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.” 

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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Today is the midpoint of the racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The NASCAR Cup Series will have two practice sessions, while the NASCAR Xfinity Series will have qualifying and then race in the Toyota Care 250.

Here’s how today’s schedule shapes up (all times are Eastern):

6:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

9 – 9:55 a.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

10:05 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

11:30 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Toyota Care 250; 250 laps/187.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Starting grid for Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

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The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway will begin Sunday with Matt Kenseth and Ryan Blaney on the front row.

They will lead a 38-car field to green in the ninth race of the Cup season.

Filling out the top five is Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.

Click here for the full starting grid.

Denny Hamlin: Joe Gibbs Racing’s rebound won’t happen ‘overnight’ or ‘in a month’

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With NASCAR visiting a track where Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last three races, one of its drivers admits the issues that have plagued the team so far in 2017 won’t be remedied quickly.

“I think we are slowly getting better, we’re gaining more knowledge trying to figure out what it is that we need to work on,” Denny Hamlin said Friday at Richmond International Raceway. “It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen this week, it won’t happen in a month. Some things are going to take a long time for us to get better at, but I’m very confident that when push comes to shove, we’re in September starting the (playoffs), we should be hopefully back where we were, if not better.”

Entering the Toyota Owners 400, Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to win race through eight events. All four of its drivers sit outside the top 10 in points. Hamlin was the last active JGR driver to win, winning last years’ regular season finale at Richmond.

The 2016 Daytona 500 winner is 15th in the standings and has yet to finish in the top five. By this point in each of the last two seasons, Hamlin had three top fives and one win.

“It’s always taken me a long time to get over winter break,” Hamlin said. “For whatever reason, it’s taking 10 races or whatever into the season to kind of hit my stride. I’m not really sure what it is. I try just as hard at the beginning as I do at the end. It just seems like that break in the offseason, it takes myself a little while to get over that hump, get in the flow of things. I’m not really sure.”

JGR is still learning about its new 2018 Camry bodies, which Toyota introduced this year. Furniture Row Racing, which is in a technical alliance with JGR, has one win with Martin Truex Jr. (Las Vegas), who is also third in points. Erik Jones is 13th in the standings with just one top 10.

Truex and Jones claimed the top spots in Friday’s only Cup practice session.

“We all get the same information,” Truex said Friday. “I guess at the end of the day it’s how you use it, how you put it to use. I think our team, (crew chief) Cole (Pearn), (engineer) Jazzy (Jeff Curtis), (competition director) Pete (Rondeau), our guys in general are just – right now we’re just clicking. We have a lot of confidence. Things are going well.”

Through eight races, there have been six different winners. NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte has called this Sunday’s race “pivotal” for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I think our competition also did a phenomenal job over the off‑season of getting better,” Hamlin said. “They just showed up this year with just more raw speed than what they had at the end of last year. It’s the same drivers, same crew chiefs, but their cars are faster. That makes their job a whole lot easier. But these are the trying times, you could say, that defines your character. It makes you work hard. We were on top for probably a year and a half, every week having four out of five of the fastest cars each week. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn’t. But we’re going to get better. We’re not on top right now, so we’ve got to work extra hard to get there.”

One piece of the JGR puzzle who has had to work harder is Daniel Suarez.

The defending Xfinity Series champion enters the ninth race of his rookie season 22nd in points. The biggest road block for him has been working with two crew chiefs. His initial partner, Dave Rogers, took an indefinite leave of absence following the West Coast Swing. Since then, the No. 19 team has been led by Scott Graves, who was Suarez’ crew chief last year during his title campaign.

“It’s been a lot going on for sure,” Suarez said Friday. “I felt like we were going in a good direction maybe a month and a half ago and then we had some changes that were out of our hands and I feel like we had to start again on these processes in the Cup car. Scott, he’s a very smart crew chief, he knows a lot and he has won two championships in a row in the Xfinity Series, but in the Cup car it’s different and he knows that and I’m learning that. I believe now we are learning together instead of I’m just learning myself.”

All of these comments were made Friday morning and afternoon. In the evening, Matt Kenseth did his part to turn things around for JGR by winning the pole for Sunday’s race.

It’s the first pole for JGR since the Kenseth claimed it last fall at Kansas Speedway.

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Matt Kenseth wins first pole of year for Toyota Owners 400

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For one afternoon at least, Matt Kenseth changed the conversation about Joe Gibbs Racing’s early season problems by winning the pole for the Toyota Owners 400.

Kenseth won his first pole of 2017 with a speed of 121.076 mph around Richmond International Raceway. It’s also the first pole for Toyota this season.

It’s Kenseth’s 19th Cup pole and his second at the .75-mile track (spring 2013). Kenseth’s previous best start this season was fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Those guys did really a job adjusting between rounds,” Kenseth told Fox Sports 1. “We had enough speed in out Circle K Camry that we only had to do one lap in each of the first two rounds to get into the third round. … This year has not been a good year for us, obviously so far. … We haven’t been getting any stage points, we’re buried in the points back there. We finally got a decent finish last week (at Bristol).

“Hopefully this week we can start up front, stay up front and collect some stage points.”

Kenseth will try to extend JGR’s win streak at Richmond to four races.

Ryan Blaney qualified second with a speed of 120.854 mph.

“The last lap of the last section we moved up (the track),” Blaney told FS1. “I wish I had done it both laps of the last session. so I knew how hard to go. I was in there little bit shallow the second lap and I knew I regretted it right away … I guess a bunch other cars did that and they picked up. I don’t know where (Kenseth) ran. It was a solid effort.”

It will be Blaney’s third start from second this season, which is a fact that annoys the sophomore driver in the No. 21 Ford.

“I really want to race the Clash at Daytona, that’s like my biggest thing right now,” Blaney said. “It’s upsetting me that we can’t get a pole.”

Filling out the top five for Sunday’s race is Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.

In his first race since announce his retirement following this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 12th.

Other notable starting spots: Chase Elliott (14th) Brad Keselowski (15th), Denny Hamlin (16th) Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kyle Larson (18th).

Austin Dillon will start last as a penalty for failing pre-race laser inspection five times last week at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Click here for full qualifying results.