What drivers said after Chase opening race at Chicagoland

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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.”

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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).