Speedway Digest Staff
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John Hunter Nemechek holds a 65-point advantage over the Playoff cutline leaving Bristol Motor Speedway after a third-place run. He was joined inside the top-10 by Trevor Bayne (seventh), fellow playoff contender Sammy Smith (ninth) and Kaz Grala (10th). Connor Mosack added a lead-lap 14th-place run as all five TRD-supported Toyota GR Supra teams scored top-15 runs.
Nemechek and Smith are both above the Playoff cutline heading to Texas Motor Speedway, while Grala scored back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time this season.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Bristol Motor Speedway
Race 27 of 33 – 159.9 miles, 300 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Justin Allgaier•
2nd, Daniel Hemric*
3rd, JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK
4th, Cole Custer*
5th, Chandler Smith*
7th, TREVOR BAYNE
9th, SAMMY SMITH
10th, KAZ GRALA
14th, CONNOR MOSACK
38th, TIMMY HILL
JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK, No. 20 Pye Barker Fire & Safety Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
How would you describe your finish tonight?
“We had a really fast Pye Barker Toyota GR Supra. We needed to be a little bit faster to be as fast as Xfinity 10 G, but overall, solid night. We raced smart. We have a 65-point lead, I think, to the cut off or something like that, so that’s good. Our goal coming into this first round was just to have solid finishes. If a win presented itself, a win presented itself. We have to race smart and keep advancing. That is all that matters.”
What do you look forward to next?
“We are going to Texas, one of my favorite race tracks. We just have to keep having really good runs. Our Pye Barker Toyota GR Supra – pbhiring.com, they are hiring technicians, so make sure you go to that website, but overall, solid night, and looking forward to next week.”
TREVOR BAYNE, No. 19 He Gets Us Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
Can you talk about your race as a whole?
“Yeah, early in the race we were charging. We got up to fifth and had a really good He Gets Us Supra. We were one of the first people to go to the top, so that was our advantage. Once the top rubbered in, I lost side-bite and we could free it up and I would lose drive or we would tighten it up and I would lose center. The corner was just a little bit too broken up for us, but overall, a good day of execution. If we were in the points, it would be a good points day, but we are not. All we care about is winning, and we didn’t do that. We are just going to keep fighting for it.”
SAMMY SMITH, No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
A top-10 to start the Playoffs. How was your race?
“P9. Good points day, just frustrating because I feel like we missed a couple of opportunities to get some more points for this Pilot Flying J Toyota team, but good day and we will move on to Texas.”
KAZ GRALA, No. 26 Island Coastal Lager Toyota GR Supra, Sam Hunt Racing
Finishing Position: 10th
Back-to-back top-10’s for the first time this season, and you came from 31st both times. How did you make it through the field?
“We are making it harder on ourselves than we need. It was a really fun day here at Bristol. Our CRUSH Tropical Punch Supra was really good in the second half of the race. We took a little bit of time in the beginning to get it dialed in – we went a lap down in the process, but we fought back. We got back to the lead lap, and had the speed when it mattered. I’m really proud of everyone at Sam Hunt Racing to score back-to-back top-10s for the first time this year. That is really cool. We came a long way on this thing. That just shows the fight of everybody over here, so I’m definitely excited about it. Bristol is the most bad-ass place in the world, so to have a good finish here is really cool.”
Harrison Burton and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang are set to start 32nd in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Burton’s speed in qualifying on Friday was 123.491 miles per hour. That was considerably faster than his best lap in practice earlier in the afternoon, when he was 33rd on the speed chart with a best lap at 122.819 mph. He turned that on the eighth of the 24 laps he ran in the session.
Saturday’s 500-lap race is set to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on USA Network.
Stage breaks are planned for Laps 125 and 250.
Following tonight’s victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier announced that both he and cornerstone partner BRANDT Professional Agriculture are returning to JR Motorsports in 2024 for the ninth season. As the second-longest tenured-partner for JRM, BRANDT will assume the role of primary partner for Allgaier and the No. 7 Chevrolet for 20 events during the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and receive associate placement on the remaining races.
“I can’t say enough about this team, Rick Brandt and everyone at BRANDT Professional Agriculture,” Allgaier said from Victory Lane. “This seemed like the perfect time to break the news that we’ll be back in the No. 7 Chevrolet in 2024. I’m just so grateful for everyone at JR Motorsports.”
Founded in central Illinois, BRANDT is a fast-growing, family-owned company and a leader in global agriculture. Specializing in innovative products and services to help growers get maximum crop yield, BRANDT supplies customers in 49 states and more than 80 countries.
“What a year!” said Rick Brandt, president and CEO of BRANDT. “As we cause a party here in Victory Lane, we are celebrating our 70th anniversary as a company, our founder, Evelyn Brandt Thomas’ 100th birthday, and our return to JRM for 2024. Let’s add one more celebration to the list: let’s go get that NASCAR Xfinity Championship.”
BRANDT has a long-standing presence in NASCAR, having first partnered with Allgaier in 2011. The pairing joined JRM for the 2016 NXS season, and Allgaier has been a consistent title contender, advancing to the Championship 4 in five of the last seven seasons and finishing a career-best second in the final standings in 2020.
"This is the best way possible to announce that Justin and BRANDT are coming back next year,” said JRM CEO Kelley Earnhardt Miller. “I'm so proud of the relationship that we've built with Rick (Brandt) and to be able to extend both BRANDT and Justin is a testament to all the hard work of everyone at JR Motorsports.”
With tonight’s victory in Bristol, Allgaier becomes the first driver to advance into the Round of 8 in the NXS Playoffs, doing so for the eighth consecutive season.
Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced today that Caleb Kent, Watauga, Tenn., and Jamie Sullivan, Concord, N.C., are the joint winners of the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Scholarship for 2023. Both students were honored tonight during pre-race ceremonies prior to the green flag for the Food City 300. They walked across the pre-race stage, waved to the crowd, and each will receive a check for $2,088 and a commemorative plaque.
As a special treat this year for the sponsorship winners, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be competing in the Food City 300 (7:30 p.m., USA Network and PRN Radio), his first race at Bristol Motor Speedway since he retired from full-time driving in 2017.
Kent, a senior at Happy Valley High School, recently started a podcast, Three Wide Racing, which discusses all things racing, including NASCAR. His podcast can be heard on Spotify and other streaming platforms. His love of NASCAR from an early age has ignited his passion for broadcasting. He says listening to Mike Joy and Rick Allen’s play by play inspired him to follow that career path. As a child he would recreate races with diecast cars and announce the action as if it were a live race. In high school he continues to pursue a communications direction as he is a member of the Speech and Debate teams and he competes in the TV Broadcasting category. He also works with the sports announcing team at his high school, calling football and basketball games.
Sullivan attends the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) and earned a degree in Automotive and High Performance Motorsports. After that she decided to continue with her education and added Business Marketing courses to complete her bachelor’s degree. She has been involved with lots of motorsports teams including as an over the wall crew member for an ARCA team and a crew member and driver for the Razin Kane Monster Truck. She was a part of the prestigious UNOH Motorsports Team as a crew member and driver as well. She currently is a crew member and driver for the Monster Mutt Dalmation Monster Jam truck for Feld Entertainment. She is interested in getting into the marketing and communications side of the industry where she wants to channel the power of social media and become an influencer.
Created by Bristol Motor Speedway in 2017 as a retirement gift to Earnhardt Jr., the annual scholarship awards the winning student a one-time payment of $2,088 to assist with all college costs including tuition, housing, books and supplies. Past winners of the BMS Dale Earnhardt Jr. Scholarship are Jaicee Weaver (2018) and Jace Ketron (2019), both of Tennessee High School in Bristol, Tenn., UNOH student Caleb James Cate (2021) from Knoxville, Tenn., and 2022 winners John Clavier of Elizabethton High School and UNOH student Chloe Holman of Essex, Mo.
In order to be eligible, students must be a senior at one of the 21 designated high schools or attending one of the eight designated colleges and universities in the Appalachian Highlands region surrounding Bristol Motor Speedway or a student at the speedway’s official partnering institution, UNOH in Lima, Ohio.
The 21 designated high schools were Abingdon High School; Chuckey-Doak High School; Cloudland High School; Daniel Boone High School; David Crockett High School; Dobyns-Bennett High School; Elizabethton High School; Greeneville High School; Hampton High School; Happy Valley High School; Holston High School; John S. Battle High School; North Greene High School; Patrick Henry High School; Tennessee High School; Science Hill High School; South Greene High School; Sullivan East High School; Virginia High School; West Greene High School and West Ridge High School.
The nine designated higher educational institutions were East Tennessee State University; Emory & Henry College; King University; Milligan University; Northeast State Technical Community College; Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Elizabethton; Tusculum University; the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and the University of Northwestern Ohio.
One of the most iconic race car drivers of all time, NASCAR Hall of Fame member Earnhardt Jr. serves as an analyst for NBC Sports’ NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series race coverage and contributes to additional motorsports programming across NBC Sports. In addition to race coverage, Earnhardt hosts The Dale Jr. Download, a weekly interview program focused on motorsports produced by Dirty Mo Media. Voted by fans as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for an unprecedented 15 consecutive years (2003-17), Earnhardt, a 26-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series including two Daytona 500s, is a third-generation driver who followed his legendary father Dale Earnhardt Sr., and his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, into the sport. As a team owner, Earnhardt founded JR Motorsports, which fields four full-time entries in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In the summer of 2020, Earnhardt was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Earnhardt Jr.’s only Bristol victory in the Cup Series came in the 2004 Night Race in dramatic fashion where he famously said “It’s Bristol, Baby!” in Victory Lane following the win. He also has one win in the Xfinity Series, coming in that same year. He was the first driver to sweep Cup and Xfinity Series races at BMS.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Fine Foods Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Can you talk about being on the pole again this weekend?
“Having a good starting spot is really, really, really important especially at a short track like Bristol with the PJ1 being down. It’s going to be very fast around the bottom, especially at the start of the race. We put ourselves in good position, I’m really proud of the Camrys that this 20 group have been able to bring to the races since we’ve started the Playoffs. They’ve been doing an amazing job, and I’m excited about another opportunity to start in the front and hopefully have a great race tomorrow.”
Is there a competition within Joe Gibbs Racing on who wins more poles this season, and is their importance within the team on single lap speed?
“Well, I can tell you that qualifying is not talked about at all amongst our competition meetings, so there is no competition on who is going to win the most poles. My team has put an emphasis on qualifying and making sure we establish our track position early in the race and get good pit stalls so we have been focusing pretty hard on qualifying, but I couldn’t even told you that Denny (Hamlin) and I were tied for poles. I can tell you that Denny has won more races than me this year, but not qualifying.”
Do you think the PJ1 will start coming into effect in the Cup Series race?
“The track right now is just completely normal from how it’s been in year’s past with them spraying the PJ1. The Trucks notoriously don’t ever get off the bottom, the Xfinity race notoriously don’t ever get off the bottom when they have that fresh spray down. I would expect the Cup race to start down there, and I would expect at some point we will get the top going and we will have different options. Once you do get options, it does become easier to pass because you are able to find cleaner air and get by guys. Certainly, it’s going to be a race where people are going to flip track position by staying out or taking different tire strategies, so you are going to have to be able to pass cars. I don’t think anyone knows how their car handles in traffic because practice is so short, you are just trying to find clean air and get your car balance good – by yourself – I think we are in as good of a spot as anyone.”
Was being in the first group a big advantage tonight?
“I feel confident saying it was less of an advantage at Bristol. Was it an advantage at all to be in group A, I don’t know. I do feel confident saying it was less of an advantage compared to Darlington, with the tire fall off that we have at Darlington and the lack of tire fall off that we have here.”
What does it mean for your teammate Martin Truex Jr. to join you in the top-five?
“Martin (Truex) – I kind of feel like Bristol owes him one. He’s fast here a lot and I don’t think he’s ever won. It would be a good day to have a good day if you are a Martin Truex fan tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get all three of these JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) Camrys into the next round. I know we have the speed to do it. 500 laps is an incredibly long race, and a lot is going to happen in between right now and whenever the checkered flag falls but Martin has put himself in a good spot, so hopefully he can make it happen.”
What have you seen out of Ty Gibbs’ team from your perspective?
“Ty (Gibbs) has had a heck of a rookie season. I knew that Bristol was going to be a track that he was going to perform well. He did the tire test here earlier in the year, and it’s just a track that fits his MO. They’ve been picking it up. I think it’s just a matter of time before he’s in victory lane. It’s cool to see whenever all of us are doing well, he’s able to hang with us. He’s doing a great job.”
Is it a challenge to give feedback when you are consistently starting on the pole?
“I think that comes from Adam (Stevens), my crew chief. He’s a great leader, and he knows what we had in qualifying is completely different than what we are going to have on lap 20, 30, 40 and on into the run tomorrow. After I leave this press conferences, I go right back to the hauler, and we don’t even talk about qualifying. We talk about race trim and what we had at the end of practice and what I needed to be better there. Adam has a really good system in place. It’s ironic – because we go out and practice, and you are focused on race trim, and as soon as that checkered flag falls, you don’t even talk about race trim – you are talking about qualifying trim, and as soon as qualifying is over, we are back at race trim. He does a great job leading me down the right path and leading out team.”
How significant is for all four Joe Gibbs Racing to start in the top-10 and is it personally significant for you?
“It’s cool to win a pole here at Bristol. I think it just goes to show how strong our Camrys are right now. Week-in and week-out, every time we come to the race track, we are right there. Great day for Joe Gibbs Racing. Glad that all four were able to make it to the final round, and hopefully we have a strong showing tomorrow.”
Do you have a sense for the new tire?
“I would say that it is going to be very similar to last year. Whenever you participate in the tire test, you are able to feel the difference when you go back-to-back with the different tire, but me coming here 365 days later – it feels very similar to what we had last year. It does appear that the fall off was a little bit more than practice last year, but typically when the top rubbers in that goes away a little bit. I would say the tire change has not been noticeable to me yet, hopefully, the tire problems go away. I know Goodyear was hoping to do with this tire change, but from my seat, I don’t notice a big difference.”
Are you sad to see the dirt race go away?
“Honestly, I was good either way. Concrete Bristol was my favorite race track on the schedule, two of these races is not a bad thing by any means. But – if it’s dirt – I’m okay with that too. It didn’t matter to me. I was fine either way.”
Ford Qualifying Results:
4th – Michael McDowell
6th – Brad Keselowski
11th – Ryan Blaney
14th – Chase Briscoe
17th – Ryan Preece
20th – Chris Buescher
21st – Kevin Harvick
26th – Aric Almirola
27th – Ryan Newman
28th – Joey Logano
29th – Austin Cindric
30th – Todd Gilliland
32nd – Harrison Burton
35th – JJ Yeley
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED TODAY? “Yeah, it’s really close. You’d like to get the pole, that would help things, but I’m really proud of the speed that we’ve brought all three weeks in the playoffs so far. We just haven’t got the finishes and haven’t executed like we needed to, but we know what tomorrow is. Tomorrow is a must-win for us and you’re gonna have to have track position to do that, so I’m glad we executed today and feel like we have a decent Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. Our long run speed was good, but so much changes tomorrow night with the traction compound and the grooves moving around, so there’s still a lot of homework to do tonight and a lot of preparation to make sure we get the changes just right for tomorrow. But I’m thankful to have good speed and give ourselves a fighting chance tomorrow.”
YOU WERE SLOW IN PRACTICE BUT CONTENDED FOR THE POLE. WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE? “When I rolled out for practice I was in traffic. I didn’t actually set my fastest lap until like lap 15 or lap 16, so I wasn’t terribly worried about it. I thought our long run pace was good and the balance was close and you know how it is here, too, two, three, four, five-hundredths and you’re up or down five or six spots, so I wasn’t terribly concerned going into qualifying. And this track is a lot about commitment going into qualifying and knew what I needed to do. We just missed it last year here. I think we qualified sixth in our group and you go back and study that and look at all the little things that you could have done different to get those couple hundredths, so everything went pretty smooth today.”
Ford Performance PR
Race fans and competitors can mark their calendars for the 2024 season. The Race of Champions family of Series will return to the “high banks” of Holland (N.Y.) Speedway once again in 2024, on a minimum of three (3) occasions.
The Race of Champions family of Series will appear on Saturday, July 6, featuring the Race of Champions Sportsman Modified Series. On Saturday, July 27, the Race of Champions Modified Series will return while the George Decker Memorial and Rick Wylie Classic will return on Saturday, August 24 to the popular southern tier oval.
“We are looking forward to the return of the Race of Champions in 2024,” stated Ron Bennett, Jr., promoter of Holland Speedway. “Working with the Race of Champions and their management team has been a great experience and produced excellent and entertaining racing events. We wanted to put the word out so people could begin planning and marking dates on their calendars for the 2024 season.”
Prior to each Holland Speedway event, the Speedway will host a practice from 6:00pm until dusk on the Thursday prior for all divisions.
Where: Holland International Speedway, Holland, N.Y.
When: Saturday, July 6, 2024; Saturday, July 27, 2024; Saturday, August 24, 2024.
Directions: The track is located on Holland / Glenwood Road off of Route 16 just minutes from downtown Buffalo and the South towns of Western New York.
What: Race of Champions Family of Series
ROC Mods PR