A.J. Allmendinger

What drivers said after Sunday’s 2018 season-opening Daytona 500

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:

Austin Dillon — Race Winner: “Right now I just want to thank the good Lord above. I did what I had to do there at the end. I hate it for the No. 10 (Aric Almirola) guys. We had a run, and I stayed in the gas. It is what it is here at Daytona. This is so awesome to take the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane 20 years ago. This one is for Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and all those Sr. fans.  I love you guys.  We are going to keep kicking butt the rest of the year! … I met a fan and actually he had no favorite driver. I told him I would give him my hat if I was his favorite driver. Well I gave him the hat.  The next day he saw me in the infield and said here is a lucky penny I found heads-up and I said ‘Man, we have to put this in the car.’  We put it in the car and here we are in Victory Lane. … I said my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does.  My grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to preform because I have had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No 3.  There is a lot of pressure behind that. But I’m willing to take that and go with it.  I’m just thankful for all the people that support us along the way.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his family for letting us bring this number back. It comes full circle. I just can’t thank the Lord enough for this opportunity.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished second: “Just an incredible experience for me to be able to be here for my first Daytona 500. … My nerves are shot right now. The King (Richard Petty) comes in all mad at me and says, ‘After all I told you, what was the first rule I told you to do?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I lost my breath’ and he said ‘Don’t wreck the car.’ Thank you to the King for keeping me young, keeping him young as well. Thank you to the King as well for giving me this opportunity putting them second place, putting Click N’ Close in second place.  We know how much stress this team has been through in the last three or four months just trying to get this program together. … Hell of an ending for us tonight, but P2 for my first Daytona 500, I’ll take it.”

MORE: Bubba Wallace gets pre-race good luck call from baseball legend Hank Aaron

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “Definitely disappointed after leading on the last restart, but it’s just a 50-50 shot. It’s about what line can stay organized and work the best. I had the 37 (Chris Buescher) committed to my rear bumper which was great, but we couldn’t get the 21 (Paul Menard) to buy in. It’s really about the third car in line. Whoever that third car in line is closest to that line goes. We just didn’t have the line to win, but congrats to Austin (Dillon). I’m really happy for Austin and his whole team. Those guys work really hard. … If I didn’t win, the 3 (Austin Dillon) car is the next one I would’ve rooted for.”

Joey Logano — Finished fourth: “There were a lot of ups and downs all day for us. Getting the left rear fender rub, needing to pit, going down a lap, getting the Lucky Dog, scoring points in that stage was amazing. To get ourselves back in position where we needed to be behind Blaney, our teammate, to try to control the race and win. It was a mental mistake on pit road. My fault. Can’t pick a worse time to do that. Once you are back there, you are kind of back there in the garbage. It was getting crazy. All the holes close up at the end of the race and it is hard to make progress and the crashes happen more often. We were able to get a top-five out of it, which is nice for the Shell Pennzoil team. Maybe we would have gotten caught up in a crash if I stayed up front but overall I just feel like I let us down a little bit.”

Chris Buescher – Finished fifth: “That was awesome. For us to even be in contention to have a shot at winning the (Daytona) 500 with our Kroger Clicklist team, that was pretty awesome, with two cars really. That was pretty neat. There at the end we just had to be a little bit too defensive with our Kleenex Camaro ZL1 to really go up there and push for it. The bottom really wasn’t the place to be all night and that is where we lined back up.”

Paul Menard – Finished sixth: “We had a really fast Omnicraft Ford today. These guys are awesome. Great race car. I ran upfront the first-half of the race. I got shuffled out. Denny (Hamlin) bumped me in Turn 3 and got loose and lost all my track position. I just kept fighting from there to get my track position back. Great run for us. We had shot to win the Daytona 500 at the end of the race. We just came up short. … To score points in all three stages is awesome. That’s good for the overall picture. I had a shot at a stage win. It was a good points day for sure.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished seventh: “It was just hard racing. You saw it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 (Hamlin) blocked the 41 (Kurt Busch) and the 41 kind of went high last minute and I was on his left rear and I turned him. I feel bad about that. He kinda changed lanes last minute and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it was a good showing. Hopefully we go into Atlanta and have a decent run.

Ryan Newman – Finished eighth: “Congratulations first of all to Austin (Dillon) and his team. That is awesome for RCR and ECR and all of our partners. To get a Camaro in Victory Lane, that was special as well. For us, we just weren’t in the right place at the right time and got caught up in a little bit of a mess and that was it. We just finished with a bunch of damage, but we still finished eighth.”

Michael McDowell – Finished ninth: “We had our ups and downs, that’s for sure. I am thankful to get stage points. It takes a top ten finish and makes it like a top five. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Unfortunately we had a little mishap on pit road. The 6 (Trevor Bayne) was coming out of his box as we were coming in. There was no way I wasn’t going to hit him, so we had to come back through and lost a lap. Thankful to get out of Daytona with a top 10. We brought a fast Ford. Showed good stage. It was a really good run.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 10th: “Today was a big positive for our racing organization. It’s a great day for both teams, to get a top five and a top 10 finish at Daytona. It was a fantastic job there by Chris (Buescher) and the 37 Kleenex team, especially at the end to have a chance to win it. Overall, any time you come out of Daytona with two cars in the top 10 that’s a big deal for us. I feel like so many times I tried to make the right move and either nobody went with me or I got hung out, but that’s the product of this racing. That’s the way it goes. It can be frustrating sometimes. Overall, just a great day for our 47 Kroger ClickList team and especially Chris and the 37 guys for doing such a great job.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 11th: “It was the last lap and we’re all trying to win the Daytona 500. It’s the biggest race of the year and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively. I put every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to hold on. He got to my back bumper and was pushing and just hooked me. My heart is broken, but the beauty is we’ll go to Atlanta and we’ve got an incredible race team here at Stewart-Haas Racing and we’ll have another shot next week. … (Dillon wasn’t) driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was. I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t gonna just let him have it. I wasn’t gonna just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still gonna be OK and somehow I got hooked. … I’m just devastated.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 13th: “That was a hard fought race and kind of heartbreaking. We had a few times we had to recover and we were able to do it. Gotta clean stuff up and not have mistakes. The guys on the team did a great job and I am happy with how we performed today. A lot of times you leave thinking you should have done 20 things differently, but today I felt like I did all I could do. That is a great feeling. We made a day out of it. I look forward to getting to Talladega and then back here to Daytona in the summer when handling is a big deal. Congrats to the 3 team. We will go to work for Atlanta.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “Our plan was working. A lot of cars we knew we had to beat were out of the race. We had hung back working on our handling and just waiting to the end of the race. I kept telling my guys to stay patient, there were going to be more wrecks. Sure enough that’s what happened, and we avoided any damage, but when I got on the brakes hard something happened, because we were now down a cylinder. We tried, but there was no way to fix it. We went back out there and were pretty decent, considering. Now we’ll focus on Atlanta.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 17th: “Yeah, just put ourselves in a good position all day and really shouldn’t have been in that spot. That last restart I didn’t do a good job and that is what put us there. My fault, learn from it, move on. Definitely do some things differently going forward, but everybody on this Nationwide 88 did such a great job. It’s cool to see Austin (Dillon) get the Camaro ZL1 its first win. Working with Kevin Hamlin (spotter) was great all day. Greg (Ives, crew chief) made good calls all day, but it’s just Daytona.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 18th: “Not the day we were looking for. … It was our day for a while and then it wasn’t. It’s just the way it goes. Superspeedway racing – a lot of it is out of your control. That last caution in hindsight, we probably should have gotten tires. Tried to come up from the back because we were sitting ducks upfront. We didn’t have enough speed to keep up with some of those guys up front. I’d get back there but didn’t have the speed to get by them. It was just one of those deals where we needed it to stay green to be in a good spot. It just didn’t work out in the end.”

D.J. Kennington — Finished 24th: “We had a decent car. We could’ve raced with them, I think. But we’ll take it and run with it. We almost went the distance.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 26th: “I was feeling the magic. I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500. We found the right drafting lanes and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle it seemed like when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard and that killed a lot of my momentum. Maybe I should have just flung the 11, but you have to treat guys with respect and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 27th: “(Ryan) Blaney was right in front of me, so I just tagged onto him and I was just gonna shove the heck out of him, being another Ford and a really strong race car. We were running anywhere between second and third and sixth-ish at the end, but you’ve got to expect anything at all that happens at the end. The Fords were really strong. My car was really strong, especially being a back-up car. It had plenty of speed, so I just tried to tag onto another Ford, but stuff happens. … It’s frustrating.  That’s the thing that I have a love-hate relationship with superspeedways. I dread coming to them because it’s so frustrating that everybody just tears up cars and it’s basically a demo derby, but, at the same time, we can also have really good runs and run really fast with our small, little team and group of guys. It’s a love-hate relationship.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 29th: “I have no clue (how he was wrecked). Unfortunately, we got some front-end damage. We were overheating there at the end of that second stage and had to pit and that really caught us laps down. We were trying to battle back and I think we were in the free pass spot there for a minute and everything broke loose and we just got caught up in it. Two laps from the end was a bummer, but we felt really good at the start of the race. I hate that we had to pit and lose our track position and the lead lap because I felt like our Fastenal Ford was really, really good all day and really strong. I could make just about any move I wanted to to stay towards the front, just had to pit there with like six or seven to go in that second stage. … All in all, it was a fun Speedweeks. I felt like our cars were good and I’m looking forward to getting to Atlanta.”

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “I think that wreck was just a product of speedway racing. You’ve got young guys with fast race cars. They were probably being a little too aggressive, blocking, moving around, pushing and sometimes you get what you ask for, and I think the two guys that wrecked got what they asked for and it’s just a shame we were caught in it.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 31st: “We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two guys, I couldn’t tell. It looked to me like there was one too many blocks and the blocking car wound up spinning out and the 2 car hit the 24 and wound up coming up the race track into me. It was like a can opener on the way by. … You really can’t block that aggressively. They got away with it, especially the 24 (William Byron) got away with it most of the weekend and didn’t get away with it that time. Unfortunately, we were one of the cars that got tore up. … (It’s frustrating) there’s really nothing you need to do early on, but those guys are very ambitious.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 32nd: “The 24 (Byron) got loose and spun out in front of us all and got caught up in it. It just really sucks. We had a great car and were in a great position. I guess that’s the way it goes. I went to pass the 24 on the bottom and he came down. I can’t tell if I made contact or not, but obviously he turned and there was nothing I could do. We were all wrecked. … You definitely didn’t see (patience) today.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 33rd: “Yes, I’m alright. I had such a fast Camaro ZL1 today, and I just wanted a shot there at the end. Tough circumstances. I was just trying to feel Blaney out and see what he was going to do; how aggressive he wanted to be. I had a big push and got light at the wrong time. Didn’t make the right move. … I just wanted to make it to the end and give ourselves a chance, so I hate that we didn’t have that opportunity.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 34th: “I couldn’t see what happened. I was just on the outside entering the corner and then Chase (Elliott) came across, hit the wall, by the sounds of it in the infield care center, him and Brad (Keselowski) got together, but I didn’t see any of it. I’m disappointed.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 35th: “I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car and it being that green again. But it just wasn’t meant to be today. But I am proud – we raced the whole race — other than a little bit at the end of that first stage when I just looked silly with all the cars with no tires and tires. Other than that, we raced it. It was competitive. That’s all you can do. That’s the gamble about Daytona. It can go so well and it can go so awful. So, I’m grateful for everything. Thank you to all the fans. Still got one more (race left, the May 27th Indy 500). It’s not a stock car (race), but still got one more.”

Erik Jones – Finished 36th: “It looked like the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) just got freed up there by the 12 (Ryan Blaney), unfortunately. We tried to check up and everybody got stacked up, and caused a big wreck.  It’s unfortunate because the Dewalt Camry was definitely fast – we just didn’t get to the end to see what we could really do. We were in position I thought to have a good race. We were staying upfront and out of trouble, it just didn’t work out.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 37th: “I was just trying to stay out of trouble either in the front or in the back and at that point we were at one lap to go to the end of the stage and 60 laps into the race and everyone was blocking very, very close. Everyone was being aggressive and it was a little bit too early and somebody turned my teammate the 20 (Erik Jones) and then he hit the 42 (Kyle Larson) and the 42 hit me and after that it was pretty much nothing I could do.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 38th: “There was some great racing throughout. It looked like everybody thought that was the finish of the Daytona 500 and it was really only lap 59 coming to 60. Unfortunately, we lost our third car for the weekend. … Just racing that hard coming for a green and white checkered flag. I’m not sure everybody was thinking big picture and really using their head through that. … It’s been tough lately (for him at Daytona). I have had some great days and nights here through the July race and this race, but of late it’s been tough. That is just how it goes. If I want to think too hard about it I can look at (Dale) Earnhardt’s record here and know how long it took him to get his first.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 39th: “I was trying to get some stage points. It’s really important for us to kind of come out with a good start and I was wanting to be aggressive in the first stage, get some points so we could do whatever we wanted to later on in the race. I saw them crossing lanes up there in the front and I was kind of pinned to the top, so I didn’t really have anywhere to go and once they started crashing, I was just stuck in the oil and didn’t really have anywhere to go.”

Kyle Busch leads Joe Gibbs Racing sweep in first Daytona 500 practice

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Kyle Busch led a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the top four spots in the first practice session for the 60th Daytona 500.

Busch’s No. 18 Toyota put up a top speed of 199.743 mph.

He was followed by Denny Hamlin (199.623), Daniel Suarez (199.610) and Erik Jones (199.517) and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon (197.278).

The JGR cars jumped to the top of the standings when they began drafting together late in the session.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the fastest Ford driver at 195.389 mph. He was eighth on the speed chart.

A.J. Allmendinger recorded the most laps in the session with 16.

He and William Byron were the only driver to make 10-lap runs.

BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota, which will be driven by Gray Gaulding, was the only car not to make a lap in the session.

The red flag was out for a lengthy stretch in the middle of the session to clean up fluids on the track. It was lifted with 13 minutes left in the session.

Saturday’s second Daytona 500 practice is scheduled for 3-3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for the speed chart.

A.J. Allmendinger’s team finishes second in class in Rolex 24 at Daytona

Michael Shank Racing
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A.J. Allmendinger got his 2018 racing season started with a podium finish in his team’s class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona over the weekend.

Competing for Michael Shank Racing, Allmendinger and his three teammates finished second in the GTD class.

The No. 83 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 was driven by Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente, Trent Hindman and Allmendinger.

The team placed 22nd overall in the race that began Saturday afternoon.

Allmendinger, who competes for JTG Daugherty Racing in the Cup Series, extended his mark of leading every Rolex 24 he’s raced in during his overnight stent. He led 25 laps for the GTD class. Allmendinger has competed in the race 12 times. He was an overall winner in 2012.

“This might be the most tired I’ve ever been,” Allmendinger said. “It probably was not a wise call on my part not to run an air hose to my helmet. But this Acura NSX GT3 has been fun to drive. I love Michael Shank and I love this race team. The spotters especially, (Mike) Sweeney and Ben (Waddell), it was a team effort. That last stint, I was starting to get the chills inside the car. But this is what the Rolex 24 is all about: the last four hours you give everything you’ve got.”

MORE: Rolex 24: Action Express hang on for victory, Ganassi gets 200th win

Allmendinger wasn’t the only NASCAR driver taking part in the endurance race.

Austin Cindric, who will compete for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series, contributed to a sixth place in the Prototype class for JDC-Miller Motorsports.

Brendan Gaughan was part of a 42nd overall finish for BAR1 Motorsports. Driving a Multimatic/Riley LMP2, the team finished 14th in the Prototype class.

Xfinity drivers Ty Majeski and Cole Custer, competing with Scott Maxwell, placed third in the Grand Sport class for the Multimatic Race team in the four-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race on Friday.

“It was a really fun race,” Custer said in a team release. “Doing the driver swaps, we weren’t perfect, but we were able to do them pretty quickly. It was a really strange but fun thing to do. I’m really glad Ford Performance is helping us get some more experience with road course stuff. It was a great race.”

Cindric and Chase Briscoe also competed in the race, but were relegated to a 22nd-place finish after a mechanical failure.

What Drivers Said after Sunday’s race at Texas

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With their respective tickets now punched through to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks, Kevin Harvick and runner-up Martin Truex Jr. had plenty to say after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

So did a lot of other drivers, especially the remaining five who will fight next week at Phoenix for the final vacancy in Championship 4:

Kevin Harvick – Winner: “This feels so good. We have been qualifying well here and racing well ever since I have been at Stewart-Haas Racing and just never got it to work out to go to victory lane. Today we had to earn it. To be able to pass the 78 car (Martin Truex Jr) for the win is something that is huge for our confidence and team knowing we need to go to another 1.5 mile at Homestead to race for the championship.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished second: “One of those deals, I think we could have held them off on a clean race track, but the 6 car (Trevor Bayne) is in the damn way every week – that’s pretty normal. … (On clinching a spot in the championship race) It feels great. It feels amazing – that’s what we set out to do this year was to make it to Homestead and fight for the title and we feel like we’re right there. I just can’t wait to get there and get back to work. I wish we could have won today, it would have been a little sweeter going and locking it up in victory lane, but we were off a little bit there at the end.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “The 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) were really fast all day. We had a really good FedEx Camry, just had a couple bad restarts there where I went high, lost my track position and we had to take two (tires) to get that track position back that I lost. Overall, a good day – I mean great points day. We scored a lot of points, but lost positions there with the 4 winning, so we’ll – we’ll just keep digging, keep giving ourselves a shot to win and hopefully next week will be our week.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished fourth: “First run of the day was fun. Everybody was on three-cycle scuffs and we were on stickers. We got to the end, we had a good car when we got to get up through there pretty quick, but just got tight on that last set of tires for some reason. … I’d always draw the outside lane on a restart and lose a couple spots. It’s just hard to overcome that. That was our worst run of the day and it was still pretty competitive, so it was nice to be competitive.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fifth: “We had a pretty good car. Something happened on Lap 1 (collided with Kyle Busch) and basically we started the race last and a lap-and-a-half down. That cost us a bunch of stage points, but we rallied with a solid effort to get back to fifth. I’m happy for that. … (You are +19 in points) “I need more than that. I’d feel confident if we were locked in. These races you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Nineteen points isn’t terrible for a cushion. We’ll need to go and have a solid race at Phoenix next week and hope none of the other guys win. It’s doable, but it’s gonna be a nail biter next week for sure.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished sixth: “Obviously, we need to be really aggressive. We need to go try and win the race. That’s really the only thing we can do, so I’m proud of the effort by the team today. We didn’t start off very good and we got really good towards the middle and had one run where I was super-loose towards the end. I gave up like five spots. I got real loose and that was unfortunate, but we got our car a little bit better at the end. … (What he must do at Phoenix) You pretty much have to go and win the race. That’s all we can do. It’s gonna be hard to point your way in because everyone is running pretty good. We’ll just try to win Phoenix and do the best we can.”

Chase Elliott – Finished eighth: “We weren’t very good all day. Had some good restarts there and was able to get some decent track position at times, just never could hold it, so a frustrating afternoon. … (You have to win at Phoenix, right?) Yeah, I guess. So, we will try our best out there and see what happens.”

Kurt Busch – Finished ninth: “Man, We just still want more. We’re so close to being what we want, but we just still aren’t in that top five group right now. We’ve just got to find a little more. I’m real happy with our effort. We finished in the top-10 after a pit road mishap, so it’s a good day.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “Our Fastenal Ford was solid all day. The guys did a great job making changes overnight. I’m bummed we didn’t get a top 10 but it was still a solid weekend for us overall.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “We were able to grab a couple of stage points at the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2 today, which I am really proud of. We could hit our marks as good as anybody. Speed-wise, we weren’t the fastest car, but we are obviously doing something right because it seems like nobody could keep up behind me. With everyone running such similar speeds today, track position was big. I’m proud of the team for all working together to get this 13th.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 16th: “It was a solid day. We maximized the day for sure strategy-wise and going about it that was the best we could have asked for there. The car just got hot, it was slick, we were just kind of on a razor’s edge. It’s better, we finished, that is better than we did in a month, so we are gaining on it, but to get to the next echelon it’s a big leap. As a team, everybody did all they could, that was a solid weekend, maximized it. We will just continue to dig and figure it out.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 20th: “Texas hasn’t been good to us this year. We struggled since we unloaded off the truck on Friday. We got behind early. We were super loose so between major chassis changes and strategy, we raced back onto the lead lap in Stage 2 but struggled again on the next long green-flag run. We definitely need to pull together and figure out what the 31 needs because the 3 car (Austin Dillon) raced on the lead lap and in the top 10. We’ve obviously made some gains as a team, and we just need to figure out what works for us. On top of that, we had some cooling issues so, as a driver, I was burning up a bit. I’m OK, but it wasn’t fun out there for me at times.”

Paul Menard — Finished 23rd: “First off, I have to thank Daniel Hemric and all of the guys on this No. 27 team for getting this Atlas/Menards Chevrolet set up and ready for me this weekend (while his wife gave birth to their second child). We made some headway at the start of the race but suffered damage to the nose during the first stage. The guys fixed it up as best they could. We kept adjusting on the handling of the car but had to pit under green for a vibration in the final stage. These guys never gave up, and we were able to come out of here with a 23rd-place finish.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 24th: “Texas has been quite the challenge for our team to overcome this year. We didn’t have the day that we wanted, that’s for sure. This team works hard week in and week out, but we just haven’t hit on what we need to at these mile-and-a-half tracks. … We did what we could though and used strategy to get laps back for a stronger finish.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 27th: “We’ve got to figure something out. Kansas was a lot like this. It was just extremely difficult to drive the car and carry entry speed. And then we had a loose wheel and then contact on a restart. We started off in a hole and just kept digging a deeper one as we went. I’m definitely disappointed. And, I honestly just feel bad for my team. These guys are working so hard. And to work this hard and not see any speed go back in the car and have bad results as the last three weeks have been is pretty disappointing. … (Can you win at Phoenix to reach the championship round? “It’s been a good track for us. But this last half of the year has been really weird. In places where we expect to run well and traditionally do, we haven’t. But I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix and we’ll go there and fight as hard as we can. And that’s one thing this team will never do it give up.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 35th: “(Why did you take the car to the garage?) We burnt the hub up on the left-front, so we are going to change the spindle and change the hub and try to get back out there and finish the race. … (You looked like you were en route to a good showing today) Yeah, it wasn’t bad. I mean the car has ran about 11th to 20th all weekend in all the practices and everything. I don’t know, we’ve got to get a little bit better to beat some of them guys up there, but I was having a good time and the car wasn’t too bad.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 36th: “Man, we are plagued with bad luck lately. I think we would have had a top-10 today. Maybe we’ll get a break or two next week in Phoenix.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 37th: “Just can’t really execute, whether it’s bad pit stops or bad luck. It’s frustrating because I know I had the best car and lost track position and that is what happens. You try and move forward and it’s so hard to pass here you try and find some stuff and get in the wall. … (You’ve now had 3 DNFs in a row) I don’t know.  Can’t wait for the last lap at Homestead.”

What Drivers Said after Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to be the most dominant – and winning – driver of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season and playoffs.

Truex’s win in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was his third in the first six playoff races and his series-leading seventh win of 2017 – six which have come on 1.5-mile racetracks.

Now the playoffs advance to the Round of 8 semifinal round. Kyle Busch is second in the points, 27 points behind Truex, and Brad Keselowski is third, 43 points back.

Four drivers were eliminated from advancing to the next round: Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

All of them, as well as many other drivers, had a lot to say about Sunday’s race:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim (team member Jim Watson, who passed away Saturday night from a heart attack) last night. Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here. Excited to get another one here at Kansas. This feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row’s home track. We got that one in the spring after so many heartbreaks and then today it looked like it was going to happen and we just persevered.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 2nd: “I really wanted that one bad. I don’t know what it is about this place. Kyle (Busch) struggles here too. I feel like I’m on pins and needles most of the day. (Crew chief Tony) Gibson always throws nice adjustments at it and the race comes to us and we’re right there. We had a shot at winning. When we get it right, we’re right there.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 3rd: “It was a good race. We did a nice job coming from the back and I thought we got our car pretty decent there in the second stage. Then there was a mixup with some strategy stuff and pit calls and it felt like we were kind of at the back part of that but we were able to recover and miss that wreck which was big for us. We ran strong enough all day that we should have been in with where we ran. I am really proud of my team for the effort and we will move on to the next round and Martinsville.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 4th: “It was a wild day for sure. We fought our balance all weekend. I know the result wasn’t terrible, but definitely feel like we could have been a lot better this weekend and just the way things worked out for us. But, our car got better as the day went along, we just didn’t have the balance on a very long run to go up and pass guys like you need to have. So, we will go to work and get this side of things ready for Texas.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: We definitely got our car better from where it was yesterday, but still a little bit off today. Just fought a terminal condition that we just couldn’t fix on pit road, but proud of the whole FedEx Toyota team for giving me something I could battle up front there with a little bit. Just got to get a little faster on the short run and we’ll be fine. The biggest thing we need to work on is short run speed. If we can do that, then we could contend, but we’re heading to a mighty good race track for us next week (Martinsville) that hopefully we’re able to capitalize.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 6th: “Yeah, absolutely that was an awesome day for our Scott brands Chevrolet. But, just proud of everybody back at JTG Daugherty Racing. We have been working really hard the last several months to try and get it turned around. We have hit the summer months and we haven’t had the speed we wanted. So, this weekend was a big step in the right direction for us. It’s excited. It’s fun to come back and run well.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 7th: “We ended up having a decent run. I am just glad that we brought another good finish home. I think that is about where the car should have finished this weekend. … (On missing the big wreck) It’s all luck.  A lot of times if you just run the back of somebody and push them through it that kind of works for you too. I did a little bit of that too. Just real lucky. That helped us on our finish today. I don’t know if we could get the track position and get a top 10. The car was fast enough at times to run up there and finish up there, but we will take it.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 8th: “As you look at the result of the day you want to have a chance to win. We had a car capable of winning. Just got stuck in a box and the box kept on getting smaller and smaller. The caution came out with the 47 (A.J. Allmendinger spin) and that put us and the 18 in a bad spot. That was it. Our focus was one stage at a time and we accomplished that. After that it was about trying to win the race.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “I thought we had a good shot to go for the win today and got off on tire strategy a little today. (Martin) Truex got by us and he was checking out, but was just going to play it out when we pitted and the rest of those guys pitted, where it would all shake out. But obviously that caution came out and it bit us and got us behind. Fortunately, our situation today was that we had to race guys that ended up crashing out, hate it for them. I would have liked to race it heads up and that might have been a different situation, but all in all we’ll take what was given to us today and we’ll live to see another day and fight again next week going to Martinsville.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 11th: “(On Martinsville, where he has nine wins) It’s not a bad track for us. So, hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there. And then we have Texas coming up. We’re not where we want to be. There’s no doubt about it. But, we’re staying alive and I know this team so well, we can find something and we’re going to sure as hell try to get it. It’s not back to zero with all those stage points. For us to advance moving forward we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win one of these next few races coming up. It’s really simple from our stand point. We’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 13th: “We were good enough and better than our finish. The pit road speeding penalty was ridiculous because I was way under pit road speed and running right with everyone else both times and they didn’t get a penalty. I will have to see that one for my own eyes. All in all, my guys put a good effort in it and I think we were better than we finished.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 16th: “Today was a definitely a crazy day at Kansas Speedway. With the changing track conditions as the sun set and shaded parts of the track, we had to be on top of the adjustments to our GEICO Chevrolet for the entire race. My team did a great job making calls, and I didn’t struggle with balance much at all. Track position was just key, and it was hard to make passes out there. Overall, I think this was a good weekend and shows the improvements to our intermediate-track package. There’s still work to be done, but we are definitely getting closer.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 19th: “We just couldn’t get on the right side of anything, strategy-wise, nothing. We got caught up in the wreck. Certainly not the way you want to finish at home. I had a top-five car all weekend long, just wasn’t meant to be.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 20th: “We really didn’t have anywhere to go during that deal on the backstretch. … It’s really unfortunate we didn’t get the result we deserve but we will keep fighting and get after it next weekend at Martinsville.”

Joey Logano — Finished 21st: “We had a tough day with our Shell-Pennzoil Ford. We struggled on short run speed and once the field got spread out it was tough to make up spots. Then we got caught up in the wreck later in the race and that damage certainly didn’t help us. We’ll regroup and head to Martinsville next week.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 29th: “We really struggled today with the handling of our Fastenal Ford. It’s a bummer we couldn’t advance but no one really gave us a chance to make the Round of 12. Overall, we have had a great season so we can’t hang our heads. We have four more races to gain as many points as we can and finish off the season strong.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 34th: “I had a really fast car. I thought we had one of the best cars, and I felt like if we could have gotten to the lead, I could have led the race for a while. It was a good Cessna Chevy. But we’ve had two bad races in a row and there’s nothing you can do about it. We had a car that could have won. I think if we could have gotten to the front, but just didn’t make it to the end.”

Erik Jones — Finished 35th: “(On his wreck) I just lost it. It’s unfortunate and I feel bad for my guys and my team and I also feel bad for the cars that we took out of the race. It’s just a shame, I made the same mistakes here in the spring and this place has just been tough to me. Fortunately we had a fast 5-hour ENERGY Camry and it was up front, we had worked our way back up to that point after having mishaps at the start of the day. Nonetheless, not the ending that we wanted, but hopefully we can come back a little stronger for Martinsville.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 36th: “You have to thank NASCAR very much for all the work that they do on these race cars to make them very safe because I got hit from everywhere and I hit the 77 (Erik Jones) very, very hard. I’m perfect – the car’s not, but I’m good. Honestly, I don’t really know what happened. I just know that the 77 got very loose somehow and the next thing I saw was his door and my nose. I really couldn’t do anything at that point, but I haven’t seen a replay yet.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 37th: “I don’t know what any of the rules are. Seems like we got a lot of stuff that kind of gets, you know, changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it. My head kind of spins from putting lugnuts out of pit boxes to one too many guys over the wall, you’re not allowed to race anymore. I just don’t get it, to be honest with you. I really don’t have a lot good to say right now. I’m more than disappointed. We showed some flashes of brilliance this season, been off and on, been fast at times, had great pit stops at times, just haven’t been able to put it all together like a championship team needs to. Unfortunately this is an example of that. I hope that I can do a better job here the next four weeks and hopefully go get a win. … Honestly, I’ve never heard of disqualifying somebody from a race if you got one too many guys over the wall or whatever happened there. Couldn’t be any more disappointed.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 38th: “I came out and said, ‘I got a turkey,’ three in a row. That is some bad luck. The Code 3 car had just started to get better, just starting to get hooked up, actually. I actually felt like I was catching the right lanes and right movements on the track and having good restarts. Would have been nice to finish one off. We haven’t done that in awhile.

Kyle Larson — Finished 39th: “I guess, I’m not stunned because freak things happen in every sport.  I mean you look at every year in the past and a lot of times – most every time at least in the new playoff format era – not always does the best team win. Not saying we are the best team, but we have been one of the contenders all season long. So, I’m not stunned, because it is a long 10 race playoff season, so anything can happen, but we have had a solid playoffs.  We have been consistent and just now got bit. … (On winning 4 races and gets eliminated) It’s painful. A part of me, I guess, will maybe be thankful that it wasn’t on my doing. I keep saying everything sucks. I don’t really know how to answer these because it’s the same answer for every question.”