What drivers said after Kentucky race

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Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “I thought we were dead (with the overtime). I thought we were done. It’s just – this is completely unbelievable. I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so so bad after that. This is sweet redemption.“

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “Yeah, I sped on pit road there early.  At the end of that first stage, so it felt very similar to Texas earlier this year. Didn’t get to qualify, had a pit road penalty at the end of the first stage. Went from the back to the front and then we had scuffs on one run and got the balance off pretty bad, but were able to put stickers on and charge back to the front. The Target Chevy was good. Truex though, never got to see him that last run, he was upwards of 15 seconds ahead of us. That was pretty crazy. He has definitely been the fastest car all year. So, got some work to do, but if we can keep chasing him, I think we can beat him.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 3rd: “I had a really good roll there. Got to the bottom of the No. 77 (Erik Jones) and got far enough up next to him to get underneath him into (Turn) 1 and that got us a couple more spots there which was nice. From where we started the night to where we ended up was a big improvement with our Napa Chevrolet. Happy we could just execute well tonight.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “We were seventh I think before the caution, but good stops, fast car all day. Had a speeding penalty early and was able to rebound from that, so pretty proud of it. Overall pretty good day for our FedEx Camry team. Just got to keep chipping away and keep knocking on the door and our opportunity will come.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 6th: “It was a good night for us. You know we just – we didn’t have the track position all night and it was kind of unfortunate. I think we had a car that probably could’ve ran up with the 78 and the 18 at times. We’re just kind of fighting from behind from all – from our starting spot. Just work from behind with that and finally got some track position at the end for that last restart. I spun the tires some and got split, so it’s unfortunate but it’s a good day for us. A good top 10.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “I had a really good car. We got behind at the start of the last segment. I had a little bit of a slow pit stop and then I don’t know why, it seemed like it was not easy to pass at the beginning, but easier than at the start of that last segment. It was just kind of follow the leader for like 40 laps. But had a really good car on the long run. Had a good strategy there at the end and solid day… just needed a little bit more.”

Joey Logano — Finished 8th: “We got a P8 out of a car that was probably not much better than 13th or 14th. We just have to get faster. The 78 and 18 were just – we aren’t even close. What I am trying to say is that we were really slow and need to get faster. That is the biggest thing. We need to pick up some speed. We just were scrapping, trying to get what we can. The team did a good job at least trying to scrap up something out of it but we just have to get faster than that.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “I guess I just tried to push it too hard on pit road and wound up getting a speeding ticket at the wrong time. Luckily there were only nine cars on the lead lap and we were able to salvage a top-10 finish out of the night.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “It was a long night for sure. I thought we started off okay but we just lost the handling there pretty early and lost track position. I made it worse by speeding. We made a good call to stay out and get some track position back but we were falling off the pace pretty bad. We fought hard and never gave up though and ended up 10th. Not the night you want by any means. We need to go back and try to improve on it a lot. I think we battled back and the finish is not bad for how the night went.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. — Finished 11th: “That was cool. We kept improving. Each and every time on the race track, each and every race. We kept improving, I kept improving. I am getting more and more comfortable with these cars. When we fired off there and ended the race I was like, ‘Hell yeah, we are eighth or ninth!’ I forgot we were a lap down and was like, ‘damn’. I was pumped. It was a good day. I am having a great time in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Hopefully there will be more.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 12th: “Well, it was good. We had some runs that were really good. We had some runs that we were kind of average, but for the most part we had a pretty quick car. We didn’t have anything for (Martin Truex Jr.) and the top five, but I kept all the guys from sixth on back in front of me within sight. Just didn’t really get great track position all night. We were trying a strategy with our pit stops and it was working against us completely. The cautions were coming out at such poor times for us. We needed a couple of those cautions not to come out. It cost us a little bit of track position.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 13th: “Our night wasn’t all the best. We needed to be better. We struggled off the truck. I wasn’t exactly pumped about the handling but we fought hard. We got some track position there and showed some promise and then the start of that last run, those last two runs I was junk. Total junk. I just lost too much track position.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 14th: “Track position was crucial. I would get behind a car and then couldn’t do anything. We will go back to the drawing board and try to improve some more on our intermediate program. We will take the top-15 finish and move on to Loudon which has been a good track for us in the past.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 15th: “We weren’t as good as we needed to be at the start, but by the end of the race, I was honestly wishing we had more laps, because I think we could have had an even better finish tonight. All in all, it was a great result for our team, so we’ll take it and move on to New Hampshire.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 16th: “We just got down a lap early and had to fight hard to get that back. Everybody did a good job to get that. We got back on the lead lap and I felt like we were contending for a, well inside the top 20 there. Kept it clean at the end, a little bit of craziness, but at the end of the night that was okay. Another decent run and something to build off of.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 19th: “It was a long night at Kentucky Speedway, but the Dow team definitely showed they have determination. At one point we were two laps down but we were able to come back onto the lead lap and into the top 15. We tried a little of everything – fuel mileage, big chassis changes, different lines around the track. No one ever gave up. We were able to post the fastest lap times for a few laps but the race leader was just unbelievably fast so I’m not sure what they are doing.”

Paul Menard — Finished 21st: “I have to thank Matt Borland and all of the guys on the No. 27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet. They worked hard on this car all weekend to put us in a position to race. We kept adjusting on it each stop, got the free pass once, took the wave around a couple of times and fought hard. Luckily, we avoided that wreck at the end and brought home a clean race car. We’ll take what we learned tonight and apply it moving forward.”  
Ryan Newman — Finished 22nd: “We struggled on Friday in practice and had to change a motor, forcing us to start from the back tonight. But, we battled back pretty quickly and got the car handling fairly well toward the end of the first stage. Luke Lambert got me the track position I needed with a good pit strategy, but unfortunately our No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy struggled to keep up. At the end during the long green-flag stretch I didn’t have the best handling car, but we’ll use these notes for the next intermediate track race.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 27th: “I sputtered off of Turn 4 and when I looked at the fuel gauge, it was fine. And then it was like everything was welding itself together. I was just trying to nurse it home and it just didn’t quite get all the way back. I think it just shucked the pinion and it had no power after that. It burned up a gear one lap from the finish. I hate that I’m that guy that jukes up the whole system with throwing a yellow with one to go.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 33rd: “After the brake trouble we had early tonight, this GEICO Chevrolet SS team ended up really on a different mission tonight. We made the most of our laps and gained some information for our mile and a half program. If we could come back and run this race again tomorrow, there would be a much better outcome for this team.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 37th: “I hate that that happened. We were making our way forward with our Roush Performance Products Ford and were knocking on the door of the top-10 before we got all that damage. I hate that we won’t get the result we deserve but we will recover and rebound. This team never gives up and we will get after it again next week in New Hampshire.”

Kasey Kahne — Finished 38th: “It was just a restart, I had a run on the No. 6 and I got under him getting into Turn 1 down the front stretch and he just drove over my front end, pretty simple.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 39th:  “I just got in an aero wake and it pulled me around. I knew I was in a bad spot. I was trying to lay up but there is only so much you can lay up here because you get ran over from behind. The air pulled me around. It sucks. I feel bad for everyone on the Miller Lite Ford team and I think I tore up two or three other guys and that sucks for them. I don’t know. It is kind of a tough spot to be in on these tracks where they are kind of one groove. You can’t just lay up every time. You give up too many spots or get ran over from behind. If you drive in with someone close to you the car just spins out. It just sucks but it is what it is. We have to find a way around it and we didn’t today.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 40th: “It’s just dicey on the restarts. But we had a strong Lowe’s Chevrolet. I hate it for the guys that we didn’t get a better finish. The car felt great. I feel like we were probably in the position for a good top five tonight with all things considered. But, the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) got into the corner and he was sideways before we got there. I feel like the car on the outside of him left him some room. But then, talking to Brad inside (the care center), he said he was just sideways before he ever got to the corner. And I thought I almost had him missed. I really thought I had him missed and I just clipped him with my right front. It broke something in the suspension and took me into the fence.”

Toyota executive calls Truck Series ‘critical step’ in developing drivers

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A Toyota Racing Development executive says that the manufacturer would accept a spec engine in the Camping World Truck Series, noting how valuable that series is for the development of drivers.

David Wilson, president of TRD, made the comments Friday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR tested a spec engine for the Truck series multiple times last year and it is expected to be optional this season.

Wilson admits the spec engine idea has raised concerns among manufacturers.

“It is a little bit of a sensitive issue with all the manufactures,’’ Wilson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Arguably the biggest single piece of (intellectual property) in any car or truck is the engine, so certainly that’s important to us.

“By the same token we understand the bigger picture. We have been working with NASCAR, all the (manufacturers) have been working with NASCAR to make sure that we keep this series going because here’s the bottom line — while our motivation to run in Trucks has changed over the years, it remains an absolute critical step in how we as an industry develop drivers.

“The leap from ARCA or K&N or Super Late Models straight to Xfinity, that’s too big of a leap. You need a step and that Truck Series is a very important step. You look the drivers that have come through just in our camp — Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez — that experience in the Truck garage has been absolutely critical in preparing them to be successful in Xfinity and ultimately in Cup. We’re going to continue to take a big picture approach with the Truck Series and work with our friends at NASCAR. If there are some spec engines that have to be under a Tundra hood, so be it, we’ll be OK.’’

Last year’s Xfinity champion and rookie of the year, William Byron, ran a full season in Trucks in 2016. Erik Jones, the 2016 Xfinity rookie of the year, ran 17 Truck races before his Xfinity debut. Daniel Suarez, the 2017 Xfinity rookie of the year, had run only one Truck race before his Xfinity rookie season but he also ran 13 Truck races while competing in Xfinity that first year.

Those young drivers also illustrate Toyota’s emphasis on new talent. But with only five seats — four with Joe Gibbs Racing and one with Furniture Row Racing —  with Cup teams partnered with TRD, Toyota is having a hard time finding spots for all its drivers.

Wilson said the manufacturer remains committed to developing drivers.

“It’s a commitment that Toyota has made to NASCAR and to motorsports,’’ he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We enjoy a tremendous amount of value. NASCAR is simply a phenomenal place for us to race. This is part of our payback.

“We feel like we have the social responsibility to give back to the series. We know we’ll lose as many of these young guys and gals as we’ll be able to keep because we simply won’t have enough seats for them. That’s just simple math. It’s already been proven out by William Byron (who raced for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Trucks before moving to Chevrolet in Xfinity and now Cup). We’ll be racing against William, who used to be in a Toyota.

“Bottom line this sport still benefits. As I’ve said before, getting to know these young kids and getting to know their parents at a young age and as they’re coming up in the sport, I believe that will pay dividends. These kids can have a career that spans decades. Who’s to say that we won’t cross paths again? By us building that relationship early on, showing them who we are … the responsibly we have to their well-being, I think it’s a sound investment.’’

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WATCH: Sneak preview of the Hall of Fame induction at 8 p.m. on NBCSN

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s ninth class of inductees won’t be remembered so much for the imprint left on the record books as on the revolutions in stock-car racing.

In a video essay that will be shown during tonight’s induction ceremony (which will begin at 8 p.m. on NBCSN), Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Red Byron, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. are saluted as much for what they achieved as how they accomplished it – and their lasting effects on the machines and people that they touched.

–Yates’ ingenuity with engines ranked him among the greatest engine builders. But along with the wins and championships, he also imparted life lessons and knowledge to the apt pupils who are carrying on his successful legacy.

— A crew chief with three Cup championships and 47 wins, Evernham transformed how races and teams were managed, from innovative car designs to clever tire strategies to finely tuned pit crews.

–As the premier series’ first champion, Byron raced with a special brace connecting his leg (which was injured in World War II) to the clutch pedal, embodying the self-determination and grit of NASAR.

–“The Great American Race” was coined by Squier, whose pitch-perfect wordsmithing helped make him a broadcasting legend whose dulcet tones described some watershed moments in evocative and remarkable detail.

–Four championships made Hornaday synonymous with the truck series, but he indirectly played a role in eight Cup titles, turning his couch into “Camp Hornaday” for fellow California natives and budding stars Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.

You can watch the video essay above or by clicking here.

Tune in at 8 p.m. for TV coverage of a ceremony that should feature special moments and some surprises.

The Hall of Fame ceremony also can be viewed 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 8 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

The moral choice that Kyle Larson made in the closing laps at Miami

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CHARLOTTE – Every NASCAR driver has a code of ethics, and the closing laps of last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway presented a quandary for Kyle Larson.

If you can’t pass two title contenders with a championship on the line, does discretion become the better part of valor in choosing to pass neither?

It did for Larson, who reflected on his most recent Cup race this week.

With eventual champion Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch dueling ahead of him in the final 20 laps, Larson elected to stay in third place and let them settle the title instead of passing Busch and then taking a shot at Truex with his No. 42 Chevrolet, which led a race-high 145 laps.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who has led the most laps at Miami the past two years, said his only option in vying for a victory would have been having the consistent speed to assure he could overtake Truex and Busch.

“I think there were some laps I was faster than them,” he told NBC Sports during a Tuesday announcement to announce DC Solar as an expanded primary sponsor in Cup for 2018. “I obviously didn’t want to affect the outcome of the race. The only negative part of the (playoff) format is when you’re not in the final four, you can’t race your hardest.

“I don’t know if I would have won. I think I could have got to second and potentially the lead. I wanted to pass both of them quickly. I didn’t want to pass Kyle and then stall out for three laps and have him be upset or whatever.”

Indeed, Busch was upset with another driver, expressing frustration that he believed Joey Logano blocked him while trying to take fourth after the final restart.

Though Larson made a conscious choice to avoid separating Truex and Busch, he also dispelled the notion that he still wasn’t trying to muster the speed to win.

“I was driving my ass off,” Larson said. “Obviously, I ran into the wall a few times trying to pass them or get the run to pass both of them quickly, but I could never get it going. So no, I didn’t let (Truex) win or whatever. I was still racing hard.”

Larson, who scored a career-best four wins last year, seemed a good bet to be racing for a title until an engine failure at Kansas Speedway. After a busy offseason of racing sprint cars around the world, a refreshed Larson returned to his team’s NASCAR shop this week and ready to reset his focus.

“I don’t even think about NASCAR until now,” he said. “I feel like today is Day 2 of my offseason. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things.

Larson is enthused about a Jan. 31-Feb. 1 test of Chevrolet’s new Camaro at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (“You can kind of get an idea of how the start of your season will be there.”) before heading to Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks.

“Last year, I didn’t know we were going to be that good, and then we started the year off really good, and we maintained that consistency and competitiveness,” said Larson, who led the points standings after the fourth through 11th races of the 2017 schedule. “I hope that we can do that again. I feel like when you get close like we did last year, it pushes everybody to be as good or better than what we were.

“I expect that we’ll be contenders again, but it’s hard saying with the new body and stuff like that. I’m sure there’ll be growing pains throughout it, but I definitely feel we have an extremely smart group of people who can do what it takes to get our cars better every week to have a shot.”

Daytona International Speedway releases Speedweeks schedule

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Daytona International Speedway has released the schedule for Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck teams for Speedweeks.

Cup teams will have one practice of 1 hour and 20 minutes for the Clash (down from 1 hour, 50 minutes for Clash teams last year).

Cup teams will have five practices for a total of 4 hours, 10 minutes in preparation for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. Last year, Cup teams had seven practices for a total of 6 hours, 25 minutes before the Daytona 500. The two Cup practices the day of the Duel qualifying races have been eliminated this year.

Xfinity will have the same amount of practice as last year. Camping World Truck Series will have one more practice this year for an extra 1 hour, 20 minutes of track time this year.

Here is the track schedule for Speedweeks.

SPEEDWEEKS SCHEDULE

*subject to change

SATURDAY, Feb. 10

10:35 – 11:55 a.m. — Practice only for teams in Advance Auto Parts Clash

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Cup practice (for all teams)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Cup practice (for all teams)

4:45 p.m. — ARCA race

SUNDAY, Feb. 11

12:15 p.m. — Daytona 500 qualifying

3 p.m. — Advance Auto Parts Clash

MONDAY, Feb. 12

No track activity

TUESDAY, Feb. 13

No track activity

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 14

No track activity

THURSDAY, Feb. 15

11:35 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series practice

2:25 – 3:25 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series practice

4:35 – 5:25 p.m. — Final Camping World Truck Series practice

7 p.m. — Can-Am Duel 1

9 p.m. — Can-Am Duel 2

FRIDAY, Feb. 16

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Cup practice

2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Final Xfinity practice

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Cup practice

4:30 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series qualifying

7:30 p.m. — Camping World Truck Series race NextEra Energy Resources 250

SATURDAY, Feb. 17

9:35 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. — Final Cup practice

2:30 p.m. — Xfinity race PowerShares QQQ 300

SUNDAY, Feb. 18

2:30 p.m. — Daytona 500

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