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.”

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.