What drivers said after New Hampshire race

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “I put us behind on Friday with the backup car getting in a wreck, but this – I really wish we would race that car that was in the hauler, but this one they did a great job getting it as close as they could working on the balance, getting it good yesterday and team effort. This is a total team effort all around.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “This is the third time we’ve had to start last and drove up to second.  I wish we could have been a spot better again, but really proud of my team and proud of the cars that they’re bringing for me to drive each and every week.  It’s been a tough couple weeks through the tech line, so if we make it through here and then have a good Tuesday at NASCAR, but we’ll see.’’

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “We still had a shot, but on the last restart we got the inside lane there, restarted third.  It wasn’t the place to be, obviously.  I think (Denny Hamlin) started fourth and that was really the place I would have liked to have been.  And then we just didn’t get a good restart on the bottom and lost a couple spots and had to battle back and then just didn’t quite have the speed at the end of the race that we had the first 200 laps.’’

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “The guys did a great job. They made it a little better than it was in practice. They executed on pit road all day and did all the little things right. We didn’t have the speed that the Toyota’s had through the center of the corner. As the long run would go that gap got wider as we got worse. We hung in there and fought all day and everyone did a good job to get us a good finish.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 8th: “Those long greens are reminiscent of the old days where you would have green flag pit stops mixed in. It is neat to change lanes and try to find different things with the (PJ1) and the grip that they put down. When you are out there running and you get in that rhythm, you think if you preserve your tires you can get two or three-tenths when we get to Lap 50, half a second when we get to Lap 70. It gave you the old school feel of taking care of the tires. Overall, you have to go fast for 50 laps, that is all you have to do anymore. We need to get better on the short run speed.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 9th: “Yeah, that was a reasonable finish for us for sure. We weren’t probably as fast as we wanted to be, but we stayed very persistent as a team and that is good. The pit stop was a bummer. I am not sure what happened there. Nobody wants to see that happen. I don’t know if the compound made things any racier. It was certainly different but I don’t know if it was — I have to think about that one.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 10th: I just got it wrong at the start. I went off the flag and forgot that the pole sitter has to be the first one to the stripe; so I’ll take the responsibility on that one.  And then, we had an okay finish. We had decent short-run speed. We would just fall off too hard. I really thought we were going to be in a position for a top five but we ended up 10th.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 13th: “I feel like we probably won somebody some points in fantasy with passing all the cars from starting 31st. The car was pretty good. Honestly, I have had very few races at Loudon where I don’t have a good race car. We just have to qualify better so that I can take advantage of that and have track position the whole time.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 14th –  “We fought all day so I’m proud of our team. We got damage early on which cost us valuable track position. Overall it wasn’t the best day for us, but we learned some things that we can bring back for the fall race.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 15th: “We were able to run top-10 lap times all day. I still think there is some speed to be gained in the downforce of our cars, but I know that’s something we’re all actively working on improving. We pulled together as a team to recover from an early spin and got ourselves in a good position late in the race for a top-10 finish. We gambled on a strategy call for our last pit stop and it just didn’t work out. That happens sometimes in racing. Now it’s time to turn our focus towards Indianapolis Motor Speedway and work on our strategy for one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  – FINISHED 18th: “We were 13th and 18th in practice. Didn’t have good speed all weekend. The best we were going to run was 10th probably, ended up 18th. That is the kind of risk we’ve got to take. We were hoping that the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) and a couple of other guys that were kind of on the same strategy would stay out behind us.  But, I knew when nobody stayed out that as fast as that front four or five were it was impossible to hold them off. We’ve got to take risks though, but hopefully we’ve got a faster car when we are doing it and that might give us a little better shot at it.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 19th: “I feel like we started out OK, and I thought we made decent gains. About halfway I thought the track changed and all that stuff got off of it. We kind of got a little worse. We tried the long run and I couldn’t really get it. It didn’t play out for us. That stinks. I didn’t get a great finish out of it. The first half of the day went pretty good. We just need to figure out how to finish out the second half.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 20th: “Our Performance Plus Motor Oil Ford would start out really fast. But over the course of a run the handling would become more and more tight and we had a hard time getting through traffic. We were able to make gains throughout the course of the race and we were gaining on a few more cars when we just ran out of laps there at the end. We’ll take what we learned here shift our focus to Indy next week.”

Paul Menard — Finished 22nd: “The Sylvania / Menards Chevrolet came to life in the final stage of today’s race, but track position was so important. Matt Borland and all of the guys on this team kept adjusting on the car to help it turn through the center and get the drive off the corner right. We tried to stretch the fuel mileage and catch a caution late in the going, raced inside the top five, but the caution didn’t fall the way we hoped. Next week we head to my favorite track, so we’ll shift our focus and see what we can do at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 27th: “One of the positives from today is seeing the cars we raced around finish in the top 10. It reflects the speed we had. We struggled pretty much all weekend and the setup (crew chief) Luke (Lambert) and the engineering team came up with for today proved beneficial. At the end of the long runs, we were one of the fastest cars on the track. It was nice to earn stage points. It’s too bad our pit strategy didn’t pan out and contact with another car caused us to spin. Fortunately, we didn’t hit anything. We needed a caution at the end to get us back into contention but the race stayed green.”

Joey Logano — Finished 37th: “We just broke. Plain and simple. It is not good, at all. Right now we are in the position where we have to execute. We have to finish the best as possible and we didn’t do that today. We have to go back to work and make sure our cars stay together and we have to get faster. All three of our cars were a little off today. I guess Brad (Keselowski) is probably the best driver at this race track, and I try to learn from him and he was struggling out there with me. It was a humbling day. This race team knows how to do this. All of Team Penske knows how to win races and make cars fast. They do it in a bunch of different series and have been doing it over here for years. We have to stay together. Stay as a team. Keep pushing. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully we can get some speed enough to squeak a win out before the playoffs.”

Erik Jones — Finished 40th: “I think we were just kind of three wide just kind of sandwiched (on pit road) in there and I came out and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was on my door and the 5 (Kasey Kahne) came out and was on my door too, so just got too tight and made some contact. I guess it was just enough to let it cut the tire or something. Just really unfortunate. We’ve had some really bad luck this year and this is another one of those days, so hopefully we can turn it around.”

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Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 at Miami, Brad Keselowski leads Championship 4 drivers

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Kyle Larson won Stage 1 of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, dominating by leading 67 of the stage’s 80 laps, holding a nine-second edge when he took the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, here’s how the four Championship 4 drivers finished after the first 80 laps of the scheduled 267-lap event: Brad Keselowski is second, Kyle Busch is third, Kevin Harvick is fourth and Martin Truex Jr. in fifth.

Truex, with six of his seven wins this season coming on 1.5-mile tracks like Homestead-Miami, wasted little time to take the lead away from pole-sitter Denny Hamlin.

The first caution of the race came out on Lap 6 when Joey Gase appeared to blow a tire and hit the Turn 1 wall hard.

During the subsequent pit stop, the only Championship 4 driver to hit pit road for four new tires was Keselowski, putting him off-sequence of the other contenders.

The move worked, though, as Keselowski quickly climbed from ninth on the restart on Lap 9 to third by Lap 12 and second by Lap 14.

Larson, who also pitted with Keselowski, took the lead away from Truex on Lap 13 and held on for the remaining 67 laps of the stage.

On Lap 38, Jimmie Johnson blew a right rear tire and came to pit road for four new tires. Even though there was no caution, all four championship contenders pitted over the following two laps.

On Lap 58, Harvick passed Truex and into third place for the first time in the race, zeroing on Keselowski in second.

Johnson got into the wall again on Lap 60, even though there was no caution, and sustained moderate damage, pitting for four tires and fuel.

Kyle Busch passed Harvick to take over third on Lap 77.

Sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer.

Watch: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans on what the driver means to them

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The fan base of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is large and devoted.

Those fans, affectionately called “Junior Nation,” has voted Earnhardt as NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 years in a row.

Justin Hartley of NBC’s “This is Us” is a member of Earnhardt’s fan base. The actor narrates the above essay on the close relationship between the driver and his fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks to Bob Costas about his career, legacy before final Cup start

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Sunday marks Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s last start as a full-time Cup driver in NASCAR.

NBC Sports’ Bob Costas sat down with the 14-time most popular driver before the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get Earnhardt’s thoughts before he climbed in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the last time.

Earnhardt addressed what he hopes his legacy will be after 20 years in the sport as a driver, including his impact on attitudes towards concussions in sports in general.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports in 2018, also talked about what life has in store for him in the near future.

Earnhardt also made sure to credit his devoted fan base for making his career possible.

“I understand the driving force behind my success and opportunity in this sport, whether it be inside the car or outside the car, is all because of Jr. Nation,” Earnhardt said. “This year we’ve tried our best to show appreciation to them.”

Watch the above video for the full interview.

 

Furniture Row Racing going for Cup title after year of success, tragedy

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It’s been a historic year for Furniture Row Racing, the Cup team that has its base of operations in an old water bed factory in Denver, Colorado.

With Martin Truex Jr. piloting the No. 78 Toyota, they won a team record seven races and a series record six races on 1.5-mile tracks. Combined with a dominating performance under the new stage racing format, Truex has put the team in its second Championship 4 in three years.

But it’s also been a season of perseverance and tragedy.

NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan narrates the above video essay on the story of Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 season.