What drivers said after Watkins Glens race

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Drivers had much to say after Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, won by Denny Hamlin.

DENNY HAMLIN – WINNER: “I was probably driving a little bit more conservative there after my last-lap shenanigans at Sonoma. I thought, ‘Look don’t overshoot the corner’ and it probably lent itself for them getting closer than they probably should’ve. Just can’t thank my Toyota teammates enough. They came here and tested and gave us a good baseline setup and allowed us to have a car that could win today.”

Joey Logano — FINISHED 2nd: “It’s just awesome, crazy racing, full contact.  Just insane out there.  So a lot of fun from the driver’s seat and I’m sure the fans loved it as well in front of a sold‑out grandstand.  It was pretty cool when I pulled over for the red flag in front of the grandstands and I could hear just fans screaming and yelling and loving it.  I thought, Man, this is really cool to be in the driver’s seat right now. Having those moments, I thought it was neat. Overall our car was really good today.  Driver shot himself in the foot a little bit with getting some damage in the Bus Stop when we were working our way back through the field.  Ripped the splitter up.  That was kind of the beginning of the end.’’

Brad Keselowski – FINISHED 3rd: “I thought we had a really good Miller Lite Ford Fusion and got pushed back on a couple of the restarts. I was trying to sort my way back to the front and just couldn’t quite get there at the end. I got right up to the bumper of (Martin Truex Jr.) and couldn’t do anything there and he made a move to get by (Denny Hamlin) on the inside and (Hamlin) blocked him. I went high and (Truex) went high and by then I was already deep in the corner and got into him and turned him. That was really unfortunate and the last thing I wanted to see. This track here, when you drive into the corner, you commit and sometimes you don’t know what will happen when you commit. The last thing I wanted to do was turn him.”

AJ Allmendinger – FINISHED 4th: “Our last corner there, racing with Kyle (Larson) I just… I can’t say sorry enough. It doesn’t help the case, I spun him out. I didn’t mean to spin him out. (Martin Truex Jr.) was spinning, and I was starting to get my nose under Kyle to try to drag race him to the checkered. He was turning to come back down, but it was my fault. It would be different if we were battling for the win, but I just hate it for him. It’s not going to help to say sorry, I know, I would be pissed off. He should be.”

Tony Stewart – FINISHED 5th: “Yeah, we got some breaks there at the end. But our Haas Automation Chevy was really good. It is so chaotic here. You get under 10 laps and get restarts; you know it’s going to be a crash-fest there. But we were able to survive and got through a couple of them and got a couple of spots there coming to the line. I’ll take a top five here in the last run.”

MARTIN TRUEX, JR. — FINISHED 7th: “Yeah, definitely unfortunate. I wish we could’ve seen what would’ve happened when we got to the start/finish line. I felt like I maybe had (Denny Hamlin) squared up a little bit off (turn) 11 and maybe could’ve drag raced him to the line. It’d have been fun to see, but it was all not to be with getting hit in the left rear. It’s unfortunate, but hard racing at the end, all of us going for a win and all of us locked in the Chase it’s – I guess he (Brad Keselowski) kind of races with that mentality that ‘Hey, it doesn’t really matter where we finish or if we finish,’ so just have to be mindful of that when we’re around him for the rest of the time.”

Jamie McMurray – FINISHED 8th: “We had a really good car. We qualified well and the first run I thought we had a fifth- to eighth-place car, pretty good. I got blocked in on my last pit stop and lost about 20 spots. We did fuel only and we were the 43rd stall. Somebody was coming in and I had to stop. We lost a lot of track position. Honestly, the last couple of laps I probably could have held off the No. 47 and No. 18, but you are kind of point’s racing right now.’’

Trevor Bayne – FINISHED 9th: “This is a good weekend. A fifth (in Saturday’s Xfinity race) and a ninth. That is a good road course weekend for me considering I am not a road course ace. The thought was to try to get better and I think we did that this weekend. We made progress and that is really good. We are excited. Hopefully we can keep getting better at these and contend for a win one day.”

Kurt Busch – FINISHED 11th: “We didn’t quite time the final pit stop to our advantage. We ended up behind and then too many restarts and yellow flags at the end. There is no way to get caught up.  I didn’t drive aggressive enough and the strategy didn’t play out, but the car was underneath us we just got put in a hole.”

Ryan Newman – FINISHED 16th: “Our team never gives up. I hate it that we got behind there when we spun out. I did everything I could and luckily, no one hit us. We stayed out and restarted 28th. We managed to dodge another close call with five laps to go. Our biggest challenge was that we battled tighter than expected track conditions with the new surface. Plus, all the pit strategies and cautions made for an interesting day for all of us. I’m just happy that we were able to battle back and get our team a respectable finish with all things considered.”

Michael McDowell – FINISHED 17th: “The team did a great job all weekend. We had a good qualifying effort with an 11th-place starting spot for the race. The race result was solid but not entirely what we wanted. We’ve progressed a lot in the past few weeks as a team and the results are starting to show.”

Paul Menard – FINISHED 22nd: “Today isn’t what we wanted, but I’m proud of my team for not giving up. We didn’t have an ideal starting position. We tried some things during qualifying that just didn’t work out, so we knew going into today that we had a battle ahead of us. (Crew chief) Danny Stockman and the guys worked hard to get a new setup ready for today. Handling didn’t feel right at the beginning of race, so during the first caution we made a few big changes that really helped. We decided to take a chance and went with a pit strategy that got us to the front. It was a lot of fun to be up there and play the strategy game. The brakes started to give me some trouble near the end, so guys were beating me in the braking zones. It’s something we will go back to the shop and work on.”

Kyle Larson – FINISHED 29th: “We were about a 10th-place car and we were going to get a top five day out of it. We were running sixth coming to (Turn) 7; (AJ Allmendinger) was behind me. He is always aggressive. I figured he would be smart. Obviously, (Martin Truex Jr.) was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us and just dumped me. He had already ran me down to the front stretch wall once with about 15 to go or so. Pretty dumb move right there too, but I was the smarter one racing for points, lifted, could have wrecked him, but didn’t. I don’t know.  He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas. He has ran me hard, but we always race pretty well, but today was flat out stupid.”

Chris Buescher – FINISHED 30th: “That is not how we expected that one to go. We got down to it at the end and were racing through the bus stop and came out of it and I am not sure who but a couple guys went through the dirt and caused a wall that we couldn’t see through. I came through the other side of it and (Kevin Harvick’s) car was sitting there backwards. I tried to get down to avoid it and hooked the splitter in the mud, tucked it under, and got stuck. I was trying to get it where I could drive back around but I had to get out and go through all that. These CSX guys, they worked really hard to get this fixed quickly and got back on track and took the green flag with everybody else there. I am proud of them for that. They did a good job and we were still running there at the end. In the grand scheme of things, from a points standpoint, it was a little bit of a gain but we definitely don’t want to do it like that anymore.”

Austin Dillon – FINISHED 31st: “This definitely wasn’t our day. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up with some damage on the Dow Chevrolet that required a trip to the garage in the middle of the race. When you’re in a tight Chase battle like we are, you have to do everything you can to get back out on track. This Richard Childress Racing team knows how to keep digging. With all the repairs, we only lost four laps. Every lap counts in this championship battle. All the cautions at the end of the race really helped. We made up all but one of our laps. We won’t give up. We’ll regroup over the off weekend and be ready for Bristol.”

KEVIN HARVICK — FINISHED 32nd: “Yeah, I started getting checked-up and I think (David Ragan) hit me from behind and we all just kind of piled in there. I was battling some brake issues and just trying to maintain the brakes, but they got me great track position and up in the front. And then, coming to the yellow that one time, I got into the Speedy Dry and the front tire locked-up and we had to pit. But, we had it where we needed to be. We just got back there and we got tore up.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — FINISHED 38th: “We were just hustling hard on that restart and got loose over the curb and just kind of spun. From that point we were just along for the ride. It looked like everybody scattered and it was probably pretty hard to see. We got hit pretty hard. The guys had a fast car. We had some issues yesterday in qualifying that put us toward the back and we were fighting all day to get back up there.”

Greg Biffle — FINISHED 39th: “It just looked like (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) started wrecking up in front of us. I started slowing up to avoid it. I remember the 24, a vivid memory of him going up and hitting and coming back across. I started slowing up because I wasn’t sure where (Stenhouse) was going. I thought he was coming back across so I started slowing up and got wrecked from behind. They were on both sides of me. They hit me from behind and both sides to send me spinning. It is tough. You can’t see up there.” 

Jimmie Johnson — FINISHED 40th: “Yeah, we had a rough first pit stop and then we were just kind of biding our time and trying to get on a fuel strategy that could benefit us. The cars started checking up in front of me and they all moved out of the way and (Ricky Stenhouse) was sitting there, stopped. I remember seeing a door number and I was so thankful it was the passenger-side door and not the driver-side door because I plowed him. I really hit the car hard. I was afraid that I might have injured him. But, thankfully he’s okay and everybody is all right.”

Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

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Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

POINTS REPORT

Noah Gragson remains the points leader after his win. He has 2,107 points. AJ Allmendinger is next, 26 points behind.

Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg hold the final two transfer spots. They are one point ahead of Riley Herbst, eight points ahead of Daniel Hemric, 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 29 points ahead of Jeremy Clements.

Texas Xfinity driver points

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

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Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he has run much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

Gragson, 24 and set to jump to the Cup Series next season, led 85 laps. He won by 1.23 seconds.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Allgaier from the race.

“The 7 (Allgaier) chose the top behind me, and I haven’t seen the replay of it, but the 7 chose the top behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Hill) made it three-wide on the 9 (Gragson), and I was three-wide at the top, and I think we ended up four-wide at one point, which doesn’t really work aero-wide in the pack.”

Pole winner Jones, a playoff driver taken out in the crash, said Nemechek “was pushing a little too hard. Nothing to fault him there for, but probably a little early to be going that far. It is what it is.”

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Allmendinger’s crew repaired his car and he later had the race lead.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Below the cutline after the first race are Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Clements.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson is threatening to turn the final weeks of the Xfinity season into a cakewalk. He clearly had the day’s dominant car Saturday in winning for the fourth race in a row. … AJ Allmendinger’s car was damaged in a wreck in heavy traffic, but his crew taped parts of the car and gave him an opening to finish fourth.

Who had a bad race: Jeremy Clements, in the playoff field, finished 36th after parking with mechanical trouble near the race’s halfway point. … Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed only 17 laps into the race and finished last.

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? 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 said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.