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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