What drivers said after Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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Here’s what many of the drivers had to say after Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway:

Brad Keselowski – Winner: “It’s been a kick in the you-know-what (not having won before at Daytona). I got down on myself here. We came down here for the 500 (in February) and quite honestly we ran like dog crap, but my team worked on it. I didn’t give up on them. I believe in my team and my team believes in me and we went to work and we put together a better car, and it really showed today with a great effort from the whole team. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 2nd: “It was a tough night but, man, you had to have a whole lot of help to get by that 2 (Brad Keselowski) car. He was just so strong today. Strong at Talladega too, we finished second to him there. There was just so much going on and there wasn’t enough of a run that I could get (in the final two laps) in order to get enough alongside of him or pin him down or pin him up – whichever way it might have been. He could make his car really, really wide and hold us off. … To race a backup car and finish second there is a true testament to this team and Joe Gibbs Racing and everyone back at the shop.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 3rd: “I owe the guys behind me that were pushing me. I had a lot of help. The race was really crazy today. Just watching some of the guys working the middle you knew there would be trouble at some point. It was a tough night. I am really proud of this Roush Fenway team. We had a pole this weekend, three cars in the top-10, two in the top-five.”

Joey Logano – Finished 4th: “It was hard fought for sure. Anytime you have an opportunity to win and you are in the top four or five or six on the last restart you know you have a shot at it. I was able to get Brad a good push to clear and get a Penske car to victory lane, which is really cool. … Overall a solid day for us. The 2 was the fastest car and he deserved to win the race. We need to find a little more speed in our race car.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 5th: “It was wild out there. The Roush Fenway guys worked really hard and Jack has put a lot of confidence in everyone to get our cars better each week. We have really improved on the speedways.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “I had a decent run. … I knew the last couple of laps were going to be hairy. So, me messing up on the backstretch probably ruined our shot at a win, but we still finished at Daytona, so that’s good.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 7th: “These are wild and crazy races. To come home seventh on all four this year is better than upside down (flew into the catchfence in last year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona). We had a good day. I’ve got to thank the good Lord for taking care of us and we’ll keep working.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 8th: “It was a rough night after we got in that wreck. We got shuffled out of line and that will happen with speedway racing. … We got pretty severe damage and were able to come back and finish eighth. We had a pretty fast car and the 2 car was unbelievably fast. We have some work to do still but I am so proud of my guys.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 9th: “Yeah, a solid night.  You always want to do better and there were a couple times there where I would have, could have, should have. Its one of those deals where you know if you take action you know that the chances of crashing are far greater than not.  I just kind of was watching to see and what happened, happened. … Certainly needed a little bit more speed but 10th is always a good run for us.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 10th: “I was wishing I started on the outside lane (on the final restart). It was a still great night. When you restart top five, you want to be able to stay up there. I don’t know anything I could have done different other than when (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) was coming on the inside, try to block that. By the time I saw him coming, it would have been a mess if I would have tried to do it.”

Casey Mears — Finished 12th: “I’m disappointed because we ran so well. To be able to salvage a 12th place finish out of a night like this is pretty good, I guess. It was good to be competitive all night long and have fun and get to run up front and show people what we’re capable of. Hopefully this gives us a little something to build from going into the second half of the season. It’s indescribable how odd this year has been. We’ve had some of the best cars we’ve ever had and the team is the best it’s ever been and we’re just getting terrible results. It was nice to have a good night tonight.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 13th: “I kind of just rode around for the first 80 laps like we planned and I was fortunate.  We were just kind of in the right place when the wreck happened to not really have to feel like I was in any trouble. From there it was just trying to pick the right lane.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 14th: “It was a long night, that’s for sure. We had a really fast car, I’ll say that. All of the Fords were really fast. It’s cool to see Brad win it. That’s awesome. … Unfortunately we couldn’t get out with a finish we deserve. I thought we were a top five. But not bad.”

David Ragan – Finished 16th: “We really had a car that drove well. I think that we needed a little bit more speed to contend for the win but our car drove nice and on the long runs we were really good. We just needed to restart on the outside lane those last two restarts — starting fifth and seventh we were just kind of a sitting duck on the bottom. Unless you restart on the front row the bottom is not that good of a choice. … It was a fun race and I’m glad to be in one piece.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 21st: “I just rode around. I couldn’t get in there and get two and three-wide because the car needed a couple lanes to run well.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 23rd: “We positioned ourselves to be the car to get a good run off the bottom. It just didn’t work out with him (Joey Logano) trying to drive straight through us. And it would have worked out better if he would have pushed us. We could have had a shot at the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski). And with just the way that it turned out, I feel disappointed that I didn’t get the win for (Tony) Gibson (crew chief) and all these guy that work for our team. We did everything right tonight except cross the line where we were supposed to.”

Tony Stewart – Finished 26th: I got loose into one, hadn’t been loose all day, then I just over corrected for it and drove it into the fence, so it was definitely my fault. … I don’t know why I got loose, but I got loose.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 28th: “I was just trying to make my way back toward the front a little bit there. We had a bad pit stop exchange and came out way, way behind everybody. Carl (Edwards) was up towards the front and we were running with him before the pit stop. I probably should have just hung in the back, in hindsight, but who knows when they’re going to wreck, you never know if they’re going to wreck. Just trying to get back towards the front and there was a wreck somewhere a few rows up in front of me and just nowhere really to go.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 29th: “We were right smack in the middle of this unnecessary accident (the 22-car ‘big one’) and took big-time hits from all different directions. Someone just made a questionable move out there and a lot of other people paid the price. We happened to be one of those teams. We did the best we could to fix the car, but it took a severe beating.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 32nd: “Once you see everybody start checking up you really can’t see much when you are in the pack like that. So you just kind of try to slow down and hope that there might be a way to get out. Unfortunately we were getting in the corner obviously everything is going to go straight at that point. I hate it. I had such a good car tonight. I felt like by far that was the best-ever plate car I have ever had at either Daytona or Talladega.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 34th: “I think somebody might have gotten into my left rear. I don’t know if that cut the tire down or what but after I felt that happen, I just didn’t have any control any more. It seemed like a tire maybe went down and it actually felt like I hit oil. I think the contact with the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) might have cut the tire because I just didn’t have any control of the car there. It is unfortunate but it is just part of plate racing. I rode back in the ambulance with all those guys and we just talked about it is part of plate racing.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 35th: “I was in the middle and something happened to the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) and he went to the right and then he chased it, was in a slide and came back down in front of me, hit the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) door-to-door, kind of light contact. I thought we were fine, but I eventually turned him sideways and the whole thing happened. I don’t know what happened to the No. 1 to change lanes as fast as he did from the outside, but we are all dealing with a matter of inches and once that started, it just collected everybody.”

Paul Menard – Finished 36th: “I saw the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) get squirrely over a couple hundred yards down the tri-oval. I don’t know if Jamie had a problem; he thought maybe he might have had a tire problem. He wasn’t sure. Typical plate racing.”

Brian Scott – Finished 37th: “I didn’t see a lot. I was on the outside and our lane seemed to get a good run entering turn 1 and I saw guys check-up and hands out the windows so I started checking up. Then the check-up kept going and it became an accordion effect. We were in the wall and jacked up and I guess the 4 came up under me and drove underneath my car and then I was up in the air. It was a pinball effect. It is an unfortunate end.”

Regan Smith – Finished 38th: “It’s just that everybody has to be so aggressive up front on their blocking that its not up front where it’s a problem, it trickles back into the field and that is where you get into a situation. The blocking is getting a little crazier than it has been, and it may be just this package, but you have to do what you have to do to stay up there. Nobody is to blame, just somebody eventually messes up and a lot of cars crash.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 39th: “We started in the middle of the pack and dropped to the back and as we pitted there and we knew we wanted to work our way back to the front. We stayed connected to that front pack and then we had a little bit of a handling problem that we had to address during the next pit stop. Those guys got tangled up there in front and we were in the middle of it. We had one car on our roof and everybody else just kept piling in. I don’t know who that was. It was just one of those things that just doesn’t take much for it all to go south here at these superspeedways. It is what it is.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 40th: “It all happened in front of us. I tried to get on the brakes and just slid right in to it. There was nowhere to go. I tried to go up the middle. There seemed to be fewer cars there at the time but by the time we got there the hole filled up and we ended up in it. It was a really tough day.”

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.

Talladega jumbles Cup playoff grid heading to elimination race

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In an unpredictable season and topsy-turvy playoffs, it only made sense that Talladega would deliver a wildcard result.

A playoff driver won a playoff race for the first time this season. How about that?

Chase Elliott’s victory moves him to the next round, the only driver guaranteed to advance heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are tied for the last transfer spot, but Briscoe owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. At least for now.

Hendrick Motorsports will have its appeal this week on the 25-point penalty to William Byron from the Texas race. Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega, but if the team wins the appeal and he gets all 25 points back, Byron would be back in a transfer spot and drop Briscoe below the cutline.

 

XFINITY SERIES

AJ Allmendinger became the second driver to advance to the next round, winning at Talladega.

Ryan Sieg finished fourth and holds the final transfer spot heading into the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Reigning series champion Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sieg. Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones are each 10 points behind Sieg. Jeremy Clements is 47 points behind.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Matt DiBenedetto’s first career Camping World Truck Series victory didn’t impact the playoff standings after Talladega since DiBenedetto is not a playoff driver.

Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot. He leads Christian Eckes and Stewart Friesen by three points each. John Hunter Nemechek is five points behind Rhodes, while Grant Enfinger is 29 points behind Rhodes. Ty Majeski is the only driver guaranteed a spot in next month’s championship race.

The Truck Series is off this weekend. The next Truck race is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Winners and losers at Talladega Superspeedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

WINNERS

Chase Elliott — After a rough race at Texas, Elliott returned to the role of championship favorite Sunday with a victory. He takes the point lead to Charlotte and, with Sunday’s win, is locked into the Round of 8.

MORE: Talladega Cup results

MORE: Talladega Cup driver points

Ryan Blaney — Despite another tough race day and a second-place finish in a race he could have won, Blaney remains in good shape in the playoffs, even without a points win. He is second in points to Elliott, only two behind.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin took some time off from leading the charge for changes in the Next Gen car to run an excellent race. He led 20 laps, finished fifth and is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five playoff races. He gained a spot in points to fourth.

LOSERS

Christopher Bell — Bell zipped onto pit road with too much speed during a round of pit stops and slid to a stop, earning a speeding penalty. He is 11th in points.

Kyle Larson — Larson led eight laps Sunday but was not a part of the drafting mix at the front at the finish. He was 18th and fell three spots in points to sixth.

Joey Logano — Logano held the point lead entering Sunday’s race. At day’s end, he had a 27th-place finish and had fallen four spots to fifth.

 

 

End of stages at Talladega could have lasting impact in playoffs

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A spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs could have been determined in just a few laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

They weren’t the final laps of the race, but the final laps of Stage 1 and Stage 2. 

The end of the first stage saw a big swing for a couple of drivers that could impact on who advances and who doesn’t after next weekend’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval.

MORE: Chase Elliott wins at Talladega 

With six laps left in the opening stage, William Byron was second to Denny Hamlin.

Byron was in need of stage points because of the uncertainty of his place in the standings. NASCAR docked him 25 points for spinning Hamlin under caution last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the decision and will have the hearing this week. While car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday that he felt the penalty was too severe in a three-race round, there’s no guarantee the appeal board will change the penalty or reduce it. 

With such unknowns, Byron’s focus was scoring as many points as possible since he entered the race eight points below the cutline. Sitting second in that opening stage put him in position to score the points he needed.

But when the the stage ended, Byron came across the line 11th — 0.036 seconds behind Erik Jones in 10th — and scored no stage points.

“I was working well with (Hamlin),” Byron said. “I tried to work to the bottom and he stayed at the top and the top seemed to have momentum.

“I just made a wrong decision there that kind of got me in a bad position further. I was still leading the inside lane, but the inside lane wouldn’t go forward. That was just kind of weird. That was kind of the moral of our day — was just not being able to advance forward.”

Byron wasn’t in position to score points in the second stage, finishing 13th. That left him as one of two playoff drivers not to score stage points (Christopher Bell was the other).

“It was frustrating the whole time,” Byron said. “I felt like the race was just going away from us. We couldn’t make anything happen. We were just kind of stuck. I don’t know what we need to do next time.”

When Byron failed to score points in the second stage, it only added to a challenging day and put more pressure on a better finish.

He managed only to place 12th. Byron finished with 25 points. He outscored only three playoff drivers.

The result is that Byron is 11 points below the cutline.

While the first stage was a harbinger of Byron’s woes Sunday, that stage proved critical for Austin Cindric.

The Daytona 500 winner was 15th with six laps to go in the stage. He finished fourth, collecting seven points — despite suffering some nose damage in an incident earlier in that stage.

“Stage points are a big deal,” Cindric said. 

He got those with quick thinking.

“I think when everybody tries to scatter to do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive,” Cindric said. “I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. I’d call it 50-50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck. 

“It certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the (Charlotte) Roval.

Cindric entered the race seven points out of the last transfer spot. While he didn’t score any points in the second stage, his ninth-place finish led to a 35-point day. 

That gives him the same amount of points as Chase Briscoe, who owns the last transfer spot because he has the tiebreaker on Cindric in this round.

For Briscoe, he earned that tie by collecting one stage point. 

In the first stage, he was running outside the top 10 when he sensed a crash was likely and “decided to bail” to protect the car and avoid being in a crash.

That crash didn’t happen and he was left without stage points. In the second stage, Briscoe was 14th with two laps to go. He beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. across the finish line by 0.035 seconds to place 10th and score that one stage point.

“You don’t think that one (point) is important until you see that you are tied,” Briscoe said. “One point could be really, really important for us next week.”