Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on his mindset heading to Phoenix Raceway: “It’s definitely the most important race ever in my career. I’m fortunate that it’s at Phoenix. It’s a track I haven’t won at before, but I’ve had some really good runs there, and earlier this year we had a really, really good race car. I just made two mistakes and sped on pit road two different times. If I can clean up those mistakes, I think we’ll have a great shot to win as well as the other three guys who I’m sure I’ll be going up against. It’ll be tough, but I’m looking forward to a chance to race for a championship.”
Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on using notes from the spring Phoenix race: “The best experience that we have to go off of is the spring race that we had there. Our car was really fast. We had a couple of mistakes of Kyle speeding on pit road, and some of that was on us too just for getting the timing marks down. But we've learned from that and we have good notes from that race. Of course, great notes from Alan (Gustafson) and Chase (Elliott) winning the championship and winning the race there last year. So, those two recent data points of ourselves and our teammates are just great to have and great to go off of and build from.”
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on if there are lessons from last year’s championship run that he will carry with him this season: “I think a little bit of everything. We will look at obviously our car side of things from how we raced the last few years, not just that particular race last year. Then, obviously, the spring race in Phoenix – we have some things to look back at. So, I think we will definitely dive through every bit of that information that we have. I think from the mental side, having that experience of going and experiencing the emotions of the week and leading up to it and all those things, it is kind of nice to have been through that before. It didn't really seem to matter last year so I don't know that it really matters; I don’t know whether it really affects your performance or not, but there were things and experiences that I learned last year that I'll try to carry forward to better myself and to better our team and that's all you can do with that information.”
Elliott on being locked into the Championship 4: “Getting in that final four is really the goal every year. The goal is to go win the championship, so it’s just nice to have another shot. It wasn't the exciting transfer walk-off type like it was last year but nonetheless, to have a shot to go race for to the championship is really all that matters to us right now. I would love to have won at Martinsville, but I feel like our teams in a good place, performing well over the last couple weeks so I am excited for the opportunity. That's all I can ask for this time of year.”
Elliott on the No. 9 team dynamic: “I feel like we have a great team. I feel like our approach is very similar; I let him do his job and he lets me do my job. We don't question it and I feel like it ends up being a really nice working relationship. Our team has grown and has changed a little bit over the course of my six years. I think that as you go, you evolve and you get to know people better, you start doing better. You start finding that little bit in each person that helps performance each week and it all adds up. So, we have a great group people. I am proud to have them and I am excited go to work this weekend.”
Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on competing for a championship against No. 5 team: “It makes it a lot of fun. It’s certainly more enjoyable for me and it gives you a little bit of comfort knowing that you have teammates who are going to be pushing the front and pushing forward to prove their cars, their pit crews, all of the above. It’s a fun time here and we are proud of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and what they have been able to do in all phases of this organization. They are operating at a super high level. It’s a fun time and we certainly enjoy it.”
Gustafson on looking back at the 2020 championship nearly one year later: “To me, it’s much more about 2021 than 2020. I’ve just been focused on trying to get in a position where we can do that again. I really haven’t had a chance to reflect on last year much or really even think about it. We are just focused on this season and trying to get ourselves and our team in the best position we can for this weekend. Certainly, there’s some things we learned going through last year and this season so far that we can apply, but as far as anything else, it’s just been keeping our eyes forward. We are looking forward to getting to Phoenix.”
William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on what to expect returning to Phoenix Raceway this season: “When we went to Phoenix earlier this season, it was a good experimental race for us. It was still early on in the year, and we were still getting Rudy (Fugle) up to speed in the Cup Series. I think we learned a lot that race, but unfortunately not a ton will apply when we go back this weekend. With everything we’ve learned throughout the year, the car will be set up completely different and the track will handle differently, as well. The good thing is we will have practice this time around. With this being the final race, you know everyone will bring their best equipment, but we will have the time to really dial it in before the race. You just don’t want to cross the fine line of dialing yourself in or dialing yourself out.”
Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on what the team has accomplished this season: “It’s crazy to think that this is the last race of the season and that my ‘rookie’ year is coming to a close. I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished as a team this year. I had a lot to learn coming in and everyone helped to get me up to speed. We won a race so early on and showed consistency throughout the rest of the year. This team as a whole, William included, has grown so much in just a short time to have a career-best year. There will be more to come; our chance will come. We would love to be heading to Phoenix in the hunt for a championship but we’re glad to have two teammates in the hunt representing Hendrick Motorsports, as well. We’ll all four be strong Sunday.”
Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on if he’s satisfied with his breakout season: “Yes and no. It's so frustrating to have this playoff run go how it has gone. Last year, we had a great playoff run. We didn't go into it with a lot of playoff points, but we were extremely consist - finished pretty well in the points and had a good playoffs. This year, we've just had everything go wrong that could possibly go wrong. So, it was really special to at least get pointed in the right direction to try to end the season on a high note and get a win after how the last couple of months have gone. Obviously, we'd rather be in the final four. I think it's pretty obvious; that's what everybody wants. We just haven't had the consistency that we needed to make that happen. It's unfortunate, but that's just the way it went. So, we will work hard at trying to understand why that is. We've been trying to understand why that is for quite a while, so if we can get that dialed in, we've proven we can win races. Anytime we have a shot at it, we tend to finish the job. So, (we will) just keep trying to continue to put ourselves in positions to win races.”
Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the approach to Sunday’s race in Phoenix: “Really similar. Obviously, they always talk about racing the playoff guys with respect and I don't think we race anybody with disrespect. So, whether you're in playoffs or not, I don't think it should matter. Obviously, you know, things happen on the racetrack and intentional or not intentional, we will be truthful about it. There was a time in the last few years Alex made a move and it was intentional and he owned up to it, so track record should speak for that. Phoenix, we have two teammates in in there, we have a guy we just had some controversy with, so I don't expect us to race Denny any differently, as well as our teammates any differently, than we have all year. For a position to win the race, it really comes down to whoever wants to go for second, right? In the end, we're never going to put ourselves in a situation to ruin those guys’ opportunity to win a championship because we know at some point we’ll be in that same scenario and (will) want to get raced exactly how they would. So, in in the end, we're just going to go out there have a nice, calm, clean race, hopefully a fast car, and let the driving and the speed dictate itself.”
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
11 FedEx Ground Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing
Sunday Race Info:
Race: Xfinity 500
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 31/2:00 p.m. ET
Distance: 500 laps/263 miles
Track Length: .526 miles
Kansas Recap: Hamlin started sixth in the FedEx Freight Toyota and asked for help tightening up the car’s handling throughout the first two stages. Extremely windy conditions also made the car a white-knuckled handful, with gusts frequently pushing drivers up the track and sometimes into the wall. The FedEx Racing driver was able to keep the car out of the fence despite the challenging weather and finished the first two stages in fifth and eighth, respectively. The #11 team made some headway on the car’s handling in Stage 3, allowing Hamlin to circle the mile-and-a-half oval a little faster. Track position was difficult to make up, but he was able to climb multiple spots to cross the finish line in fifth. The result put him 32 points above the cut line to make the Championship 4 – the final four drivers who will compete for the NASCAR Cup Series trophy in the last race of the season at Phoenix Raceway.
Martinsville Preview: The Cup Series moves on next to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday for the final race in the Playoffs’ Round of 8. Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team will look to claim their spot in the Championship 4 either with a win or a solid points day. In his 31 career races at the half-mile, paperclip-shaped oval, Hamlin has notched five wins and 16 top-5 finishes.
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Laps Led: 1,884
Avg. Start: 8.5
Avg. Finish: 9.7
Hamlin Conversation – Martinsville:
How do you feel about your chances at Martinsville and the short track package?
“I’m confident in our chances at Martinsville. We’ve been very strong at these types of racetracks, and I’ll think we’ll have a really good FedEx Toyota when we go there. We want to battle for a win. Because if we’re in the battle for a win, we’ll be fine no matter where we finish.”
Will you have a particular strategy, given your points position and what you need to advance?
“I think we should be OK. But, of course, you just never know what can happen. I just need to make sure I get some stage points and don’t give it away early, and I think we’ll be alright to advance.”
FedEx “Drop Off, Win Big” Sweepstakes on the #11: The TV panel of the #11 car will carry a special message at Martinsville, encouraging FedEx small business customers to participate in the “Drop Off, Win Big” sweepstakes going on now through January. Small business owners can register online to have a chance to win up to $10,000, just for dropping off their packages at any of the 60,000-plus locations across the U.S. The TV panel message points fans to the URL where they can learn more and enter: fedex.com/dropoffsweeps.
FedEx Ground Along for the Ride at Martinsville: With the national observance of Corporate Compliance Week (Nov. 7-13) approaching, the alpha code “DELV” on Hamlin’s car recognizes the extraordinary focus on processes and compliance by the FedEx Ground’s Delaware Valley District.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Monday, October 18, 2021
KYLE LARSON 5/2
DENNY HAMLIN 8/1
KYLE BUSCH 7/1
RYAN BLANEY 8/1
CHASE ELLIOTT 8/1
MARTIN TRUEX, JR 10/1
WILLIAM BYRON 10/1
BRAD KESELOWSKI 16/1
KEVIN HARVICK 20/1
JOEY LOGANO 25/1
TYLER REDDICK 25/1
ALEX BOWMAN 40/1
CHRISTOPHER BELL 40/1
KURT BUSCH 50/1
AUSTIN DILLON 80/1
MATT DIBENEDETTO 100/1
ROSS CHASTAIN 100/1
CHASE BRISCOE 100/1
DANIEL SUAREZ 100/1
ARIC ALMIROLA 300/1
CHRIS BUESCHER 300/1
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR 300/1
BUBBA WALLACE 300/1
COLE CUSTER 500/1
ERIK JONES 500/1
RYAN NEWMAN 500/1
MICHAEL McDOWELL 1000/1
RYAN PREECE 2000/1
COREY LAJOIE 5000/1
ANTHONY ALFREDO 10000/1
JUSTIN HALEY 10000/1
PARKER KLIGERMAN 10000/1
JOSH BILICKI 10000/1
BJ McLEOD 10000/1
JOEY GASE 10000/1
QUIN HOUFF 10000/1
DAVID STARR 10000/1
CODY WARE 10000/1
CHAD FINCHUM 10000/1
RYAN ELLIS 10000/1
Friday, October 15, 2021
You can never satisfy me, NASCAR. I’m going to complain about the smallest things that grind my gears in the sport and sometimes I’ll even flip flop on a topic. It’s a love-hate-love relationship, the same way I might criticize my brothers.
This brings us to Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked 1.5-mile layout. Long race title sponsorship is a tolerable nuisance, but how about this week’s race is only the second race on a 1.5-mile track after July 11. I’ve complained regularly about all the cookie cutters since 2000, but now I miss them in this new era of the road course.
Sunday’s race will be only the eighth race on a 1.5-mile track and next week’s race at Kansas will be the ninth and last of the season. Las Vegas started the Round of 12 and Texas will start the Round of 8 and Kansas next week will make it only three races on 1.5-mile tracks, the same as last season, but a reduction on the season from 11 races on 1.5s to only nine.
It feels like it’s been a while since watching Denny Hamlin win his first career race at Las Vegas last month. And it’s been ages since Kurt Busch dominated at Atlanta on July 11. Since Atlanta, three road courses, and just two 1.5-mile tracks.
It used to be that organizations focused on mastering the 1.5-mile tracks because that was the Gateway to a championship with the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 1.5-mile paperclip. Now the title race is at Phoenix Raceway using the low downforce package with engines producing 750 horsepower that has already raced 18 times this season. That is the new gateway.
The 1.5-mile track isn’t going away even though Texas lost a points-paying spring race and instead was given the non-points All-Star Race. This is the 41st Cup race at Texas and the first year since 2004 that Texas hasn’t had two points-paying races on the schedule.
But I can’t help to remember NASCAR at its pinnacle of popularity in the mid-1990s with the young California kid Jeff Gordon and the wiley veteran Dale Earnhardt clashing and then cashing together all the way to the bank with merchandise sales. The new cookie-cutter tracks had massive seating which made the old standards like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro Speedway expendable. The new tracks also took away a Darlington date and caused the stoppage of the Southern 500 on Labor Day.
NASCAR is trying to rebrand itself again with all the road courses (favors Chase Elliott), so I’m flipping on my stance on the cookie cutters after experiencing a full season of road racing so I am back now missing the 1.5s. I may again feel different in two decades.
I hope that all made some kind of sense as I went full circle.
AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTOMOTIVE 500 ANALYSIS
Now let’s make some money. The winner of the race gets a free pass into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix in four weeks. Only a handful of drivers have a chance to win this week with the high downforce race package with engines producing 550 horsepower.
Caesars sportsbooks list season point-leader, Kyle Larson, as the +275 favorite and he’s certainly deserving of being such a short favorite. But more on Larson in a bit. Let’s talk about Kyle Busch who Caesars has posted at 7-to-1 odds to win at Texas.
His only two wins of the season came using this week’s race package at Kansas and the second Pocono race. He also won this race last season. I’ll bet he wants to start off the Round of 8 with a win to ease the pressure the next two weeks.
“For sure,” Busch said. “Both the first two tracks to start the Round of 8 are places we’ve won at within the last calendar year, so I look forward to getting to Texas and starting the next round. All the tracks are good places for us, so hoping we can get some solid finishes and maybe even a win, hopefully the sooner the better, and can get us to the Championship 4 at Phoenix with a win.”
Busch is a two-time Cup Champion and is a nice look to win the Championship which Circa Sports is offering at 6-to-1 odds to win it. The only negative is Phoenix using the 750 HP which hasn’t been far from his best package this season. But let’s stick with Texas here where Busch has been dominant in all three NASCAR national series. Why is he so good there?
“It’s always been a really good place for me, whether that was before the repave or after the repave,” Busch said.” A lot of credit goes to Joe Gibbs Racing and the cars they bring there for me. We’ve had a lot of success at Texas over the years, whether that is in the Xfinity Series, winning five in a row as we did there, winning in the Trucks, and now we have four Cup wins there, too, after the win last fall. It’s just been a really good place for me, and our team has been better with the 550 (horsepower) package this year, and hoping we can get into victory lane there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry and punch our ticket to Phoenix early.”
Kyle Larson was able to extend his lead in the Championship Series with a win in Charlotte last week. (AP)
Interstate Batteries is a Texas-based company that is celebrating a 30-year relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing who won the 1993 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett at the start of their second season.
Kyle Busch has four Cup wins at Texas, as well as 10 Xfinity wins, and five Truck Series wins. In only 30 Cup starts there, Busch has 14 top-fives and led 1,049 laps which are both the most among active drivers, as are his four wins.
In his last three races using this week’s race package, he was runner-up to his brother Kurt at Atlanta leading 91 laps. Next, he was at Michigan with a seventh-place and leading 13 laps, and then it was a home race at Las Vegas where he finished third.
I’ve got five car numbers swirling around in my head and Busch’s No. 18 keeps coming up aces for me even though Kyle Larson is a beast and will be again Sunday.
AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTOMOTIVE 500 BETTING RESOURCES
- Date: Sunday, October 17, 2021
- TV-Time: NBC, 2:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Texas Motor Speedway
- Location: Fort Worth, Texas
- Distance: 501 miles, 334 laps
- Defending Champion: Kyle Busch
The Texas layout was modeled after SMI sister tracks at Charlotte and Atlanta. All three have their own wrinkles that make them unique to themselves but looking at all three side-by-side they look like twins or triplets. Larson was the best collectively between the three races and also won the All-Star Race at Texas.
In March, Larson led a race-high 259 laps at Atlanta but couldn’t close out the win and finished second. Ryan Blaney scooped the win like he has done late in all three of his wins. This happened two weeks after Larson won his first Las Vegas race and led a race-high 103 laps.
In May, Larson led a race-high 327 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Chase Elliott was second, and Kyle Busch was third. But Larson hasn’t won a race with this week’s package since the Texas All-Star Race on June 13. It’s in this small gap of semi-failure for the great Larson that I see a window of hope and opportunity for Busch winning.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
11 FedEx Express Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing
Sunday Race Info:
Race: YellaWood 500
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 3/2:00 p.m. ET
Distance: 188 laps/500.08 miles
Track Shape: Tri-Oval
Track Length: 2.66 Miles
Banking: 33 degrees
Press Kit: Download the 2021 FedEx Racing press materials at www.fedexracing.com/presskit, including bios for Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart and Joe Gibbs Racing leadership, program highlights and statistics.
Las Vegas Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team scored their second win of the Playoffs and claimed their spot in the Round of 8 with a dominant win Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hamlin led more than half of the race and claimed the Stage 2 win before pulling away in Stage 3 to lead the race’s final 39 laps. Crew chief Chris Gabehart and the #11 team got the FedEx Office Toyota handling better and better as the race wore on, and the pit crew gained Hamlin positions on pit road with fast stops as well. The win is Hamlin’s first at the 1.5-mile Nevada oval and his second of the 2021 season.
Talladega Preview: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team now head into the more precarious Round of 12 races at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval knowing they’ve already advanced to the next round. First up is the 2.66-mile superspeedway at Talladega on Sunday. In 31 career starts at the tri-oval track, Hamlin has recorded two wins and nine top-5 finishes, including a win at the fall race one year ago.
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Laps Led: 389
Avg. Start: 16.4
Avg. Finish: 17.2
Hamlin Conversation – Talladega:
Do you feel a sense of relief to know you’re already moving into the Round of 8?
“Definitely. Especially with the rest of this crazy round coming up. Talladega and the Roval are places where you don’t always have control over your own result, so it’s good to know we don’t have to worry about what might happen these next two weeks.”
Do you consider Kyle Larson your biggest competition in winning a title?
“We are our own competition. As long as we don’t make mistakes, we’re going to be OK. When we have clean races and don’t make any mistakes, we’re contending for race wins. We can’t really focus on one guy. I have to focus on the process that gives me a chance to race for a win. I just want an opportunity to go to Phoenix and have a chance.”
FedEx Express Along for the Ride at Talladega: Two Category 4 hurricanes just five weeks apart in September/October 2020 decimated Lake Charles, La., including the LCHA station. Despite catastrophic losses, station employees rallied as a team to provide humanitarian relief to the community while operating out of a makeshift trailer with limited connectivity. Fast forward to 2021, Lake Charles and surrounding communities once again were hit with two hurricanes just weeks apart, including another Category 4. Once again, the LCHA team responded by providing support and relief to the communities of Lafayette and Baton Rouge. Supporting the communities where they live and work epitomizes the FedEx culture value of CARING and is why FedEx Express is proud to honor its Lake Charles employees by featuring the letters LCHA on the B-post of the FedEx #11 at Talladega Superspeedway’s YellaWood 500.