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.”

AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”