What drivers said after the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway

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After a long weekend marked by fog, rain and interminable waiting at Pocono Raceway, there was much to say after the Pennsylvania 400 despite the race ending 22 laps short of its scheduled distance.

Here’s some of what drivers said after the 21st Sprint Cup race of the 2016 season:

Chris Buescher – Winner: “That’s pretty awesome.  Wild circumstances here at Pocono.  This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day.  It was a lot of fun.  The guys really toughed it out.  We got a flat tire, but we’re headed in the right direction now, so that will help in points.  We got a win here, so we’ll take it any way we can get it.” (On if the team has momentum) “Yes, we’ve been definitely headed in the right direction.  The last six or seven weeks have been really good for us.  Kentucky was gonna be excellent for us, but is just didn’t play out.  It’s pretty awesome to be here right now.  I don’t know what to do right now.  We don’t have any of the team here right now.  The car is out on pit road.  This is a little different way to celebrate.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished second: “Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape, but that’s the way it goes.  We had really good speed on the green flag pit stop cycle, which got us in a position to take over the lead and hopefully control the race, but there’s nothing you can do about the fog rolling in.  That’s just part of it and either way I’m really kind of pumped up for Chris.  That’s big to win a race and get in the Chase.  It’s been an interesting weekend here in Pocono.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I’m really proud of everybody on this Alliance Truck Parts Fusion team.”

Regan Smith – Finished third: “It’s been a strange weekend really weather wise.  There were times yesterday I thought we were going to get to race and the track had like a pond underneath it apparently.  I’m just proud of Tommy (Baldwin) and then the guys on the box for kind of realizing there was opportunity for a strategy play there.  We have had a decent run today. We were a lot better than we were last time here.  We have made a lot of gains with our race car and with our team.  When you are a small team you’ve got to take those opportunities when you can.  Fortunately, we were getting good enough fuel mileage to just keep trying to stretch it and have enough left for when the caution did come out.  I don’t know that we could have predicted it would have been from fog.  I think we were just trying to do what we could do to make sure we maintained as far up as we could and maybe lead a lap or something like that.  That is what you’ve got to do sometimes.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fourth: “Our Chevy has been really fast. Obviously, we had one caution come out at the wrong time and the fog here at the end; I felt like we were in a pretty good spot running down to (Turn) 2 and here comes the fog. That’s kind of the way that things have gone this year. It seems like when we have a really fast car we just have some weird circumstances. (Are you encouraged by the speed this week?) Well, we got out butt kicked last week; the whole field did, by the No. 18 (Kyle Busch). I think as you look at that, that’s always been kind of a hit and miss race track over the last few years for us. But, the car has been really fast this week and it was really fast at Loudon. We’ve had the speed at most of the places; we just haven’t had things go right. It’s just things like this that you keep adding to a very long list of 2016.”

Tony Stewart – Finished fifth: “I’m pretty happy with it.”

Kyle Larson – Finished sixth (on his battle with Austin Dillon): “I don’t think you ever want to expect contact, but obviously we were racing really hard.  I was doing all I could to stay in front of him and he was doing all he could to get by me.  We battled hard down the front stretch one time and then he got back to my inside into Turn 3.  I left him plenty of room I was just going to try and run side-by-side with him again and try and slow him down on the front stretch.  I guess he got loose underneath me and got into our door.  That was pretty frustrating at the time, but it happens to not even really matter.  That part of the race doesn’t matter at all.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished seventh: “My car was pretty fast. It’s fast by itself for a few laps and then we lose a little bit of speed, but I think we had a top-three or four car. … It’s frustrating, but it’s mountain weather. We’re up here in the mountains and stuff comes and goes. We’re in the middle of summer where there’s pop-up showers all of the time so it’s just we get lucky here sometimes but more times than not we fight the weather up here for sure.”

Carl Edwards – Finished eighth: “I think our Toyota is better than eighth-place, so I really wanted to go racing. We were hoping it cleared up for these fans with everyone waiting around an awful lot. I would have liked one more shot at it.  I tried to keep up with (the weather) for a little while and I just said, ‘Heck with it, I don’t know what everyone is doing, what tires everyone is on.’ Dave (Rogers, crew chief) has a good plan. There for a little while it looked like it was going to work out I let a couple guys get by that I shouldn’t have.”

Kyle Busch – Finished ninth: “Our car was OK. We were really, really fast when we were by ourselves but anytime we got to within five lengths of the guys in front of us, we just couldn’t do anything with it. Just got really aero tight this time. We weren’t that bad when we were here last time. I’m not sure what’s different for us. We just didn’t quite figure it out.” (on the fog) “I thought it was fun. The spotters said, ‘Hey I can’t see,’ and I’m like, ‘Okay, fine whatever let’s keep going.’ I think all of us can pretty much handle ourselves. We’re not idiots but occasionally we do look like we are. I guess you’ve got to play it safe when you’re around all of us out there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 10th, set NASCAR record by finishing all the laps in the first 21 races of he season: “It’s nice to be in position to have completed all the laps. That is done with a lot of team work.  It’s not just one person.  It starts at the shop with the quality of cars and congratulations to everybody that has helped be part of this sequence.  All-in-all we are finishing on the lead lap, we are finishing top 10 every week.  We just know that we need to find a little bit more to be competitive once the Chase starts.  All-in-all I can’t say thank you enough to everybody on the No. 41 SHR car. (on his race) I felt like we were making all the right calls and all the right sequences on when to pit and we just had one adjustment go astray.  We tried to loosen up the car with a left-rear wedge change and we ended up getting tighter.  Sometimes that has happened to us this year and we just need to not fall into that pit fall and make sure we steer clear of wrong adjustments or adjustments that are questionable until we have a better handle on it.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 11th: “I didn’t think we were too bad.  I thought we actually had a really good race car, but it didn’t really play out in our favor of getting track position.  We got it and took a gamble on rain and it didn’t, and then we lost all of it and had to drive back up through the field.  We should have cycled out about ninth right there, and the fog rolled in.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 13th: “It’s been very awesome.  Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the guys did a great job going into today to make the right adjustments.  Turn 3 has been our strong suit. We could really get a run down the front stretch on guys.  It’s was fun racing with (Kyle Larson) today.  It was a heck of a race. … We’ve just got to keep working.  We proved today that we’ve got the speed to win we’ve just got to work on all the other aspects.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 14th: “We started off a little tight there.  I thought we made good adjustments throughout the course of the day.  I could kind of use the trackbar to help kind of guide the car the way I needed to.  I feel like we had an eighth- to 12th-place car when were at our best.  I think we still just need a little bit more to get to that next level of cars, but I felt like we just made good changes.  Strategy kind of never worked out.  I felt like we kind of always kind of got in the back of the field when the strategy kind of happened.  We were able to pass cars and got what we got.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 16th despite a hole in the nose of his car: “It happened early. I think they pointed it out to me on Lap 2. I really don’t know where it came from. But, it was just above the bumper bar where the bowtie sits on the nose of the car. There’s a huge rip there. At first, the balance was off a little bit. The car was pretty tight and slow on the straights. And then they were able to get that patched up. They worked on it two or three times, and we lost track position doing so. (Is the team improving?)  “You leave Indy and think absolutely; and you have a long agonizing today from Lap 2, and you forget what happened at Indy. It’s crazy how humbling this sport is. The good news, and I’ve watched (teamamte Kasey Kahne) and I can’t believe how fast that car is down the straights and through the corners. I know track position isn’t working for him right now via strategy, but watching him pick cars off and move forward looks good. So, we may not have sunshine right now on the No. 48, but maybe on another car at Hendrick Motorsports. And we’ll keep stacking these pennies and hopefully be better when it comes down to the Chase.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 16th: “I’ve seen Bob Osborne (Chris Buescher’s crew chief) win a lot of races with Carl (Edwards), so I think the situation they had nothing to lose and do something like that to hope it works out. He’s a good guy and a great race car driver. I’d hoped we get to go back to green and run, 17th is not where we want to end the day. We had a car that probably could have went from fifth to tenth. We were OK, just got loose in track position with the way the cautions flew and pitted and restarts. … I think we could probably pass several cars. I’m not sure we can get much further than 10th with restarts and getting jumbled up and getting some spots through turn one once we get single-file, I’ve had a hard time passing today. We were a lot better the last race here when we had track position where today it was hard to make up much ground.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 19th: “It was a long weekend.  We got up to sixth at one point and we didn’t need that caution because then we had to start on the top and we weren’t good enough to really be there.  We got there on strategy to ninth and then got a good restart up to sixth.  It would have been tough for them to pass me under green and had a caution there.  I got moved out of the way by some guys and ended up sliding back, and then pitted.  There were a lot of guys that short-pitted that were probably gonna run out of gas, but the strategy didn’t play out for us.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 25th: “At one point in the race we had good strategy, and we had a good car, but it’s unfortunate how it ended.  It’s just unfortunate.  We have about a Top-10 car and mine was pretty good out front.  It was nice to lead some laps and while we still have some work to do, we’re making gains.  We’re doing all we can and trying our best every week.”

Jeff Gordon, – Finished 27th after a problem with fastening his seat belt: “Yeah, it’s the first time I’ve ever had that happen with this type of mechanism where you just plug it in and it latches. I’ve had it happen under the old system with the old buckle. I was actually at Sonoma one time leading the race and we went right off the next corner when it happened. I was able to get that one latched. This one, I thought I had it latched because it happened actually on pit road one time. And I got it latched and lost some time. And then we were in a pretty good position on the restart and went to take off and as soon as I went into second and third, just that little bit of a side movement just pulled it out. It would go in and sort of latch, but when you wiggled it from left to right, it would pop right out. So, I don’t know if there is something lodged in there, or what happened or why it took so long for that to play out, but I knew I couldn’t go down into Turn 1 on these crazy restarts without a right-side seat belt”

Chase Elliott – Finished 33rd, on his recent slump: “Oh, it’s just poor decisions on my behalf I think, is the biggest thing. So, the best way to fix it is obviously to see it at first and notice it and just go to work and like I said, rethink my approach. It’s definitely not working. We’ve had good cars. We had a good car today. I felt like we were a step in the right direction from where we had been the last couple of weeks, which I felt like was a good sign. I just didn’t do my part. I need to rethink things and try to do a better job and put us in a better position. It’s not bad luck. It’s just me putting us in bad spots.”

Joey Logano – Finished 37th: “It was good for a while. The team did a great job. The Shell Pennzoil Ford was fast and really good on restarts. We were able to drive up to the lead a few times. Only if it had rained a little earlier we would have had a lot different outcome. We had a new rear carrier today and he came out of the gate swinging which is awesome. I am super proud of that. There were a lot of positives today. We just ended on a negative note racing hard and trying to get back up there after that caution. We all had to pit because we tried to win the race when it rained and we lost our track position and then the 24 got loose under me. It is just part of racing. It stinks to be on this end of it. It is just part of it.”

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).