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Adam Driver Named Indianapolis 500 Honorary Starter
Indiana native Adam Driver, whose various accolades include nominations for two Academy Awards, four Primetime Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, will serve as honorary starter for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, waving the green flag Sunday, May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Driver will next be seen starring in Michael Mann’s “Ferrari” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis.”
“Adam is going to experience one of the most exhilarating, powerful and exciting moments in all of sports as he stands atop the flag stand and waves the green flag to officially start the world’s greatest race,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “Indy 500 Race Day is full of meaning for our drivers, our fans across the globe and most especially our active-duty military members and veterans. Adam is not only a star recognized across the world but also a former U.S. Marine who will be a very fitting addition to ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”
Driver’s many film credits include Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and “White Noise,” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” and “The Last Duel,” Leos Carax’s “Annette,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” to name a few. He is widely known for his role as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Driver also appeared as a series regular on HBO’s “Girls,” and is a three-time host on “Saturday Night Live.”
Driver has starred in numerous roles on and off-Broadway, including John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger,” and most recently in the first Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This.”
A Juilliard graduate and former U.S. Marine, Driver attended the University of Indianapolis for a year before his acceptance into Juilliard. Between films, Driver co-founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a non-profit organization that staged theatrical and musical performances for members of the military.
Live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge starts at 11 a.m. (ET) on NBC & Peacock. This year, Peacock will also host an extended pre-race window from 9-11 a.m. (ET).
Visit ims.com to purchase tickets for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 28 and for more information on the complete Month of May schedule at IMS.
Notes of Interest
● 600 Miles of Remembrance: The Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway is one of the most patriotic events in sports, honoring fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This weekend, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Smithfield Foods, and Aric Almirola will honor LCPL Daniel M. McVicker of the United States Marine Corps. In 2003, just months after turning 18, McVicker enlisted in the USMC after his heartfelt call to serve following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. McVicker was initially stationed at the Marine Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina. After his third attempt to volunteer for deployment to Iraq, he was assigned to the Combat Service Support Detachment 21, 2nd Expeditionary Force. On Oct. 6, 2005, McVicker lost his life while driving security detail during “Operation River Gate” near Al-Qaim, Iraq, when his Humvee struck an improvised explosive
device (IED). McVicker had a passion for life and found enjoyment in every activity he chose to participate in. He was a Boy Scout, and played flag football, soccer, baseball, basketball, high school football, and wrestled. Unfortunately, after suffering a foot injury late in his freshman year of high school, he was no longer involved in sports. His love then turned to music. He participated in high school musicals and became a member of a select group named “Young and Alive!” He was also voted by his peers to become one of the school’s mascots. McVicker’s ultimate goal was to become a chef. At home and on base, he entertained everyone with the wildest concoctions of delicious meals – most of them involving ranch dressing and chili powder. His family and friends remember his smile and contagious laugh complemented by an infectious personality. No matter what the situation, he always raised the spirits of those around him and brought a smile to people’s faces. His mother Carrie and sister Mollie will be in attendance at Charlotte this weekend to see Almirola pilot the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang with “Danny’s” name across the windshield.
● On Tuesday, May 16, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted Almirola for its final Mission 600 visit of the season, a day with Marines from the 2D LAR (Light Armor Reconnaissance) Battalion at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune. Mission 600 is a campaign that pairs NASCAR drivers with military bases designed to educate the NASCAR community about the day-to-day lives of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and to build meaningful connections between the worlds of motorsports and the military. Almirola, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter, flew in an MV-22 Osprey, participated in a tire-changing demonstration, learned about a variety of weapons systems, and fired an M242 Bushmaster from an LAV (Light Armored Vehicle). Almirola also served lunch to dozens of Marines, courtesy of Smithfield. Click here for imagery of the event.
● Almirola will be just as busy on the track as he will be off of it this week. Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET, Almirola will appear on FS1’s “NASCAR Race Hub.” Friday, Almirola will be the guest analyst in the booth for the ARCA Menards Series race at Charlotte, live on FS1 at 6 p.m. ET. Saturday, he’ll join Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Brad Keselowski in the FOX studio for the all-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series race broadcast.
● History at Charlotte Motor Speedway: In 17 starts, Almirola has one top-10 finish and has led four laps. Almirola also has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
● Driver Points: Almirola arrives at Charlotte 26th in the driver standings, 208 points out of first.
● Almirola’s career: In 437 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 92 top-10s, four poles, and has led 1,018 laps.
● Smithfield has been a sponsor of Almirola’s for the entirety of his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career – making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in NASCAR. Smithfield is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 63,000 team members are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Smithfield is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. The company has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including its industry-leading commitments to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30 percent across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030. Smithfield believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to local communities.
● Beyond the 10 YouTube Series:In 2023, Almirola is continuing to share his life beyond the No. 10 Ford with season five of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and the show gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook.
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You visited Camp Lejeune last week for a day in the life with Marines of the 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion. How cool was that?
“It makes me feel blessed to get the opportunity to come and engage with all of the people who are fighting for our freedom. From the moment we got in an Osprey and flew to the base, to get to do a simulated pit stop on an LAV (Light Armored Vehicle), and just seeing the team aspect of things really gives me a lot of enjoyment and makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily lives and in the business of work and life and we sometimes forget that these men and women are battling each and every day so that we can enjoy these freedoms with our family and friends. My dad was in the Air Force and I was born at Eglin Air Force base, so I know firsthand what these families have sacrificed. Without these men and women, we don’t get to race. We get to live without fear because of the brave members of our military who put their lives on the line for us. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for our troops and I hope that our visit to Camp Lejeune made them feel appreciated and let them know that we value their efforts. That’s what the Memorial Day weekend race is all about, remembering and honoring those who fought to keep this country free.”
Why is the Coke 600 such a crown jewel race?
“It’s a hundred miles longer than any other race we run, which provides a challenge in and of itself. On top of that, there is an extra stage, which gives us the opportunity to earn more points. The cars have less grip when the sun is out and they tend to slip and slide a lot more. As the sun goes down, the track gets more grip and we start going faster. That’s one of the very unique things about this race. What you have from a drivability and balance standpoint from the racecar at the beginning of the race is not what you have at the end. You’re trying to figure out what it takes to get your car to win at the end and you have to be good at all facets because there are a lot of points to be made.”
Although the finishes with the intermediate package have not been indicative of your speed, do you feel you are headed in the right direction to have a successful race at Charlotte?
“I do. I think we found some speed with this package at Kansas and Darlington, where we were a top-10 car all day. We struggled at Dover and really missed the balance, but I think we bounced back really well at Kansas and Darlington. We’ve had years where we headed to Charlotte with a lower level of confidence because of where we thought our package was compared to the rest of the field, but this year is different. We have to qualify well, for starters. Stage points are huge at Charlotte and we need to accumulate as many as possible.”
Chevrolet Indycar at Indianapolis 500: Dreyer & Reinbold Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started here this morning. Joining us today, Dennis Reinbold, owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; on the far side Don Cusick, Cusick Motorsports team owner, and a special guest there in the middle. Dennis, we'll turn it over to you to make the announcement.
DENNIS REINBOLD: Okay, I guess this is not a shocker right here, but Graham is going to replace Stefan in the car for us the rest of the week and coming Sunday. That is our announcement. I guess we're all done.
No, it's been a whirlwind. I don't have a script, so that's kind of consistent with how the last day has gone. We're excited to put Graham in the car. It was a tough deal, we had the month going really well with Stefan. He is getting further evaluation today, I know, going in for X-rays here soon to sort of determine the path of what's best for him.
You saw the release yesterday that he was ruled out and what happened with all that.
We had to do a lot of work yesterday afterwards to get things put together with Graham, and there were a lot of hurdles involved, and Graham can speak to some of those.
A lot of things what I want to touch on is just how much the INDYCAR community really, in a situation like this, rallies around each other and all the help that we got from everyone in the paddock and elsewhere. We even had Mike and Sandy Fink, longtime friends, showed up with dinner for us last night as we were working to get our backup car prepared for Graham.
It just goes all the way through the paddock, and it's really a touching feeling that so many competitors can come together and work together. A lot of credit to the Chevy guys who we talked with.
There's just so many conflicts and things that we had to work through to put this together that -- it's the Indy 500, and people come together to make this event special and make it great like it is.
I don't know, I'm rambling on, but that's kind of how I feel. It's really been a moving experience, a lot of emotions through the last 24 hours, and just really touched by all the support that we've had.
THE MODERATOR: Don, just your thoughts about the last 24 hours?
DON CUSICK: Yeah, first I'd like to let everybody know I did speak with Stef this morning. Obviously he's fairly crushed emotionally but supportive of what we're doing here, and we can't wait to get him better and get him back out here.
He really appreciates all the outpouring and concern, and yeah, hopefully get him back here on Sunday and walk down the track with him.
As far as all of this craziness goes, definitely a first for us. Definitely a first for me. Didn't really expect to be sitting here having this conversation. But here we are.
Very, very thankful to Dreyer & Reinbold, Dennis and Brett for putting this together, and super thankful that Graham was able to do this, as well.
We're excited for Sunday. It's going to be a little bittersweet, obviously, but glad we can go forward and do it, and super appreciative of INDYCAR, the racing family and the individual sitting over here to my right.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, Graham, to you. Now you'll be hopping in the No. 24 DRR/Cusick Motorsports Care Keepers Chevrolet. Your thoughts.
GRAHAM RAHAL: First off, I think as everybody said, I certainly feel for Stef. I know how much he puts into this, year in and year out, to get the opportunity to be here and to see what happened to him is never good.
I know emotionally the roller coaster he's on right now, unfortunately. I've just lived it, as well, and I know that he'll be back really strong and better than ever.
That said, too, the Wilson family certainly in my life has had a very strong impact. As I said yesterday, I told AC, everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but when I got the call from Dennis yesterday afternoon, right away I felt compelled that this was, for some reason, my calling was to be here, to be able to help as best I could and to fill in.
Clearly this is Stef's ride. It's his seat. He's done a great job to get it to the point that it is. It was an honor for me to receive the call.
To Dennis, to Brett, to Don, everybody that made that happen, I certainly am very grateful.
I must say, Dennis mentioned Chevy, and equally so Honda, for allowing me to do this. I think I told Dennis when he called me, I said, I'm not really sure I want to waste your time. I've spent my entire career in a Honda. I've never driven anything other than that. I'm not really sure that we'll be able to get the releases in place to be able to make this happen.
They really came together, two manufacturers, to allow this to take place, to allow us to go race on Sunday, and hopefully get this car moving towards the front and have a really, really strong run.
It's also kind of special for me in a way to come back. I drove for Dennis 13 years ago at Iowa. We had a really strong run there. Always admired what he's been able to do with his team, and Chase, I think the entire organization does a great job, as proven this month. They came out with Ryan -- I texted Ryan last Wednesday night, and I was like, damn, dude, you're going to win this thing. It was the best car I thought I saw all day.
Trust me, I'm excited at the opportunities ahead, as well. Make no mistake, I've made it clear, this is certainly Stef's ride, and I'm fortunate to be able to be in the position to be able to help and fill in, and like I said, hopefully we can have a really, really great Sunday.
Again, it's kind of a weird thing, as well. Care Keepers, which is the primary, Gary and Dina Tennyson, who own Care Keepers, have been very, very close friends of ours and supporters of our foundation for six, seven, eight years. Again, how this world works sometimes, it doesn't make sense at the time, but I remember when Gary called me about seven, eight months ago saying he was going to do this, I was thrilled for him. This is kind of a lifelong dream for him to work with Don, to get the opportunity to have his logo on a car here at Indy, and look where we are today. Who would have known.
Sometimes weird things happen in this world, and as I said, you don't have the answers for them up front, but we're fortunate to be here.
Q. You were very close to Stefan's brother, he was your teammate when you came into the Champ Car series in 2007. I imagine you're pretty good friends with Stef, also. When you think of that familial bond that you have with the Wilson family, you talked about a calling. Is that really something you reflected on?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Oh, for sure. I think about Justin a lot. When the call came, right away it was an immediate connection. Frankly, I think in many ways, Justin helped -- in more ways than one kind of shape my career, not only as a man and who you should be, how you should act, all that stuff, but also I remember in 2006 I was in Formula Atlantic. Of course I don't know why, but we had a joint autograph session with the Champ Car guys. We were in Portland. I was still dreaming that hey, maybe someday Formula 1, and Justin Wilson was the guy who told me that it was way too political and I didn't have the right filter to enter Formula 1.
If it were not for him, I probably would have kept chasing a different dream. In many ways, he did help me, but I do know as a teammate, too, when I was with him at Newman/Haas and then again with Dennis at Iowa, he's just a tremendous, tremendous guy, and Stef is right there with him.
As I said, their entire family I have the utmost respect for, and in a scenario like this, I felt very -- had it been something different, I don't know how compelled I would have been, particularly with the storylines of the last couple days.
Trust me, for me it was a little bit of a bittersweet moment, do I do it, do I not, is it appropriate, is it not, but in this circumstance with Dennis, with Don, with Gary, with Stef, it just felt right.
As I said, I can't thank Honda and Chevy and all the sponsors. It's been a tough week for our sponsors, as well, and for everybody who's been able to make this possible to release me to come over here. I'm super grateful.
Q. Also from the depths of despair that you felt Sunday, hugging your daughter and crying into her face, knowing how you're back in the race, how do you describe the lowest low and now a very high?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, the positive, she's two years old so she doesn't really know what it was all about. All she told me when I hugged her was ooh, daddy, you're wet. I was like, of course, I've been sweating for an hour.
No, I felt every emotion over the last couple of days. But as I've always said, and Dennis knows this well, that's Indy. It can put you through a vicious cycle, and you never know what's going to happen, how it's going to take place. We don't know how it's going to end up in five, six days' time.
But at the end of the day, when an opportunity like this comes, you certainly are honored to get the call. For me, I won't lie, I really did feel excited to have the sense that another team had the respect at least for me to call. It was a great opportunity to come out here and try to perform and be able to race this Sunday.
You go through it all, the highs, the lows, and I still, as I said, don't want to step in and take over here. It is Stef's role. He's put this all together, he and Don and Dennis and everybody have put this entire program together.
It's a very unfortunate situation. I feel for him.
When I saw the accident, I was very concerned for his back right away, when I saw the angle of the accident, and unfortunately I'm aware of those things because of being a taller driver. It is an issue we I feel like have a little more frequently.
I feel terrible he's in the role he's at. But as Don said, I'm sure he'll be back stronger than ever and come back here next year and put on a great challenge.
Q. Graham, you mentioned you've been tied to Honda for as long as anybody can remember. Can you take us through what those conversations were like, and also conversations with your sponsorship over on that side?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, Dennis will tell you, too, when he called, I had said to him, I don't really want to waste your time; it's probably best that you just speak to Dad. Because again, while I was very appreciative, I knew the hurdles were going to be massive. This wasn't just as easy as saying yes.
You know, I think we both, last night we were sitting there at about 10:30 and going, I can't believe this actually happened, that both Honda and Chevy allowed this to happen. So we're very, very appreciative of that.
Frankly, that would be a better question for Dennis and Dad to answer than me because I knew that the challenges were far greater than me, and I needed to step aside because contractually I don't know what all is said between RLL and Honda, RLL and our partners. But I know that this guy here to my right is a high-class individual, and I know he and dad spoke and worked things out right away.
I'm surprised, but it was certainly exciting for me to hear late last night that we were going to be able to make this happen.
Q. Any idea what it's going to feel like going against your team on Sunday?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I think we start at the back, right? Isn't that the rule?
DENNIS REINBOLD: I think we do.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I'll still be starting. Jack hasn't gotten rid of me yet. But look, it's going to be very unique for me. This situation is super unique. I will go from here to sit in the car. You've got to think, everything is different. I've been in the same place for 12 years now.
For me, steering wheel -- literally I haven't changed my steering wheel in 12 years. I still run the same base wheel that I've run since the Newman/Haas days, took it from Newman/Haas to Ganassi to RLL.
The whole thing is going to be a very unique situation, obviously to drive with the Chevy power plan for the first time. I do know that Hunter-Reay already texted me and said hey, make sure later we need to talk about the yellow map and we need to talk about -- because it's different. It just is. The way that people operate. I've been so programmed and tuned into the Honda side for so long that this is going to be a unique scenario.
But to compete against them, look, I wouldn't come here if I didn't think we had a chance to win and go forward. I think these guys will tell you, they've had a very strong car all week, and Ryan is going to be a great partner. He's probably been my closest friend in the sport since I came into the sport. My first year here he was driving for my dad, and so Ryan and I have always been very close, so I'm excited by the opportunity. We've talked for years about eventually working together, and the situation is certainly unique, but I'm still excited to get to be with Ryan and see what we can do on Carb Day and make this thing go forward.
I wish my team at RLL the best for sure. I certainly want to see them succeed. But I also wouldn't be doing this if I didn't want to go win with Don and Dennis and Gary and this entire organization. That's my job. So that's what we're going to try to go do.
Q. Graham, you kind of touched on it, but what are the next couple of days leading into Carb Day going to look like for you?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I thought they were filled with golf and kids. But you know, it's right back to work. There's a lot. There's a lot to learn.
But I feel we're in good position as far as the individuals -- obviously Jeff, who's the engineer, I'm familiar with. Todd, Ryan's engineer, was with our team at RLL for a long time, so I know Todd. Chase I've known forever, obviously the Selmans everybody knows, so I've known the whole family for quite a long time. There's a lot of familiar faces there.
Going to jump in, be a little bit of a quick learning experience, but it's nothing that we haven't done before. Just got to settle in here over the next couple of days and really make sure that we're comfortable with all the switches and all the mapping and all of the things that are going to be of high importance.
Clearly when it comes to feeling the car out for the first time, that's going to be Carb Day, and there's not a lot of time to do that. But luckily on Sunday, there's 500 miles for us to -- if the car is not in the window, get the car closer. But as I said, I feel like they've been -- everybody has been very, very -- Stef and Ryan have been very, very strong all week, so I don't anticipate any major challenges there.
Q. Do you need to not have debriefs with RLL drivers for the first time in a long time, I imagine. With this being a unique partnership, and I don't know who's best served to answer this, but from a sponsor's standpoint, how is that going to work? Are any of your sponsors going to be on the car, coming over, crossing into the car?
DENNIS REINBOLD: I tried to pass the buck there. From the start of this yesterday afternoon, Bobby immediately came over and spoke to me, and we put our heads down to try to figure out how we could make this happen, if we could. A lot of the concerns he had were with Graham's sponsors, and we have some flexibility, and he stepped in, Bobby stepped in and really made it work out to where we could do different things and shift things around, and I worked with Don in that regard, as well.
It's just been a group effort to try to figure out what we can do, so yeah, our car will look a little bit different to accommodate some of those things in order for us all to work together and just get to the end goal.
This was a dire situation for us. Graham had his situation Sunday. We're trying to turn it into a win-win situation, hopefully win-win-win, being Sunday with the final win. That's what we did. We just rolled up our sleeves and went to work.
Yeah, we're going to do some different things sponsorship-wise and accommodate what we can do. We've got some other announcements coming with Ryan's car, as well. Both cars will look slightly different and tweaked and things like that. Working on it still.
Q. Was Graham the first choice, and did you have a backup?
DENNIS REINBOLD: Yeah, Graham was the first choice. A lot of it was we -- well, it just was so sudden that there wasn't a lot of time to think. For Don and I, sat down pretty much immediately and started thinking -- once we found out Stefan couldn't be cleared to run.
There's a short list because not a lot of guys are approved. And to be able to come out and just run without refreshers and things like that. Graham obviously doesn't need a refresher. But my whole goal is to win this race, and Don and I talked about it, and we both agreed immediately that if we could somehow pull it off -- I don't know that we were optimistic we could, but we thought we would go down the path and explore the possibility of putting Graham in the car, so that's how that evolved.
DON CUSICK: I'd just like to say that for us, we replace one really class act with another one. That makes a difference, too.
Q. Is the plan still to use the backup, the two-year-old chassis as the backup, and if so, I know Graham's car wasn't exactly fast on Sunday, but was there any consideration of using an RLL chassis instead of trying to get a backup prepared?
DENNIS REINBOLD: No, it has to come from our stable. We've prepared our cars equally across the board, and so yeah, to go to the backup car is something that it was pretty much ready to go.
The guys are in there working on it now, and as soon as we're done here, we'll go get Graham fitted and things like that.
We're really not going to miss too much of a beat in that sense.
Q. Graham, when you first got the call, did any thought go through your mind, like wait a minute, our driver hit your driver, why are you calling us? I'm not trying to be macabre there, but it was an interesting irony, right?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Leave it to the Columbus, Ohio, guy to ask the question.
To be honest, it's an interesting situation across the board. I certainly don't -- as I've made clear all along, I don't feel good about filling in for an injured driver. I feel for Stefan. I've said that numerous times here. I feel for him tremendously because I do know how much this means to him and how much work he puts in year in and year out to be here.
Unfortunately in racing, things happen. Look at the last 48 hours in my life even; it's been all over the board.
As I said, and this is the truth, in some other situations, I don't think that it would have excited me as much, but being that it was Stef and being that it was a Wilson, and in the situation that it was in, I just felt like it was my calling to jump in and help.
I was very fortunate that Dennis and Don and everybody at DRR and Cusick Motorsports called me. It's that simple.
I was honored because on a personal level, too, as I said already, I felt it gave me a boost personally to get the call because I have driven for my dad for so long, you always wonder what everybody else thinks of you, so to speak. So it was a blessing.
I want to make sure, like I've said all along, that for me, my job is to go out there and make everybody here proud, and that includes Stef. I can't imagine what's going through his mind, as Don said. I'm sure emotionally this is a very, very, very tough time for him. We just want to be there to support him as best we can and perform as best we can no matter what the scenario was or how it all took shape yesterday.
Q. You were talking a while ago about getting up to snuff with the car itself. Will you just sit in the car and run through the buttons on the steering wheel, for example, things like that? Is there any kind of simulator you can jump in at this point?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, really just sit in there and speak with Ryan mainly to try to get his input because he's been through a few different teams and stuff, so to get his input on how things work because everything is a little bit different team to team, the way the weight jackers work or the fuel mixers or trim switches and all these other things, where the radio button is, do they use a drink bottle or do they use a pump. There's a variety of different scenarios there.
But as Dennis also said, I do think that Dad and Dennis have been tremendous in working together, and I know a lot of my stuff, seat-wise, belts even potentially, all that stuff from RLL will be able to carry over, the chassis are all pretty much built the same by Dallara, so should be able to jump in and get going.
The steering wheel is not one you can switch easy because the programming and the wiring and everything is pretty specific to the team. So we'll sit in there and study as best we can, probably take a photo so that I can go home and look at the wheel and get the buttons memorized. All those things are going to be critical.
But in this situation as a veteran, you've got to be a professional, and that's what you've trained to do for years and years and you've got to be able to jump in and do it.
Q. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think you feel like you're stepping into a quality race car, too, right, based on their performance?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Oh, yeah. There's no doubt that it's a great opportunity. These cars have been very, very strong. For me, I feel good about that, about our chances this weekend, and to move forward and put on a heck of a show.
We've got 500 miles to do so, try to play it as we always do, put ourselves in a good position come the last couple stints of the race, and be able to move forward and hopefully make these two proud and Stef and everybody associated with the program.
Q. Not trying to sound melodramatic or anything, but do you feel resurrected?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. This is a weird situation for me. I mean, it just is. My wife was just asking me, and I told her, I'm very excited at the opportunity, but I feel terribly for Stef, too. It's a very unique situation to be in, but ultimately, as I said inside, it was exciting and it was an honor for me to get the call.
I know the list of guys isn't super long of drivers that could jump in and do it, but I also know some of the other names that are probably on that list are guys that are very, very, very qualified to go out there, who have a lot of experience and can do a great job. So for me to get the call, to get the opportunity, yes, it's very exciting.
Q. To follow up on that a little bit, I know when you were interviewed yesterday afternoon during the practice, you spoke about how you planned on going throughout this week and helping Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing get everything best positioned for Sunday with the knowledge that you have of being in the car and the experience with the team, experience of this race, et cetera. Did any of that play through your mind when you were deciding whether to take this opportunity? Did you feel at all compelled to turn it down and stay back with the team, given everything you guys have gone through?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, you know, I certainly won't lie that -- yeah, I mean, things change in a hurry, don't they?
But for me, yes, there was a part of me that thought, when you look at RLL and where we were as a team, can I have more of an impact to try to help Jack and Christian and Kat perform better on the weekend, and of course even in their debrief session after. I always try to give them information and experience, but I felt compelled to give them a lot more right after the session and try to help them from what I could see studying their film and all that stuff.
Of course now it's a little bit of a different situation. Our focus and attention is completely dedicated to Dreyer & Reinbold and Cusick Motorsports to do the best that we can in the 24 car, and at the end of the day we're competing now. That's the reality of this situation.
Things in motorsports -- I tell people all the time, motorsports is one of the few sports where there just are no guarantees ever. Things can change immediately. That's the situation that we're in, and we're going to go out there and do the absolute best we can to get in Victory Lane. It's been a dream of mine my entire life. I think we've got a great opportunity to do so with Dreyer & Reinbold and with Don, and I'm excited by that.
Q. Dennis, I know you've touched on it a little bit, generally speaking, but can you tell us a little bit more about how you and maybe more specifically the folks at Chevy and Honda were able to make this work, given Graham's long ties at Honda?
DENNIS REINBOLD: Well, it probably started with Don and I discussing it, and then we brought Bobby into the circle, and I had discussions with the Chevy guys to get their feel for it, and Bobby took over the Honda discussions, as well.
We just kind of went off on our separate paths with this goal in mind to explore and to see if it was possible. They came back, and a couple hurdles later that we crossed, it started looking good. We kept crossing off things on our checklist that had to happen for this to be a possibility.
There were a lot of things involved, and we spent a lot of time yesterday and into the night last night going through those things. I don't know if that answers that, but it was a bit of a whirlwind, so I can't keep it all straight in my head at this point.
Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Chicago Pneumatic Compressors Ford Team Charlotte Coke 600 Competition Notes
Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry TRD Preview – Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry TRD News and Notes
- DEFENDING WINNER: Denny Hamlin won the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 for his first career victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After starting on the pole, Hamlin led 15 laps and ran solidly inside the top 10 for most of NASCAR’s longest race of the season. Prior to a late caution, he was running in the top five before a four-tire pit stop and some nifty accident avoidance propelled him to the lead for a second overtime restart. He was able to fend off Kyle Busch on the final lap to secure his 48th career victory.
- HAMLIN AT CHARLOTTE: In addition to his victory in last May’s Coca-Cola 600, Hamlin has also posted 11 total top-five finishes, 20 top-10s, three pole awards, and 395 laps led at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has three consecutive finishes of seventh or better on the 1.5-mile track and five top-five finishes in his past eight starts overall. The Chesterfield, Virginia native is also a former NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at Charlotte.
- ALL-STAR RECAP: Hamlin finished 13th in last weekend’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. After starting ninth, he quickly rocketed up to second before a caution on lap 16. The No. 11 team elected to stay on track while several cars pitted for fresh tires. The decision resulted in Hamlin slipping back to seventh before a competition caution on lap 100 provided teams the opportunity to pit for fresh tires. Hamlin lined up sixth with 90 laps remaining but could never find the grip he needed as he ultimately finished the night in the 13th position.
- REGULAR SEASON HALFWAY: Hamlin ranks fourth in the driver’s points standings as the NASCAR Cup Series has reached the midway point in the 26-race regular season. So far, the No. 11 driver owns one victory, three top-five finishes, five top-10s, two stage wins, one pole award, and 202 laps led. His 12.3-average finishing position leads drivers who have started all 13 races.
- CAPTAIN KEVIN J. SMITH: As part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program, the windshield of the No. 11 Camry will carry the name of Captain Kevin J. Smith. 1st Lt. Smith, a West Point graduate, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, based out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. He was killed in action in Baghdad on December 8, 2005, while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following his death, 1st Lt. Smith received a posthumous promotion to Captain.
- SPORT CLIPS: Sport Clips will be featured as the primary sponsor of Hamlin’s No. 11 Camry this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The sports-themed haircutting franchise based in Georgetown, Texas is a longtime supporter of Joe Gibbs Racing dating back to 2009 and has more than 1,850 stores in the United States and Canada.
- HONOR A HERO: Sport Clips is proud of its relationship with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Honor A Hero scholarship program that was established in 2013. The program has awarded more than 2,500 scholarships totaling $11.55 million. The Honor A Hero scholarship program is open to active-duty service members and veterans pursuing a variety of degrees. Learn more at www.VFW.org.
- JGR AT CHARLOTTE: Joe Gibbs Racing owns eight NASCAR Cup Series victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including five in the Coca-Cola 600. In 146 combined starts on the track’s 1.5-mile quad-oval layout, the organization has tallied 57 top-five finishes, 87 top-10s, 11 pole awards, and 3,818 laps led. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, and Martin Truex Jr. join Hamlin on the list of drivers who have taken JGR to victory lane at Charlotte.
- TUNE IN: Coverage of this weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway begins Sunday, May 28, at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Denny Hamlin, Driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry TRD
What is your mindset going into the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend?
“I feel like our cars have definitely gotten better on the mile-and-a-half tracks. Obviously, we did win the last mile-and-a-half at Kansas, so I’m optimistic going into this weekend. We know we will have to beat the Hendrick guys if we want to have a shot, but I feel like we’ve been trending in the right direction on these types of tracks. We have as good a chance as anyone. We just have to execute throughout the race and be there at the end.”
Keselowski Finishes 19th in All-Star Race
In NASCAR’s return to North Wilkesboro Speedway, Brad Keselowski and the No. 6 team showed promise in Saturday’s heat races before going on to finish 19th Sunday night in the 200-lap All-Star Race.
The return to the historic venue for the first time since 1996 brought an action-packed weekend, with a pit crew challenge on Friday, heat races Saturday night, and then Sunday night’s marquee event.
The No. 6 pit crew looked strong and turned in the second-fastest pit stop of the competition Friday, but a loose wheel penalty meant Keselowski would begin his heat race from the tail end of the field. He fired off eighth for the second heat in damp conditions that saw just one yellow flag.
After restarting ninth at lap 33, Keselowski flipped a switch and began a hard charge forward, driving to fourth by race end, which put him eighth on the grid for Sunday night’s star-studded event.
Sunday night saw just one caution flag fly outside of the scheduled break at lap 100. Keselowski was 21st at the time of that break, but the race ran caution-free from there with the No. 6 crossing the stripe 19th.
Racing returns to Charlotte this weekend as the Coca-Cola 600 is set for Sunday night. Race coverage is set for 6 p.m. ET on FOX, with radio coverage on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
Kyle Larson Cashes In At The NASCAR All-Star Race
Kyle Larson left no doubt as to who shined brightest in Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The iconic track’s 27-year wait for NASCAR’s return led to Larson pulling a remarkable weekend sweep – winning the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Tyson 250 on Saturday – and following it with a convincing All-Star Race win a day later.
Larson started 15th in Sunday’s 200-lap showcase event, but he struggled with an ill-handling car in the early stages. One pit stop after a Lap 15 caution – for tires and chassis adjustments – transformed Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into a rocket, but he had to go through the entire field after being penalized for speeding on pit road. Larson went from the tail end to second in 36 laps, and passed pole winner Daniel Suarez for the lead on Lap 55.
Larson led 145 of the remaining 146 laps and beat Bubba Wallace to the finish line by 4.124 seconds. Tyler Reddick finished third with Chase Briscoe fourth and Chase Elliott fifth. Ryan Blaney was sixth with Suarez seventh. Erik Jones – in a throwback STP No. 43 Chevrolet, painted like NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty’s iconic car – finished eighth.
Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
The victory was Larson’s third in a NASCAR All-Star Race, and his third at a different facility. He won the 2019 event at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the 2021 running at Texas Motor Speedway.
Josh Berry, subbing for the injured Alex Bowman, won Sunday’s All-Star Open and finished 15th in the All-Star Race.
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET (RACE WINNER): “It was a great night. Great job to Marcus (Smith, Speedway Motorsports’ president and CEO) and his whole team on reviving this place. I don’t think any of us thought that when Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) was here cleaning up weeds and cleaning it up for iRacing (in December of 2019), that we'd ever be here racing. The vibe was great tonight, with all the fans, and it helped that my car was quick. I didn’t expect to be fast at all. … Friday (in practice) we were really bad. We had a good one-lap run but if you looked at my 30-lap average, it was like second to last. I thought we’d run around 15th tonight.
“We pitted for tires, I sped on pit road and we restarted last, but I started picking off some cars and I could get my line working and manage my tires. Once I was picking people off, I was wondering, ‘Is my car this good, or is the tire fall-off this bad?’ We got the lead, and I was like, ‘I want to lap as many cars as I can.’ I think they said I had a 12-second lead at one point. It’s just so cool to dominate like that, like you used to see people dominate races here in the 1980s. I’m very proud of winning this race at three different venues. I am extremely proud to have won the All-Star Race, but to win it at three different tracks is really neat. … This track is so cool. It has a grassroots feel to it, and to me, I think that’s what makes it so special.”
CLIFF DANIELS, NO. 5 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET (WINNING CREW CHIEF): “I wasn’t sure how the flow of the race would go. I was watching old North Wilkesboro races earlier this week on YouTube, and there were a lot of green flag runs. I knew that drivers were going to be driving the track, so there was a chance that there would be fewer caution flags. When we pitted (after the Lap 15 caution), we were in 18th, so I thought we needed to do something different than the leaders.”
BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 23 23XI RACING TOYOTA (RUNNER-UP): “We won ‘the best of the rest.’ (Kyle) Larson was lights-out, so congrats to him. Those guys, they’ve been hitting it on the head really all season, so running second to them isn’t so bad. … I’m proud of my team. Our Columbia Toyota Camry was super strong. … To keep our name in the mix is super important for us. The momentum train is still real. It’s still rolling.”
TYLER REDDICK, NO. 45 23XI RACING TOYOTA (THIRD-PLACE FINISHER): “I feel like I got into a rhythm that I needed to be in, maybe 50 laps into the race.. I knew the speed of the car was there. It was there on Friday afternoon in practice. We were stacked down in the field from the heat races (on Saturday) and we didn’t have the long-run speed we needed to get going in the right direction.”
Fans can connect with North Wilkesboro Speedway and get the latest news regarding NASCAR All-Star week and North Wilkesboro Speedway by following on Twitter and Instagram or becoming a Facebook fan.
RCR NCS Race Recap: North Wilkesboro Speedway
NASCAR All-Star Race: 200 laps, with a competition break at or around lap 100 (125 miles)
● Race Winner: Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Note: The NASCAR All-Star Race was comprised of drivers who won a points-paying race in 2022 or 2023, fulltime drivers who have previously won the All-Star Race, fulltime drivers who have won a NASCAR Cup Series championship, and drivers who advanced from the All-Star Open.
SHR Finish in NASCAR All-Star Race:
● Chase Briscoe (Started 5th, Finished 4th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Kevin Harvick (Started 15th, Finished 18th / Running, completed 198 of 200 laps)
All-Star Open: 100 laps, with a competition break at or around lap 40 (62.5 miles)
● Race Winner: Josh Berry of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
● Second Place: Ty Gibbs of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
● Fan Vote Winner: Noah Gragson of Legacy Motor Club (Chevrolet)
Note:The All-Star Open was the undercard event to the NASCAR All-Star Race, where non-qualified drivers attempted to race their way into the All-Star Race by winning the Open, finishing second in the Open, or by winning the fan vote.
SHR Finish in All-Star Open:
● Aric Almirola (Started 9th, Finished 3rd / Running, completed 100 of 100 laps)
● Ryan Preece (Started 8th, Finished 4th / Running, completed 100 of 100 laps)
● This was Briscoe’s second All-Star Race. He finished 18th last year.
● Harvick has competed in every single NASCAR All-Star Race in his 23-year career, the most of any active NASCAR Cup Series driver.
● Kyle Larson won the All-Star Race with a 4.537-second margin over runner-up Bubba Wallace. It was his third win in the All-Star Race.
● The All-Star Race featured just three lead changes between two different drivers – Larson and Daniel Suárez. Twenty-four drivers comprised the field.
“We were really, really fast at the end. I felt like if I could’ve ever just gotten the lead, I would’ve been hard to beat, but I’m sure a lot of other guys would say that too. It was definitely frustrating. We kind of got beat around there on that one restart. I went from running fourth to seventh or eighth, and had to drive back up to fourth. I felt like we were one of the few cars that could pass. I’m proud of that effort, but I would've obviously loved to win a million dollars. Truthfully, with how our last couple of weeks have been, just to get a good run and prove that we can run with these guys is nice.” – Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to points-paying racing on Sunday, May 28 with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.