What drivers said after Chase opening race at Chicagoland


Here is what driver’s had to say after the 16th annual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “We have more races to win – the more we can win the better. What can I say? There are so many people who are responsible for this and I’m glad I get to drive this 78 with Cole Pearn (crew chief) and everybody on this team. Barney (Visser, owner) gives us everything we need. Thanks to TRD – the engines were incredible again – Andy Graves (TRD vice president) and those guys are doing a heck of a job. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) builds our chassis and we have competition meetings with them and all that stuff has been an awesome relationship. What can I say – this is how we want to start off. This feels awesome.”

Joey Logano – Finished 2nd: “It was awesome execution by the 22 team. From every angle. We had a very fast race car and were awesome on pit road. You want to talk about pressure, not just Chase pressure, but coming down at the end of the race to try to win, they executed and had an awesome pit stop and beat the 11 (Denny Hamlin) out and ultimately gives us a second-place finish. I couldn’t be more proud of the team and the way we executed and attacked today. We will take this momentum and run with it the next nine weeks.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 3rd: “Expect it, nothing is yours until it’s over. I mean that is part of life man. You are not dumb, we have all watched this stuff long enough we know these races don’t go green that long. We see more cautions come out at the end of these races than we do not. That is just part of it, you’ve got to expect it and be able to embrace it and move forward. I feel like we did a good job controlling the things that we could control today. We had a fast NAPA Chevy. I appreciate everybody’s hard work this weekend, Hendrick (Motorsports) was strong, that is good to see. Like I said, there are some things you just can’t control with the amount of guys that stay out and where you line up on a restart. We played the cards we were dealt and came up short.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 4th: “The decision wasn’t difficult at all. We kind of made that decision before everyone else came and we had nothing to lose as far as points. I wish a couple more cars stayed out. You never know. Those guys were on me so fast. We had a really good car all day. We started way back in the field and made it up there pretty quickly. We got our car decent at the end. We gambled and I prefer to do that. I prefer to take a gamble to stay out and try to hold those guys off.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 5th: “It was a solid day for us out there, nothing flashy. We ended up with a pretty decent finish. You want to have solid days on days where you aren’t going to collect the win and that is what we had today. We kind of ran third to fifth most of the race and I think that is probably where we deserved to be.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 6th: “It was uneventful. We didn’t step on our toes and nothing really bad happened. We did the best we could so I thought we were a third-place car and we ended up sixth, I can’t be too disappointed with that. You always want to be within a few positions of what you’re capable of in the first Chase race.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 7th: “We had a top 10 car. We had about an eighth to tenth-place car and we ended up seventh. It was a good team effort. We just couldn’t figure out how to get a touch better. The car was tight through the bumps. This place is really rough in spots. I couldn’t get the front to turn coming out of the bumps, so that slowed me up a little bit. But, other than that, I feel like we had a great Liftmaster Chevrolet. We were real close to being a good bit better than where we were.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 8th: “We probably would have ended up third or fourth if it weren’t for my pit road speeding penalty there. It’s that time of year I guess where I screw up a lot so hate it for my guys and all the work that they’ve done on the Skittles Camry – it was really fast, we just need to work on some more outright speed and make it better and chase up those guys.”

Matt Kenseth crew chief, Jason Ratcliff – Finished 9th: “It was kind of an up and down day. We had I think a pretty good car overall. We had the pit road speeding penalty and got behind. He (Matt Kenseth) did a good job of fighting back. The guys on pit road just kept getting better and better. We had a shot at maybe a top four there, we just didn’t get a good restart and just way too tight. We needed longer runs to make something happen. Overall it was a good day. We don’t have a good finish to show for it, but overall we executed with some adversity and fought our way back.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 10th: “It means a lot that Hendrick Motorsports has taken a chance on me and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here and we wish Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) a speedy recovery. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Axalta worked so hard. They brought a great race car … We were really good at the start of the race. It didn’t seem to like the initial takeoff, but once we built air pressures it seemed pretty solid. But we were running sixth or eighth there, and then we had two really bad runs and fell back. We tried some pit strategy and got pretty good there at the end. Greg (Ives, crew chief) made a good call to take two (tires) and recover from those two bad runs we had and get us a solid top 10.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “Yeah, very proud of this Lowe’s team, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We are digging. I’m just… I just can’t believe I got in trouble down there leaving the pits. I feel terrible for these guys. It should have been a top five day, but I will back down pit road even more and try not to make that mistake. Hats off to the team for our fast Lowe’s Chevrolet, I just screwed up … I’m making adjustments and I was dumbfounded that happened. You can’t argue it. Maybe a mistake on our part somewhere, definitely a mistake on my side, but I in no way shape or form thought that I was speeding. I was probably the slowest down pit road all day just to try to avoid it and got nailed. I will soak on it tonight and come back next week and be at 100 percent again and get ready to take this Lowe’s car to victory lane.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 14th: “This Dow Packaging Chevrolet was pretty good today. We just never got the track position we needed to contend. I would have liked the race to run green at the end because if we wouldn’t have had that caution, I believe our finish would have been better. In this Chase format, every single position matters. I’m looking forward to New Hampshire and Dover the next two weekends in order to get ourselves in a position to advance to the next round.”

Carl Edwards – Finished 15th: “We just struggled all day and I stayed out and didn’t have tires clean enough. On the last restart, I thought I was going to race for a top five. It’s very frustrating, but we’ll go to Loudon and regroup.”

Tony Stewart – Finished 16th: “It wasn’t much fun, but I was proud of Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) and the guys on the Rush Truck Centers Chevy. We were probably a car that was going to be three or four laps down if we had to race yesterday. Today we got the lucky dog twice, but we were much better, we just weren’t good enough to be where we needed to be. We gained on it for sure. You gain on it and still aren’t going to be good enough to move to the next round if we don’t get better than this … Well, it was a good race for us in the spring, but I mean some of the guys that are behind us are guys that are really good too. We are going to have to be on our game these next two weeks.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 19th: “For the most part we had a pretty good Caterpillar Chevrolet, but we had multiple tire issues today. One, we were able to address during our first scheduled stop but then we had another issue around Lap 188. We were forced to come down pit road and unfortunately it put us two laps down. We took the wave around during the next caution and then battled the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) car for the free pass.  In the end, it never worked out in our favor for us to race back onto the lead lap. Before that last tire issue, we were racing just outside the top 10. We’ll keep digging with nine races to go.”

Paul Menard – Finished 21st: “It was a crazy start to the race for sure. We were coming down pit road when the first caution came out. There was some confusion there on whether to pit or to keep rolling. Then we got a speeding penalty. When we were trying to recover from that, NASCAR penalized us with a drive-thru for not getting to the tail end of the line fast enough before the restart. In the midst of it all, we were three laps down. After evaluating the situation, NASCAR gave us our lap back. We took the wave around under one caution and raced as hard as we could for the lucky dog position. We threw everything we had at it today. Overall, we had a decent Moen/Menards Chevrolet, but we were just fighting to recover all day. It was not what we wanted out of Chicagoland Speedway today. It was really disappointing.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 23rd: “That caution during green flag pit stops really didn’t help us. It trapped us down a lap and made it really tough to make up the track position. We just needed some help on our short-run with this AdvoCare Ford. But I want to thank these guys for all their hard work. We’ll shake this one off and get ready to go to Loudon next weekend.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 25th: “We just kept taking the wave around in hopes of a quick caution but never could catch a break. We struggled with the handling on our Fastenal Ford. We will go back and see what we need to do to get better on our intermediate program.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 28th: “It was a long day. We worked hard to try to get it better. I am proud of the guys for not giving up. We had a decent day on pit road and didn’t get into anything, we just couldn’t keep the track position out there. Not the finish we wanted but we will get a little better and go get Loudon.”

Follow @KellyCrandall

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.