What drivers said after Michigan race

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Kyle Larson — Winner: “It was an awesome finish for us. Kind of a struggle all day, honestly. I felt like we were ‑ I was good and I could find clean air on my car, but any time I’d get any bit of dirty air or any bit of the wake from the car in front of me, I’d get extremely loose, even when I wasn’t close to anybody. We definitely didn’t have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting, probably even harder than we did in those other two wins. Caught a caution at the right time there to line up eighth on fresh tires, got to fifth, and then edged in front of Chase for fourth as the caution was coming out, and that allowed me to line up behind Martin (Truex Jr.) and get a good restart. I was running a few different options through my head under that red flag of what to do, and that one was one of them, and it played out exactly how I had hoped. Yeah, so this win feels amazing to steal one in a way. My other three wins, I felt like we had the first or second-best car, but today at times I didn’t think we were a top-10 car. But to get the win that way is awesome.

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I just tried to do something a little different there with (Kyle) Larson behind me, but when he hit me, I went and I spun the tires. They just got too cold under that red flag and not enough time to get them warmed up. Our car generally took a few laps all day to get warm, but while we had enough caution laps I could kind of keep heat in the tires. Just spun them a bit and he got a run and there was no way he was going to go around me on the bottom with all that stuff down there, and I just went into (Turn) 1 and spun the tires because they were so cold. It’s one of those deals, sometimes these things don’t work out. I’m proud of everybody on the team, they did a great job today and we had a really fast race car again. Proud of that, and I hate I didn’t get it done for those guys and all our fans out there, but all in all it’s a good day. Michigan has just been tough. We’ve been fast here, we just can’t get that ‘W,’ but we’re fast here and we’ll learn from it.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I thought we could get a good enough restart where we could at least battle through (Turns) 1 and 2 and hopefully make something happen into (Turn) 3. Unfortunately that didn’t work out, both of us couldn’t get going – Martin (Truex Jr.) was spinning his tires and I was spinning my tires. He got a push from (Kyle Larson) and he passed us both. It’s unfortunate; I thought it was going to be a Furniture Row one-two either way it was going to work out.’’

Ryan Newman – Finished 4th: “It was just a good run for the Velveeta Shells & Cheese Chevrolet. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) did a great job making the call for us to stay out and caught the break there with (Joey Logano‘s flat) tire. We got a couple of good restarts and make it a little bit out of nothing. We were challenged all day and struggled a little bit.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 5th: “That’s what we needed. Man, if it stayed green, we had another shot like Indy to hold off (Martin Truex Jr.), but we had a caution at the wrong time. I got a great restart and pushed (Kyle Larson) to the lead. I went for it in Turn 3 and it didn’t stick. It got massive loose and ended up fifth. Third and fifth, that’s not a big difference. If I went home thinking I should have gone for it in three, I would be kicking my butt. But it’s a great day for our team. We needed this to recover a little bit.” 

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “Wild. We had a tire go down early and put us off sequence early on and this team did a good job today.  They played the strategy right and worked hard. We had to fix the car. We had a hole in the nose at one point from debris through one of the crashes. Fought hard all day long, to be able to get to here right now, that is a really cool finish. Really proud of this team.” 

Austin Dillon – Finished 7th: “We have come a long freaking way in the last couple of weeks. The car was very drivable throughout the race.  We just needed a little more speed to really get after it, but we made good pit strategy and adjusted the car well.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 8th: “I think we need a little work and need to get caught up here in a hurry.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I had a great car all day long.  I think we would have finished third or fourth without the random caution at the end. That just put us back to 14th and we got back to ninth on the restart, but a really good day for our car, really good day.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 11th: “We were solid today, but we didn’t do anything right, and we didn’t do anything wrong. We’ll pull together and work hard for next week in Bristol.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 12th: “The bottom lane was not really the preferred lane all weekend in Trucks or Cup or anything, and I restarted on the bottom lane and just couldn’t get going. Brad (Keselowski) got to my inside, and I got stuck in the middle and it was just kind of a dogfight after that. I would have gave anything to restart 10th instead of ninth, but it is what it is.  It was a solid day for us. We worked on it all weekend and got it better and better, and the best we had it was right there in the race. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 13th: “We were just terrible loose when the sun came out, and then the strategy just went the wrong way and we wound up a lap down.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 14th: “Well, it was alright. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible. Just ain’t had the car just right the way we need it for the race. I think at times we needed track position and we might have been able to run in the top five, but I didn’t know a lot of guys that really passed many people. It was really pretty even out there competition wise. We weren’t like losing a chunk of time to all them guy, I mean I could see them, but just I don’t know what we’ve got to do.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 15th: “Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. We had a fast car and things just didn’t work out. We have fast cars every week and that gives us something to look forward to. There were some things going on in the car that made me think something might let go, but fortunately that didn’t happen.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 17th: “The team did a good job. We executed in qualifying and all of those things, and we really made the most out of everything we had today, it just didn’t come out our way. It just didn’t come together there at the end, but it was nice to lead a bunch of laps. That was good and something I was really proud of, but I just didn’t have enough to really run with the 77 (Erik Jones) and the 78 (Truex). We tried a little strategy to kind of get something out of it, but the way it all played out I ended up getting the bottom lane on the restarts and getting absolutely swallowed. We tried. We put in as much effort as we could. We knew we didn’t have as much as those two, but we gave it 100 percent effort, and I was really proud of my team for that.” 

Ty Dillon – Finished 21st: “The balance of our GEICO Chevy felt a lot better yesterday in practice than it did today, but we were able to bring the car to us with some wedge adjustments. We had a fast race car there toward the end. The strategy was to go long on fuel mileage in the final stage of the race and it worked great. We were able to pit for four fresh tires and fuel and get a decent finish at the end of the day.’’

Danica Patrick — Finished 22nd: “We just weren’t as good as we needed to be today. Then the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford was just too loose there at the end, and we weren’t able to make up any ground on that last restart.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 25th: “We needed to have a solid race with a good finish. We haven’t had one in a while. It was really, really loose the whole (race) and the speed came when we tightened it up, but to start the race, it was really, really loose. I think if we get that balance right to start the race in the future, then we won’t get behind at all.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished 28th: “The speed wasn’t there. We were a little better and obviously in qualifying our cars are good, but we just couldn’t hang with the Toyotas up front there. Those two cars there – really the Furniture Row cars is what I should say. They’re just lights-out fast. The fastest car didn’t win the race, I can tell you that much for sure. We had a flat tire. I don’t know why we had a flat tire, but maybe we ran something over.’’

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “Our balance was OK at times during the race, but the strategy just didn’t work into our favor. We’ve been really fortunate this year to have good strategy during the stages and with no cautions those first two stages we got a little behind, and then tried to short-pit there at the end and the caution came out that cost us a lap or so. That’s one of those days when you don’t have a lot of attrition, not many cautions, and you just have an average race car and we kind of paid the price.”

Paul Menard – Finished 34th: “We were fighting hard on that late restart to get the free pass and we got caught up with Michael McDowell off Turn 2. I was able to drive the Dutch Boy / Menards Chevrolet back to Matt Borland and the crew, but the damage to the nose knocked the oil cooler back and we had to push it back to the garage.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ — Finished 37th: “I was very, very tight and I was just trying to hold my line. I think (Kasey Kahne) – he was passing me obviously and he went up a little too soon for me. I was trying to give him some room, but actually I got out of the throttle at that point, but I don’t know if he was told it was already time to go up – I don’t know. It’s just unfortunate because we came from a streak of top (10s) and now this is going to be the end of it. We’re going to regroup and come back stronger next week.”

KASEY KAHNE — Finished 38th: Daniel (Suarez) was going backwards and I was going by and I ran the bottom. I expected we could be close off the corner, and I was just coming off and then we hit. So, I don’t know. I expected to run side-by-side down the backstretch, but not give a lot of room, because you don’t. Nobody does. But I was making the pass and I don’t know how we hit. Ruined it. It’s over.”

 

 

Former champions battling to stay alive in Cup playoffs

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Title hopes could end today for more than one series champion.

Former champ Jimmie Johnson holds that final transfer spot to the next round, but he leads former champion Kyle Busch by seven points and former champion Matt Kenseth by eight points.

“This is our first Homestead of this year,’’ Busch said, referring to the season finale that determines the crown. “We’ve got to come through this race. It’s not a must-win, but it is a must-perform.’’

It will be challenging because Busch, Johnson and Kenseth are all strong at this track.

Johnson’s three wins at Kansas are the most among active drivers. Busch has finished in the top five in five consecutive Kansas races. Kenseth has led 269 of the 536 laps (50.2 percent) run in this event the past two years.

That makes Sunday’s elimination race (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) even more intriguing.

Johnson, who is in his first bid to break a tie with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most Cup championships, finds himself in this spot because of a lack of speed. It’s hurt him in qualifying, costing him stage points, and hurt him throughout the race.

“We are a team and a group that thrives on adversity,’’ said Johnson, who noted he was the slowest of the championship cars last year in Miami and still won his record-tying seventh title.

“Whenever we have been backed into a corner we have always stepped up and have delivered. All the members of this No. 48 team love a challenge, and we are not even close to losing that desire and that fight to be out there and compete and race for the win and race for the championship.’’

Mistakes have plagued the team the past two weeks. At Charlotte, Johnson took off before all the lug nuts were secured on the left front tire and had to back up to have that remedied, losing time. Last week, spotter Earl Barban told the team they could begin work on Johnson’s wrecked car before the red flag was withdrawn. NASCAR parked the team for the infraction.

“There are lessons learned in everything,’’ Johnson said. “When I think of the Charlotte pit stop itself and I think of Talladega and the mistake there that Earl made, really all mistakes come from guys trying as hard as they can. 

“I personally have sympathy for that. I mean, the guys are just trying to do the best job they can and everybody makes mistakes. I make plenty of them, and I think Fridays show that on a regular basis. It’s hard for me to jump on somebody over that.  What I ask of myself is to learn from those lessons and try not to repeat them.’’

Kenseth, winless in his last 48 starts, has a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota but his team has seemed to be the weakest of JGR’s playoff teams throughout the postseason.

“If we don’t run good Sunday, then we don’t deserve to be in the next round anyway,’’ Kenseth said Friday.

Kenseth lamented the performance he and his team had at Kansas in May, finishing 12th.

“You’re only as good as your last race,’’ he said. “Our last one here we ran really, really bad.

Kenseth suggests he might have to knock someone else out of a playoff spot if Kyle Busch runs like he’s capable.

“If I’m Kyle (Busch), I’m feeling pretty good,’’ Kenseth said of his teammate. “He’s crashed two weeks in a row and he’s still in (playoff contention). That’s pretty amazing. Plus he’s been running so good, it’s one of his better places now. So I wouldn’t be very concerned if I was Kyle, I guess, because he’s had the performance.

“Now, (Jimmie Johnson) hasn’t run quite as good as he’s accustomed to running. We haven’t run as good as we’re accustomed to running.”

That Busch is so close after a miserable round (29th at Charlotte and 27th at Talladega) is because he has so many more playoff and stage points than Johnson and Kenseth.

Busch has 41 playoff points. Johnson has 17 and Kenseth five.

Busch’s job is simple he says.

“I look at it as out-finishing (Johnson) and (Blaney) by three, four spots each stage, each round, in order to make up enough points to pass them both,’’ he said. “Whether that’s doable or not, we’ll see. We’ll certainly try. We’ll fight hard, hopefully run up front all day long. We’ve done that this year. We did that here in the spring. We just need to back it up and do it again when it’s crunch time.”

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Justin Allgaier leads Xfinity playoff standings after first race of second round

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Justin Allgaier and two of his JR Motorsports teammates lead the Xfinity playoff standings after the first second round race, the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.

Allgaier holds a two-point lead over William Byron and a 11-point lead over Elliott Sadler after finishing fifth in the race.

The top five is completed by Brennan Poole (-28) and Matt Tifft (-33).

Only four of the remaining eight drivers will advance to the championship race.

Click here for the point standings.

Stats, results for Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

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Christopher Bell claimed his first Xfinity Series win in the Kansas Lottery 300 after passing his teammate, Erik Jones, with four laps left in the race at Kansas Speedway.

Bell only led the final four laps after Jones led 186.

Completing the top five was Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for results.

 

Christopher Bell wins first career Xfinity Series race at Kansas

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Christopher Bell passed teammate Erik Jones for the lead with four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300, withstood contact from behind by Jones and claimed his first career Xfinity Series win.

Bell, driving the No. 18 Toyota, won in his fifth career start. It comes in the opening race of the second round of the playoffs.

Bell passed Jones in Turn 3 and drifted up to the wall as they exited Turn 4, where Jones then ran into him.

“I haven’t seen it so I can’t really talk much about it,” Bell told NBC. “But I never want to wreck anyone, especially my teammate. I don’t know. My spotter said clear, I drove it in really deep. I felt like I cleared him (watches replay). I don’t know man, I was clear. It’s my first Xfinity win. I’m sorry that Erik couldn’t finish the race. But I’m just stoked. This thing was awesome.”

Jones dominated the race until the pass by Bell. Jones led 186 of 200 laps and swept the first two stages. He finished 15th, one lap down due to damage from running into the back of Bell.

“It’s not dirt racing, he (wasn’t) clear,” Jones told NBC. “I can’t just stop on the top. I didn’t expect him to drive in on the bottom so far he wouldn’t be able to hold his lane. It’s unfortunate. … I thought we were going to race for the win. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a race. It was more of a wreck.”

Jones has not finished better than 15th in his last four Xfinity starts.

It is the first win for Joe Gibbs Racing since Denny Hamlin won at Darlington Raceway, a five-race stretch. JGR has won 11 Xfinity races this season.

Bell, 22, is a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series. He will race full-time for JGR in the Xfinity Series next year.

The top five was Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Justin Allgaier.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Erik Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Erik Jones

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Elliott Sadler finished seventh after bouncing back from a spin in Turn 4 on Lap 77 and a pit penalty … Tyler Reddick gave the No. 42 Chevrolet its fourth top-two finish in the last five races … William Byron finished fourth and Matt Tifft placed eighth after both had to start from the rear for unapproved adjustments.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Daniel Hemric finished 18th, a lap down after receiving a penalty for pitting outside his box … Blake Koch finished 23rd, four laps down after getting into the wall with about 35 laps to go … Cole Custer finished 19th, two laps down after pitting for a bad tire with less than five laps to go.

NOTABLE: The 186 laps led by Erik Jones are his most in 75 career Xfinity starts … The cars of Matt Tifft and Ryan Blaney each had one unsecured lug nut after the race. Any penalties will be announced later in the week.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I just don’t think that’s the way to do it. I get that (Christopher Bell) was clear. He wasn’t clear for the run I was having on the top. I was in the gas. There was no way I could slow up enough to let him. It’s just unfortunate. It took me out of the race. … I just don’t really appreciate that. I don’t think many people will.’’ – Erik Jones

WHAT’S NEXT: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway at 8:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 4 on NBCSN