AJ Allmendinger

What drivers said after season-ending NASCAR Cup race

Leave a comment

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “I was a mess (after winning).  I couldn’t even talk. I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with. Times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family and then when I got with this team – they’re unbelievable. They resurrected my career and made me a champion. I don’t even know what to say. … It’s just overwhelming. To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that couldn’t run 20th, to be here, I never thought this day would come and to be here is so unbelievable.”

Kyle Busch – Finished second: “I mean that’s what happens when you lose in this format, but we gave it everything we had. We gave it our all, so congratulations to the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.). They deserved it probably on every other race but today. I thought we were better. Doesn’t matter though. They were out front when it mattered the most. Just unfortunate for us that that caution came out. It kind of ruined our race strategy and we weren’t able to get back to where we needed to be and then I had to fight way too hard with some other guys trying to get back up through there, but that’s racing.”

Kyle Larson – Finished third: “I wanted to win the race bad, but a good way to end the year. It showed we had a lot of speed all year long and congrats to the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) team they were the class of the field all year. It is pretty neat to see the top three there they were the three best cars all season. I wish I could have been a part of the final four, but had a little bit of bad luck here lately. It’s nice to see a checkered flag, it’s been about a month since I’ve seen one.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fourth: “I think when you look at it from the inside out and all the work that everybody went through, the preparation that we went through to get to these playoffs was second to none. It was a championship effort. Just came up a little bit short. Congratulations to Martin (Truex Jr.). Those guys have been the dominant car all year. To go win the race and make it happen at the end they were able to get their car better and win the championship.”

Chase Elliott – Finished fifth: “Yeah, it was solid. To finish fifth in the standings and to run fifth tonight, it definitely was not a win, but from where we were yesterday to how we ran at the beginning of the race and so on, I was pretty pleased with that. … Have some work to do, I’m excited about next year, we have some great things to build on. We will see what next year brings and go from there.”

Joey Logano – Finished sixth: “That was a good night for us. We never quit through the whole year and we end it on a strong note. It is always important to have a good run at Homestead because you have the whole offseason to think about it. … Altogether, I am proud of getting a sixth-place run out of a car that we thought we would struggle to finish 20th with. We made good changes and had something to race with and get to head off on a good note.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished seventh: “We ran as hard as we could and put it all out there and just basically didn’t have enough speed. On the mile-and-a-halves we weren’t as good as the 78 (Truex) and 18 (Kyle Busch) and those guys. This last race coming down to a mile-and-a-half didn’t particularly bode well for us, but my team ran as hard as they could run.  They made some great calls – Paul Wolfe and everybody and put ourselves in position every chance we could to make the most out of the opportunities that existed without just being lightning fast, but it wasn’t there.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished eighth: “Obviously, last week was a magical week or race – to win that race and then this week has been really fun. The pre-race stuff was really fun. I was glad Katie (wife) was able to get down here and all and having the kids here, my dad, my sister and everybody. It was really fun obviously what DeWalt did with this paint job and Habitat for Humanity, but doing my rookie paint job was cool as well. So it was a really cool day. … (On his legacy) Some people are going to like you, some people aren’t. Some people are going to respect you, some people won’t. So I mean, whatever people think, they think. I did the best I could every week. Didn’t always do the right thing, that’s for sure, but raced as hard as I could and at the time I always felt like I was trying to do the right thing and gave it my all every time I went to the race track, so that’s all I could do.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 10th: “What a comeback for us. We battled tight through the corner and loose off. It cost us some valuable track position there in the first stage, but we raced our way back onto the lead lap and that’s when our Caterpillar Chevrolet became pretty sporty. It really responded well during the long green-flag runs so we knew if we kept up with the track, we would stay in the game. To pick up two spots at the end to finish our season and finish 10th, gives us some momentum going into next season. I want to thank all the guys back at the shop at RCR as well as ECR for giving me a car capable of running for a championship.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 11th: “The Dow WeatherTech Chevrolet was pretty good today, so I’m glad we could put a period on the 2017 season with a solid finish. I didn’t have enough grip to run the high line during the race, which is normally the preferred line at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but I felt pretty good running lower on the track. During that last run, we were just too loose to make anything happen. Still, we were able to clinch 11th in the final driver’s point standings, which is pretty cool. I’m proud of everyone on this program and appreciate all of the hard work this year. We’re a bunch of racers and we’ll be back even stronger next season.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 12th: “Man, the track was a lot slicker than I expected when we started the race. We had a good car, but we were on knife edge all night. First we are too loose, and we made an adjustment and we’d be too tight. It’s hard to believe the year is over. I’m proud of all the people on the No. 14 team. They worked hard this season. We’ll enjoy the off-season and be ready to race again in Daytona.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 14th: “We struggled all weekend so I really didn’t know what to expect going into the race. The guys did a good job. They made some changes and the car was at least raceable during the race. … I thought we maximized the race with the best strategy we could have. It’s something to build on. We definitely need to be better, but the stuff we tried this weekend is something to build on and learn from going into next year.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “I’m disappointed because I thought we should’ve had a top-10 but unfortunately we hit something on the track that cut our tire,” Stenhouse said. “Our goal the past couple of weeks was to finish in the top 10, and we were close every weekend. This has been a great season for our No. 17 team and I’m definitely looking forward to carrying this momentum into the off-season and kicking off 2018 strong.”

Paul Menard — Finished 16th: “It was nice to finish the season and my time at Richard Childress Racing with a solid finish here at Homestead. The Richmond / Menards Chevrolet was a handful to start, but (crew chief) Matt Borland made a great adjustment and the car came to life. I have to thank Richard Childress and everyone at RCR and ECR for all of the support over the years. We didn’t have the best season, but this is a great group of guys and we have had some fun.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 19th: “We battled all day. We rallied back after having to make that unscheduled stop under green and never gave up. I want to thank all of my guys on this team for their hard work throughout this entire season. We fought hard and even though tonight’s result wasn’t what we were looking for I am proud of our effort and will be ready to come back stronger in 2018.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 20th: “Decent day starting from the back trying to get up there from the start. This place is a lot of fun, a lot of different grooves. It’s a really interesting place. Interesting enough we were on the bottom all race that seemed to be where we were better. A little bit different than Homestead’s in the past for me. But a top-20 run to finish the year off is not bad. We will look forward to 2018 and hopefully everyone enjoys well deserved time off.”

Erik Jones – Finished 21st (won Rookie of the Year honors): “It was a good year overall. You know we had a lot of good races and a lot of good things that we can look back on and be really proud of. I think back to the races we were in contention to win and shots we had – and it’s just nice in your rookie season to have that chance to win races. Wasn’t the night we wanted tonight, but definitely cool to at least get the accumulation of the year of being the best rookie.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 25th: “I’m not sure what the feeling is (about running his final race). I didn’t cry until I was hugging Rick’s (Hendrick) neck. Man, he’s been like a father to me with the things he’s done for me personally, and in personal stuff. He’s really helped me more than anybody will ever know. And he’s done that for a lot of people and so I will miss trying to make him proud. I know I will still be able to do things that will make him proud because he’s like a daddy. I’ll miss driving his cars and trying to make him proud on the race track. … It’s time for somebody else to get in this car. It’s a great opportunity for Alex (Bowman) and I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 26th: “What a rookie year it’s been. I’ve learned so much about myself as a driver. Today wasn’t the ending to the year that we wanted. We had them there at the end and could’ve gotten ourselves a top-15 finish, but I just barley scrubbed the wall and cut the right-rear tire at the very end. … We’ve had a lot of bright spots and some not so bright ones, but that’s our season and it’s one that we will build on for next year. We’re going to grind through the offseason and be ready in Daytona.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 29th: “It’s been a fun year for sure. It’s a shame it ended not on a high note but it’s been fun to run every week at the racetrack and be competitive. To win a race, that was pretty great. It’s been a fun year overall and its kind of bittersweet to see it come to an end. I’m happy for what’s next to come. I love driving for the Wood Brothers. It’s been a fun three years and I’ll always remember it.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 37th: “I hit the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4 and got some fender rub on the tire and it blew the tire. I went a couple of laps and there was smoke in the car, but they thought it was all right, but it wasn’t (due to fire). What I’m not looking forward to is I have to go sit in my bus and wait for everyone to get done with the race before I can go home. That sucks, but I think that what’s coming ahead is bright for me and for the way it feels, so I’m excited.”

We’ll have more driver quotes shortly. Please check back soon.

Kyle Busch wins First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway

4 Comments

MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Kyle Busch won the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, edging Martin Truex Jr. in an overtime finish as a large multi-car wreck unfolded at the start-finish line.

Busch passed teammate Denny Hamlin as they took the white flag and pulled ahead of Truex coming to the checkered flag.

The win, Busch’s fifth of the year and the second of his career at Martinsville, clinches Busch a spot in the championship race. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led a race-high 184 laps in the 505-lap race.

“Awesome to get to victory lane here at Martinsville,” Busch told NBCSN. “You know, I wanted to win Charlotte, Martinsville and Homestead and that’ll make us this year’s champions, so we’ve got one more.

“Just wanted to say our guys did an awesome job preparing this car. We weren’t the best all day, but we put ourselves in the right spots there at the end and there was kind of chaos ensuing and none of it was our fault, we just came out on the right end of the stick.”

The top five were Busch, Truex, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

The final shootout was set up when Hamlin got into the back of race leader Chase Elliott with two laps to go in the original distance, turning the No. 24 and sending it into the Turn 4 wall. Elliott led 123 laps before the accident. He finished 27th.

The wreck at the start-finish line started when Hamlin and Ryan Blaney made contact exiting Turn 4 and began a chain reaction.

During the cool down laps, Elliott forced Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota toward the outside wall. After exiting their cars, Elliott and Hamlin had a heated exchange.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY:  Despite the crash at the end of the race, Denny Hamlin finished seventh after bouncing back from a pit road penalty to begin Stage 2 … Trevor Bayne finished sixth for his sixth top 10 of the year and his first at Martinsville … Clint Bowyer earned his sixth top five of the year and his first since Watkins Glen … Kevin Harvick earned his first top five at Martinsville since 2011.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: AJ Allmendinger finished last. He was disqualified from the race after 94 laps for failing to get his car fixed under the five-minute clock. He was involved in an accident with Danica Patrick on Lap 87 … Kyle Larson finished 37th after being involved in a crash early in the final stage when he made contact with a lapped car exiting Turn 2. It was Larson’s second consecutive DNF. … Jamie McMurray placed 29th, two laps down after pitting twice in Stage 2 for a tire rub. … Jimmie Johnson finished 12th, placing outside the top 10 at Martinsville for the fifth time in seven starts … Joey Logano finished 24th, a lap down after he spun with eight to go from losing a tire. His No. 22 Ford was damaged from contact with Kyle Busch.

NOTABLE: The race was the first Cup event at Martinsville to finish at night under the newly installed lights … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th in his last Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. … Kyle Weatherman finished 35th in his Cup debut.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “(Denny Hamlin) came over and talked to me on the back straightaway and he said somebody was pushing him, but it wasn’t two car lengths between him and the next guy. So, my Momma always said if you don’t have anything nice, not to say anything at all. So, it’s not even worth my time. We’ll just go on to Texas.” – Chase Elliott

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT 2: “Bent fenders, hurt feelings.  I love it.” – Kevin Harvick.

NEXT: AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on Nov. 5 on NBC.

Brad Keselowski wins Stage 1 at Martinsville Speedway

Leave a comment

Brad Keselowski led 47 laps on his way to winning Stage 1 of Sunday’s First Data 500 NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway.

Keselowski, the defending winner at the short track, led Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin.

The Team Penske drivers of Keselowski and Joey Logano combined to lead 106 laps in the first 130-lap stage. Logano led 59 laps from the pole.

Johnson, Dillon, and Kahne finished in the top 10 due to pitting out of sequence during one of the stage’s three cautions. Keselowski passed Johnson for the lead on Lap 113. Johnson, who had to start from the rear along with Dillon for unapproved changes, led 24 laps.

It is just the second time Johnson has led since the July race at Daytona. He led five laps at Dover.

The first caution came out on Lap 36 for an accident involving Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr as they exited Turn 2. The accident replaced the competition caution that was scheduled for Lap 45.

The second caution came on Lap 62 when David Ragan was spun from contact with McDowell in Turn 4.

The yellow flag waved for the third time on Lap 87 when AJ Allmendinger spun from contact with Danica Patrick in Turn 2. The No. 47 Chevrolet was ruled out of the race for not fixing the car in under five minutes.

Joey Logano on pole position at Martinsville; Martin Truex Jr. second; Jimmie Johnson spins

2 Comments

MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Joey Logano captured his fourth pole position at Martinsville Speedway, stealing the spotlight from NASCAR’s playoff drivers as the Round of 8 opens Sunday afternoon.

The Team Penske driver turned a 95.504-mph lap in his No. 22 Ford, besting Martin Truex Jr. (96.479), who will have the coveted No. 1 pit stall by virtue of qualifying first at Kansas Speedway last week.

Chase Elliott was third at 96.435 mph, followed by Ryan Blaney (96.122) and Clint Bowyer (96.112).

Other playoff drivers who made the final round: Denny Hamlin (sixth) and Brad Keselowski (seventh).

“I think the last time we were here Truex got us be a few thousandths, so it’s cool to flip-flop that again,” Logano told NBCSN. “We have a good Shell/Pennzoil Ford that the team put together for me this weekend.  I’ve got something to race with this week.  I’m really excited about the race and starting up front is always a big deal here.  We may not get the good pit stall that we would want, but starting towards the front is always a nice thing to have.  You can set your own pace and kind of take care of your car.  When you start in the back it starts beating up on your car, which at some point you may end up back there with strategy, but I feel good about the car we’ve got this week and it’s something we can race with.”

Making the final round was a plus for Blaney, who had the worst pit stall selection after failing qualifying inspection at Kansas.

How other playoff drivers fared:

Kevin Harvick qualified 13th after being bumped from advancement by Erik Jones in the final seconds of the second round.

Kyle Busch was 14th.

Jimmie Johnson qualified 24th after spinning when his No. 48 Chevrolet wheel-hopped on the entry to Turn 3 with three minutes left in the second round. The seven-time series champion managed to avoid damaging his car. Johnson will start from the rear.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 21st in his final start at Martinsville.

Hamlin barely escaped the first round of qualifying, turning the 24th-fastest speed at 95.830 mph. Blaney turned a solid lap late to ensure advancement to the final 24.

Earnhardt also catapulted from outside the top 25 with a fast lap in the closing minutes of the first round.

Among the notables eliminated in the first round were Austin Dillon (25th), AJ Allmendinger (27th), Landon Cassill (31st), David Ragan (33rd) and Travor Bayne (34th).

Click here for qualifying results.

Six cars to miss time in final Cup practice session

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Six Cup teams, including playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray, will each miss 15 minutes of today’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway because of inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Three teams were penalized 15 minutes in Saturday morning’s first practice – Derrike Cope, Landon Cassill and AJ Allmendinger. Each were penalized for being late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Teams penalized 15 minutes in final Cup practice will be Elliott, McMurray, Cope, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.

Bayne, Elliott and Almirola were penalized for failing qualifying/race inspection twice at Talladega.

Cope, McMurray and Menard were penalized for failing qualfiying qualifying inspection twice at Kansas.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.