What drivers said after Bristol Motor Speedway

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In a race that concluded nearly 24 hours after it was scheduled to begin, Kevin Harvick emerged Sunday night as the winner at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Here’s some of what drivers said after the 23rd Sprint Cup race of the 2016 season:

Harvick — Finished first: “We should have won a lot of races this year but we just had things not go our way. We made mistakes, or whatever the case may be. But to get back into victory lane here at Bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here over the last few years. And to have Busch Beer on the car; we’ve had crummy luck with these guys on the car and so I’m just really happy for Busch and Jimmy John’s and really proud of these guys on the No. 4 team. … We knew we had the performance that we needed to have in the cars pretty much every week. And it’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right. But to have the win now and just try to get that momentum before we get into the Chase and get things rolling is really what we needed.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished second: “It wasn’t from a lack of hard work and being lucky a few times. We really wanted to get this Bryan Clauson tribute car in victory lane. It just wasn’t meant to be today. We made our car a lot faster throughout the race and came from two laps down to get back on the lead lap. We missed some wrecks and gave it all we had. I thought we were matching (Harvick) lap for lap, but he got away from us and we had to restart sixth there on that last restart, but it was an honor to drive this car. All of the fans that came out this weekend. This place was pretty packed last night. Thanks to all the fans that were able to stay around. I thought the track was really good. You could run the bottom. You could run the top.  We just wanted one more spot …  That’s all we can think about is getting ourselves a win.  We’ve been OK at Michigan. We had a flat tire. We’ve been OK at Darlington and Richmond even, so we’ve got to keep our confidence in our ability to make sure we’re making all the good changes and not making mistakes, and staying with it throughout the race like we did right there. We really wanted to get that win this time at Bristol. We knew this was probably our best shot. We just struggled all weekend. It was a tough weekend from an emotional side and out here driving this race car and getting it fast, but thanks to all the hard work from my guys we were able to salvage a really good finish.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished third: “We had a great car. We definitely got it a lot better there at the end and proud that we’re able to come back from two laps down and get a good finish out of it, but still a good overall day for our FedEx Express Camry. Just came up a little short … I feel good. We didn’t have a race-winning car today, to be honest with you – our balance was off a little bit – so I think we maximized our day to be honest. I would have loved to race on straight up tires there, but we had to do some strategy there to get our track position back, so it was a very par day for us.”

Austin Dillon — Finished fourth: “Well, it was challenging for our Dow Chevy. We really didn’t have a car capable of winning the race, I don’t think. We just struggled. My arms are worn out; I know that. But I’m proud of the adjustments the guys made. One heck of a pit stop. My guys really helped us out with that and gained us some spots there to have that outside restart. And, it was fun there, you could tell I was a little tighter than (Kevin) Harvick there on the bottom, so I got to him there. Early in the run he jumped to the top and pulled me. It was fun here at Bristol, today. I’m glad that Bristol tried to get that bottom (lane) working. I think we can do a little bit more for it because that top is going to be dominant as it runs. It was a fun race. We had to adjust the car to get it free from the top and then back to tight on the bottom. So, a lot of chasing grip. It was fun racing, man. It reminded me of the dirt days just trying to chase that grip, what we call brown, now it’s black. It was a lot of fun. I’ve got to thank the good Lord for keeping us out of all those wrecks. We dodged some big ones today. It was a solid points day. I’m just really happy.”

Chris Buescher — Finished fifth: “That was a lot of fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve come to the race track and enjoy it like that. We had awesome speed out of our Love’s Ford Fusion. I’m really proud of the team. This thing was good from the start of the weekend. We kept working our way up towards the end and got to the top five, and almost got one there at the end, but I love Bristol. I absolutely love this racetrack. What they did with the surface worked out really well and made for some really good racing. I don’t know exactly where we’re at quite yet, but I know we had to get there.  That’s Chase eligibility in one race out of the four we had to do it. Now, we have to hold onto it. I’m really proud of this team. Our Love’s Ford Fusion had great speed this weekend. We’re looking forward to the next handful of races.  We’ve got some really good tracks for us coming up. We knew Bristol would be a good one for us. It took us a day later to do it, but we got ourselves a top-five and had a blast out here. That was an awesome run.”

Carl Edwards — Finished sixth: “My guys did a great job. We didn’t quit and dodged some wrecks, but, man, just a really fun race. The first half – just racing up there for the lead with Kyle (Busch) and Kevin (Harvick) – that was the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time. That was really cool.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished seventh: “We were up to third before the red (flag) came.  Our car just wasn’t good on a green racetrack. It didn’t matter if it was the start of the weekend, the start of the race after the red flag for the rain and when the jet dryers came out and blew all the rubber off we just couldn’t go. Our car was super-fast about 30, 40 laps into a run. Unfortunately, we lost some track position on that final restart and just kind of sailed home for seventh there at the end. Certainly, overcame a lot this weekend so that does feel good just wished we would have finished a little better.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished ninth: “It was a hard-fought day. We were just trying to get on either end of being a little bit too tight, a little bit too loose. I thought we had kind of got in the happy medium. We made the car as good as it could be with what we had right there. Just tricky racetrack today. At one point you would get the bottom rolling and think that is pretty good and then it goes away and try to find out how to run the top. We weren’t as good on the top and then I kind of figured something out late, but just a tricky race track, hard fought. A little bit fortunate to miss a couple of those crashes. I wish we would have had about 15 more laps at the end because I thought I had figured something out, but it is what it is, a top 10. We’ve had some days where we feel like we should have gotten more and gotten stolen from us.  We will take a day like this.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “It was eventful Bristol. It seems like at this race track there’s always something that happens. Whether it’s on the team side or the driver’s side it seems like that happens a lot at this race track. There was a point during the race at about Lap 400 where we got to the lead with the Shell/Pennzoil Ford and we were fast. The race track was where we thought it would be and everything was kind of working as planned, and the next thing you know the 41 spun and we got some damage from that. We pitted for that and had a lugnut off the left-rear, so we came in to fix that, and then it rained and the track just changed.  After it rained everything changed and the car wasn’t as fast. We got back up to 10th and I thought we were gonna drive to fifth on that last run because we were really fast the run before when the track was rubbered up, but once it cleaned up we just lost a little bit of speed … We overcame a lot. I guess that’s the positive and the bright side of it. I just kind of look at all the fireworks going off in victory lane and think about that a little bit more.”

Jeff Gordon — Finished 11th after rebounding from an early slip: “I went up top too early on that restart.  I felt the pressure from Kyle (Busch) and those guys behind me they were a little bit better than me on that short run there. I was trying to make something happen and I moved up and just didn’t work. I got too high and got loose and lost a bunch of positions. We fought back a little bit, but I don’t know after that I don’t know if it was track position or just the way the track went we just never quite had a handle on it. (on the track changes) It was interesting. It made it pretty challenging on the restarts. It helped a little bit with lapped traffic. You could at least go down there and hook the bottom for one lap, but if they truly want to have a bottom groove, call me. I will tell them how to do it.”

Tony Stewart — Finished 30th: “I would have liked to have done it last night, but I’m glad we got this in. I’m appreciative to the fans that stayed last night. I know it’s taxing on a lot of them, but we appreciate the fact that they stayed to watch. (On doing a celebratory burnout with Harvick) That is cool.  The funny part is he got out of his car, got the flag and then he goes ‘get in my car and go to Victory Lane with me.’  I went what?  He goes ‘yeah, just leave yours here.’ I’m like I just can’t just leave my car there, but that was cool. I’m happy for these guys.  This is a hard place to win at. There are so many things that can go wrong. All it takes is one thing. I mean we had a wheel that was loose and that messed our whole day up. That was cool sharing that moment with him though. (On his last race at Bristol) Well, I will see it in the spring. I will be back here. I just won’t wear a helmet when I come back here. It is cool. This place is so much fun. I told myself the last 10 laps we weren’t racing anybody, there wasn’t anybody around us, I said, just enjoy these last 10 and just savor the moment and think about it. So, that is what I did, I really thought about what I was doing those last 10 laps and kind of soaked it all in.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 33rd after crashing with Kurt Busch: “Something happened (and Busch) got loose. By the time I saw it, I was already making contact with him.  It was kind of one of those Bristol things. I hate it because we were making improvements on the car, and we had gotten up to third there and the race was kind of coming to us. We were just trying to run smart, but a bummer of an ending for the Autotrader Ford. We had a lot of short-run speed, and we were hoping the race would play out that way at the end and we would have had a shot at it, if that was the case, but instead we’re here in the garage. We’ll try to get a finish out of it, but a bummer day for us.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 35th after crash: “I don’t know what happened. I was watching the replay, and somebody got loose. We were trying to make ground on the top and before I knew it (Matt Kenseth) was sitting sideways in front of me, and I hit him pretty hard. It’s unfortunate. We had a really good car early and lost some spots on pit road being in bad spots and kind of lost our car a little bit halfway through, but got it back and thought we were just starting to make ground up and got in that wreck … It stinks. We were fast all weekend and this was one of the best weekends that we’ve had. There were a couple of rough spots and unfortunately it ended rough, but we’ll just have to go on to next week. That’s all.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 37th after crash: “I didn’t really see what happened except for there was cars wrecking up there, and I slowed down as much as the guy in front of me. I couldn’t slow down any less than that or I would hit him. Chase (Elliott) bust out of nowhere, ran me over and (Ryan Blaney) came through there wide open – I still don’t know if he’s lifted yet or not – and finished us off. As the wreck happened, you’ve got to slow down. Just not much I could do.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 38th after causing a multicar crash while leading: “I think I just missed the bottom groove by a few inches, got loose and the wreck was on. The way that our car was restarting it felt comfortable, it felt good. That inside with the resin and the VHT if you don’t hit it exactly right you lose a lot of time. I tried to make up for it and got loose. I feel really bad for the Monster Energy guys. We had a win in our sights and I just drove the car at 101 percent instead of that 99 … It was neat to run the high groove. It was its normal self. The low groove helped on restarts. I just over pushed the groove by a few inches. When you miss your line on a VHT/rosin grip level you go for a ride.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 39th after crashing because of a parts failure: “We’ve been having parts failures here, so something we’ve got to address and fix. I’m really tired of losing races here with parts falling apart, so they’ll hear about it on Tuesday (in Joe Gibbs Racing’s weekly competition meeting) … It finally did break and it was breaking, but it finally did break and I couldn’t hold onto it there and it spun out and then spun out the wrong way and it’s frustrating. We’ve had really, really fast race cars here. The guys do a great job setting them up, but, man, we’ve got parts failures, you know? You can’t have parts failures in this business. That’s stupid. My Camrys have been fast. We’ve just got to stop making stupid mistakes that take us out of races.”

Justin Allgaier – Finished 40th after running into Kyle Busch in crash: “I was trying to let the leaders go as best I could. We were a couple laps down right there and let them go. (Joey Logano) ducked in front of me getting into (Turn) 1 and I had to jam on the brakes pretty hard. I got really loose and I was just trying to catch it. That is when the spotter was telling me that (Kyle Busch) was spinning and he kept rolling down the hill so at first I committed to go below him because I was already on the bottom and then he was still coming down the hill, so I tried to go out around the outside of him and unfortunately I just didn’t make it. (Logano) was right there and just really a shame. I hate it for these guys. This Pilot Flying J No. 46 team they did a good job all day. We weren’t up there battling for the lead, but we had a good solid day going. I just cost us a decent finish. Thanks to them for letting me drive the car today. Sorry to Kyle. That is the worst possibly scenario when the leader spins out and you hit them. Just really frustrating.”

Long: NASCAR needs to quickly correct officiating issue from Texas

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NASCAR’s admission that it did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is troubling.

With video evidence of impropriety and Hamlin’s team vigorously arguing for relief, there were enough reasons for series officials to take a closer look at putting Hamlin back to second before the race returned to green-flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race resumed. 

Add the lack of access series officials had to Byron’s in-car camera— something fans could readily see at NASCAR.com and the NASCAR Mobile App — and changes need to be made before this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

While NASCAR should make every effort to judge matters between drivers regardless of their playoff status, that it was two playoff drivers involved in an incident demanded greater attention. With three races per round, one misstep can mean the difference between advancing or being eliminated. 

Just as more is expected from drivers and teams in the playoffs, the same should be expected of officials.

“If we had seen that (contact) good enough to react to it in real time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Sunday night. “One would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, or the other would be to have made William start in the back.”

Here is how the incident played out:

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash at 8:19 p.m. ET.

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.

About 90 seconds after the caution lights illuminated, the USA broadcast showed a replay from a low angle of Byron directly behind Hamlin’s car and apparent contact. 

Contact can happen in multiple ways. It can come from the lead car hitting the brakes and forcing the car behind to hit them, or it can come from the trailing car ramming into the car ahead. The first video replay did not make it clear what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to rule one way or the other based solely on that.

This also is a time when NASCAR officials were monitoring safety vehicles on track, checking the lineup and making sure pit road was ready to be open. It’s something NASCAR does effortlessly much of the time. Just not this time. 

A different replay aired on USA 11 minutes, 16 seconds after the caution that showed Byron and Hamlin’s car together. That replay aired about a minute before the green flag waved at 8:31 p.m. ET. Throughout the caution, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.

But once the race resumed, the matter was over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.

Three minutes after the green flag waved, the NASCAR Twitter account posted in-car video that showed Byron running into the back of Hamlin’s car while the caution was out. Such action is typically a penalty — often parking a driver for the rest of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done during the rest of the event. 

After the race, Miller told reporters that series officials didn’t see the contact from Byron. 

“The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them,” Miller said. “By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

But it didn’t happen that way.

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

NASCAR didn’t act. By that time maybe it was too late to do so. But that’s also an issue. Shouldn’t the infraction be addressed immediately if it is clear what happened instead of days later? Shouldn’t officials have been provided with access to the in-car cameras so they could have seen Byron’s actions earlier and meted the proper punishment? Instead, Miller hinted at a possible penalty to Byron this week.

Miller didn’t reveal details but it wouldn’t be surprising to drop Byron in the field, costing him points. He’s 24 points from the cutline, so a penalty that drops him from seventh to 30th (the position ahead of Truex) could be logical and that would cost Byron 23 points, putting him near the cutline. 

Texas winner Tyler Reddick said something should have been done. He knows. He was parked in a 2014 Truck race at Pocono for wrecking German Quiroga in retaliation for an earlier incident.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

“I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Texas shuffles NASCAR Cup playoff standings

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Texas marked the fourth consecutive playoff race that the winner didn’t advance to the next round.

All three races in the first round were won by drivers not in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday at Texas, a week after he failed to advance from the Round of 16 and was eliminated from title contention.

Texas did shake up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott entered as the points leader but a blown tire while leading sent his car into the wall, ending his race. He falls to the No. 8 spot, the final transfer position with two races left in this round. He’s tied with Daniel Suarez, but Suarez has the tiebreaker with a better finish this round.

Chase Briscoe, who scored only his second top 10 in the last 22 races, is the first driver outside a transfer spot. He’s four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Cindric is 11 points out of the transfer spot. Christopher Bell is 29 points out of a transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.

The series races Sunday at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

XFINITY SERIES

Noah Gragson’s win at Texas moved him on to the next round. The win was his fourth in a row.

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer are tied for the final two transfer spots to the next round. Riley Herbst is one point behind them. Daniel Hemric is eight points from the final transfer spot. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements is 29 points shy of the final transfer position.

The series races Saturday at Talladega (4 p.m. ET on USA Network).

 

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

The series was off this past weekend but returns to the track Saturday at Talladega. Ty Majeski has advanced to the championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

 

Winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s marathon race at Texas Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Tyler Reddick – Reddick isn’t acting like a lame duck. Headed for 23XI Racing in 2024 (if not sooner), Reddick now owns three wins with Richard Childress Racing, the team he’ll be leaving.

Justin Haley – Haley, who has shown flashes of excellence this season for Kaulig Racing, matched his season-high with a third-place run.

Chase Briscoe — Briscoe wrestled with major problems in the early part of the race but rebounded to finish fifth. It’s his second top-10 finish in the last 22 races.

LOSERS

NASCAR Officials – Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted that series officials missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution after Martin Truex Jr.‘s crash. Such a situation could have major playoff implications, although Miller hinted that series officials may still act this week.

Christopher Bell – Bell met the wall twice after blown tires and finished a sour 34th, damaging his playoff run in a race that he said was critical in the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. – Harvick (finished 19th) and Truex (31st) were late-race victims of the day’s tire dilemma. Both crashed while leading.

Track workers  Somebody had to clean up all that tire debris.

Chase Elliott – Elliott remains a power in the playoffs, but he left Sunday’s race in a fiery exit after a blown tire while leading and finished 32nd. He holds the final transfer spot to the next round heading into Talladega.

 

 

Blown tires end race early for several Texas contenders

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Goodyear official said that air pressures that teams were using contributed to some drivers blowing tires in Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all crashed while leading after blowing a tire. Among the others who had tire issues were Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher Cole Custer and Christopher Bell twice. 

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

MORE: NASCAR says it missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution 

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

Eight of the 16 cautions were related to tire failures that caused drivers to spin or crash.

“It’s not a good look, that’s for sure,” Ryan Blaney said of the tire issues others had. “How many leaders blew tires tonight? Three or four?

“You just don’t understand what is making these things do that. From last week to this week, it’s really unfortunate. It’s just luck now.

“You never know if you’re going to blow one. You go into (Turn) 3 almost every lap with 40 laps on your stuff and I don’t know if one is going to blow out or not. That’s not safe. That’s for sure. Running (180) into (Turn) 3 and the thing blows out and you have no time to react to it. It’s unfortunate. I hope we can figure that out.”

Blaney said he was confused that the tires were blowing partly into a run instead of much earlier.

“It was weird because those tires didn’t blow right away,” he said. “Like the pressures were low. They blew like after a cycle or two on them, which is the weird thing.”

Asked how he handles that uncertainty, Blaney said: “Nothing I can do about it. Just hope and pray.”

After his crash, Elliott was diplomatic toward Goodyear’s situation:

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Tyler Reddick, who won Sunday’s race at Texas, said his team made adjustments to the air pressure settings after Saturday’s practice.

“We ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire,” he said. “So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”

This same time was used at Kansas and will be used again at Las Vegas next month in the playoffs. 

Reddick is hopeful of a change but also knows it might take time.

“I just think to a degree, potentially, as these cars have gotten faster and we’re getting more speed out of them, maybe, hypothetically speaking, we’re putting the cars through more load and more stress on the tire than they ever really thought we would be,” he said. 

“I know Goodyear will fix it. That’s what they do. It’s going to be a process. I know they’re going to be on top of it. Hey, they don’t want to see those failures. We don’t want to see them either. They’re going to be working on looking through and trying to find out exactly what is going on. We’ll all learn from it.

“It’s a brand-new car. It’s the first time in the history of our sport we’ve gone to an 18-inch wheel and independent rear suspension. All these things are way different, diffuser. All these things, way different. We’re all learning together. Unfortunately, just the nature of it, we’re having tire failures.”