we’ve got a good road course feel. We just have to get through Talladega, really.”
With how difficult it is to pass here, typically, what is the importance of getting a good qualifying lap in and the importance of strategy?
“Yeah, it is important, for sure. But last year, I saw a lot of passing. As crazy as that was to see, I thought there was a lot of passing throughout the field last year. I think this Next Gen car yields itself to have some of that. With it being hot out, I think you’re going to move around the track some within those two grooves that we have here. You’re going to be off the throttle and able to pass people. Not a huge deal to start in the teens, I would say, but you definitely don’t want to start in the 20s. And it is a short first stage, so you have to get a lot done quickly. So hopefully we start in the top-10 like we have been and hopefully on the front-row. But if not, your day’s not done.”
I know you said you don’t really want to reflect on some of the accomplishments that you’ve had so far this year, however, you’ve improved every season, statistically. Do you feel like this year is the year that you legitimately can go for the championship? Do you have the expectation and confidence to possibly be able to do that?
“I mean, I definitely think it’s my best chance that I’ve had, so far. I look at being 25 years old – I feel like I have a lot of opportunities at this, so this is a learning experience to see what the pressure is like getting to Phoenix (Raceway). So hopefully we make it past Martinsville (Speedway) this year. We were close last year and hopefully we just get a little bit closer. I feel like each year has been that steady progression, steady learning curve, so I just want to keep that going and try to make that next step.
Yeah, I think it’s a great opportunity. I think our team is probably as good as it’s ever been, so we’re definitely really capable.”
You do have the most wins on the season and it’s your best year, so far. Is there one thing you can point to that’s made the difference between this year and years past?
“I don’t know – I think we just came out of the off-season with a lot of hunger and a lot of drive to be better, and I think we prepared like that throughout the off-season. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) was working on Christmas Eve, so I think it really never stopped, and I think that started with him and then trickled throughout the team. Myself, I never really took a break. I was racing throughout the off-season, so I think a lot of things were different. We didn’t really settle for what we did last year – having a couple of wins and getting close. I think we went at it full-steam and tried to get better, and it showed once we showed up at Las Vegas (Motor Speedway) for the third race of the year and we were really strong. I think it just continued throughout the year and we just have to keep improving.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang – YOU ARE MAKING YOUR 300TH START IN THE CUP SERIES, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO MAKE IT THIS FAR IN YOUR CAREER AND WHAT HAS TEAM PENSKE GIVEN TO YOU THAT HAS ENRICHED YOUR CAREER? “It is hard to believe we are at 300 already. It seems like just yesterday we were at Kansas in 2014. It has been a fun ride and I have gotten to drive for a lot of great people, from Penske to the Wood Brothers family and a lot of paths crossed which has been really special. I definitely never would have thought I would be here. I did an interview with someone from NASCAR and they told me how many my dad had and I think that will be a more eye-opening day if I get to have more starts than my dad did. Penske has been … I owe them the world. I walked in their doors in 2012 and we are sitting here today. Like I said, great people and great opportunities and I am very fortunate to get those opportunities. I am lucky that we have found some decent success. It has definitely gone by very quickly, that is for sure.”
THIS IS A TROUBLESOME ROUND FOR SOME BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING THAT YOU SHOULD THRIVE IN THIS PARTICULAR ROUND HERE AND TALLADEGA COMING UP. YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO NEXT WEEK AND THE WEEK AFTER WHERE IT COULD BE CHAOTIC? “Yeah it is. I think each round has certain tracks about them that make them unique. This round is definitely the more unique round with three very different race tracks with here and Talladega and then the Roval. I don't know. I don't think you can pick a guy that is a favorite at Talladega because you never know what can happen there. We had had good runs at Talladega but you never know what can happen. I think the best thing that we have talked about for that race is to try to control it like we have in the past and get a few of our cars up there and control the front of the pack. Hopefully you can maintain that. We kind of see it is difficult to go from the back to the front now at speedways so you try not to bury yourself. It starts off with a good run here and a race track where we have lacked a little speed on the mile-and-a-half tracks recently. We are coming here with some new stuff that hopefully will play out for us and kick the round off on the right foot. This was a wild race here last year and I don't think you will see as much tire issues this year but we will see. Just trying to take it one race at a time and hope that we find a little speed here and there, especially if you get to the Round of 8. If you get past this round you really have to perform at those three tracks in the Round of 8 but we gotta get there first.”
WHAT IS THE DYNAMIC AT PENSKE RIGHT NOW. NOBODY WOULD HAVE EXPECTED JOEY (LOGANO) TO BE OUT IN THE FIRST ROUND AND YOU BATTLING TO MAKE IT TO THE NEXT ROUND. HOW HAS THE ORGANIZATION RALLIED AROUND YOU TO CARRY THE TORCH? “It is a shame the 22 group got knocked out last week. Those guys just had an unfortunate situation happen and just barely missed it. I don't think anyone thought that the defending champs were going to get knocked out early. I think you try to make it as positive as you can in our group and maybe we can try some stuff for next year or try some stuff for these tracks in the Round of 8 if we can get there. I think we do a good job of teamwork at the Penske shop with the crews and drivers working together and looking toward the future. You just try to make the best of situations and hopefully we have a plan to do that.”
WILL YOU KNOW IF THERE WILL BE TIRE ISSUES AFTER THIS SHORT PRACTICE SESSION? “Yeah, I don't think you will have a good idea after practice because I feel like last year in the race it was more laps on tires. Some kind of heat cycles we saw that last year with guys with low air or aggressive cambers and they would run a little bit and kind of beat the tire up and almost crack them, like they cracked the sidewall and tread of them and when they cool off and heat back up they are damaged and then they had problems. I don't think in practice you will get a good idea. I know Goodyear came with a new durability tire and hopefully, it plays out. I don't think we have seen as much tire issues this year as last year, but this is a funky place. The ends being so different and three and four being so rough. If you are low in one and two you will be super low in three and four and you will be hitting the race track and pounding the tire and hitting limiters and stuff like that and it just kind of abuses them. I don't know if you will have a huge idea after practice but hopefully there is not as many issues as last year and if there is you hope you aren’t the one with the problems.”
YOU MENTIONED IT HAS BEEN A BIT OF A STRUGGLE FOR YOU GUYS ON THE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS, BUT HERE AT TEXAS, IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE SPEED IS THIS THE KIND OF TRACK YOU CAN WIN WITH A GOOD PIT STRATEGY? “You never know how this race plays out. It is a different mileage than years past. We have 400 miles here this weekend and you saw it last year a lot and in the past with a lot of different pit strategies, especially if you get that odd caution like 20 or 15 laps before the end of a stage. I think there are a lot of teams that are out of the playoffs that will flip it to get track position and that puts teams that are in the spot to get stage points that are in the playoffs in a tough spot. What do you chase? Do you chase points and try to rally back or chase a win and try to flip it? I think it depends on who you are racing and you try to judge. It is also what speed you have in your car and if you think you have a winning car that has the speed to win, if so you definitely flip and try to play for that. I think it depends on how cautions fall. You can have all the plans in place but they get thrown out the window really quickly and I feel like teams are really good at improvising and making calls on the fly. You just hope you hit it right. You never know exactly how you will hit it and you try to make the best call you can at the time. If it plays out for you or not, it is just kind of the way things go. You just hope it does play out for you well.”
IS THIS STILL A TRACK OR RACE, ESPECIALLY 400 MILES NOW, WHERE IF YOU QUALIFY 30TH YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RECOVER? “Yeah, if you do qualify back there you would like to have the mindset that you can recover from it. It would be tough for sure, recovering from here, especially a place like this where it isn’t as wide as like Kansas where you have options. A lot of how you qualify today will eliminate or open up a lot of different opportunities for your strategy. It is super important to qualify well here. It just makes your race a lot easier and makes your start of the day way easier.”
IT DEFINITELY FEELS LIKE THIS SEASON THERE ISN’T REALLY A CLEAR-CUT CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITE. IS THAT A FAIR STATEMENT TO MAKE? “Yeah, a little bit. I feel like there are a couple of teams that you realize they have run probably the best this year. I kind of look at the 24 group, the 5 group and the 19 group. They have probably been the three best drivers and teams this year. They kind of always have speed and the 5 was super impressive in the first round. Their speed was ridiculous and their average finish was like 2.5. They are running really good right now. But yeah, you try not to look at championship favorites. You try to understand the spot you are in and try to run well week in and week out. These cars are so finicky and someone can go on a run for a month and find something. I look at Roush and what they did, RFK, they found something and boom they were running right up front and winning races just like that. You just never know when things can it. it is hard. Your comment of not really having a championship favorite, I look at more the consistency of all year and how people run, but what RFK did, that can happen to anybody. You just hope that you do it at the right time.”
THE FORDS AS A WHOLE HAVE KIND OF STRUGGLED ALL YEAR BUT WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR TEAM THAT YOU ARE STILL AROUND IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I feel like in the beginning of the year with the new nose we had at the Ford camp, it took everyone a while to kind of get used to it and figure out what we needed to do to optimize our aero balance. I feel like we had a good handle on it and we hit it in May at Charlotte and then RFK found the speed they did towards the end of the regular season was really impressive. It shows me that it is out there. You can find it. It is just a matter of getting everything perfect to be able to compete. I feel like our window of success is smaller than others as far as Chevy and Toyota. I feel like they have a bigger box of going into a weekend and maybe they are a little bit off but they are still competitive enough to run top-five and still work on it. I feel like our window has been a little smaller this year to where we have to be a little more perfect than everybody else to be able to compete. We can do it. It is there. You can definitely make it happen. It was a really good job by our group in the first round to not have any huge mistakes to take us out and being resilient. That goes a long way.”
YOU HAVE HAD A COUPLE OF PRETTY HARD LICKS THIS YEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RECOVERY AFTER THE WRECK AT DAYTONA, THE WEEK FOLLOWING AND YOUR PROCESS? “Yeah, Nashville and Daytona were a couple of the hardest hits I have had in my career in anything. I would say the Nashville wreck, the recovery from that one was harder than Daytona because it was more kind of mental and head stuff going on. That was a tougher recovery period. Daytona I was just sore. I was super sore until about Friday morning before Darlington. It was nice that we had Sunday off. I never moved on Sunday. I got off the couch to go to the bathroom and that was about it. I tried to recover the best I could. I would much rather have body soreness than the mental fogginess that I had after Nashville. It is unfortunate, those races, but I am lucky I was still able to race the next week. That is the biggest thing. We were able to go to the track the next week and compete and that speaks a lot to what we do at our race shop for diver safety in the car and what NASCAR has done to push the safety forward in this car. Those things happen and they are unfortunate but I think the back end of it is you learn from them and try to be better as a sport. Whether it is the car, what we do at the race shop to try to get me safe. They are unfortunate things but I think positivity comes out of them.”
ONE FORECAST CALLS FOR THE TEMPERATURE TO FEEL LIKE 109 DEGREES HERE AT RACE TIME TOMORROW. AT WHAT POINT IS IT TOO HOT TO COMPETE AND WHAT PRECAUTIONS ARE YOU TAKING? “I don't know if it is too hot to compete. If you have people passing out I guess. When the temperature is that high, I worry more for people in the grandstands sitting out all day and stuff like that. That concerns me more than me being in the car. As drivers, we understand you are going to have days like this and hot race days and you just know that what you do and you rely on what you do as far as prep work, training and hydration and that stuff is going to work no matter if it is 110 or 50 degrees. I don't change up what I do and I have never had an issue too much. I think it is tougher for the people watching the race outside in the heat and a little more difficult for them. For me personally, I think it is just part of the job.”
PART OF THE JOB IS A UNIQUE DESCRIPTION. SITTING IN A CAR THAT WILL BE 125 OR 130 DEGREES, WHAT IS THAT LIKE? WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES? “Honestly it is just a day at the office and the heat is turned on or the AC is broken. It is just one of those things. It is one of those things where you don't think about it when you are racing. When it is green and you are running, you aren’t thinking about how hot it is or whatever. If you have a red flag and you are sitting there baking in an oven, then you are thinking about it. Or pre-race, you think about it being hot outside. But when you get in the car and in the mindset of competing, those things fade away and you focus on the job and just do your best. It is one of those things.”
Ford Performance PR
A tape-delayed broadcast of the Hearn Industrial Glass City 200 Presented by DTS Drive Train Specialists and Courtyard by Marriott at Toledo Speedway will air on MAVTV Monday night, September 25 at 8:00pm ET as part of MAVTV’s All American Racing lineup.
The 2023 edition of the Glass City 200 ushered in a new era of the marquee event, welcoming the ASA STARS National Tour for the first 200-lap Template-bodied Super Late Model Glass City 200. It was race eight of the inaugural season for the series as they took to the Ohio half-mile.
The race featured exciting action from lap one to 200; from side-by-side racing, to pit strategy throwing a wrench into drivers’ plans, to a first-time winner.
The ASA STARS National Tour heads to Winchester Speedway on Sunday, October 15 for the Winchester 400 Presented by Vore’s Welding and Steel. The race will also serve as the season finale for the ASA/CRA Super Series. Tickets can be purchased by calling the track office at (765)584-9701 during office hours.
For the full ASA STARS National Tour schedule, plus Super Late Model rules and other information, please visit the series website at starsnationaltour.com, or be sure to follow the series on social media (Facebook: STARS National Series | Twitter: @racewithstars | IG: @starsnational).
ASA STARS PR
AM Racing announced today their hope to accelerate their presence in the NASCAR Xfinity Series by expanding to two cars next season.
The decision to take this expected step in their "Future Focused" initiative underlines their commitment to building a robust platform within one of NASCAR's premier national series.
"With our focus on becoming a predominant championship-caliber team, adding a second car to our team's program is a crucial step in that process," said team owner Kevin Cywinski.
"We have made great strides in 2023, but the opportunity to add additional resources and expand our footprint for 2024 will strengthen our program for the long term."
AM Racing, having transitioned from a full-time competitor in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN® Truck Series to the Xfinity Series this season, has already showcased its potential with driver Brett Moffitt.
The team's inaugural season has seen impressive achievements, including a career-best qualifying effort of fourth at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway and an exceptional fourth-place finish at the Xfinity Series inaugural Chicago Street Course event in July.
Overall, in 27 races this season, Moffit has delivered one top-five, eight top-10s, 15 top-15s, 19 top-20s and an average finish of 16.6.
Reflecting on their accomplishments and looking ahead to their expected dual-team endeavor, Cywinski emphasized the shared vision of the team members and the strengthening infrastructure.
"Housing two competitive NASCAR Xfinity Series teams allows the opportunity to bring additional qualified team members who share the same family-oriented vision and integrity to building and producing two equally fast race cars with one goal: winning," Cywinski added.
While the first-year Xfinity Series team came up short of making the Playoffs, the team remains focused on leaving its mark in the remaining six races this season.
“We are proud of our successes this season,” sounded AM Racing team president Wade Moore. “Brett has done an outstanding job behind the wheel to try and execute and make the most out of every race weekend. We have not been perfect, but we have worked hard to make consistent strides, and I think our recent performance at Kansas Speedway is an example of what we can produce every week.
“We will continue to work hard over the next six weeks to make sure we not only continue to bring a competitive product to the track but continue to put ourselves in a position for good finishes.”
Additional details regarding AM Racing's expected expansion will be revealed in due course.
For more on AM Racing, please visit AMRacingteam.com, like their Facebook page (AM Racing), or follow them on Instagram and X | Twitter @AMRacingNASCAR.
The Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 (200 laps | 300 miles) is the 27th of 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series races on the 2023 schedule. Practice begins on Saturday, September 23, from 9:35 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. Qualifying immediately follows at 10:05 a.m. The 38-car field will take the green flag shortly after 2:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. ET) with live coverage on the USA Network, the Performance Racing Network (Radio), and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. All times are local (CT).
AM Racing PR