What drivers said about Bristol Motor Speedway

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Comments from drivers after Monday’s rain-postponed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson won for the second time:

JIMMIE JOHNSON Winner: “Yeah, it was kind of interesting because when the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) was there, it just created an environment to run the top, and I wasn’t as good on the top. The No. 42, not being up there and that first couple of cars; the bottom was really where it was at for the short run. This Lowe’s Chevrolet was flying.

“… This track has been difficult over the years, and we really hit on something Saturday afternoon in that last practice session around the bottom, and honestly, it’s what I’ve been looking for here for 16 years, and we finally figured it out. So, I’m very very happy.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished second: “Yeah, what a day. Starting off, I was way too loose and fell way back, just missed it. You know, heck, last car on the lead lap. (Crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) made some great adjustments all day long. The pit crew was on their game all day long and gained spots almost every time, and then I lost them all back on pit road speeding. Went to the back again, and then drove back up through them and got ourselves some position there. Mike made a good call of putting me in a position of one of the first cars on four tires there. I think (Jimmie Johnson) was the other one, and he won the race, so the right strategy was there. The team effort was there. You know, that’s what a weekend is all about. It’s just been this long since I’ve won a race, and here is pretty special. It would have been pretty cool to be over there in Victory Lane.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished third: “I thought our Jimmy Johns Ford was the fastest car, we just needed track position. I think we showed how fast it was there on no tires and kind of able to hold our own. You just never know where you’re going to come out on those restarts. I felt like we had a couple cautions and we were in control of the race with the 11 on two tires and we might have had a chance. A good weekend and we’ll just keep going.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished fourth: “Well we haven’t had a top five in a long, long time. We got better there at the end and got a little bit of track position finally. It was an uphill battle all day without qualifying, and then I sped on pit road and got us to the back. At the end, we had a car that was good – most of the day it wasn’t very good, but the last two runs we were fairly competitive.”

Joey Logano – Finished fifth: “Yeah, we weren’t a restarter today. Kind of non-typical for the 22. It’s usually a short-run speed car. I started out hitting the splitter, up the race track, I was all over the place. I couldn’t even retain the lead when we had it. That probably cost us the race when we lost the lead to (Jimmie Johnson). Good long-run car, just didn’t have enough long runs. We have another top five, I think that’s four straight. We got some good stage points which we haven’t done all year. I just want to win when we come to this race track.”

KYLE LARSON – Finished sixth: “I don’t know if we had the car to beat. I thought early on in the race before all the rubber got laid down we were really good. In the middle part of the race, I didn’t think we were very good. And then there at the end, I got the top going really good. And then I got that speeding penalty and set us back. We had to gamble there for that last stop and take two lefts, and we hadn’t done that all day. The balance honestly wasn’t that bad with our Credit One Bank Chevy on two tires. Four tires just had a little more grip around the bottom for a little bit longer than we did. And I had to get to the top early and was just following Kevin (Harvick) hoping that he’d make a mistake because I knew I couldn’t go down to the bottom and get by him. So I had to kind of ride. But it was another good run for us.”

Chase Elliott – Finished seventh: “It was all right. We just kind of got behind through those stages and fought back a little bit, just not enough.”

MARTIN TRUEX, JR. – Finished eighth: “We were going for it you know. Wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won. … This is the best run we’ve had here in a long time. It’s bittersweet, I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is and you try to get what you can get and sometimes you cross the line and today we crossed the line. All in all, it was an awesome day and a lot of fun. Had the VHT not worn out quite as bad then we would have really killed them. The top lane came in, and some guys could run that better than I could, but overall it was a good day and a lot of fun all day.”

RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – Finished ninth: “I just couldn’t keep our track position the way we needed to with some mishaps on pit road, but the car wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. For as bad as we were Saturday, I was really happy with our Sunny D Ford. We got the top working and we actually got the bottom working some, but we just couldn’t keep our track position the way we needed to, and then I got behind some cars that were slower a lot of the restarts and I’d lose some positions. But as long as I had clear track in front of me I could really go and felt like I could pass whoever I wanted to.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 10th: “We were average. We were about a fifth- to 10th-place car most of the day. Just kind of where we ended up. We just haven’t had the speed to run with those guys, so we have to keep gambling with our strategy to try to make something happen and steal a win because we just don’t have a car fast enough to do it right now.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 11th: “Today was a solid day. We just got tight toward the end, but today was another consistent day. I’m really proud of all my guys on this AdvoCare Ford for their work this weekend. We keep improving each week and knocking on that door to turn those top 15s into top 10s. We’ll keep making gains and get after it again next weekend in Richmond.”

Austin Dillon– Finished 13th: “Our New Era Caps Chevrolet was probably better than where we ended up finishing. We couldn’t do a whole lot on the track today, mainly because we struggled on the bottom. We lost some track position in the middle of the race, but once we got it back, we ran smart and minimized any mistakes. Overall, it was a decent day for our team at Bristol. It wasn’t the finish we wanted, but we needed a solid day, and that’s what we ended up with here.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 14th: “The speeding penalty is on me. I pushed it to get all I could, and unfortunately, it bit us, and we went from sixth to 17th. We gambled on the final stop and took two left-side tires with 50 to go to restart sixth. It didn’t work out as well as we had hoped. We had a top 10 Grainger Chevrolet and despite our race, I’m happy to see the speed and handling potential is there. We had no idea what to expect with the addition of VHT on the lower portion of the track, and I think we fared well considering.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 15th: “It was definitely a battle for our No. 13 GEICO Chevy team today. We got damage to the right rear at the end of the first stage that really hurt our speed through the rest of the day. So, our race really became about getting track position any way that we could. My spotter did great getting me through traffic, and crew chief Bootie Barker and my guys on pit road did everything that could to keep us where we needed to be. We had to fight for all that we could, and I gave it everything that I had. It was a good day to come out of Bristol with a 15th-place finish.”

Paul Menard – Finished 16th: “Our No. 27 Libman/Menards Chevy was good all weekend. We really didn’t need to adjust on it much during the race. The pit crew had good stops and kept us where we needed to be all day. We got screwed out of a top-10 finish there at the end. After we got into the back of the No. 5 car, we didn’t have time to fix the nose damage, and that kept me from moving forward. Bristol is always a fun race, and it was interesting today with the different grooves.”

Erik Jones – Finished 17th: “(Gray Gaulding), we were side-by-side passing him and I don’t know if he got loose, but he got down into us about halfway down the backstretch and must have cut a tire – cut the right front. Pretty unfortunate, I thought we had a really good car and a car that if we could have got some track position and maybe got up front, I think we could have led some laps and had a shot at the win. I thought we were just as good as (Jimmie Johnson) for the majority of the day. We’ll keep working on it, and we have a good package to come back in the fall.”

David Ragan – Finished 23rd: “We had a great Jacob Companies Ford today. We were able to pass some cars and stay on the lead lap for a lot of the race. We just got caught up in a little skirmish with our teammate and Danica. I think that Landon (Cassill) had a suspension part break. I was trying to get out of his way and Danica squeezed us a little bit, just one of those racing things. Three wide at Bristol is hard to get through.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 32nd: “Yeah, we had a loose wheel that led to broken wheel studs. A real bummer. I thought that we had a real good car.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 33rd – On power steering issues: “I didn’t think that was ever gonna end. We had to come in and fix it, which stinks because when we went back out we were actually really fast, but you’re not racing for anything, which is unfortunate. It’s something to look forward to in the fall race because I felt like that was one of the best cars I’ve had at Bristol. It stinks that it happened. I know it happened to us and (Brad Keselowski), the same problem, so we’ll have to figure out what happened and what was different (with Joey Logano) to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Kyle Busch– Finished 35th: “I was the fastest one out there those last two runs picking cars off and driving from the back to the front after we lost our track position the first time. We had our issues, and we were trying to march our way back up toward the front and get there and thought we were doing a good job of that and trying to be conservative with the tires because obviously they can’t make it through a full distance for us for some reason. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s fundamentally wrong what we’re doing, but it seems like all the rest of our five JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are fine.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 36th: “I’m just frustrated it was so miserable after I right-reared it. I thought to myself, ‘I’m catching cars and passing them.’ I was starting to pass lead-lap cars and thought that we were on track to climb our way back up there. With the yellows and the competition cautions and stuff, it was maybe going to work out, so I’m mostly just thinking it was kind of just miserable for half the time out there after I right-reared it. But it’s not from a lack of effort, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t trying after that all happened, it was just kind of one thing after another, including pitting for a second time before the green came back out. I’m a half-a-lap down and the car is super-loose still, and just kind of a dumb decision with 18 laps to go to come and put tape on it like we did. I know there was a hole in the grille from all the stuff that happened, but it was one thing after another. I had about 30 laps of hope today.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR– Finished 38th: “I don’t know (if) we broke something in the oil system under caution. The guys said there was some oil in the pit stall after our pit stop. I noticed when I was getting lined up double file for the restart, the car was smoking. I just thought maybe we had a tire rub for some reason, but I couldn’t remember what might have caused that. And went into Turn 1 on the restart, and the car went straight into the wall with oil all over the tires. Came into the garage there, and they are working on where the hole in the system is. Just something is messed up, but that is going to be the finish for us. It’s unfortunate. We weren’t running that great, but we were working on our car and trying to figure out how to get it to run better. And get something out of today, but we are going to have another bad finish. We have had a lot of them this year. It’s going to be tough.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 39th: “We started at the back, and we were making really good headway. And was really happy with the balance of it, and it was looking to be a good start to a race. I am honestly not really sure what happened. Came off (Turn) 4 there and fighting for the (free pass) and trying to get in that spot. Everybody starts checking up, and I locked the brakes up and just couldn’t get slowed down in time. I think I ended up tearing the radiator out of the car and pretty much it just ends our day now.”

A long time coming: Kurt Busch earns best finish since Daytona 500 win

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With a win in the Daytona 500, the 2017 Cup season couldn’t have started out better for Kurt Busch.

But since, it’s been a struggle much of the time for the 2004 Cup champion.

The Daytona win qualified him for the playoffs, but he exited after the first round.

Along the way, he managed just four other top-five finishes, had seven DNFs (six crashes, one engine issue) and has endured a mediocre 16.2 average finish per race.

But much of that was forgotten – at least for a little while – after Busch’s runner-up finish in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, his best showing since his Daytona 500 win.

“I really wanted that one bad,” Busch told NBCSN. “I don’t know what it is about this place. I feel like I’m on pins and needles most of the day. (Crew chief Tony) Gibson always throws nice adjustments at it and the race comes to us and we’re right there. We had a shot at winning. When we get it right, we’re right there.”

Later, the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion praised Gibson further, although he didn’t exactly feel that way after Saturday’s qualifying.

“All in all, Tony Gibson deserves this second‑place finish,” Busch said. “He got on me pretty hard on Saturday morning after qualifying (15th). He said, You know, we got a brake problem. I said, ‘What do you mean?’

“He goes, ‘You didn’t use brake, that’s why we didn’t run good in run two and run three.’ I’m like, ‘Man, I never use brake in qualifying.’ So he actually really pissed me off. I spent the whole race pretty agitated. At the end, I made sure I used brake and brought it home in second.”

While his championship hopes were dashed at the end of the Round of 16, Busch hopes to build momentum for the remaining four races.

Yeah, it was nice to have things unfold in our favor today, even though I brushed the wall and got us a lap down early,” Busch said. “The mentality that I’ve been trying to accept right now is run for 10th, try not to push the car too hard. Anything above 10th is icing on the cake.”

One thing that helped Busch’s finish was using sticker tires instead of scuffs late in the race. That allowed him to close on race winner Martin Truex Jr., even though Busch still came up over two seconds short at the start-finish line.

“It’s a matter of just keeping track of the adjustments throughout the race, making sure that we use every set of sticker tires that we possibly can and get the most out of sticker tires,” he said. “When we have scuffs, we struggle. We’re a 15th place car on scuffs.”

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Long: Tears turn to cheers for Furniture Row Racing

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Among his final acts alive, James “Jim” Watson texted his wife Saturday night and told her what a great time he was having with his Furniture Row Racing teammates at a local go-kart track.

Soon after, the 55-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I take a little bit of solace in that he was happy in his last moments,’’ said a misty-eyed Cole Pearn after Martin Truex Jr. rallied to win Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Pearn was on the way to the hospital Saturday night when he was told Watson died. The team later gathered at their hotel to grieve.

“We just all looked at each other and shed some tears and some hugs,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports.

No Cup team has faced so much personal adversity in such a public way this year as Furniture Row Racing. Its greatest season on the track has been offset by tragedy and tribulation.

Truex’s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, had surgery in July for a recurrence of cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2014 and announced she was cancer-free in January 2016. Her ovarian cancer returned this summer. Truex won at Kentucky Speedway and brought her home from the hospital the next day. Her chemo treatments continue.

After the Kentucky race, Pearn’s closest childhood friend suddenly died after he caught a bacterial infection from a cut. Truex won that weekend at Watkins Glen to cap what Pearn called then “the hardest week of my life.’’

After Truex won at Charlotte two weeks ago, Pearn said “my wife and I put our dog down … that we’ve had for 13 years.

“It’s just like, man, I don’t know if regular life is supposed to be like this.’’

Then came Saturday night.

Watson had been with the team since February, joining as a fabricator, who worked on both the cars of Truex and Erik Jones. Watson was a longtime racer from Wisconsin.

“James was a friend to everybody,’’ said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “It’s hard to talk about.’’

Truex said both teams helped each other work through the pain while preparing for the race Sunday morning. Truex’s seventh victory of the season continued his dominance and is the most wins by a Cup driver in a season since Matt Kenseth won seven races in 2013.

Pearn called it “kind of overwhelming” to see Truex cross under the checkered flag ahead of the field less than 24 hours after Watson’s death. 

“I was doing OK and then I started seeing the faces on other guys,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports. “It just hits you like a ton of bricks.’’

When Truex won in the past, it had just been the No. 78 crew that gathered in Victory Lane. Sunday, the No. 77 crew also joined Truex’s team to celebrate a win and a life.

“Chris (Gayle) and I came to it … that if either one of us were fortunate enough to win, we’d both go to Victory Lane because Jim worked on both of our cars and was a part of both of our teams,’’ Pearn said of the crew chief for the No. 77 team.

It proved a fitting honor for Watson.

“He always wanted when we won to celebrate as a group,’’ Pearn said. “I just couldn’t think of any better way to pay tribute to him and know that he would have been happy with that call.’’

Tough night but the result was some solace we all needed. So proud of the team. For you Wildman RIP

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What Drivers Said after Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to be the most dominant – and winning – driver of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season and playoffs.

Truex’s win in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was his third in the first six playoff races and his series-leading seventh win of 2017 – six which have come on 1.5-mile racetracks.

Now the playoffs advance to the Round of 8 semifinal round. Kyle Busch is second in the points, 27 points behind Truex, and Brad Keselowski is third, 43 points back.

Four drivers were eliminated from advancing to the next round: Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

All of them, as well as many other drivers, had a lot to say about Sunday’s race:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim (team member Jim Watson, who passed away Saturday night from a heart attack) last night. Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here. Excited to get another one here at Kansas. This feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row’s home track. We got that one in the spring after so many heartbreaks and then today it looked like it was going to happen and we just persevered.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 2nd: “I really wanted that one bad. I don’t know what it is about this place. Kyle (Busch) struggles here too. I feel like I’m on pins and needles most of the day. (Crew chief Tony) Gibson always throws nice adjustments at it and the race comes to us and we’re right there. We had a shot at winning. When we get it right, we’re right there.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 3rd: “It was a good race. We did a nice job coming from the back and I thought we got our car pretty decent there in the second stage. Then there was a mixup with some strategy stuff and pit calls and it felt like we were kind of at the back part of that but we were able to recover and miss that wreck which was big for us. We ran strong enough all day that we should have been in with where we ran. I am really proud of my team for the effort and we will move on to the next round and Martinsville.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 4th: “It was a wild day for sure. We fought our balance all weekend. I know the result wasn’t terrible, but definitely feel like we could have been a lot better this weekend and just the way things worked out for us. But, our car got better as the day went along, we just didn’t have the balance on a very long run to go up and pass guys like you need to have. So, we will go to work and get this side of things ready for Texas.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: We definitely got our car better from where it was yesterday, but still a little bit off today. Just fought a terminal condition that we just couldn’t fix on pit road, but proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team for giving me something I could battle up front there with a little bit. Just got to get a little faster on the short run and we’ll be fine. The biggest thing we need to work on is short run speed. If we can do that, then we could contend, but we’re heading to a mighty good race track for us next week (Martinsville) that hopefully we’re able to capitalize.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “Yeah, absolutely that was an awesome day for our Scott brands Chevrolet. But, just proud of everybody back at JTG Daugherty Racing. We have been working really hard the last several months to try and get it turned around. We have hit the summer months and we haven’t had the speed we wanted. So, this weekend was a big step in the right direction for us. It’s excited. It’s fun to come back and run well.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 7th: “We ended up having a decent run. I am just glad that we brought another good finish home. I think that is about where the car should have finished this weekend. … (On missing the big wreck) It’s all luck.  A lot of times if you just run the back of somebody and push them through it that kind of works for you too. I did a little bit of that too. Just real lucky. That helped us on our finish today. I don’t know if we could get the track position and get a top 10. The car was fast enough at times to run up there and finish up there, but we will take it.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 8th: “As you look at the result of the day you want to have a chance to win. We had a car capable of winning. Just got stuck in a box and the box kept on getting smaller and smaller. The caution came out with the 47 (A.J. Allmendinger spin) and that put us and the 18 in a bad spot. That was it. Our focus was one stage at a time and we accomplished that. After that it was about trying to win the race.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “I thought we had a good shot to go for the win today and got off on tire strategy a little today. (Martin) Truex got by us and he was checking out, but was just going to play it out when we pitted and the rest of those guys pitted, where it would all shake out. But obviously that caution came out and it bit us and got us behind. Fortunately, our situation today was that we had to race guys that ended up crashing out, hate it for them. I would have liked to race it heads up and that might have been a different situation, but all in all we’ll take what was given to us today and we’ll live to see another day and fight again next week going to Martinsville.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 11th: “(On Martinsville, where he has nine wins) It’s not a bad track for us. So, hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there. And then we have Texas coming up. We’re not where we want to be. There’s no doubt about it. But, we’re staying alive and I know this team so well, we can find something and we’re going to sure as hell try to get it. It’s not back to zero with all those stage points. For us to advance moving forward we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win one of these next few races coming up. It’s really simple from our stand point. We’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 13th: “We were good enough and better than our finish. The pit road speeding penalty was ridiculous because I was way under pit road speed and running right with everyone else both times and they didn’t get a penalty. I will have to see that one for my own eyes. All in all, my guys put a good effort in it and I think we were better than we finished.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 16th: “Today was a definitely a crazy day at Kansas Speedway. With the changing track conditions as the sun set and shaded parts of the track, we had to be on top of the adjustments to our GEICO Chevrolet for the entire race. My team did a great job making calls, and I didn’t struggle with balance much at all. Track position was just key, and it was hard to make passes out there. Overall, I think this was a good weekend and shows the improvements to our intermediate-track package. There’s still work to be done, but we are definitely getting closer.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 19th: “We just couldn’t get on the right side of anything, strategy-wise, nothing. We got caught up in the wreck. Certainly not the way you want to finish at home. I had a top-five car all weekend long, just wasn’t meant to be.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 20th: “We really didn’t have anywhere to go during that deal on the backstretch. … It’s really unfortunate we didn’t get the result we deserve but we will keep fighting and get after it next weekend at Martinsville.”

Joey Logano — Finished 21st: “We had a tough day with our Shell-Pennzoil Ford. We struggled on short run speed and once the field got spread out it was tough to make up spots. Then we got caught up in the wreck later in the race and that damage certainly didn’t help us. We’ll regroup and head to Martinsville next week.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 29th: “We really struggled today with the handling of our Fastenal Ford. It’s a bummer we couldn’t advance but no one really gave us a chance to make the Round of 12. Overall, we have had a great season so we can’t hang our heads. We have four more races to gain as many points as we can and finish off the season strong.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 34th: “I had a really fast car. I thought we had one of the best cars, and I felt like if we could have gotten to the lead, I could have led the race for a while. It was a good Cessna Chevy. But we’ve had two bad races in a row and there’s nothing you can do about it. We had a car that could have won. I think if we could have gotten to the front, but just didn’t make it to the end.”

Erik Jones — Finished 35th: “(On his wreck) I just lost it. It’s unfortunate and I feel bad for my guys and my team and I also feel bad for the cars that we took out of the race. It’s just a shame, I made the same mistakes here in the spring and this place has just been tough to me. Fortunately we had a fast 5-hour ENERGY Camry and it was up front, we had worked our way back up to that point after having mishaps at the start of the day. Nonetheless, not the ending that we wanted, but hopefully we can come back a little stronger for Martinsville.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 36th: “You have to thank NASCAR very much for all the work that they do on these race cars to make them very safe because I got hit from everywhere and I hit the 77 (Erik Jones) very, very hard. I’m perfect – the car’s not, but I’m good. Honestly, I don’t really know what happened. I just know that the 77 got very loose somehow and the next thing I saw was his door and my nose. I really couldn’t do anything at that point, but I haven’t seen a replay yet.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 37th: “I don’t know what any of the rules are. Seems like we got a lot of stuff that kind of gets, you know, changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins from putting lugnuts out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it, to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed. We showed some flashes of brilliance this season, been off and on, been fast at times, had great pit stops at times, just haven’t been able to put it all together like a championship team needs to. Unfortunately this is an example of that. I hope that I can do a better job here the next four weeks and hopefully go get a win. … Honestly, I’ve never heard of disqualifying somebody from a race if you got one too many guys over the wall or whatever happened there. Couldn’t be any more disappointed.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 38th: “I came out and said, ‘I got a turkey,’ three in a row. That is some bad luck. The Code 3 car had just started to get better, just starting to get hooked up, actually. I actually felt like I was catching the right lanes and right movements on the track and having good restarts. Would have been nice to finish one off. We haven’t done that in awhile.

Kyle Larson — Finished 39th: “I guess, I’m not stunned because freak things happen in every sport.  I mean you look at every year in the past and a lot of times – most every time at least in the new playoff format era – not always does the best team win. Not saying we are the best team, but we have been one of the contenders all season long. So, I’m not stunned, because it is a long 10 race playoff season, so anything can happen, but we have had a solid playoffs.  We have been consistent and just now got bit. … (On winning 4 races and gets eliminated) It’s painful. A part of me, I guess, will maybe be thankful that it wasn’t on my doing. I keep saying everything sucks. I don’t really know how to answer these because it’s the same answer for every question.”

Jimmie Johnson survives multiple accidents to advance in playoffs

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Jimmie Johnson‘s championship hopes were in peril on Lap 197 of Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

They were saved on Lap 198 by a 14-car crash that Johnson narrowly made it through.

Johnson, who finished 11th in the playoff elimination race, had come off consecutive spins on Laps 189 and 194 and trips to pit road for repairs when the wreck broke out on restart following his second spin. The first spin had sent his No. 48 Chevrolet sliding through the rain-soaked grass in the infield.

“The car was extremely loose,” Johnson told NBCSN. “We fought the balance throughout the day and the car would swing so hard. We were trying for short run speed to free the car up and we just got too far with it and I spun out twice. Thankfully I didn’t hit anything too hard.

“And when things really changed was down the back straightaway in that wreck. Somehow, I went through there at a high rate of speed and missed everybody. I don’t know how, but I made it. And then the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) car was sitting there and I thought I had him lined-up for a square impact, but fortunately he slid out of the way. … It wasn’t a pretty day, but we got it done.”

Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, had less kind words for his team’s day.

“We ran like (expletive),” Knaus told NBC Sports. “It was a bad weekend. We managed to capitalize on some other people’s misfortune, which was great for us. We’ve got some work to do. I don’t know what’s going on. We definitely don’t have the speed that we need.

“Good news is we’ve got three really good racetracks coming up for us, at least historically. Very optimistic heading into Martinsville and going to Homestead this week to test, so hopefully we can hit on some stuff there to take to Texas. We’ve obviously have run well there in the past. Phoenix has been a really good race track for us as well. We’ve got three great opportunities. Just got to do the best.’’

Johnson is the active wins leader at Martinsville with nine. He is the defending winner of the fall race. It is his only top five in the last six races at the short track.

“It’s not a bad track for us,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there. And then we have Texas coming up. We’re not where we want to be. There’s no doubt about it. But, we’re staying alive and I know this team so well, we can find something and we’re going to sure as hell try to get it.”

Johnson is also the defending winner at Texas Motor Speedway, where he earned one of his three wins this year in April.

At Phoenix, Johnson has four wins, but the last one came in 2009. He also only has one top five there in his last six starts.

Johnson heads into the Round of 8 seeded fifth in the standings with 4,017 points.

“It’s not back to zero with all those stage points,” Johnson said. “For us to advance moving forward, we’ve got to win.  We’ve got to win one of these next few races coming up.  It’s really simple from our standpoint.  We’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”

In his quest to win a record eighth Cup championship, Johnson has earned just four top fives this season. His third-place finish at Dover in the final race of the first playoff round is the only one since his June win also at Dover.

Johnson is the only driver who has won a race in every season of the playoffs entering 2017. He has four races left to continue the streak.