What Drivers Said after 3rd Cup playoff race at Dover

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Kyle Busch was like a cop in Chase Elliott’s mirror.

The more Elliott tried to get away in the closing laps, the closer Busch got until finally overtaking Elliott with two laps to go in the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

It was Busch’s second consecutive win in the playoffs and denied Elliott his first career Cup win.

Twelve of the original 16 playoff contenders now advance to the start of the second round of the playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s what Busch, Elliott and other drivers had to say after Sunday’s race:

Kyle Busch – Winner: “I think the biggest thing there at the end was just having a little bit fewer, fresher lap tires than Chase (Elliott) did and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough when I got close. I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lap cars in front of him, so I think the lap cars actually helped us with that one, but overall just a great day for us. … (Now) we’ve got to win Charlotte. Apparently, I haven’t won there before, so I need to go get that win and check that one off the list and that will put us into the next round and we’ll go from there.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 2nd: “I’m just so disappointed in myself. Golly, I couldn’t have had it any easier. It ran green from the stage break all the way to the end. And, I gave it away. I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “We had a very competitive car today.  The car was good, we just kind of fought track position and I wish I had done a better job on Friday and got us up in that front three sooner. It was so tough to pass, I think whoever came off pit road or had control of a restart was really in the catbird seat. But, a great day for our Lowe’s Chevy. These banked tracks seem to suit us much better than a lot of the flat we saw during the summer. Usually, if you run well at Dover, you run well at Charlotte, so we are excited to go to next week as well.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 4th: “Struggled all day a little bit, but guys worked hard and we never quit and just stayed after it – come home fourth. Thought maybe we should have been second or third, but that last run just really went away on us. It is what it is, but I look forward to Charlotte next week and see if we can keep this thing going.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 5th: “It was a really good race. I won that second stage and was the leader off pit road and then my engine was kind of struggling firing up when I would cycle the engine and cool it down under yellows. It just didn’t re-fire that one time and had to restart fifth and fell back to sixth. Kind of hard to pass when I got back there. I couldn’t really move up the race track because I would be in dirty air. We short pitted, got to third, but fell back and finished fifth. I felt like if I could have restarted the leader I probably would have had a shot to win like the No. 24 (Chase Elliott), but once I had to restart on the inside of the third row I was kind of done unless I had a caution, which there wasn’t any left the rest of the race.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 6th: “We had a really good car today. That first caution didn’t help, and that put us a lap down. We battled back pretty well. We seemed to have our balance shift in waves today. First it’s too tight, then too loose, then back again. It wasn’t a win, but it was a good day.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 7th: “I told (Ryan Blaney) last night I would just take a top 10 after the year that I have had. I know the car was good enough to run in the top five and we showed that at certain points in the race and certain points of the weekend too. … It (his best finish since Sonoma) feels good. This team is really a good team and we have just had a lot of odd misfortune and we have ill-prepared ourselves at times. When the car is good, it seems like we have some bad luck. Then there are weekends where we just can’t get the car right. It’s been a pretty down year but hopefully this weekend is the start of some more good runs. I think we will end this thing strong and I am excited. I am optimistic that our performance is on the uptick and we will see how it works out for next week.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 8th: “(My day) was good. It was consistent solid top-10. I think it’s pretty much all we had and then we got stuck in the race caution and that’s part of it. It worked out well in the end with a decent result.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I’m pleased. I feel like and I said it on media day that we have run about eighth all year long, so if we just did what we had done all year long that we would be fine. Had a great car today. Got behind in qualifying, but recovered well and we were a little safe on our strategy, but man, had a great car again.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “Qualified 16th. Had some pretty good strategy running long and caught the yellow cycle. Had a good pit stop that put us in position to win the first stage, which was good. Then we cycled back to sixth the next two rounds and fought really hard from there to just keep track position. We were holding on to sixth or seventh most of the race and at the end we tried to a little bit of strategy and it just didn’t quite work out.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 11th: “(Our race) sucked. We were just never very good, then I sped on pit road and got to the back and then just couldn’t go anywhere, so, it wasn’t good for us. We weren’t real competitive and then I made that mistake and could never overcome it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 12th: “The SiriusXM Toyota was always way too tight firing off regardless of what we did. Just a frustrating day. I had to chase it up the hill in the turns all day. It was like I was skiing on the track all day. Just frustrating. Somehow we were able to salvage a 12th-place finish out of it.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 13th, eliminated from playoffs: “We just weren’t good enough, as simple as that. We didn’t have a fast-enough race car, we didn’t have the right strategy. We qualified better, that was a plus, but these first three races were a challenge for us. It seemed like everybody else stepped up their game and we didn’t.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 14th, eliminated from playoffs: “Just track position was one of the biggest challenges for us. It was just tough. We didn’t pass really well, but had a pretty decent car, but it was a bit of a struggle to pass guys that were running the same speed, so we just kind of ran in that spot and tried to use some strategy to get up. It seemed to really work, but then on the long end of it, it didn’t work out.  Darien (Grubb, crew chief) did a good job.  The guys worked hard and that was the best we could do.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 16th, eliminated from playoffs: “It started off pretty good. We were headed to the front and were really good on that first long run. We pitted and the caution came out. That was pretty much it. (Ricky) Stenhouse getting those stage points; we were better than him all day. It would have come down between me and the No. 31 (Ryan Newman). We decided we had to run long right there to see if a caution would come out and put everybody a lap down to get us on the same strategy Stenhouse got his points on. It stinks.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 18th: “We’d hoped to get a top-15 run today, but it just didn’t work out in the end. We needed just a little bit more, but overall it was a solid day for the Warriors in Pink Ford team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 19th: “The feeling is lucky really. We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turning point of the day. Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. … We have to run better. We have to bring faster race cars to the track because what we are bringing to the track right now is not nearly fast enough. All in all it is positive momentum that we did make it to the second round.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 20th: “Yeah, disappointed in the way that I drove all through this playoff run. I was driving at 101 percent, trying to get every ounce of speed out of it. It just never had a flow for three races. We might have finished 10th here today. The wreck last week really put us in a hole. We needed a perfect day today and playoff stage points. We just really never did well in Stage 1 and I thought that it might be our Achilles heel. If we add up the numbers (that’s) probably where it was. I can’t fault anybody. We ran hard. We gave it everything we had. … Winning the Daytona 500, you always see the jinx that happens afterwards. We experienced it. There’s a lot that goes on with it. My car never had the handle in it this year where I was always loose in, tight on exit. Loose in, tight on exit. I don’t know why we had that so bad this year.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 23rd: “It is definitely not the day we wanted and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good. At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end. It figures. We got the car better and then just had to kind of ride around the last 60 laps or so. That stunk. The main goal is to transfer and I think the second round is really good for us. I am really excited about that. I am excited to get to Charlotte.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “Today was a battle. I just want to thank all my guys on this Roush Fenway team for their work this weekend. We will move on from today and get ready for some racing at home this week in Charlotte.”

Paul Menard – Finished 26th: “This Richmond/Menards Chevrolet fired off pretty decent to start the race. It hugged the center okay, but we couldn’t go anywhere in traffic. We were in a decent place and hit pit road for some solid adjustments, but when that caution came out in the middle of green flag stops it hurt us pretty bad. Track position was key and we were stuck laps down and forced to take the wave around and get on a different strategy. You can’t predict cautions and we were just on the wrong side of that deal today.”

Christopher Bell wins first career Xfinity Series race at Kansas

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

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

Jones had dominated the race until the pass by Bell. He led 186 of the race’s 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 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.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Erik Jones

STAGE 2 WINNER: Erik Jones

Check back for more

Dale Earnhardt Jr. bursting with joy over thoughts of baby girl

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — They laughed.

When the doctor told Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy that Amy was pregnant, the couple laughed.

It wasn’t the kind of laugh one makes after a joke or a funny story. It was … well, let Dale explain:

“Something just comes out,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday at Kansas Speedway. “You just burst out like joy. It wasn’t funny ha-ha. It was a joyful moment.’’

And then they got to hear the heartbeat.

“Somebody says you’re wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit but, man, when you hear that heartbeat, it’s like yep, it’s real,’’ Earnhardt said. “This is a real thing in there. It’s here. My God, it’s happening. Just all this emotion pops out.’’

The prelude to the excitement was the waiting. It was almost too much for Earnhardt when they first went to the doctor’s office to confirm that Amy was pregnant.

We went to the doctor and I’m still thinking man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me,’’ Earnhardt said. “So, we’re sitting in there for like 20 minutes. And they’re talking woman language and I’m not understanding. They are just talking about things and I’m like well, when is she going to say it? I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice.

“It took them a while. I was scared to speak up. Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, awesome. And then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great. We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.”

Earnhardt said on his podcast this week that the baby is due May 2.

“I know that Amy has changed my life a lot, and I imagine this baby is going to have the same impact and just can’t wait to meet her,’’ Earnhardt said Saturday. “It’s just taking forever.”

Earnhardt says he understands the excitement friends and family have had with their children.

“I guess the thing that hits me is I’ve watched all my friends, a lot of them, have kids and my sister have kids,’’ he said. “I was happy for those milestones in their lives, but I had no idea what that really meant. And as we found out and were going through these little moments through the pregnancy it’s just hitting home how impactful that child has been in all the lives of my friends and family. And I just really didn’t understand or appreciate, I guess, how incredible that moment must have been for them and how their lives completely changed. I saw it from a completely different point of view when I wasn’t experiencing it myself. 

“I look at my friends completely different. I look at my sister completely different knowing what I know now and what I’m learning as I go. And I know there is more to be exposed to and more enlightening and more eye-opening experiences that will make me not only appreciate what me and Amy, what we have, but what my friends and family and folks that I am very close to have and what they have experienced. 

“Because I thought I knew, childbirth is exciting, it’s awesome to have children and everybody says it changes your life and everybody says it’s the greatest thing ever, but you just don’t know until you really go through it.’’

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Ryan Blaney fastest in final Cup practice at Kansas

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Ryan Blaney was fastest in the final NASCAR Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway.

Blaney, who will start last Sunday after failing post-qualifying inspection, posted a top speed of 182.057 mph.

He was followed by Kyle Busch (181.143), Kevin Harvick (181.720), Danial Suarez (181.665) and Matt Kenseth (181.543).

Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. was 12th fastest.

Harvick posted the best 10-lap average at 180.120 mph.

Jimmie Johnson, who was 15th fastest, recorded the most laps with 53.

There were no accidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Tyler Reddick wins pole for Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

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Tyler Reddick claimed his first career Xfinity Series pole Saturday at Kansas Speedway, winning the top spot with a speed of 181.117 mph.

Rounding out the top five are Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Austin Dillon

William Byron was the highest qualifying playoff driver in sixth, but he will start from the year because of unapproved adjustments.

Reddick’s pole comes in his 17th Xfinity start. It also continues an impressive stretch for Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet. Both Reddick and Alex Bowman earned their first Xfinity wins in the last three races. Reddick won at Kentucky Speedway. Bowman won at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

“This cooler weather might be helping us,” Reddick told NBCSN. “We were really tight yesterday. I think that’s going to help us in the race.”

The pole also comes the week after one of his grandmothers, Carolyn Joyce Brown, passed away. Her name is on the roof of his car.

“The last two weeks have been rough,” Reddick said. “She was battling health for a long time and just finally lost the battle. She watched every single race and ever lap on track. She was there watching it at the race track or at home. Hopefully we can do something special for her. This will be the first race she hasn’t been here to see.”

Here is where the playoff drivers qualified:

William Byron – sixth

Cole Custer – seventh

Matt Tifft – eighth

Brennan Poole – ninth

Daniel Hemric – 10th

Elliott Sadler – 11th

Justin Allgaier – 13th

Ryan Reed – 15th

Click here for the qualifying results.