What drivers said Sunday at Las Vegas

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While lots of people were talking about the Kyle Busch-Joey Logano fight, there were a lot of drivers who had other things to say after Sunday’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Martin Truex Jr. (winner): “We finally got some (good luck). We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away and it looked like today was going to be another one of those. The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs. We had to run that last set of tires on that last caution longer than we did all race long. I was out of control and Brad (Keselowski) was really good on the long run. I hate that he had problems, he was strong and we weren’t going to do anything with him, but then he lost the brakes or something. A little bit of a gift, but we have given some away, so it feels good to come out on the good end for once.”

What was going through your mind in the closing laps?

“It was a gift. We’ve been on the other side of that plenty of times. This is the first one where we’ve kind of had it go our way. I can’t say enough about everyone on this team. They made a lot of changes last night and we said go for it, and they did. I’m really proud – this is the first victory for the 2018 Camry and to be out here on the west coast – this is a big one for us! Tons of people to thank at our team, with Barney (Visser), Joe (Garone), Furniture Row, Denver Mattress – my buddy Johnny Morris here for believing in us and coming on this car with Bass Pro and Tracker Boats. Proud of Toyota and TRD – these engines have been unbelievable this season so far. We have Auto Owners coming back this year and all our sponsors. West Coast for everybody, but it’s home for these guys – it feels really good.”

Is stage racing fun?

“It’s still hard and still tough. You still drive your butt off every single lap, I know I was. I felt like the race didn’t’ play into our hands and we had to go really long on that last set of tires and Brad (Keselowski) was better at the end and we had to stretch it and I was driving my little butt off and I couldn’t keep him behind me. We never give up and that’s why you keep fighting until the end. Pit crew was unbelievable today and you have to thank them. It’s a dream come true driving these cars for these guys and hopefully we can keep this momentum going.”

Do you feel like your team has the good luck you need this season to win?

“We finally got some. We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away and it looked like today was going to be another one of those. The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs. We had to run that last set of tires on that last caution longer than we did all race long. I was out of control and Brad (Keselowski) was really good on the long run. I hate that he had problems, he was strong and we weren’t going to do anything with him, but then he lost the brakes or something. A little bit of a gift, but we have given some away, so it feels good to come out on the good end for once.”

Did you feel you needed a few more adjustments on your Camry in the closing laps?

“The run before with about 40 to go it just locked up and I couldn’t use more. I think that’s why we struggled a bit on that run. All in all, that’s how it goes sometimes and you don’t get the tools you need. We did what we could with it and we were going to come up short to the 2 (Brad Keselowski), but they had problems and we took advantage of it. It was a team effort and we never gave up all day long. Here we are.”

How strong was your team today?

“We did last year, hopefully we can keep it going. It’s been a good start to the year for us. We had a solid day at Daytona and ran out of gas. Had a solid day at Atlanta and had some issues that cost us some spots. We’ve been solid and this is a brand new 2018 Toyota Camry for us, so it’s been a little bit to learn. It’s been a bit different and we’re still learning so hopefully we’ll continue to grow and get better.”

Kyle Larson (Finished 2nd): “Yeah, no fist flying for me. That was exciting right there, but no, awesome day for our Target team. Second in the first stage, third in the second stage and then finished second in the race. I can’t say enough about my team. I’m so proud of them. Our race cars are amazing right now. We are going to hopefully, keep building on what we’ve got and keep challenging for wins and they will come. Had a lot of fun today. … Back-to-back seconds. We would like to have back-to-back wins, but this is pretty awesome.”

Chase Elliott (Finished 3rd): “We had a really good car, had a bad restart there at the end and lost a couple of spots.”

Joey Logano (Finished 4th): “I don’t run from conflict. You just talk about it, but he wasn’t in a talking mood. He was in a fighting mood, I guess. I don’t know. Typically, you can handle this stuff like men and talk about it. You don’t have to fight, but whatever. … I guess it’s always surprising. Like I said, I’ve never had an issue with Kyle. Kyle and I have always raced really well together. We’ve never had an issue, but I guess that’s over.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI (Finished 5th): “I just know it was something major (what broke on his car on the final lap). It wouldn’t turn, and I lost brakes, so that’s a pretty good indicator, but that’s the way it goes. That’s racing, and that’s why you watch until the end, and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s frustrating, but you put yourself in position to win and good things will happen. That happened to us last week and didn’t happen this week, so you just pick up the pieces and move on. You just try to make the most of what you can — every day, every second. I was still trying to get the best finish I could and still lucky to come out with a top-five. … We had a great day. We ran up front and led a lot of laps. We were the fastest car at the end and just didn’t come together. That’s part of how racing works.”

Ryan Blaney (Finished 7th): “I thought we are a little bit better than that. We had to come in early in the race and get some lug nuts back on the right front to be able to race. That put us behind. Our car was good enough and once we got back inside the top 10 I felt that we had a shot at fourth or fifth but that last restart didn’t go our way. Good car. Good effort overall.”

Jamie McMurray (Finished 8th): “Just a solid whole weekend for the whole group. We got behind on one of the runs with scuff tires on. I just had a bad restart and we lost a bunch of track position. From there on out, our car was really good. I thought we actually had a little better car than where we finished.”

Clint Bowyer (Finished 10th): “It was a struggle. To be truthful, we weren’t the best all weekend, but we just kept digging. (Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) didn’t give up on the box and kept adjusting on it and got me pretty good, the best we’d been right there at the end. It’s a top 10 and gives us some momentum. It’s our third race together and we got a top-10, so we’ve got to keep digging.”

Jimmie Johnson (Finished 11th): “I don’t know what happened with strategies. It was coming our way and then we had some lug nuts not get on, on the last stop, and had to come back in. We had just about everything go wrong that we could today and somehow finished in 11th. I’m not really sure. I know we had some creative strategy working at the end that was going to play well and then whatever car blew up and then we pitted, and we came out in seventh and probably could have had a top five if we wouldn’t have had to come back (to the pits).”

Kasey Kahne (Finished 12th): “We did something to the car right there at the end of practice, and I liked it, but once the tires gave up and it was rough, you start bouncing more. I didn’t like it at all. It really handicapped our race. But we fought for 12th, which was solid for the effort. It was another good effort, we’ve just got to keep doing better, keep figuring out practice starting these races a little bit better, but that is on me and the crew chief and engineers just trying to figure it all out.”

Trevor Bayne (Finished 13th): “(Crew chief Matt Puccia) made some great changes that really helped our car as the race progressed. I’m pretty happy that we’ve been consistent so far to start the year with three top-15 finishes. I’m proud of the effort my guys gave this weekend, and I’m confident we can carry this start to the season on to Phoenix.”

Erik Jones (Finished 15th): “The 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry was fast enough to run in the top 10, but we just didn’t execute in the pits. We know we’re capable of running up front, but we just have to make sure we execute as the race goes on. We can make up for those spots during the middle part of the race, but once it comes down to the end, it’s more difficult. I feel good about how we’ve run, but I just want to get some strong finishes to match. We’re not getting the finishes we deserve, so we just have to keep working at it.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Finished 16th): “We were about 8th to 12th all day. We made some adjustments real big there at the end to try to gain a bunch of spots, and it just didn’t work out for us, so we lost some spots on the restart. That bottom is no place to be on the restarts anyways in the back there, but we will take it. A couple of spots there, hopefully that will make or break the season for us, and we just can put a few races together and try to climb our way back into the points. We’ve got to finish them like we did today instead of the results we had at Daytona and Atlanta.”

Kyle Busch (Finished 22nd): “I got dumped (by Joey Logano). He flat out just drove straight in the corner and wrecked me. That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it.”

Landon Cassill (Finished 27th): “I thought we had a good car and the race just kind of kept going the wrong way for us with the cautions, and then I got in the wall into turn three and gave us just enough damage that we didn’t have quite as good of a car as we had most of the race. That kind of put us back a couple spots. I still feel like we’re better than previously, and I’m looking forward to Phoenix, where we had a top-20 run last year.”

David Ragan (Finished 29th): “Our car was a handful all weekend. We made a lot of adjustments on all the corners, but we could never find a sweet spot. These cars are real finicky with their aero balance and splitter height, so there are a lot of things going on that once the race started, we couldn’t change. But I’m proud of the Juice Batteries team. They made a lot of adjustments and we were able to finish just a couple of laps down, and we’ll learn from it. We just need to work on our mile-and-a-half stuff a little bit more.”

Kurt Busch (Finished 30th): “We went through a lot today. Obviously, it wasn’t the day we were hoping to have. We didn’t have the long-run speed or the balance, and we had an electrical issue that forced us to change batteries on pit road. We kept battling, we didn’t give up.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Finished 33rd): “We struggled all weekend. My guys did a good job though on the backup Fastenal Ford and I think we could have finished in the top-15. Hopefully we can get all this bad luck out of the way and can rebound in Phoenix which is a track that has been good to us.”

Danica Patrick (Finished 36th): “We just got the car to a place where I think we could have got a little more racy with it, especially if we would have caught some breaks, but then it just flattened out. I just rode around the top in case I blew up, but having a teammate behind me was not ideal for the timing of it, but unfortunately it happened. We’ll just move on.”

Kevin Harvick (Finished 38th): “It started vibrating about four or five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there. Obviously, it didn’t make it. The worst part was the medical response. It took them forever to get to the car. I thought we made that better, but obviously we haven’t. All in all, our Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford was running good. We were just too loose right there. It’s not like we were even tight, so it either just cut the tire, or came apart or melted the bead.”

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NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

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Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

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Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.