What drivers said after Texas race

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Comments from drivers after Sunday’s NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson – Winner: “I guess I remembered how to drive; and I guess this team remembered how to do it! I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day. Oh, it was hot in there. I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “I think if I could have got by Joey with maybe five to go, I think I could have, I definitely would have caught Jimmie.  Passing him is obviously another story.  But I would have at least had a couple opportunities to get behind him and work there behind him and try and get by. I made a mistake there on the first pit stop and clipped too many boxes. I turned in way early. I probably clipped a couple before the 11 box. But yeah, I was disappointed in myself then because I feel like our car was really, really good the beginning part of the race and probably could have drove up to the lead and maybe controlled the race from then on.  So, you never know.’’

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “That is (crew chief Todd Gordon’s) top three there. He did a good job giving us a shot to win. I tried to hold off (Jimmie Johnson), he was just faster. There is nothing to say besides that. I was in the clean and had the clean air and he was still faster behind me. Once he passed me, my car kind of came to me a little bit and I was able to run him back down a little bit. If he had made a mistake, I was going to be there. He was loose, I could tell, then all of a sudden he wasn’t loose any more. He must have lowered his track bar or something and he drove away again. My car started falling off like it did all day. I needed a 15-lap run instead of a 30-lap run. We just have to get faster. We weren’t fast and that is why we didn’t win.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “I think the racing was better than it could have been. The track did a great job getting the race track ready. It could have been like it was all day Friday and were able to get that second groove coming in. I think we overachieved today. The only chance we had today was to have clean air. Our car was very sensitive to the track and two tires. I was able to run out front, and I could go okay then, but in traffic I really struggled off the corner.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.,– Finished 5th: “I felt like we were pretty good and we ran with the cars, (Martin Truex Jr.) and the guys that have been really fast. I think (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano) have been really the class of the field. I saw those guys weaving after the race and downshifting hard to reset their housing, so we have to figure out what they are doing and see if we can’t make it better.’’

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 6th: “We just kind of seemed stuck in that fifth- or sixth-place range for most of the race. We were fighting a few things and got a little better there at the end and maybe had a little bit more in the tank there if there was a little bit of time left, but we just ran out of laps.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 7th: “We had a really good car. I knew from like lap two or three on I was just able to turn a little better in (Turns) 1 and 2 than the guys I was in front of. We didn’t fall off very much. That was key today because we had some long green-flag runs. So, very proud of everybody both Ganassi cars ran great again today. We got a little bit behind when we stayed out on Stage 2 and got a little bit behind in the pits and then I had a really bad restart, so we played make-up the rest of the day.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Finished 8th: “It was an up-and-down race – track position was everything. We had a good car at times, and we struggled at times. The track was really, really difficult and the tires were definitely a challenge. It seemed like every time we put a set on, the car was a little different. We weren’t good on restarts and short runs and we’d lose all our track position that took us so long to get. Overall, it was a decent day, but needed to be better on short runs for sure.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 9th: “Had a good car, just didn’t get back up through the field as well as I would have liked to that second time. Good effort, just not good enough.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 10th: “We didn’t have any mistakes. We didn’t have to battle too hard on the handling. We may have tried to stay out to get points in segment two and might have hurt us in the long run. We had to build all our spots back the second half of the race. (Jimmie Johnson) was on the same sequence as us and he is the race winner. I would say we did good today. I know we can do better. I am happy about a top-10. Now we will go to some of our favorite short tracks.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: That was a tough day for everyone. Like a lot of folks, we just couldn’t get the handling right today. We’ll take 11th and enjoy the off-weekend, then head to Bristol.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “That last pit stop was pretty discouraging. We got back in that third debris caution. I don’t know what it was there at the end of segment two and that made everybody have split strategies and we got in the back and couldn’t pass anybody. It was terrible to try to pass people. We made our way up to seventh or eighth and then pitted, and I got into our box too long and we were wedged in between two cars. I was over the line by a few inches. That sucked. I put us in that hole. We probably should have stayed out looking back on it but that is easy to do. If you had asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said we would win two stages and have one of the fastest cars. They made really good changes this morning and that definitely says a lot.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 13th: I am so proud of the effort of my guys. To get another top-15 finish out of a backup car that we were able to actually get unloaded, and practice laps on during a 50-minute session, is just a testament to the dedication of this team. I’m really happy we were able to come away from here with another consistent finish. We will take this into the off-weekend and get after it again at home in Bristol.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 14th: “We struggled with handling in stage two but were able to bounce back in stage three. We were definitely better on the longer run so that last caution hurt us, but overall it was a good day for our entire Roush Fenway Racing organization.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 21st: “Our finish definitely did not define our day. We had a really fast Scott Products Chevrolet all weekend. It was really disappointing to be involved in the incident on pit road, but we had the speed we needed to get us back in the top 10. Unfortunately, after the end of the second stage, we had a loose wheel and that completely killed our momentum and we had to spend the second half of the race fighting for the Lucky Dog. I’m really proud of my No. 37 Scott Products team. They dug all weekend and worked really hard to get a fast car, and we’ll keep using that momentum and working on 1.5-mile program.”

Erik Jones — Finished 22nd: “Just need to get better for next time. There’s nothing we can really take and nothing that will apply to next time. Just need to get our stuff better and have a better car for next time.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 24th: “The TaxAct Ford was pretty good in the middle of the second stage, and we were able to pick up a few spots, but then it just started getting looser and looser. The team made good adjustments to help tighten the car up, but then it would start getting loose again as we got into the run. I hate we got a penalty there toward the end that cost us a bunch of spots.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 26th: Today was just not our day. This new track surface was definitely a challenge and it seemed like we never really got our car to where we wanted it to be. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) and the guys did all they could to try and fix the balance of our No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, but it always seemed like we were just too tight. With the new configuration, Turns 3 and 4 were a struggle to get through without being super tight. I think we definitely learned something for when we come back here in the fall, but overall today was not the finish we wanted. We’ll take the off weekend to reset and get ready for Bristol in two weeks.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 33rd: As soon as I made a pace lap before the race I could feel something was broken. We had to go into the garage and make repairs before we could even start the race. Man, it just sucks. Everyone knows you’ll have days like that over the course of a 38-race season but no one wants that ever. We worked hard the entire race just trying to make up laps and gain positions. The Dow Energy and Water Chevrolet really was fast today, we just didn’t get a chance to show it.”

Paul Menard — Finished 36th: We went into this weekend with the mindset that we have not raced here before. You could say we threw out all the notebooks on Texas. We found speed throughout practice on Friday and Saturday with Matt Borland making good adjustments. Today we just couldn’t put it all together. We had a setback when the insulation came off the wiring to our battery and a spark caused the car to lose power. Once we were in the garage, the guys hustled and got us back out on track as quickly as they could. We’ll regroup in the off week and come back strong in Bristol.” 

Yes, there is NASCAR racing Sunday: Xfinity entry list for Road America

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Who says there’s no NASCAR racing this weekend?

Sure, the NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series will enjoy the weekend off, but not the Xfinity Series.

Drivers in that series will be competing Sunday at what has become one of the most challenging and popular road courses on the Xfinity schedule: the twisting 4.048-mile road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

A total of 42 cars are listed on the preliminary entry list released Monday.

Only 40 cars will qualify to race in Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBC). This will be the third road course the series has raced on in the last four races.

One driver position and one crew chief position remain to be filled.

  • Team JD Motorsports has not named a driver for the No. 15 Chevrolet.
  • And the No. 172 Chevrolet, driven by John Jackson and owned by James Carter, has yet to name a crew chief for the race.

This will be the eighth Xfinity race at Road America since the series first visited there in 2010.

The winners since then have been Carl Edwards (2010), Reed Sorenson (2011), Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), A.J. Allmendinger (2013), Brendan Gaughan (2014), Paul Menard (2015) and Michael McDowell last year.

Click here for the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Xfinity race at Road America.

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NASCAR America: Erik Jones ‘has to be put on the radar for Darlington, Richmond’ (video)

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Like a stealthy cat sneaking up on a mouse, Erik Jones has been riding under the radar the last four races.

Few may realize that he’s had a pair of top-10s (8th at Pocono; 10th at Watkins Glen) and back-to-back career bests in his last two starts (tied his previous career best with a 3rd-place finish at Michigan, and then was runner-up Saturday at Bristol).

“It’s just been a consistent upward trend from the start of the year,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s NASCAR America.

Not only did Jones finish second to winner Kyle Busch at Bristol, he also started from the pole and led 260 of the 500 scheduled laps (while Busch led 156).

“I thought he did such a good job,” Jeff Burton also said on Monday’s episode of NA. “He didn’t lose the race because of a mistake, they just got out-run by someone who’s real, real good at Bristol.”

With Darlington and Richmond still ahead to make — or miss — the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Letarte said Jones can readily win either of those races.

“We’re forced to put him on our radar for Darlington,” Letarte said. “Maybe, maybe not, it’s a tough race track. We’ll see, first time there in a Cup car.

“But Richmond, this is a short track racer going to a short track. I don’t know if Erik Jones can be ruled out at any of the upcoming two tracks.”

If the young Michigan native, who is also the leading candidate for NASCAR Cup rookie of the year, does win at either Darlington or Richmond, he could ultimately have a profound impact on the playoffs.

A win at either track would serve to potentially eliminate the likes of Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and maybe even Chase Elliott, who are all above the cutoff line to make the playoffs.

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Long: Love him or hate him, Kyle Busch is what NASCAR needs

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For as much as Kyle Busch’s sweep of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup races at Bristol Motor Speedway turned some fans off, it was what NASCAR needed.

Even better, Busch understood.

After he won Saturday night’s Cup race, Busch goaded booing fans by putting his fingers to his ears, prompting more catcalls.

He walked to the back of his car and raised three fingers — for his three wins last week — as the boos (and cheers) grew louder.

And he smiled, a winner’s grin but also one of somebody who proved the doubters wrong. Again.

Part superstar, part showman.

The good guy to his fans, Busch also can be cast as the villain to the rest of the fanbase. He’s accepted that role, embraced it and learned how to egg on the haters in the stands and the trolls on social media. 

Sports is about us against them. While fans have their favorite drivers and teams, there remains the need to root against someone or some team. Without that distinction, sports would be as anticlimactic as a youth game — pick the sport: baseball, football, basketball, etc. — where no score is kept. That’s called recess.

Without Kyle Busch, who would make sane people insane and cause alcohol-fueled fans to do things they tell their children never to do? The new drivers haven’t been around long enough to anger the fan base. Maybe Kurt Busch could fill the role because anyone with the name Busch is more inclined to be booed. There are other drivers who have their detractors but not as much as Kyle Busch based on the visceral reaction he gets at many tracks.

“The best of the best that have won here have been booed … for a long, long time,’’ Busch said after his second Cup win of the season. “So I’m fine with that.’’

Busch follows a history of drivers that fans loathed (and some loved). Before Busch, it was Tony Stewart. He inherited the mantle after Dale Earnhardt, who took it from Darrell Waltrip and so on.

Earnhardt made the image of a villain into a cottage industry. For every boo and middle finger he received, he just smirked and kept on winning, infuriating his haters and thrilling his fans.

When Earnhardt was introduced before races, many fans didn’t sit. They stood to cheer or show how much they despised the seven-time champion.

Rarely was the anger as intense as the 1999 Bristol night race when Earnhardt spun Terry Labonte out of the lead on the final lap. Earnhardt said he “meant to rattle his cage.’’ Didn’t matter. Boos cascaded down the packed stands. Several minutes later, the track replayed the radio broadcast of the final laps on the P.A. system and when it came to the moment Earnhardt turned Labonte, a heavy chorus of boos reverberated throughout the stands from fans not yet ready to leave.

At 32 years old, Busch can grow more into such a role for years to come. And win more than his one championship.

Having not yet reached his prime, Busch is likely to keep winning — Saturday was his 40th Cup victory to tie Mark Martin for 17th on the all-time wins list. At his current rate, Busch will climb into the top 10 wins list before he retires. Busch can further irritate fans by also winning Truck and Xfinity races.

Us against them.

Yes, Busch will make fans cheer and boo for years to come.

“I’m sure they’re still booing, whining and crying all the way home tonight,’’ Busch said well after his win Saturday night. “They’re driving home mad, so people be careful.

“But, you know, my people get to go home safe and secure and slow and steady and patient because they get to celebrate.’’

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NASCAR America live 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Kyle Busch sweep recap, Erik Jones

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Today’s edition of NASCAR America airs from 6 to 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Kelli Stavast joins Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte from NBC Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • For just the second time in NASCAR history, a driver was able to win in all three national series in a single race weekend. In both occurrences, the feat was performed by the same driver, Kyle Busch, and at the same venue, Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch collected his first sweep in 2010, and came back to do it again this past weekend at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. We’ll hear from Kyle after his victory on Saturday and examine how this affects the current playoff picture.
  • Erik Jones did everything in Saturday’s Bristol Night Race but win. It was a great weekend for the rookie NASCAR Cup driver from Furniture Row Racing. The leading contender for Cup rookie of the year earned his first pole, led a race-high 260 laps, but finished second to Kyle Busch. How soon will it be before Jones gets to victory lane? Our panel discusses that.
  • Eclipse fever has spread to NASCAR. We’ll take a look at how drivers and tracks appreciated this natural phenomenon today.
  • We interview Kyle Larson at today’s announcement of a new sponsor at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.