What drivers said after Watkins Glen race

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Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER: “It means a lot to be in victory lane here at this race track. I’ve been coming here a long time and feel like we’ve been close and had a few slip away from us, but really excited. I just kept listening to (crew chief Cole Pearn). He said, ‘We need to slow down more. We need to slow down more.’ It’s the hardest thing in the world to do to slow down and let those guys pass you for the lead thinking that when you figure out that you have enough fuel to make it you can try to step up your pace again and they’re just going to do the same. You never know what strategy everybody is on. You don’t know how much gas they have or are saving. It’s so tough. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do just to slow down that much and watch those guys drive away. But, just Cole Pearn man, that’s his job and I trust him and everything he says.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 2nd: “I’m second happiest. Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win.  Honestly, I don’t even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it’s been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here. I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6. I was like, ‘man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.’’

Daniel Suarez — Finished 3rd: “I feel like it was a good weekend. You know, we made a lot of progress from the first practice to second practice to qualifying and then to the race. You know, I’m very happy for the third-place (finish) and for the result and for the overall race, but very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there and you are just cruising to try to save fuel because you don’t really know how much fuel you have left.’’

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “Yeah it was a great run for our FedEx Freight team. The Camrys were fast, all of them were today and just had to milk the fuel as much as we could there at the end and make it on fuel. Great run for us. Another fourth-place finish – I don’t know how many that is this year but definitely been ringing them off.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 5th:  “Yeah, that’s that hard thing. When you have them there at arm’s reach you want to go for it. That’s the win that will put you into the (playoffs) right there in front of you. But if you run out of gas that’s the dagger that will knock you out for good. It’s the right thing. We just have to keep knocking on the door.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “We ran hard on every single lap today and hit every turn flawlessly. We did a great job.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 8th: “I stumbled down the back coming to two to go, so we wouldn’t have made it. It stinks. I wish I would have saved earlier like (Truex) did. I pushed hard and thought we were better to go on gas than they were. They did a good job saving. I could have done better. If I would have started saving sooner I think we would have made it. You never know. I am pretty proud of the effort. We got up front at the beginning of the day and stayed there pretty much all day. I thought our strategy was right and we had a good race car. Things just didn’t work out for us. That is just the way it goes sometimes.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 9th: “Of course you always want more when you come here, at least I do. We had a tough weekend, and we fought hard. The car wasn’t very good on the first run, and we made some better changes. Got it better. Got it pretty competitive there. I just really struggled in traffic. I got behind Jimmie (Johnson), and tore up the tires. Once I got by him it was actually not too bad. From there it was just fuel saving. Don’t really know how much you have. I tried to save, I felt like I saved a lot. Maybe a little too much.”

Erik Jones — Finished 10th: “It was okay. I had brake issues all day long and it was kind of the biggest fight for us. Just could never quite get in the corner like we needed to so kind of fought that. The car was good. I thought we had a top-10 car, maybe a top-five car had circumstances played out. I had a bad stop and got boxed in behind (Aric Almirola), so it just didn’t quite get the finish that we wanted.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 11th: “Really proud of this Scott Products Chevrolet team. They worked really hard and put us in the right position with good strategy. We had good speed at times, our early run speed, I was really happy with it. It fell off a little bit harder than we would like, but to come home P11 here at The Glen it was pretty good!”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 15th: “I was going into the corner and I had the 47 (Allmendinger) behind me and when I got into the corner the 18 (Kyle Busch) next to me. My spotter called it but we were already in the corner. It was too much for me to avoid. We got into each other and that hurt everybody. All I know is I went in the corner and the 47 was the car behind me and I got to the corner and somewhere the 18 came up and he was behind the 47. I don’t know how he got there or what all transpired. I was already to the corner and unable to do anything by then.”

Paul Menard — Finished 18th: “Our day was full of hurdles, but we were able to overcome thanks to all the guys on this Dutch Boy / Menards team. We found a fluid leak in qualifying and had to change the rear gear before the race, which meant we had to start from the rear of the field. The car had speed, but we had a lug nut guard that cut the valve stem on the right rear and led to a flat tire. The guys were able to get it fixed, but there was a bit of a vibration in the rear for the rest of the race. We had solid fuel mileage all day, I was able to save some over that last run and we were able to make it to the end without stopping.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 19th: “Our day definitely improved from where we started. We had some brake and power steering issues at the very start, but I was able to keep it underneath me until we could bring our GEICO Chevy in during the first stage break. By the time we got to the final stage, we had the car handling exactly how I needed it. Fuel mileage games are always tricky, but everyone has to do their part. The engineers have to do the math, I have to back down my entries and the spotters have to tell me who I’m racing in fuel-saving mode and who is packed full coming up behind me. It’s a team effort, and we all did our jobs today to get it home with fuel in the tank and a top-20 finish.”

Joey Logano — Finished 24th: “Best-case scenario we were going to finish top 10, which does nothing for us. A top xfive or a win is the only thing that is going to help us, so we went for it by pitting and putting four tires on and hoping to get a caution and maybe cycle ahead of cars with new tires. Unfortunately, it went green all the way and we didn’t get a good finish. We need to win the next few races here.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 25th: “Overall, we had a pretty solid handling Caterpillar Chevrolet. We just lacked track position and it kept us from making a serious run to the front. With that said, we adapted our strategy and (crew chief Luke Lambert) said we were a lap to the good on fuel. Saving here is pretty hard to do but we felt confident we were going to make it. I ran out with three laps to go. We’re scratching our heads right now trying to figure out where we came up short. The guys were going back to the garage to measure everything. It’s really unfortunate. I can’t really say we were good or bad today. Things didn’t go our way.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 26th: “We just didn’t have the speed we needed in our No. 3 Dow STEM Chevrolet today. Our handling was a little off throughout the day today. I was too loose in essess and had trouble getting through the bus stop. We gambled on our fuel strategy when we pitted under that final caution, knowing we’d have to save to avoid being one lap short. I saved as much as I could by doing things like short-shifting, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough this time and we ran out with just two laps to go. We’ll learn from this though and be better next time.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. — Finished 37th: “We had a problem with the valve train and we can’t fix it. It’s been a really difficult week. We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car at Sonoma, so I was kind of looking forward to coming here. But, the guys worked really hard. We changed this car inside and out twice this weekend. And, we had made it better and we were kind of hanging in there. I think we had a shot at maybe a top 20 at best. But man, we showed up and we were about four seconds off.”

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Denny Hamlin grabs Homestead pole, Martin Truex Jr. also on front row

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Denny Hamlin was last to make a final qualifying run but took the pole for Sunday’s and championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400.

Hamlin (173.980 mph) knocked Martin Truex Jr. (173.952) off the pole with a bonsai run around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Love this racetrack, wish we would have a chance, but it’ll be another day and another year for us,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “I want to win, that’s all I care about.”

This is Hamlin’s second pole of his career (and second in the last three races) at Homestead, where he’s also a two-time Cup winner.

Truex is the highest qualifying driver of the four Championship 4 contestants.

“It was a good day overall,” Truex told NBCSN. “Hopefully, we’ll just make some minor adjustments (in Saturday’s two practice sessions) and get comfortable and get ready to race on Sunday.”

The other drivers are: Kyle Busch (qualified third, 173.930), Brad Keselowski (fifth, 172.452) and Kevin Harvick was the slowest of the four (ninth, 171.876).

“Not a bad lap, definitely was pole-worthy, so I hate that we weren’t able to get the No. 1 pit stall,” Busch told NBCSN. “I think we’re further ahead than we were 2015 when we won the whole thing.”

Keselowski told NBCSN: “It sure doesn’t feel bad, but there’s a long way to go. It’s just one day of a three-day weekend. … This is like a poker game. This is the deal, it’s qualifying. Tomorrow you start to see the turn of the cards with race trim. We’re not in a bad spot, not where we want to be, we still need a little speed obviously to run with the Toyotas, but we’re kind of first in class (among Ford teams) today.”

Harvick said to NBCSN: “Not exactly how I wanted it to go, but all-in-all I think we’re going to be fine. It’s not like we’re starting 39th or something.”

In addition to Hamlin, non-championship drivers that qualified in the top 12 include Matt Kenseth (fourth, 172.678), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (sixth, 172.359), Kyle Larson (seventh, 172.205), Kurt Busch (eighth, 172.106), Daniel Suarez (10th, 171.789), Ryan Blaney (11th, 171.255) and Trevor Bayne (12th, 171.124).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start last because of an engine change in practice Friday. … Danica Patrick, who announced she will race next year in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 before retiring, qualified 25th. … Sunday’s race will have 39 cars in the field.

Click here for qualifying results.

William Byron fastest in final Xfinity practice at Homestead-Miami

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William Byron was fastest in Friday’s final Xfinity Series practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Byron, who is one of four drivers in contention for the Xfinity Series Championship in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300, was the only driver to top 166 mph (166.087 mph).

Byron will jump to the NASCAR Cup Series next season, replacing Kasey Kahne.

The other three Championship 4 drivers in Saturday’s race were ninth-fastest Elliott Sadler (164.144 mph), 13th-fastest Justin Allgaier (163.503) and 15th-fastest Daniel Hemric (163.438).

Second through eighth were Ben Kennedy (165.685), Cole Custer (165.487), Christopher Bell (165.158), Sam Hornish Jr. (165.138), Casey Mears (165.057), Brennan Poole (164.880) and Tyler Reddick (164.179). Tenth-fastest was Ty Majeski (163.939).

Saturday’s championship race will be televised on NBCSN at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full practice speed chart.

Chase Briscoe earns Miami Truck pole; Austin Cindric highest of Championship 4 drivers

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Chase Briscoe took the pole for tonight’s Camping World Truck Series season-ending and championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Briscoe was fastest with a speed of 167.499 mph, followed by Ben Rhodes (167.348 mph), who will also sit on the front row when the green flag drops tonight.

Three of the four Championship 4 drivers didn’t qualify as well as they might have liked.

One did, however, as 19-year-old Austin Cindric qualified third (166.831). Cindric and Briscoe are both competing in the final race for Brad Keselowski Racing, which is folding after this season.

As for the other three Championship 4 drivers, two-time Truck champ Matt Crafton qualified eighth (165.614), defending series champ Johnny Sauter (165.092) qualified 11th, and Christopher Bell (165.309) failed to advance past the first round of qualifying. He’ll start tonight’s championship race 13th.

As for the rest of the top 12 qualifiers who are not running for the championship, Grant Enfinger was fourth (166.590) followed by Noah Gragson (165.909), Ryan Truex (165.848) and Justin Haley in seventh (165.705). Also, Stewart Friesen qualified ninth (165.431), Kaz Grala was 10th (165.203) and Myatt Snider was 12th (161.575).

The Ford EcoBoost 200 will take the green flag shortly after 8 p.m. ET. The race will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Kaz Grala joining JGL Racing full-time in Xfinity next season

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Kaz Grala will make the move to the Xfinity Series in 2018 when he competes full-time in the No. 24 Ford for JGL Racing, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 18, makes the move after one season in the Camping World Truck Series with GMS Racing. Grala earned one win, in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. He is the youngest driver to win a national NASCAR race at Daytona.

Multiple drivers piloted the No. 24 this season, including Dylan Lupton, Corey LaJoie, Jeb Burton and Drew Herring. JGL Racing also fielded the No. 28 for Dakoda Armstrong, but the car hasn’t run since Kentucky due to a lack of sponsorship.

“I am beyond excited about the opportunity to drive for JGL Racing next year full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” Grala said in a press release. “I’ve been watching Xfinity races since I was a little kid, so to be able to compete at that high of a level is nothing short of a dream come true. I can’t thank James Whitener (owner of JGL Racing) and everyone at JGL enough for this opportunity.”

Grala has five top fives and an average finish of 14.1 in the No. 33 truck ahead of tonight’s season finale in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

JGL Racing’s move from Toyota to Ford coincides with the team entering a technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.

“These are exciting times for the JGL Racing organization,” Whitener said in a press release.  “We appreciate the support we have received from Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing over the last few years. We felt that in order for our team to make the next step in our growth process that we needed a more robust technical alliance behind us – and this opportunity with Ford Performance and Roush Fenway Racing provided us that and made the most sense. We look forward to finishing out the season in our No. 24 car and then we will turn our attention to 2018 and getting all of the proper pieces into place.”