Speedway Digest Staff
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TEAM CHEVY UNOFFICIAL NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE QUALIFYING RESULTS:
3rd WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CAMARO ZL1
4th KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM CAMARO ZL1
6th ROSS CHASTASIN, NO. 1 WORLDWIDE EXPRESS CAMARO ZL1
10th AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 16 ANDY’S FROZEN CUSTARD CAMARO ZL1
13th CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1
20th ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1
TOP-FIVE UNOFFICIAL NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1st Kyle Busch (Toyota)
2nd Ryan Blaney (Ford)
3rd William Byron (Chevrolet)
4th Kyle Larson (Chevrolet)
5th Kurt Busch (Toyota)
TEAM CHEVY UNOFFICIAL NASCAR ALL-STAR OPEN QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1st TYLER REDDICK, NO. 8 GUARANTEED RATE CAMARO ZL1
2nd DANIEL SUAREZ, NO. 99 FREEWAY INSURANCE CAMARO ZL1
3rd RICKY STENHOUSE JR., NO. 47 KROGER/WISE CAMARO ZL1
4th ERIK JONES, NO. 43 FOCUSFACTOR CAMARO ZL1
6th JUSTIN HALEY, NO. 31 LEAFFILTER GUTTER PROTECTION CAMARO ZL1
7th AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER OFF ROAD CAMARO ZL1
8th COREY LAJOIE, NO. 7 BUILT.COM CAMARO ZL1
11th LANDON CASSILL, NO. 77 SHELTON ENERGY SOLUTIONS CAMARO ZL1
12th TY DILLON, NO. 42 FERRIS CAMARO ZL1
TOP-FIVE UNOFFICIAL NASCAR ALL-STAR OPEN QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1st Tyler Reddick (Chevrolet)
2nd Daniel Suarez (Chevrolet)
3rd Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Chevrolet)
4th Erik Jones (Chevrolet)
5th Chris Buescher (Ford)
· Nine Chevrolet Camaro ZL1’s will take on the NASCAR All-Star Open for the chance to race their way into the 125-lap NASCAR All-Star Race.
· The starting lineup for the NASCAR All-Star Open was determined by a single-car, single-lap qualifying run. Chevrolet swept the top-four starting spots of the NASCAR All-Star Open, with Tyler Reddick to lead the field to the green from the pole position.
· Joining Reddick in the top-five of the NASCAR All-Star Open starting lineup includes: Daniel Suarez (2nd), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3rd) and Erik Jones (4th).
· The starting lineup for the NASCAR All-Star Race was determined by a unique format introduced to the event. Qualifying was split up into two rounds, with round one utilizing a single-car, single-lap qualifying format with the top-eight fastest cars moving to the round two.
· Round two featured a three-round, elimination-style bracket, with pit crews playing a vital role in the battle for the pole. During each elimination round, pit crews performed a four-tire stop, with the driver then racing back to the start/finish line and the fastest advancing on until the polesitter is crowned.
· In Round One, William Byron topped the leaderboard of the 20-car NASCAR All-Star field. Also advancing to Round Two for the bowtie brigade included defending All-Star winner, Kyle Larson, and All-Star rookie, Ross Chastain.
· The Hendrick Motorsports pit crews for the No. 24 Camaro ZL1 and No. 5 Camaro ZL1 were fastest in their first stops to moved forward to the next round. Falling just short on the second stops for both teams in their respective stops, both cars were eliminated from the bracket.
· William Byron will lead Chevrolet in the NASCAR All-Star Race lineup from the third starting spot in his No. 24 Liberty University Camaro ZL1. Kyle Larson, No, 5 HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1, will join his Hendrick Motorsports’ teammate on the outside of row two. Ross Chastain, No. 1 Worldwide Express Camaro ZL1, will start sixth.
· FS1 will air tomorrow’s NASCAR Cup Series All-Star action, starting with the All-Star Open at 4:30 p.m. ET, followed by the 125-lap All-Star Race at 8 p.m. ET. Live coverage of both events can also be found on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
1st – KYLE BUSCH
2nd – Ryan Blaney*
3rd – William Byron*
4th – Kyle Larson*
5th – KURT BUSCH
7th – MARTIN TRUEX JR.
14th – CHRISTOPHER BELL
16th – DENNY HAMLIN
17th – BUBBA WALLACE
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD
What does it mean to earn the pole for the All-Star race and did you enjoy the format?
“Anytime you’re able to showcase the pit crews ability and have them and their athleticism in this competition and in this qualifying format., I enjoy that. I think that’s my most favorite part of the year, coming to the All-Star race. Whether it’s Charlotte and coming down pit road and sliding into the box, but having those guys go over the wall certainly means a lot, Especially this No. 18 bunch that I’ve had a lot of success with over the years, obviously changed up a few times, most recently, but we’ve always been a threat to be reckoned with when it comes to getting on the pole for the All-Star race. It feels good to have that today.”
BEN BESHORE, crew chief, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD
What does it mean to earn the pole for the All-Star race through this qualifying format?
“This is a cool event. A good way to showcase our pit crew and they did a great job. They put in a lot of hard work this off-season and throughout the year. They clicked off awesome stops there and it’s exciting!”
Ford All-Star Qualifying Results
2nd - Ryan Blaney
8th - Aric Almirola
9th - Joey Logano
11th - Chase Briscoe
12th - Austin Cindric
15th - Kevin Harvick
18th - Brad Keselowski
19th - Michael McDowell
Ford All-Star Open Qualifying Results:
5th - Chris Buescher
9th - Harrison Burton
10th - Cole Custer
13th - Cody Ware
14th - Todd Gilliland
15th - Garrett Smithley
16th - BJ McLeod
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang -- Qualified 2nd
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THAT ELIMINATION FORMAT? WAS IT FUN FOR YOU? “It was decent I guess. It was better than doing nothing. It puts a big emphasis on the pit crew, for sure. Our only job is to not stall it getting to the box and stop on the sign. I think a couple of guys did stall. It puts a big emphasis on those guys and their skillset. I am saying it is good because it worked out decent for us. If it went bad for us I would be saying the opposite. It was unique and I thought our guys did a good job. We got hurt on the lane choice there. I thought the bottom was better but we aren’t in a bad spot for tomorrow.”
ON THE POLE RUN, IT WAS PRETTY MUCH JUST THAT HE COULD GET A BETTER LAUNCH FROM THAT LANE? “Yeah, I thought our stop was honestly a little faster than his. I was on the top for the first round, bottom in the second round, and top in the last round. I could notice a big difference. The bottom launched a lot better after you got done with your stop. Whether it was cleaner or whatever it was, fresh asphalt or something. It just seemed to launch better. It is one of those things. I was hoping that the 5 would beat the 18 in their round because then I would have had lane choice but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Ford Performance PR
Editors note: Transfers will be added as they transfer to fill out the All-Star Race lineup.
Crayon Software Experts, the cloud-based digital IT company and software solutions provider, has partnered with New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) to become the entitlement sponsor for New England’s only NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) race. The Crayon 200 will take place at 2:30 p.m. on July 16 as part of the speedway’s traditional mid-summer NASCAR weekend.
“We are extremely excited to partner with Speedway Motorsports and New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in July,” said Justin Henriksen, CEO of Crayon US. “It’s our mission to be the trusted technical advisor for our clients by helping them rightsize and optimize their IT estates to save costs while also unlocking their technology potential through innovation and our cloud and software expertise. This partnership will further those efforts by providing us a global spotlight to showcase our best-in-class solutions and services.”
The software solutions provider will also receive premium signage displays, hospitality opportunities and the chance to select VIP dignitaries at NHMS.
"We are thrilled to welcome Crayon to 'The Magic Mile' this summer," said New Hampshire Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager David McGrath. "The team at Crayon works hard to provide a top-notch digital experience for customers around the world, and we work hard to create the best entertainment experience for our fans and corporate partners as well. We look forward to providing a new platform to Crayon to market and showcase their capabilities."
In addition to the NXS race entitlement at NHMS, Crayon becomes the Official Cloud and Software Solutions Provider for NHMS and eight additional Speedway Motorsports properties: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway. Crayon will receive signage, hospitality and marketing opportunities at those premiere entertainment venues on NASCAR event weekends.
“We are proud to add Crayon to not only New Hampshire’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race but also to Speedway Motorsports’ list of world class partners,” said Speedway Motorsports Chief Sales Officer Kevin Camper. “Their presence at all of our venues will provide unique business-to-business opportunities for Crayon to meet potential clients in markets across the country from New England to Sonoma.”
New England’s NASCAR weekend gets underway Friday, July 15 with Friday Night Dirt Duels at The Flat Track and continues with Doubleheader Saturday on July 16, featuring the Crayon 200 NXS race and Whelen Manufactured in America 100 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. The grand finale of New England’s biggest race weekend is headlined by the Ambetter 301 NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, July 17.
Be sure to check NHMS.com/Events/NASCAR-Cup-
Log on to NHMS.com for tickets and more information on the weekend’s lineup of action-packed racing. Doubleheader Saturday tickets start at just $35 while kids 12 and under are free. Sunday’s Ambetter 301 tickets start at just $49 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.
Keep track of all of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s events by following on Facebook (@NHMotorSpeedway), Twitter (@NHMS) and Instagram (@NHMS). Keep up with all the latest information on the speedway website (NHMS.com) and mobile app.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to media prior to the Texas Motor Speedway race this Saturday:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important is it for you to win the All-Star race from a financial standpoint? With all of Brexton’s racing, we’re worried about your finances.
“Are you insinuating I’m broke? You should be considering the best thing I got going right now for next year is a test driver. Sim driver. I did hear though that that pays over 100 grand so I'm excited about that. Truth be told, yeah, coming in Texas, All-Star race, I mean, you it's kind of that old adage of bring home the steering wheel or bring home the checkered flag right, so hoping we can bring home the checkered flag that would certainly be nice. I've only done that once in the All-Star race but you know, looking forward to this year's format and the different things that it has going for us this weekend and obviously bringing back some pit crew element into that excited about showcasing my guys and how fast they've been this year. So they deserve to get some love.”
How is your momentum going into the 600 with the good runs on mile-and-a-half tracks?
“I mean, the mile and a half stuff has kind of been our bread and butter a little bit this year, I guess you'd say. You know, California we were okay. I thought we were quick, but we got behind early, but then Vegas and Kansas was really good. We were fast there. So being another mile and a half here, hopefully that means well.”
How has it been being a ‘girl dad’ for a week or so now?
“It’s good. Last night was a little rough, didn't get much sleep last night, but she's been great otherwise. So it’s been a lot of fun. Brexton has been pitching in and helping out and stuff like that. So it's been nice to just be home the last couple of weeks. Haven't had a whole lot to do, which it was planned that way. But Charlotte week next week is going to be a disaster. So lots of help needed next week.”
Is running in the Indy 500 still on your radar?
“Yeah, I mean, you know, it's certainly on my radar. The year that I had it sold and committed and sponsorship was there and everything like that, I got told no. And then I haven't necessarily tried to sell sponsorship since, but there was an easy verbal yes, commitment. And things have changed obviously, so don't have that these days, but overall, excited to be able to watch and cheering for old pal, Jimmie Johnson to go out there and run well and do good. He's always been fast in stock cars and everything else so it's no surprise to see him being up on the charts this time around. And looking forward to seeing him go next Sunday.”
What are you expecting at Texas with this new race car?
“I don't know, there was a test here earlier this year, a tire test and such. I think (Ryan) Blaney was here and he was really fast. Unfortunately, our Toyota bunch, we crashed out early so we didn't get a whole lot of data. So we may be a little behind the eight ball, but the past mile and a half this year would argue otherwise. So we'd like to think we come out here and we're fast and we have good strong race cars to go out here and try to win a million bucks.”
Did your Truck Series drivers tell you anything about the resin on the race track?
“I mean, to me, just watching the truck race, it looked to be about normal. You know, you can get in it, dabble in it a little longer the outside way around, but it does seem to have grip and you can make some runs off the top the corners and try to make some moves down the straightaway in such. Same old Texas it looked to me so not much different.”
23XI Racing driver Kurt Busch was made available to media prior to the Texas Motor Speedway race Saturday:
KURT BUSCH, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
What has the week been like coming off your win in Kansas?
“What a great win for our team and 23XI. All the men and women who have jumped on board to build the 45 car up and to just see the progress and to be part of it from just one little race for a top-10 finish, to leading some laps, couple of top fives and then just a rough stretch of wrong place at the wrong time as far as wrecks and building the cars back up and piecing together everything to make sure we stayed on schedule. And then Denny (Hamlin) as an owner -- great, great owner with his tenacity and the upgrades that Toyota said they were bringing and as a driver you always hear about upgrades. Okay, sure. But the way we unloaded at Darlington and had the raw speed there and then to back it up at Kansas and to pull our car into victory lane with the Jordan Brand. Wow, what a day for Toyota, Jordan Brand, Monster Energy and just all the men and women on our team. All the progress has now put us in that spot where we're solidified as a good team. And I told everybody at our team meeting and our team celebration that we need to become a great team. So those are the next steps.”
How hard is it to go from a good team to a great team in the Cup Series and what do you need to do to get to that point?
“With the Next Gen car, that's even put in a different twist, where we're a new team and the new car is like a clean slate. And it's a blank white marker board where you're just trying to draw patterns and find things and throughout all of the data from Toyota and TRD. The information shared from JGR for me and Billy Scott (crew chief) on that 45 car, we were the last ones as far as all the different apps and systems that they use. So we were going to school, we were a group of freshmen and everybody else were seniors with the amount of knowledge that everybody had within the JGR and Toyota system. So we had to go to work and had to find those rhythms, but also work within the new impound sequences. The rules with NASCAR, you show up, this is what you have. And then it's like, okay, well, how do we get better and unload better and have a better 20 minutes of practice. Because I'm used to hours of practice, and hours of debrief sessions. And now things happen so quick. And with me and Billy, really, we have a good simulator and we have to find certain sequences in the sim, which it's still not as real as you want it to. But it's a tool to use. And that's been the most gratifying part is just trying to uncover everything and look through it, filter through it. And then these last couple of weeks, things have slowed down, and we're making good decisions and the pit crew they're holding serve. So those are things that we have to continue to build on. And make sure we're at that top notch level.
What is it like having momentum coming into the All-Star race?
“A rush, the hauler right now with all their crew members being here and the pit crew guys I mean, it was a straight up like a football locker room or a college football locker room of just the morale, the trash talk, the fun and the excitement like there's a different swagger. You have to have that after a win. And then you have to compartmentalize it into what can we do on track today with the cool procedures for the All-Star and then we go for the million bucks. I mean, who doesn't love money? And we don't have to worry about points tomorrow. And everybody's just bouncing around like, let's go after this.”
Does this car continue to need more work for a 600-mile race?
“This car continues in my mind to exceed expectations other than there's two quick things, like the bodies seem indestructible and the suspension seems very fragile. And so as drivers and teams we've communicated those patterns to NASCAR. And so I go into a an All-Star race where you don’t have to worry about it. But in the back of my mind, to your question, the 600 you have to protect a car and not get a fender rub or get in the fence and tweak the suspension because that just makes for a crazy long day. That's what I had at Dover a few weeks ago after contact with (AJ) Allmendinger. I had to nurse it around for 150 miles and these cars once they're bent it's a whole different ballgame.”
Is this race car truly producing a more level playing field among young drivers and veteran drivers?
“It is feeling that way where you have to have a young role with it attitude and keep things fluid so a few weeks ago, I remember Bubba (Wallace) called me after the sim, and he's like, ‘Hey, we did this, this and this, go try it.’ And I was like, I hadn’t thought of it like that. And it worked. All three of those things were we're going to do this next week at track. And it's like sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. I won't say the final word on that. But just keep it simple and roll with it. And the upgrades that Toyota and TRD have helped us with and again, just the constant communication and knowing that this manufacturer might have been better at this group of tracks or this manufacturer might have been better over there. Coach Gibbs is a leader and he's a champion and sport all the way through. Denny (Hamlin), MJ (Michael Jordan), there's a large championship pedigree within our system, and everybody has rolled their sleeves up and they continue to push and right now there's three Toyota's in our six that are in the Playoffs. We’ve got to keep going.”
Is how you celebrate and enjoy a win different as you get older or deeper into your career?
“Age and experience and also the realization that this is a difficult sport. You're more appreciative as you get older and to build a team up like this on the 45, yes, this one is special. And then the last one I won at Ganassi was super special like you never know when that last one will be the last one. And early on in my career, like you said, there was multiple race wins each year and the trophies rolling in and you're young, you're naive and you're not as appreciative and that's the key word is being appreciative for the things that are going on.”
What do you think of the All-Star format and the strategy behind it?
“Yeah, the format that always gets thrown at us for the All-Star is fun, you know, like SMI (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) and the way that they've operated it over the years you don't know what you're gonna get. And when you see it, you have to absorb it and just figure out what the best way is to approach it. Right now it's an oval mentality of qualifying and if you make the top eight, then you're going drag racing for a little bit. And that was a fun discussion that the driver counsel had with SMI. And just, again, the excitement and the value of the All-Star atmosphere. That's what we tried to keep as far as the integrity of it, and then we're 25 laps there 50 laps they're still the pit crew can get you into the final stage and the top four. It keeps it all balanced with short run speed, long run speed, strategy, pit crew, a whole thing.”
What is a memory that sticks out to you from your first race win or first race?
“I'll go with a lesson I learned early on about my third race. With my dad, my mom and I was racing at the local track. I wrecked in a three wide attempt. I was trying to pass them all in one corner because I had won the week before. And it was this ego check moment of my dad said Where were you going? I was like well I was gonna pass them all on one lap. He goes well now you get to work on your car and fix it all by yourself this week. Probably should learn how not to wreck the car. And so that was a moment of the work ethic as a blue collar kid and what my dad was teaching me about racing. And once the car got pieced back together, and I had been winning races, he's like I just need you to go and finish seventh. It doesn't make any sense why we're here to win. He goes seventh place that pays $35. It's $20 to get the car and $15 for your pit pass. We are going to break even today. I was so worried about even just driving the car. I had to finish an eighth, paid 30 bucks. I told my dad, we’re like $5 in the hole now right? He said, something like that. It's about protecting the race car and being smart with it and putting yourself in position to win. And you can't win the race like they say on the first lap but you can definitely lose it.”
What advice are you giving your nephew, Brexton, on his racing?
“He's just turned seven. So we were gonna slow the roll on finances and how to race. There was a video I took of one of his restarts and I go, ‘Why aren't you block into the outside?’ Looks at me and says, ‘Fine, I’ll do it.’ And the next restart he blocks so far to the outside that the guy on the inside passed him and he got mad at me about it. So there's things with seven year olds that are different than others and just the growth over the last two years for Brexton, yes, he's gonna win a lot of races. And Kyle (Busch) has been a tremendous dad and a coach and a car owner for him and Samantha has been there all along, every step of the way as well. And then on the side, I made a deal with Brexton. I said every when you get for your whole life, I'm gonna give you $100. And so he has to call me or text me after each of the wins. And even like had the number he goes I think I'm up to 14 now is our account right? So it's gone from $30 to $1400, I mean inflation is kind of catching up. He's on his own program. We got it we got to keep straight with him. He doesn't care about anybody else. And but it's all going into an account and it'll tally up over the years.”
ROSS, LAST YEAR YOU RACED YOUR WAY INTO THE ALL-STAR RACE THROUGH THE ALL-STAR OPEN. THIS YEAR, YOU ARE LOCKED IN WITH TWO WINS ALREADY THIS SEASON. HOW’S THAT FEEL?
“It feels great. It’s a lot of FOMO when you are not in it, so you just feel like you’re in the Cup Series you need to be in it with teams like I drive for. Yeah, last year was a lot of pressure and I thought it would be easier, but it’s been no different. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, and we put a lot of pressure on us as a team to keep performing the way we’ve been this year.”
THE QUESTION PROBABLY EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW, HOW ARE YOU FEELING AND TELL US ABOUT YESTERDAY AFTER THE TRUCK RACE?
“I feel good. Odd deal. Looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong and why that happened with our AMR staff and our medical staff that travels with us. They know me, they see me every week. Even whenever I don’t see them, they are walking through the garage and watching us. They see us after crashes when we go to the care center, so as soon as we walked in Kevin’s like yeah man you are dehydrated. We were talking and then last night I got to thinking about my week and I think I just got lazy. I just didn’t hydrate enough. I was fine in the truck; I mean it was hot. It was a hot race, and I went to get out and I went to step out of the truck on the floorboard and my left calf locked up, like it cramped, and then my left hamstring and then my hips both did when I was on the door of the truck. There was somebody from the medical team was there right then and nobody else was even around me. He asked if I was ok, and I told him no. He helped get me out of the truck, like I was already sitting on the door. He got me out and I laid down and felt ok. Then I got up and was like alright I probably need to go on in there if it’s going to cramp that bad. I’ve never had cramping like that and when that amount of pain comes in it creates lightheadedness and all of that. It’s not fun, so I’m not going to let it happen again. With the IV’s last night and what they recommended for water intake today, will probably get some more before the race tomorrow. I’m just staying in contact with the medical team to let them kind of guide me on what they recommend.”
“I do. I swear I said it last night, I don’t know what’s in those bags, but it makes you feel like a superhero. It’s awesome. It’s all kinds of vitamins and minerals and potassium and everything that we need that I should have been taking in naturally and more just natural throughout the week that I got lazy on. It’s straight into you and halfway through the first bag I was like I’m ready. Like I’m ready to go. I’ve had probably four of five times throughout my career went and gotten IV’s and it’s worth it to go ahead and stay and get the second bag. Really try to prepare now for two more days on track. I want to be at 100 percent. I feel good though.”
THE ALL-STAR RACE IS ONE OF THOSE EVENTS WHERE IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU DON’T WIN, BUT THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS IS IF YOU WIN. IT’S A MILLION BUCKS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TRACKHOUSE IF YOU WERE TO PULL THIS OFF FOR THE WHOLE ORGANIZATION AND FOR YOU?
“I mean, it’s money. Just call it what it is, right! That’s the whole reward of it. Winning in the Cup Series is just, that is what it is. Being competitive and competing is really my motivation. I want to come to the track every week and compete. That’s my whole life goal right now is just competing. If we aren’t doing that then that’s what we are going to work towards and that’s what we are going to try to win the day. So, whatever that is today’s practice and qualifying. We were just kind of going through it before I walked over here, lie there’s the lights and there’s a buzzer and is there like a laser system or is it just by the eye test if you jump early. Trying to understand all of that is cool. I’ve always watched All-Star qualifying; I mean used to they came off of Turn 4 at a hundred something miles an hour and tried to slowdown and do a pit stop. We’re not doing that, but it’s still this is a bucket list item that I’m getting just to qualify for. Go through a qualifying event where it’s not normal, right? We are going to do one lap and hope we are top eight and then we really get to do the cool stuff, involve our pit crew and go fight for the pole.”
YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A TON OF MOMENTUM. YOU’VE LED IN THE LAST FOUR RACES, UP UNTIL THE SPIN AT DARLINGTON YOU WERE RUNNING UP AT THE FRONT. KIND OF EXPLAIN THAT, LIKE WHAT HAS THIS YEAR BEEN LIKE FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND THEN BEING PART OF SUCH A STRONG TEAM THAT’S PROBABLY BEEN THE BIGGEST STORY THIS YEAR?
“I don’t know if I can explain it because I can’t even believe it sometimes. Everything we are working on is to keep being better, keep being fast and keep competing in the Cup Series like I said. When I lay down or I watch film back from this year, I’m honest when I say I can’t believe that I’m watching the No. 1 and No. 99 compete the way we are. It’s just not supposed to happen this way. I know Justin (Marks) doesn’t like me saying it, but I don’t view myself as a competing, winning Cup Series driver. I prepare to be one. I believe that I’m the best driver. I think that if you don’t think that you shouldn’t be in the Cup Series. Every driver strapping in today for practice should think that they are the best driver. Nobody is better in their car then them. They are the best. I believe that, but man I watch us lead laps, I watch us pick up spots on pit road, control restarts, push on restarts in the front two rows, that is so hard to do. I’ve watched it for 10 years of my career from 2011 until this year really competing. There’s a lot of losing that came along with that. I’m very conditioned to losing. Although I don’t want to sound like I’m complacent with it, I got to a spot in my career several years ago where I just realize what my potential was. Now, Trackhouse, Chevrolet, and Phil Surgen have given me this whole new lease on my career and given me this opportunity to compete. We’ve been preparing for this for years, but to actually go do it is just hard for me to believe, honestly.”
I KNOW HOW CLOSELY THIS ORGANIZATION WORKS TOGETHER, BOTH TEAMS. WITH YOU ALREADY BEING IN, IS THERE A LOT OF FOCUS GOING INTO THE OPEN ON REALLY TRYING TO WORK HARD TO GET DANIEL (SUAREZ) AS WELL RACING HIS WAY IN AND NOT HAVING TO HOPEFULLY DEPEND ON THE FAN VOTE IF NOT? ARE Y’ALL WORKING TOGETHER ON IT, EXCHANGING INFORMATION AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS TO REALLY TRY TO GET THAT TEAM IN AS WELL?
“Yes, and it’s no different than any other week. The 1 and 99 teams work out of the same hauler on the brain side of it. They work in the same office at Trackhouse headquarters in Concord. I mean, we fly together. We live life together. Especially the crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics and pit crews, that’s a given. The cool part about this event is that the Open cars go first, it’s just like an A and B practice for a normal weekend. So, it’s just like we are split up in A and B. He’s going to practice in A and then we’re going to practice and unfortunately or fortunate for me we will learn from him whenever he practices. We will be able to make adjustments going into our practice right after the Open cars for the All-Star cars. Then, we will give him our feedback as they go into qualifying, and we will give them our feedback for them going into their Open race. It’s no different. It’s pretty incredible how much I’ve learned from Daniel. We’re similar in age and we’re similar in a lot of things, but he’s been in Cup longer than me. He’s been mentored by a lot of people that have been in the sport a long time. I am too, but not at this level. Like I was just talking about, and I catch flack for it, because I just don’t view myself in a lot of ways and he does. He knows that and he knows his potential. I’m trying to learn from him and I’m sure there’s things he is learning from me, I think. It’s wild to look back at our careers and see where the different walks of life we’ve came from and literally the different languages we grew up speaking to now both being teammates here. He’s just an awesome guy and we’ll learn from each other throughout these practices and the Open race and hopefully both go compete in the All-Star race.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO LOOK AT ANY OF YOUR IN-CAR HYDRATION SYSTEMS OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU DO TO KEEP HYDRATED BEYOND WHAT YOU DO BEFORE YOU GET IN THE RACECAR?
“I’m looking at all of that. I think I got lazy thinking it was just a Truck race. I don’t wear a cool shirt over there. I don’t do a lot of things I do in the Cup car, and I don’t think I need to change a whole lot. I think the week leading up, probably eat some more watermelon, probably just eat more watermelon in general. I mean, really, I know we joke about the watermelon but if I would have eaten a little more of it probably wouldn’t have had the problems I had. In the car, there’s not a whole lot Niece (Motorsports) could have done. I think it was on me.”
ONE OF THE COLLATERAL THINGS WHEN YOU GET SUCCESS IS THAT YOUR FAN BASE EXPANDS AND POPULARITY GOES UP. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THIS YEAR AND ARE THERE SOME TANGIBLE THINGS THAT SAYS OK I’VE HIT A CERTAIN LEVEL HERE?
“Yeah, I’m probably scaring some of them off with shirtless pictures from the care center hooked up to an IV. I probably should have thought twice about that, but I’m sitting in there waiting on the second bag to get done and just thought I should tell people I’m ok. They gave me my phone and saw a lot of stuff online of what people thought happened and I just wanted to clear it up. I mean, yeah, the most tangible way to measure it is just the business of our racing. The business side of Trackhouse and Ross Chastain has never been better. For both cars, we are bringing on new partners. You guys hear us talking about it. You guys hear us welcoming new people to the family and to the house. I think that’s the best way, so go down the list of people we are announcing, and we’ve got more coming down the pipeline. It’s checking all the boxes. Then yeah, social media numbers are up. That comes with it’s fair share of negativity and that’s ok. Everybody’s got an opinion and social media gives them that platform to share that. I’ve learned how to deal with that better and there was a time where one bad tweet would just make me delete Twitter off my phone and wait three days and then re-download it. Now it’s like I don’t mind, and I don’t have to block people and mute them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few people muted from year’s past. It’s big business racing. I was up in some suites yesterday with the Worldwide Express folks. This is their first race on my car, and they also sponsored my Truck and Dean Thompson. Just looking out, I don’t get up in the suites a whole lot anymore. Used to I was a fan of the grandstands and I was always up there, but looking out you realize how big of a deal this place is and this track. With the big screen and the billboards and everything being color coordinated across the whole footprint of this racetrack and all the advertising that goes on, let alone on TV. I mean we’ve got sponsors on the foam safer barrier blocks in the wall. That’s big business racing and I’m proud our stuff is growing and going good.”