What drivers said after Charlotte

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Here is what driver’s had to say after the 57th annual Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson – Winner: “No, I didn’t wonder, I just knew it was taking way too long. When you drive for Rick Hendrick and have all the great people at Hendrick Motorsports working for you, the great support from Lowe’s and everyone in their stores and Chevrolet. There are just so many great people behind us and that support us to make this happen. We knew we would get back. Yes, it was slower than we wanted it to be but to be here today and have this victory is great. Thank you to Sprint, to the fans, to Gatorade, and to Valvoline. This is something very special to our team.”

Matt Kenseth – finished second: “They did a great job. Honestly, last two years in a row pretty much Charlotte has kind of taken us out of the Chase – mostly my doing, different things happening the last couple years here – so had a lot of problems last year, this year we had a lot of problems again, but we were able to kind of rebound from them and just kind of take our time. We knew it was a long day and they had good pit stops, good strategy and got us back where we needed to be there at the end.”

Kasey Kahne – finished third: “It was quite the battle to get there. We had our work cut out for us. We got to where we were a lot better the first 30 laps of a run the last three runs there.  That helped us get some track position and avoid a couple of those wrecks. That was tough on a couple of those teams. I know Chase (Elliott) was part of one. I didn’t see what happened, but that is tough for those guys that are battling for this championship. Congrats to Jimmie (Johnson) and the Hendrick Engines, No. 48 team, those guys did awesome. Our Great Clips Chevrolet was strong the first 30 laps and then it would fall off a little bit. It was still a strong day. We did pretty good. We fought hard; the team had great pit stops all day also.”

Ryan Newman – finished fourth: “We had a good race car no doubt. The Caterpillar Chevrolet was strong, especially at the end of the run on top all day long. Just came up a little bit short there. I know some other guys had some problems, but I want to thank the fans that came back today and hopefully enjoyed a great race. We will keep digging. This is building for us for the rest of the year and starting next year.”

Kyle Larson – finished fifth: “It was a good finish for our Target Chevy team. We had a right-front tire come a part there early in the race and was stuck a lap down for a long time, but we were able to get our lap back and finish fifth. I thought I was a little bit better than fifth out of the good guys that wrecked and cars that were left. I will take a fifth today it was a hard-fought fifth.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: “There early on we had a tire come apart and that just kind of ruined our day. Right from there, it just seemed like we were playing catch up and thought we were going to have a good opportunity to have a good finish and then we had the 3 (Austin Dillon) spin his tires and clog up the inside lane and just chaos started and I did the best I could to try to avoid it and I didn’t want to check up too bad and slow down too much and get run over, but I ran over the guy in front of me, so I hate it that we ruined Chase’s (Elliott) day like that, but, man, things happen quick like that on restarts too, so I wish it – we had a little bit better breaks, but we certainly didn’t have a whole lot go wrong like some of them other guys.”

Brad Keselowski – finished seventh: “It’s a solid day. To run seventh is OK. We just weren’t quite anywhere near as fast as the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 24 (Chase Elliot), and we were behind a bunch of the others, so we just need to find a little bit of speed, but the execution was great. On the last pit stop my guys got the Wurth Ford out with the leaders, which was really good. We’re executing well. We just need to find a little bit more speed to be able to make that execution and speed and win races.”

Kurt Busch – finished eighth: “We went through a lot today. The restart, I guess we survived it better than most when everybody had that trouble. We just missed on the setup on the first five laps and then after 30 laps, man, she would just go away. We got what we could out of it and all-in-all an eighth-place finish, guys had trouble, it is one of those days where you just go ‘alright’ we will take it. It’s not the best, but with Haas Automation, Monster Energy, that is the finish we need to advance through this Chase.”

Tony Stewart – finished ninth: “Real proud of my guys today. We battled hard. The pit stops were great. I didn’t think I’d have a top-10 at the end of the day.”

Jamie McMurray – finished 10th: “I got lucky to get through the wreck. I thought we were torn up a little more than what it shows there. I don’t know we were really good the first 200 laps and then for some reason the last 100 we just couldn’t go on restarts, didn’t hang on very well.  We just didn’t have the speed we did earlier in the day, but still pretty solid day for both (Chip Ganassi Racing) cars.”

Danica Patrick – finished 11th: “The No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet was loose for most of the race. Billy (Scott, crew chief) and the guys did a great job on adjustments to get us in solid position for the second half. We had a mistake on pit road late in the race and lost some ground when I overshot the pit stall, but the guys quickly recovered and we ended up only losing a couple of spots. The car got a little tight, but they took some wedge back out, and it was pretty good there at the end. I was really hoping we’d end up getting a top 10, but (Jamie) McMurray got us on the last lap, so we ended up 11th. Still, I think that’s our best run so far this year, so we’ll take it and try to keep building over the last few races to put ourselves in a better position for next season.”

Carl Edwards – finished 12th: “We had all sorts of trouble today. We had something wrong with the exhaust and then thought we had a tire coming apart and an engine coming apart – it ran for about 400 miles I guess so hat’s off to TRD, they did a good job keeping that together. I all but wrecked and somehow came out of that and then we had a lug nut hang up in the gun so we had all sorts of adversity to come out of here with a cushion on ninth so this is good.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 13th: “The clutch went out. I had the clutch on the floor sitting there in first gear when they dropped the right side and the clutch just pumped up and pushed my foot all the way up so the clutch just went completely out and I had no clutch at the end. I had to start it in gear and luckily we were able to get it started. Not sure what happened, just one of those freak deals. Just happened at the wrong time.”

Chris Buescher – finished 16th: “Overall, it was a tough day to move forward. There were a lot of wrecked race cars, which I was kind of surprised about. The track still had decent grip. It was nice and cool out, but it just led to a wild race. I guess everybody was figuring they’ve got a little cushion. They’ve got two more races before they really have to worry about the cutoff, so this was one of those days that we kind of expected three weeks ago.”

Landon Cassill – finished 19th: “We had a pretty good car up until we got some damage on that big wreck and that kind of killed my speed. We were fortunate we could at least maintain position on fuel mileage. It all worked out. The fuel-saving got us back to where we were running before the damage on that restart. These races at Charlotte seem to be pretty unpredictable, which is why they’re so much fun.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 20th: “We struggled with the handling. Under the right circumstances we could have probably finished on the lead lap but I got a speeding penalty on pit road under the green flag pit cycle. It was a crazy race. It was good points day for us though. We’ve got six more races to learn from and carry that momentum into the off-season.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 30th: “Just an engine failure there. We hadn’t had one in a long time with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Toyota. It’s just my time and it’s usually Chase time when I have these things happen. Tough break obviously. Had a good car and we’ll have to go to Kansas and get a good run there and do everything we can to advance.”

Austin Dillon – finished 32nd: “I am fine, it just sucks. We will have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back.  I felt like I got to third gear pretty clean and then the next thing – I feel contact and I am spinning through the grass. It’s part of it and we took two tires there and you know the risk when you get into it. You just hope that doesn’t happen obviously. I got to third without spinning the tires, and I felt like we got contacted. We will just go on to next week.”

Chase Elliott – finished 33rd: “I think the No. 3 (Dillon) they stayed out on tires and tried to get some track position. The No. 78 (Truex) ended up getting him out of shape and then after that I tried to check up. I don’t think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) saw it, got into us and got us turned the wrong way. It happens we just got to go and try to have more runs like that next week.”

Paul Menard – finished 34th: “I have no idea. We got behind early and just got back on the lead lap, making some gains with the No. 27 Valvoline/Menards Chevy. Excited to be back on the lead lap and then that next restart everybody just kind of checked up and I got pushed out to the outside wall and couldn’t see anything, I just ran into Chase (Elliott). I’m not sure what started it all. I guess some guys took two tires, probably spinning tires and bumping and shoving each other.”

Greg Biffle – finished 35th: “Everybody got checked up there and sideways. My spotter did a great job and kept me out of it. I kind of thought everything was clear and I let off the brake and the 27 was spinning when all of a sudden somebody bounced off the wall right out in front of me. I didn’t see where they came from or what they did. We weren’t going very fast, but just enough to do a bunch of cosmetic damage and knock the oil cooler and radiator out. I don’t think we’re going to get that fixed and get the duct work back in it. The nose separated from the splitter, so it’s unfeasible to fix it in that amount of time.”

Joey Logano – finished 36th: “We’re not out by any means. We had a very fast car. I’m super-proud of the car we brought here. It was capable of winning, for sure. We ran up from 10th to third and was still running down the leaders early in the race, so I felt really good about the Pennzoil Ford we had. Things happen. It’s part of racing, but we’re not out. We’re not gonna die. This team is resilient. We’ve proved it before and we’ll just have to go out and prove it again. We just have to have two flawless races. It’s something we can make up.”

AJ Allmendinger – finished 37th: “I’m alright that was definitely a hard hit when you start from the bottom and get to the top not the way you ever want to hit. I’m not sure what happened. First off I can’t thank all my guys enough. Harris Teeter on the race car, Stouffer’s, everybody that is a part of this, built a brand-new race car it’s our first one since really the beginning of the year. It had a lot of speed in it. There is something weird that started to happen kind of I would say the first third of the race to where I didn’t like what was happening with the front end of the car. I couldn’t tell if it was just rubber build up or anything like that, but we kept having tire problems with 15 laps to go in the run. Had one start to delaminate and the same thing right there, I started feeling something go again and I don’t know if the tire went or something broke, but something was definitely starting to get messed up in front of cars when was costing us speed. We had a lot of speed early in the race, probably the most speed we have had all year at a 1.5-mile early in the race. There is something to be positive about just not the way we want to end it.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 38th: “No, it just suddenly shut off and the things that it points to are no oil pressure. It’s definitely not a power issue with the battery or anything like that. They are trying to diagnosis it. I hate it for everybody on our Busch team they made some great adjustments today and got our car back where we needed to be to run up front and everything was going fine. Lots of things can go wrong and today they did.”

Alex Bowman – finished 39th: “Blew a tire I guess. It’s really unfortunate. I hate it for these Axalta guys. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports worked so hard. They brought a great race car here, brand new and destroyed it. Really unfortunate, but it’s not anybody’s fault. We didn’t hit anything we just must have run over something.”

Casey Mears – finished 40th: “I don’t know. I just was going into the corner and I saw him come up all of a sudden. I don’t know. It’s too bad he didn’t put us out of our misery there. We were having a rough start of it. We were just kind of hanging on and actually those guys were going by us. They either blew a right-front (tire) or had something come loose or something and came up into us.”

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Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in must-win scenario at Kansas

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Going into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are likely to be among the four drivers eliminated from playoff contention.

Stenhouse is 22 points back from the final transfer spot and McMurray is 29 points back.

Both drivers talked with NASCAR America before the race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) about being in a must-win scenario to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Watch the above video for the interviews.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. His first oval win since Kansas Speedway a year ago validates the team’s 1.5-mile speed in the playoffs.

Dustin Long

Kyle Busch. Mark it down, he wins and advances to the next round to continue his quest for a second title.

Daniel McFadin

Martin Truex Jr. keeps his foot on the throat of the competition and gets his sixth win of the year at a 1.5-mile track.

Jerry Bonkowski

Kyle Larson is starting 13th but expect him to get to the top five within the first 20-30 laps. He needs a strong run to give him momentum heading into the Round of 8 and he gets it Sunday.

Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – James “Jim” Watson, a fabricator for Furniture Row Racing, died Saturday night after suffering a heart attack, the team stated Sunday morning. Watson was 55.

A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Watson had been a member of Furniture Row Racing since February. He worked for Roush Fenway Racing from 2006-15 and spent last season with HScott Motorsports. He was a long-time racer, competing in dirt late models and asphalt super late models throughout Southeast Wisconsin.

Watson was with the team this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

He is survived by wife Laurie and daughter Brittany.

“On behalf of Furniture Row Racing we extend our deepest sympathies to Jim’s family,” said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “He was an outstanding and talented member of our racing family, whose life was dedicated to racing since his early days as a race-car driver in Wisconsin. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim’s wife Laurie, daughter Brittany and to his entire family and friends. Our No. 77 and 78 teams will be racing with heavy hearts today.”

Ryan Blaney ready to prove doubters wrong

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Ryan Blaney has a bit of a chip on his shoulder this weekend.

The 23-year-old driver for the Wood Brothers seeks to hold off three former champions today at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) for a spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs.

Even though former champions Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth trail Blaney in the points, some say Blaney won’t hold them off and advance to the Round of 8.

“I’ve heard that all week that we don’t really deserve to be here, so that kind of ticked me off a little bit,’’ Blaney said Friday after qualifying.

“They just say we’ve been kind of overachieving or they didn’t expect us to be here. Those little things kind of make you a little bit irritated because our guys do just as good a job as anybody. They deserve to be here. They work their tails off like anybody else. Hopefully, we can prove that Sunday.’’

MORE: Wood Brothers lifeline started with a phone call

Blaney’s job, though, will be more difficult. He will start last in the 40-car field because his car failed inspection after qualifying. Kenseth (third), Busch (seventh) and Johnson (13th) all start in the top 15 and should be able to work their way into the top 10 to score stage points by Lap 80 when the first stage ends. Blaney will be challenged to do so and could see his advantage on each shrink. 

There’s hope for Blaney because he posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s final Cup practice. But he ranked ninth in average over 10 consecutive laps — behind Busch and Kenseth.

“There’s definitely things we can improve on,’’ Blaney said after placing third in Saturday’s Xfinity race. “(In the Cup race) everyone is going to be kind of married to the wall pretty early in a run. It might be hard to pass. Hopefully, we can work the bottom. I think the Cup cars might wear the top out, might over-rubber it where we have to move down a little bit.’’

With starting in the rear of the field, changing weather conditions (the wind is not expected to be as prevalent today as Saturday) and facing an elimination race, it would be easy for the pressure build on a driver and team.

“I really don’t feel that it’s a different weekend,’’ he said, alluding to the battle for the final playoff spots. “More people are paying attention to it because it’s a big deal. There’s four cars pretty much going for two spots. We try to approach it as any other weekend. It will be more challenging coming from the back.’’

Along with starting at the rear for the penalty, Blaney’s team had to pick last for pit stalls for failing inspection after qualifying.

His team would have had the third pick and he would have had an opening either before or after his stall, making it easier to either enter or exit. Now, he’ll be sandwiched between Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Provided both stay on the lead lap, Blaney could face challenges squeezing into his stall throughout the race.

“It doesn’t help our situation for sure,’’ Blaney said. “Those are two good cars. We’ll kind of be pitched between them all day. Dale actually sent me a text. Teams work well with each other about that. That will be tough for us. That will be another challenge.’’

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