What drivers said after Southern 500


Denny Hamlin — Winner: “To win in the Flying 11 and to win the Xfinity race, to win the Cup race, both in very exciting fashion was a great feeling, and tonight through the adversity of missing the pit road and coming back. We had great strategy, a fast car, and it all just worked out in the end. I was hoping it would. Otherwise I would have looked pretty silly after the race trying to explain why we lost. You know, it’s just I think a lot of that came from Truex beating us on a green flag sequence earlier in the day, and so I pushed it a little bit more on pit entry, and I didn’t want it to happen again, and I just pushed it a little bit too much. Kind of a rookie move, but also just trying to optimize everything, and it was just we got our car better as soon as it turned into night. We kept getting the car better, kept making adjustments and kept working on it, and we had something we could win with.’’

Kyle Busch — Finished 2nd: “It was a really good effort for us, really good race for us. I certainly wish that we could have kept pace with (Denny Hamlin) a little bit longer. We were right there with him for a long time, longer than we had all night long in that final stint. But he got through a couple lap cars a little quicker than I did, and then they got side by side and then I got sucked into the fence, and after that it just wasn’t the same, so we just had to try to bide our time and just come home in one piece or nobody was coming behind us, so we just had to ‑ I think we had a seven‑second gap or something behind us so we had a long ways to give up, so we just did that, and (Hamlin) was just the car of the day and class of the field, so congratulations to those guys.  We saw it here in practice on Friday, and I was hoping we could hang with them there a little bit more, but I think I made too many adjustments to our car and got us out of place there for the last two stints.’’

Kurt Busch – Finished 3rd: “It was good pit strategy. I was hoping for one more yellow. If there was a yellow with 30 to go, we were a really good car on short run speed. That was the longest run at the end and those guys caught us on their fresher tires, but just to be in position to win the Southern 500 is great. I didn’t quite get the job done, but third is really nice for a big, marquee race. The 78 was fast and those other Toyotas came in there. I thought that I was going to do it for our Fords. We didn’t quite get the job done. To be in position to win the Southern 500, I just want to get a shout out all the fans. It’s a fun weekend to be here on Labor Day weekend.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 4th: “I’m just really proud of this team for bringing out this Dale Earnhardt scheme out and making it run good like that… it means a lot to me and all the RCR guys. That long run was like torture; those guys were coming on (newer) tires so we had to be really smooth and it worked out for us.”

Erik Jones — Finished 5th: “I lost brakes completely for a minute then they came back. I’ve never had an issue like that before, but turned out to be a really good night for us – top-five night. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) did a really nice job with running a really nice strategy there at the end and getting us back in contention and I was hoping we just were going to run in the top 10 and to get a top-five out of it is really good. So our car was good in the day, but when the sun went down we just kind of lost the handle and couldn’t really ever get back and everybody was fighting grip obviously.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 7th: “We had a pretty good car and a couple of bad pit stops. We had one great pit stop, but just never got the track position that we needed for the short run to be able to show what we were capable of on the long run.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 8th: “It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car. I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night.  I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on. It’s unfortunate we blew the tire, but really proud of everybody on this team for an amazing season so far, and to lock up the regular season points is a huge accomplishment for us, for our team. I feel like we’ve come a long way in just a few years together and continue to climb.’’

Jamie McMurray – Finished 10th: “Well, we had a fan go out that cools the rear end and so we had to come in and work on that. We went to the back, but we could still only get back to about like, I think we got up to sixth in the first stage and then ran somewhere between sixth and 10th or sixth and 12th and we finished 10th.  So, probably didn’t really hurt our night.  A lot of long green flag runs and we weren’t very good on the short run, but we were really good at the end of a run. So, that kind of worked out to our favor.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 11th: “We just weren’t very good all day and really just as an organization really struggled, so we need to step up. This is the time of year to get it going and it was a hard-fought night. I thought we made the very most of what we had and some days that’s all you can do.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “Our car had respectable short-run speed and then it would just get so loose. With all the long runs, that really didn’t work out well for us, and I actually blew a tire with like 20 laps to go. Fortunately, was on my way into pit lane or almost to where I could turn into pit lane. I got lucky and I was able to get back out there on tires and drive back up to 12th, but blew a tire at the absolute right time if you are going to blow one and got to pit lane.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 13th: “It was a good day. My first Southern 500, I enjoy it. I love this race track. I just love when you come to a track and the tires get worn out and you’ve got to be patient. And you’ve got to treat that throttle pedal like an egg and you can really make a lot of difference on a long run. That was what we were able to do tonight with our GEICO Chevy. I’m just proud of the guys. We had a good piece in practice and it was nice just to have a really solid weekend. When you add in the honor of representing a race car from years past that was driven by Johnny Rutherford and fielded by Smokey Yunick – it really adds to the great night for our GEICO team here at Darlington. Good momentum going back to Richmond another track that we ran really well at. Excited for the end of this year.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 15th: “We just weren’t where we wanted to be at the end of the race. I was just kind of holding on and we were going to probably run 10th or 12th and I got to trying a little bit too hard and brushed the wall. I ended up probably hurting our car a little bit and we finished 15th.  (Crew chief Paul Wolfe) made a good call at the end there to get us into 15th when we probably could have been worse than that, so I was proud of that effort.  We just need to be faster.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 17th: “Well, an eventful, very long race at Darlington. Awesome to have Cheerios on board in our Patty Moise throwback. Overall, just a tough start. Kind of knew that the daylight was going to be difficult Then, as the night fell, I feel like we made some gains on it and got it a little better by the end and was able to move around. I think that is all you can ask for is to make steady improvements through the day. We got a decent finish out of it. I wanted a little bit more, but not bad.”

Joey Logano – Finished 18th: “It’s pretty simple (of needing to win Richmond next week to make the playoffs). You could almost write an article without talking to me. We just didn’t have the speed today. The team executed really well. Our pit crew was super-fast and we had a car that was good on the long run sometimes, but never good on the short run. And then at the end, it was horrible on the long run, so we just never really got the balance right. We were good in the day, but when we got to night time all hell broke loose for us. We’re on to the next one.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 20th: “We were just really loose, and we couldn’t make any ground.  I thought at times during the race we had a decent car. I thought we had maybe a 15th-place car, but the longer the run we’d just get really loose. We’ll learn from it and keep on going.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. — Finished 22nd: “They pulled me over because I’ve got some loose lug nuts on the right rear. Had a really bad vibration that last run and there was a bunch of them loose on the right-rear. They must have just kind of had a screw up. It wasn’t intentional. They wouldn’t leave two loose like that when they are not even tight up on the wheel. So, something must have happened on the pit stop because those guys have been great all night. Just had a really bad vibration, came in and got tires, we had a flat at the very end. Twelfth to 15th is where we all ran and I’m not too disappointed because we sat there and ran right with our teammates all night.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 31st: “It was the most frustrating race. I hit the fence early and that was a huge mistake on my part. I don’t know what I was doing. I got tight behind a car and I was kind of offset and I couldn’t see the wall, and I just should have been smarter and lifted. We clawed back from two laps down to get back on the lead lap, which was great. They did a good job. Then we lost a cylinder or something going on in the engine.” 

Clint Bowyer — finished 40th: “It just blew up. It’s a pretty inopportune time to have it happen, but it’s never a good time. Doug Yates and all the guys over at his shop do such a good of bringing us reliable, good horsepower and it was just my time. It was my turn and there isn’t much you can do about it. Obviously, the way the playoffs look right now, we’re not out of this thing. We’ve still got a good race track coming up for us. We’ll just go there and do the best we can and put all the cards on the table over there.”


NASCAR America: Importance of keeping NASCAR connected to grassroots racing

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The importance of grassroots racing to the future of NASCAR is a constant subject these days thanks to the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Now NASCAR America’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton get their chance to sound off on the subject.

On Tuesday’s episode, the panel of analysts discussed why keeping NASCAR connected to the short tracks and lower series across the country is vital to the sport’s future.

“We don’t have that national series running old short tracks that draws people to the race track but also draws them to the TV on Saturday and Sunday,” Burton said.

Earnhardt brought up an attempt by Bristol Motor Speedway to purchase the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, last year.  The attempted failed.

“My heart was broken because I thought we had a real opportunity to bring one of the touring series, either the Truck or Xfinity, back to Fairgrounds,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where I think we’re broken or disconnected. The late model guys and the guys that are running on these local tracks don’t have the connection to the Truck Series or Xfinity Series. They need to take those series, Truck or Xfinity, back to the short tracks and bridge that link.”

The three analysts went on to discuss the short tracks and races that were part of their formative racing years.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Auto Club Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr. was once again in championship form Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

That fact frustrated some drivers, especially Kyle Busch.

You can hear his frustrations and more in this week’s Scan All.

Here are some highlights.

— “I mean, he’s a (expletive) idiot for racing that hard 30 laps into a (expletive) race.” – Chad Johnston, crew chief for Kyle Larson after contact with Kevin Harvick wrecked Harvick on Lap 39.

Johnston’s tone cooled once Harvick owned up to his mistake.

“Harvick’s taking responsibility for that, so don’t sweat it,” Johnston said.

— “You did a hell of a job keeping it off that inside wall. I was watching on the roof cam and was like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t hit that one.” – Rodney Childers, crew chief of Harvick.

— “I don’t know what the (expletive) he’s got going on, but damn I don’t have that.” – Kyle Busch observing how much better Martin Truex Jr.’s car was performing

— “This thing went from absolutely horrible to even worse than that.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

— “I don’t even know what the hell we’re doing, what the hell’s going on and what we’re going to do next. It’s been the same all day. We haven’t made any ground on it.” – Kyle Busch as he struggled to keep pace with Larson and Truex.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Biggest storylines through five race weekends

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After five races in the Cup season, NASCAR America’s analysts assessed what the biggest storylines are ahead of this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton took turns sharing what’s stood out to them.

Jeff Burton started off by saying Kevin Harvick‘s success was the “easy answer.”

Burton discussed his surprise at Chevrolet teams underperforming.

“It reminds you in racing that you don’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Burton said. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more performance from the new Chevy body.”

Earnhardt was surprised at how big Martin Truex Jr’s margin of victory was on Sunday. He beat Kyle Busch by 11.6 seconds.

“I felt like in the first couple of races, maybe we got tricked into thinking the new inspections process had maybe leveled the playing field a little bit, even though Harvick won three in a row,” Earnhardt said. “Then Truex goes out and does what he did last year, maybe even better than he did last year.”

Letarte said his “big shock” for 2018 has been the “lack of change.”

“It’s the same players leading laps that we saw in 2017,” Letarte said. “Everyone is trying to catch up. I’ve always found it the hardest to continue to push your guys, continue to push your race cars when you’re already winning. It’s easy when you’re getting beat to motivate everybody.”

Earnhardt also observed how younger drivers have struggled to shine through five races.

“Across the board, the young guys still aren’t measuring up to the veterans yet,” Earnhardt said.

Watch the above video for more.

Daniel Hemric to make Cup debut at Richmond Raceway in April

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Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric will make his Cup debut next month at Richmond Raceway, Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub.”

Hemric, 27, will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR at Richmond on April 21. He will also compete in the Sept. 30 race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hemric will be sponsored by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff in both races. The company serves as an associate sponsor on Hemric’s No. 21 car in the Xfinity Series.

“You only get one chance to make your Cup Series debut, and it is pretty incredible to know that I am able to do it with Richard Childress Racing and with a partner such as Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff,” Hemric said in a press release. “RCR and Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff have been so influential in so many drivers’ careers – a lot of my heroes growing up. To know they will play a large role in the next step of my career and my initial Cup Series debut is very special.”

MORE: Daniel Hemric’s racing career saved by a Ford Mustang

“Since joining our organization, Daniel Hemric has shown his determination and dedication to this sport both on and off the track,” said Richard Childress in a press release. “Making his Cup Series debut is the next step in his career and we are proud to have him take that step with RCR.”

Hemric is in his second full-time season with RCR in the Xfinity Series. Last season he was part of the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Through five races this season, Hemric is fifth in the standings.

“To make my debut at Richmond will make me feel at home, since I spent years coming up through the ranks at short tracks across the country,” Hemric said. “To do it again in front of my hometown crowd in Charlotte later in the year is an overwhelming feeling. Many people have laid everything on the line to get me to this point and I am extremely grateful to all of those people for putting me in position to get this shot in the Cup Series. These are going to be two very special weekends, to say the least.”

The Richmond race weekend won’t be Hemric’s first time in a Cup car. He was called on by RCR last year to drive Ryan Newman’s car in a Goodyear tire test on the CMS road course. He also practiced and qualified Paul Menard‘s car last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

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