What drivers said after Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana

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Drivers talked a lot about their finish and performance in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Here’s what they said:

Jimmie Johnson, finished 1st: “I knew we had a great car. To go there at the end and have good tires on the car, (Kevin) Harvick and I got by Joey (Logano) at the start. I had a great run off Turn 2 and thought maybe I had a shot at this thing, which I didn’t expect to have, because Harvick’s been so fast. I cleared him and kind of got away. We just saved our best for last, for sure. I told everybody that Superman would kick Batman’s butt, and it happened. It might send a statement, but it’s a long year and we need to keep doing this all year long, especially late in the season.”

Kevin Harvick, 2nd: “We weren’t very good on restarts for four, five laps, unless we were by ourselves. We just weren’t able to drive it in like I needed to. Just didn’t have the front tires turning and the back wouldn’t grip. Still, a good day for us. We’ll keep at it.”

Denny Hamlin, 3rd: “It’s a disappointing third, I can tell you that. But two penalties, radio changes, just a lot of mistakes on my part early on. I gave ourselves a shot there and (Joey Logano), the one time he didn’t get a good restart, we didn’t have that push there and it hurt us there. Those two (Johnson and Harvick) linked up on the bottom and there was really nothing we could do at that point.”

JOEY LOGANO, 4th: (On the incident with Martin Truex Jr.) “It was completely my fault. I was going to go in on the outside of him and he was going to go in on the top as well and I just ended up being right on him. We never touched each other, but just taking the air off these cars makes them uncontrollable.  I didn’t mean to do that. I was going to try to go to the top and I just got a little bit close to him and got him free, so I’m taking the hit on that one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 5th: “It was really good for us. That was a crazy restart there at the end.  We had a really good Fastenal Ford on the long run and that’s where we excelled – kind of like Atlanta and Las Vegas. On the long run we excelled and that really paid off today. Our tires were good every pit stop, which was good for us, and we made the right adjustments there at the end. It was just a really good bounce back weekend for us.”

Chase Elliott, 6th: “We were able to get up to third. I thought we had a really good car. Just need to get going a little bit better on those restarts and try to maximize that opportunity. This race track already produces good racing and I think with this package, if they optimize that a little bit more, I feel like there were a lot of different lanes you could run and that’s the kind of race track that you want to watch. And I feel like it was a good show for the fans.”

Carl Edwards, 7th: “We had every type of challenge you could have. We had a little bit of tire trouble. The tires, you could take it easy on them and you could kind of create your own destiny there. I think Goodyear has a good tire here and just have to be careful with them. … Some of those restarts were just a blast. That’s what it’s about. We were really – I was having a blast. At the end, I just got choked up one time behind Brad (Keselowski), he got really loose and kind of killed our momentum.”

AJ Allmendinger, 8th: “I thought we were as competitive as anybody on short-run speed. We just needed something there for the last 10 to 15 laps. We will work on it. The pit crew was awesome. They bounced back with great stops all day. Big momentum for everybody here at the shop. Just keep digging.”

Brad Keselowski, 9th: “We gave it all we had, but just came up a bit short. We seemed to be about a fifth to 10th-place car, probably with everybody having some troubles we should have finished fifth. I slid back to eighth there, which was frustrating, but, all in all, it was a decent day.”

Jamie McMurray, 10th: “We got a really good finish. We ran, I think, around 13th or 15th most of the day. We got caught in the pits on a green-flag stop and had to go to the back. And I still made my way up a little bit, but man, right before the caution came out, we were fading fast. The tires were just gone and I was sliding around and we were going backwards quick. That caution was a big turnaround for us. I think we restarted 17th and finished 10th. So it was good to have a really good restart.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., 11th: “I had a blast. I love racing here regardless of what aero package we have. This is a fun track. I like the low downforce. What can I say? I’m having fun and had a good time today. Usually, you would be real frustrated driving the cars we drove the last two years finishing 11th, but I had fun running anywhere on the race track. No matter where we were we were racing somebody and driving the thing. (On Jimmie Johnson passing your father in wins) “It’s something inevitable I guess. I remember when Jeff (Gordon) passed Daddy and now he got all the way up to 93 wins. Jimmie is going to have quite a few more. He maybe will surpass Jeff. That will be a great story as well since Jeff sort of brought him onto the team. I’m not going to be surprised if (Johnson) matches Daddy and Richard (Petty) in that championship deal if we can’t get it.”

Brian Scott, 12th: “(Finishing 12th) was really important. We had a couple of hard weeks, so to have a good finish here – not only for the team but for our sponsors … everybody that’s on board this program – because we sold it and pushed it to them. We said, ‘We’re going to do good things this year.’ The first part of the year was tough, but we had to get through and now we’re bringing some new cars to the track and our performance is picking up. It’s great.”

Landon Cassill, 16th: “The car was really good on long runs but really, really bad on short runs. Fortunately, with 40 to go we had a long run that put us in the top 20 and the guys had a phenomenal pit stop that held my position and we just had a great restart for the green-white-checker. Sometimes you’re proud of what you did, but I feel like I got lucky in some ways that the line just went my way and we were able to run 16th.”

Aric Almirola, 21st: “I’m of course disappointed in our finish today (21st). We started off the afternoon with a much stronger car than where we finished. We struggled with a loose Smithfield Ford Fusion through the first part of the race, and then as the track cooled down our car tightened up.  We ended up losing the front downforce on our car and we never could find a solution that would get it driving for me. But, I’m proud of how hard my team fought this weekend, and I know that we’ll bounce back in Martinsville.”

Kasey Kahne, 28th: “I passed her in (Turns) 3 and 4 and then she had the momentum off the top and went back under me going down the front stretch. So I went just to kind of catch a side draft to make sure I was in position getting into Turn 1 and it didn’t hold me up when I got there because I was the one coming and I just got too close and the car was moving around and we hit and she had a bad wreck. I felt really bad because it was far from anything than just trying to hold my position. I’ve never had an issue with Danica at all. It was an avoidable accident in the middle of the straightaway that was far from anything but just trying to hold my position that I had just gained.”

MARTIN TRUEX, JR., 32nd: “We had a good run going until  (Joey Logano) put our car into the fence. There was a lot of right-side damage to the car, and we were pretty much toast after that incident. Not sure what he (Logano) was thinking about at the time, but that hit spoiled our day. We went from being a contender to the back of the field. Really frustrating to have a good car and not have anything to show for it. I think we were running in or close to the top five when the (No.) 22 rammed our Toyota.”

Chris Buescher, 33rd: “It’s unfortunate we had the flat tire there because we had a lot of speed in our Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion. I had a lot of fun today. We’ve made a lot of really big gains in a short period of time. If we hadn’t had that happen, we would have been in the top-20, no doubt, and probably a little bit better than that.”

Ryan Blaney, 35th: “We blew a tire.  I don’t know what happened. There was no warning and the tire just exploded into three. That stunk. We were good on some runs, but at the end of the race we weren’t very good. We really struggled bad on restarts, really bad. We were going to salvage a decent day, and then the tire exploded.”

Greg Biffle, 37th: “We’re not really sure. It might be something in the engine. It started smoking a little bit there and it was down on power, so we figured we would just bring it in and take a look at it before we break something out on the race track.”

Danica Patrick, 38th: (On wreck with Kasey Kahne): “We were on a restart and I had a run on him so I went down low. If you get too close to them then it will drag you both back. I was going low. I saw him chase me down the track and then the next thing I know I was getting spun up the track.  I was passing him. He was behind me in the right rear. I don’t know what kind of day he was having. I just heard he was a lap down actually. I feel bad if he felt like he was put in a position to have to be that desperate a lap down. It’s just unfortunate; he must be having a very tough time. I was having a pretty good recovery day, kind of like last weekend. I was just running good race laps and on the lead lap at the end of the race back up into the top 20 from a bad starting position.”

Kyle Larson, 39th: “We were struggling all day. We were really bad. And just on that backstretch, my left rear tire got cut and spun me to the outside wall and then spun me back into the inside wall. By the time I could hit the brakes it must have ripped the brake line and I had no brakes. They just went to the floorboard. I couldn’t slow down and had a hard hit there; head-on. I’m okay. I’m thankful for SAFER barriers and thankful that I’m all right. That was definitely probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had in my career.  I’m glad to be on my feet right here.”

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NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2

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Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.

NBC SPORTS NASCAR POWER RANKINGS

(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon

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Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”

 

 

Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma

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Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.

 

Winners and losers at WWT Raceway

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Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:

WINNERS

Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.

LOSERS

Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.