Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face – especially when they’re mad, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.
Throughout the NASCAR Cup Series season, there were quite a few of these moments. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.
“I always try to explain to people that they all have pretty much equal buckets of talent. If they had a bucket of experience, obviously Brad (Keselowski)’s is more full than Ryan (Blaney)’s. I think the thing about working with Brad is he’s a veteran in the sport. He’s been to all these places so many times and he has a lot of knowledge about what happens on a race weekend and how the tracks change throughout the weekend and how the races play out — all those things that these veteran guys are able to leverage. In Ryan, you see that as he’s continued to progress and you see that every year he gets better and better, and all that is is a matter of combining the talent these guys have with the experience of knowing how your car’s got to drive during practice or how the race is gonna change throughout the weekend — from start to finish through a race of how you need to stay ahead on adjustments. The things that Ryan has learned over the years to have him where he’s at now to where he’s a lot more competitive than he was when he first started and it’s just a matter of experience. He’s always had the talent and all these guys that drive here at Team Penske are really talented.” – Jeremy Bullins
“Steve (LeTarte) has believed in me from day one, very thorough with me, and where we’re at as a team. We’re not just going to blaze into the Cup Series and start winning races, or start doing top-fives – he says brick by brick. I translate it back to what we did at Kaulig Racing, a race team is built around the people that you hire. I think Steve has done a great job going out and finding good people, working with Kevin Bellicourt – my truck crew chief, one of my best friends over the past five years. So having that relationship in the box and honestly that 77 crew was my truck crew. I think there is one guy difference, my engineer, but if there was six guys on my truck crew, than there’s five on the 77. I had a lot of success with those guys on my truck crew, a lot of fun. So Steve has been awesome. He’s a great leader. He’s obviously had to go through a lot this week with the 7 team having some COVID issues but he does what any great leader does – he steers the ship through the storm and done a great job so far.” – Justin Haley
“We’re living in an age where the role of a crew chief is different than it’s ever been. The crew chief has so many resources behind him – like engineering and simulation and the set-ups are built on computers and in the simulator, plus the SMT data. All the things in that the role of the crew chief is less about building a car and set-ups, and more about leading the team and keeping the guys motivated and keeping things organized and making sure he’s managing the driver well. One of the reasons why Travis (Mack) was so attractive to us is because he’s very good at that stuff. I mean, he’s very smart, he can build a great racecar and a good set-up, but the role of a crew chief these days seems to be moving forward to that of a leader, cheerleader and organizer of the effort.” – Justin Marks
“I think one of the things is just trying to be a little bit stronger on the 750 tracks. I feel like we’re kind of missing just a little bit of something there. Every time we’re on one of those racetracks we blow the rear tires off about 30, 40 laps into a run. We’ve got some work to do in order to keep the rear tires underneath me, and I feel like that’s the number one thing that our focus will be for going into Darlington next week.” – Kyle Busch
“I feel like you do have to race each other (him and Chase Elliott) a little bit differently. You don’t want to run into each other and damage their car or damage yours, take out two opportunities for our organization to get a win. At the same time we got to run hard because we’re battling up front for these wins with each other. It’s been cool to get to race really hard with Chase especially. William (Byron) and Alex (Bowman) have been doing a great job this year, to have us all getting wins, battling up front all throughout the race, it’s awesome. I think, too, we all want to see each other do good. We work really well together. I think we all learn something off of each other each week.” – Kyle Larson
“There’s probably 10 key things that have really helped us over the last three years grow and be better It’s hard to weigh one versus the other, so it’s all about people. A lot of the people that were there two or three years ago are still there, it’s just moving them into different spots and changing the culture and just maximizing those areas and, like I said, more than anything it’s just moving a lot of those key people around into spots where they can flourish and really be in their sweet spot, so to speak.” – Michael McDowell
“Cup Racing is the highest level of racing that we have in North America, with respect to IndyCar. So to take something new and go out there and win a race, it doesn’t reach, but we’re both in the mindset of start off good, have good car speed, have good culture at the shop, and then perform better each week.” – Mike Wheeler
“It feels great to have the wins because you can try some things before the Playoffs. Right now we want to win every race we can. The momentum of winning, that carries into the chase. We don’t want to just try too many different things. I’m sure we’ll try more when we get to the Playoffs. We’re sitting in a good spot. Again, we got to keep doing what we’re doing. You got to have the momentum when you get in the Playoffs because you got to make all the rounds. As it gets closer, I think we’ll probably try some stuff. The deal is to win and be competitive every week if you want to win the championship.” – Rick Hendrick
“It’s been humbling, for sure. There have been a lot of things that I’ve just done wrong behind the wheel… the small details of driving the car. We’re working down a path with no practice of trial-and-error at these races to see what works for me and what works for the car. We have to be better. We’ve been pretty honest with ourselves and pretty transparent with each other in what we see. You can throw a lot of that on me. There are a lot of things in the car that I have to keep doing better. We’ll keep working toward that.” – Ross Chastain
“Really, this Sunday is a small snapshot of what the whole concept is with me having the opportunity to help Spire build their program and Spire gives me back to me because they help me stay as absolute in touch with the sport as they can. They’ve been great and you have to remember, last year was tough, even on the media. You guys all know – not a single walk through the garage area, not a single in-person conversation, a lot of zooms, a lot of phone calls. This is really kind of satisfied and helped my anxiety about making sure I understand what is going on in the sport. I feel I owe the fans that and I love Spire, love working with him, and I feel they’ve helped me with that.” – Steve LeTarte
“I think there’s a lot of factors to that, depending on what perspective you’re looking from. For us, track time is important especially with a brand new car and trying to develop the Next Gen car to the level of refinement that we’ve become used to. I think that can be accomplished a few different ways and practice is one, a little less efficient than just actual track time and a full day to test where we can get full data on the car and streamline everything to know exactly what the car is doing. I’m in favor of having a few tests so that way we can learn at the most detailed level. On a race weekend, you have a lot of time constraints that come in – time of day, the tire sets that you get, not having data on the car, having to be on a track that is changing drastically because you have 40 cars running for a 50 minute practice so all those things just make it harder to learn. But it’s also hey, the race weekend and you want to get dialed in so it’s nice to have. I think there’s probably a middle ground between where we were with two hours and 50 minutes of practice most weekends – that’s probably a bit much for what is necessary these days.” – Travis Geisler
“I think when I came in four years ago, I was at the tail end of the guys getting a chance and didn’t have to bring a whole lot of money on their own. Now if you’re not bringing money, there’s really no conversation to have. You’d really love to lead with talent alone, and personality and I think I have an abundance of that, but that’s not where it’s at currently. I don’t think that’s fault to the owners or anyone, but I think it’s just where we need to work on things in the future of the sport and rise up the talent that brings good personality and good talent into this sport. It’s a tough landscape, especially with COVID-19, as everybody is tight on budgets in every facet. Everybody is looking in different directions to make changes.” – Ty Dillon