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What drivers had to say after Sunday’s STP 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville

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What kind of a day was it for drivers in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway?

Here’s what many of them had to say about the good and/or bad:

Kyle Busch, 1st: “I’d say it certainly helps when you get to run other divisions and that’s why I do it to pay off on Sundays. It doesn’t work every single weekend, but it works more times than it doesn’t, so can’t say enough about everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) for giving me a great piece yesterday to help me learn, teach me some more things about Martinsville that I didn’t already know in 30 other prior starts. … (We ran) up front all day, led a lot of laps, probably led the most laps there and to win here in Martinsville is pretty cool – finally get to take a clock home. A lot of people said I didn’t deserve yesterday – maybe I don’t – but I certainly got one today.”

AJ Allmendinger, 2nd: “Well, I was hoping for one more spot for a culmination. But, I passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville; that’s pretty cool! … We weren’t where we wanted to be about six months ago. We brought in so many people who stepped up to embrace their new roles. I thought we might really have a shot at them. Randall Burnett (crew chief) and all the guys and pit crew I can’t thank them enough. They really stepped it up the last two weeks and gave us a shot to win that race. I had to get aggressive. I thought, heck, with 12 (laps) to go we might have a new clock in the shop. Came up a little bit short, it’s pretty cool to be racing Kyle Busch for the win here though.”

Kyle Larson, 3rd: “We had a really good Target Chevy. It was really fun this whole weekend to be competitive every time I was on the race track. Normally, I’m very bad here and to finish top 3 feels like a win for me. Never would I have thought that I’d get a top 3 here and now I can kind of see a (grandfather) clock maybe in my future. … I learned a lot. I spent a lot of time behind Jimmie Johnson and I felt like I just followed his track there and got a lot better throughout the race. … So, hat’s off to everybody on this Target Chevy and it was cool to get a good finish.”

Austin Dillon, 4th: “I’ve got to learn to keep my mouth shut on the radio (calling out teammate Paul Menard). That’s part of racing. I’m a fiery guy and it was fun today. It’s nice to see the front of a short track like that. Sometimes you’ve just got to grow up a little bit, but It’s nice to be running up front. … A lot of things happened today. It’s Martinsville. Your head’s hot. You say things you don’t want to mean. Monday morning I’ll talk to everybody and we’ll figure it back out.”

Brad Keselowski, 5th: “It was a good Martinsville race. We had a lot of speed with the Miller Lite Ford on the long runs, but just not quite enough on the short runs to make anything of the Gibbs cars. They were really strong all day. All in all, I’m real proud of my team. We’re starting to get this place where we’re real consistent and can run up front and that’s a good feeling. … There were good battles all across the field. I think there’s a lot to be proud of for the style of racing that we’re seeing as of late. … We want to win, but I think we ran very competitive and that’s something to be proud of.  We’re not happy (with the finish), we’re proud.”

Carl Edwards, 6th: “My guys just do not quit. We were 32nd or 33rd and my guys didn’t give up. We got the fastest pit stops on pit road regardless of where I’m at in the field. Dave Rogers (crew chief) makes great adjustments and by the end we were moving forward, so really cool. We went from basically almost a last place race car to a top-five car at the end – just a super day for our ARRIS Camry.”

Brian Vickers, 7th: “I was pleased but not satisfied. We had such a good car. We were so fast. I don’t know if the track changed or we had different tire codes today. It just wasn’t quite as good as practice all weekend. But I’m really proud of the effort by the guys. We had a great car. It was a top 10. Gosh, we wanted to win this race for Arnie’s Army and everybody. This is a bittersweet special track for me. I lost my best friend here (Ricky Hendrick). I really wanted to win for him. But it was still a good day. We’ll take a seventh and move on. The team is getting stronger every week, really. I’m proud of those guys and it’s going to be a strong team.”

Paul Menard, 8th: “We had a really fast car all weekend, top 10 in all the practice sessions, qualified fourth and drove up and took the lead. Led a little bit and we started with a little bit higher air pressure to start the race. We just gave up too much. Kind of got backwards and then had a set of tires that had a loose wheel, it was back in the middle part of the race and just battled back. Really fast car all weekend. Just trying to tune on it throughout the race.”

Jimmie Johnson, 9th: “The first half of the day we were really good at the end. We had some short run speed, but would fade. Better than last fall (12th), but need to get better yet.”

Ryan Newman, 10th: “Coming into this race I told the team that they had given me the best car I’ve ever had at Martinsville Speedway. … With about 50 to go, we got the break we needed and raced our way back onto the lead lap. A late-race caution allowed us to pit for fresh tires and we were able to race from 17th to a 10th-place finish. … We worked hard this off season and to see all three cars end up in the top 10 says a lot about our organization. Glad to see this team rally back for a top 10 because we had another good car and now a decent finish to reflect it.”

Joey Logano, 11th: “It was frustrating. You want to go out there and win for sure and we just missed it. … I think we know where we missed it, but we didn’t have the tools to fix what we needed to fix. Once the race starts a lot of times your hands are tied because you only have a certain amount of adjustments on your car or even on pit stops that we could fix what our problem was. … “We’ve just got to go back and learn from our mistakes and learn from what happened today. … We come here expecting to run up front and challenge to win and we just weren’t there today, so we’ve just got work to do.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., 14th: “We had a good car. … The car was fun. We had good long run speed. Just didn’t end up working out for us as far as the line we were in on our last restart. The second place guy, we passed him – the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) – but the guy who started fourth where we would have started if we didn’t pit finished right in front of me. What do you do? If you can’t start in the inside you are screwed.”

Matt Kenseth, 15th: “Yeah, we had a great Dollar General Toyota today. We’ve had fast cars this year, but got shuffled to the back, so disappointing ending but it was an encouraging day. We ran really well, had great pit stops and they gave me fast cars. Hopefully we’ll start getting some finishes soon.”

Danica Patrick, 16th: “Our biggest problem was just we generally had some inconsistency with runs. We would have a good one, then a bad one. … We had a lot of contact with a lot of cars, but I feel like that is also fun to watch. It’s fun to watch as a fan and it makes it fun inside the car.” … You take matters into your own hands pretty easily here at Martinsville. It was all-in-all a pretty decent day for the TaxAct car. I was really hoping when we got inside the top 10 we would hold, but that run it just went loose and that set of tires was a little different. It is what it is.”

Ryan Blaney, 19th: “It was a long day for sure. There were some runs where I thought we were OK and other runs where I thought we were way off. At the end we were just OK and that penalty didn’t help us during that last pit stop. That probably cost us a few spots, but not a bad day for this Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. Finishing on the lead lap isn’t too bad for coming here for our first time, so it was definitely eventful but there’s a lot we can learn from this race and we can apply it later in the year. … I was pretty courteous today. You don’t want to be the rough guy when it’s your first time and you’re a rookie, so I probably gave a little bit more than I should have took, but maybe we’ll put that in our bank and utilize that in the fall.”

Landon Cassill, 28th: “It didn’t kill us, but it didn’t work out to the favor that we wanted it to, but that’s just part of the risk versus reward. I have a hard time not taking those wavearounds when you have the opportunity. We had a pretty good car, but it still needs to be a little bit better. We’ve got a lot of ideas to keep working on it, so I’m excited to move on to the next one and glad we get to go back to another short track in a couple of weeks.”

Chris Buescher, 33rd: “Martinsville is a tough place and we’ve got a lot of learning to do here. I felt like we got a lot better about halfway through the race and that’s exciting for coming back. We’ll have to wait until the fall and see if it all turns out the way we hope, but we’ll get better next time.”

Denny Hamlin (39th): “It’s my first time ever doing it here (wheel hopping), so it’s a little embarrassing, but I mean we were the fastest car those last 30 laps and we got back to the top-five and I was making up a lot of my speed on entry. As the tires wear, the rears get hotter, less grip, you can’t brake at the same amount and I just – it was really out of the blue. I didn’t ever have a hint of it up until that moment, so a bit of a rookie move on my part. I’ve been around here too much to do something like that, but learning for the fall and I’m really encouraged about how good our car came up through the pack and I really thought we had a car that could win.”

Aric Almirola (40th): “We had a part failure with a part that typically doesn’t break, so I’m not sure.  Doug (Yates) will go back and investigate it and I’m sure they’ll figure something out so it won’t ever happen again.  It was a disappointing end to our day.  We had an okay STP Ford Fusion.  We were making it better and were probably a 15th place car.  Walking out of the track now, I certainly would have taken a 15th place finish because this is gonna put us in a pretty big hole.”

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Stewart-Haas Racing makes pit crew changes to all four Cup teams

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Stewart-Haas Racing has made changes to all four of its pit crews heading into Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NBC Sports has confirmed.

The changes come with two of the organization’s four teams qualified for the playoffs through wins — Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer — and Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola in position to make the playoffs via points.

The changes:

— Shayne Pipala becomes the front tire changer for Harvick’s team. He replaces Eric Maycroft, who moves to Michael McDowell’s team (Stewart-Haas Racing provides the pit crew for that Front Row Motorsports team).

— Ira Jo Hussey becomes the front tire changer for Bowyer’s team. He replaces Daniel Coffey.

— Matt Holzbaur becomes the tire carrier for Bowyer’s team. He replaces Josh Sobecki. Holzbaur had been with Michael McDowell’s team.

— Daniel Coffey moves to Almirola’s team as front tire changer. Coffey replaces Ryan Mulder.

— Ryan Mulder moves to Busch’s team as front tire changer. He replaces Shayne Pipala.

The changes come after Bowyer expressed his displeasure with his pit crew’s performance last weekend at Kentucky Speedway, saying:

“Can’t … maintain the position one … damn time on pit road. It’s about … ridiculous. I’m tired of it.

“I’ve had enough. Three spots every … damn time I come down pit road.”

At Chicagoland, Harvick led going into the final pit stop but got beat by Kyle Busch, who went on to win the race. Harvick finished third.

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Ben Rhodes fastest qualifier at Eldora

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Ben Rhodes recorded the fastest time in qualification for the Eldora Dirt Derby with a lap of 86.801 mph, but he will have to wait until after his qualification race to know if he will lead the field to green. With his fastest lap, Rhodes will be credited with winning the pole.

Qualification sets the grid for five heat races with the fastest qualifier starting on the pole in race one. The second fastest qualifier will lead the field to green for the second heat race, and so on.

The top five in each qualification race will advance to the A Main with the winner of race one leading the field to green. The winner of the second heat will start alongside him on the front row.

Rhodes beat dirt midget racer Logan Seavey (86.747 mph) by .013 seconds. Seavey is making his Camping World Truck Series debut.

Tyler Dippel (86.368), Grant Enfinger (86.146) and Stewart Friesen (85.997) round out the top five.

Wendell Chavous (81.919) and Cody Coughlin (86.264) hit the wall during their qualification runs. Chavous qualified 33rd. Coughlin qualified 24th.

Points leader Johnny Sauter posted a time of 81.908 mph and was 34th among the 39 trucks that took time.

Second in points, Noah Gragson qualified 13th.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Kyle Busch joins Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features a guest appearance by Kyle Busch.

Rutledge Wood will host with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton joining Busch from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

  • We’re live from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte for another edition of Wednesdays with Dale Jr. Today, we’ll be joined 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Kyle Busch.
  • The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota Camry will talk about his 2018 season. He currently leads the Cup Series in race wins (5) and playoff points (30). He’ll discuss being part of the “Big Three” along with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. and how this group of champions have separated themselves from the rest of the field.
  • What are his thoughts entering this weekend’s race at New Hampshire?
  • Busch will also give his take on several other topics, including tonight’s Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. Kyle Busch Motorsports has three trucks in the field. Should NASCAR add a dirt race to either the Cup or XFINITY Series? We’ll get his answer tonight.
  • Plus, Kyle and Dale Jr. will answer questions provided by the fans who use the hashtag #WednesDale
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

5-hour Energy to end NASCAR involvement at end of season

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Furniture Row Racing announced Wednesday that it is seeking sponsorship of the No. 78 car for next season with the announcement that 5-hour Energy will not return after this year.

5-hour Energy became the major co-primary sponsor this season on the No. 78 team with Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats for 30 Cup races. 5-hour Energy joined Furniture Row Racing in 2017, serving as a majority primary sponsor on the No. 77 car with Erik Jones.

Wednesday’s announcement comes just days after reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. won at Kentucky Speedway for his fourth Cup win of the year.

5-hour Energy has been a primary sponsor in NASCAR for nearly a decade, including the seven in Cup.

Rise’ Meguiar, President of Sales for Living Essentials, parent company of 5-hour ENERGY, issued a statement on the business decision.

“Since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2017, the team has delivered on every promise. In addition to being a championship team, winning races and putting 5-hour ENERGY in victory lane multiple times, they have also become part of our family.  We cannot thank Barney Visser, Joe Garone, Martin and the entire Furniture Row Racing team enough for the pride they have given us.  They are a first-class group on and off the track.  Although 5-hour ENERGY has made the business decision to leave NASCAR, we will be fans and friends for life, and we look forward to finishing strong in 2018.”

Said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing, in a statement:

“I want to first send a sincere thank you to everyone at 5-hour Energy for being an excellent and loyal partner. The way 5-hour Energy has activated its programs over the years demonstrated a commitment and creativity as a NASCAR race team sponsor. We understand that companies do change business strategies, but friendships last forever and that’s how we feel about 5-hour Energy.”

“Being a perennial championship contending team with a talented driver in Martin, Furniture Row Racing continues to be committed in offering a new sponsor not only success on the racetrack but also the benefit of a strong marketing platform with our powerful team of partners – Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners Insurance, Toyota, Furniture Row and Denver Mattress.”

This decision by 5-hour Energy comes as Truex’s contract with Furniture Row Racing ends after this season. He was asked last weekend at Kentucky about where things stood with a new contract.

“We’ve got some stuff to figure out, for sure,” Truex said. “I don’t plan on doing anything different. Just give the team some time to figure things out. We’re all kind of trying to figure it all out together so we can make it happen.”

So what needed to be figured out?

“Just sponsorship commitments and all the stuff that goes along with that,” Truex said. “Figuring out how much money we have to spend, when do we get it, how much are we getting and where can we spend it. Just trying to figure out all the details honestly. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces to be put together that we haven’t finished yet. Honestly, we haven’t been in a big hurry to get it done. In due time.”

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