What drivers said after Charlotte

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Here is what driver’s had to say after the 57th annual Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson – Winner: “No, I didn’t wonder, I just knew it was taking way too long. When you drive for Rick Hendrick and have all the great people at Hendrick Motorsports working for you, the great support from Lowe’s and everyone in their stores and Chevrolet. There are just so many great people behind us and that support us to make this happen. We knew we would get back. Yes, it was slower than we wanted it to be but to be here today and have this victory is great. Thank you to Sprint, to the fans, to Gatorade, and to Valvoline. This is something very special to our team.”

Matt Kenseth – finished second: “They did a great job. Honestly, last two years in a row pretty much Charlotte has kind of taken us out of the Chase – mostly my doing, different things happening the last couple years here – so had a lot of problems last year, this year we had a lot of problems again, but we were able to kind of rebound from them and just kind of take our time. We knew it was a long day and they had good pit stops, good strategy and got us back where we needed to be there at the end.”

Kasey Kahne – finished third: “It was quite the battle to get there. We had our work cut out for us. We got to where we were a lot better the first 30 laps of a run the last three runs there.  That helped us get some track position and avoid a couple of those wrecks. That was tough on a couple of those teams. I know Chase (Elliott) was part of one. I didn’t see what happened, but that is tough for those guys that are battling for this championship. Congrats to Jimmie (Johnson) and the Hendrick Engines, No. 48 team, those guys did awesome. Our Great Clips Chevrolet was strong the first 30 laps and then it would fall off a little bit. It was still a strong day. We did pretty good. We fought hard; the team had great pit stops all day also.”

Ryan Newman – finished fourth: “We had a good race car no doubt. The Caterpillar Chevrolet was strong, especially at the end of the run on top all day long. Just came up a little bit short there. I know some other guys had some problems, but I want to thank the fans that came back today and hopefully enjoyed a great race. We will keep digging. This is building for us for the rest of the year and starting next year.”

Kyle Larson – finished fifth: “It was a good finish for our Target Chevy team. We had a right-front tire come a part there early in the race and was stuck a lap down for a long time, but we were able to get our lap back and finish fifth. I thought I was a little bit better than fifth out of the good guys that wrecked and cars that were left. I will take a fifth today it was a hard-fought fifth.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: “There early on we had a tire come apart and that just kind of ruined our day. Right from there, it just seemed like we were playing catch up and thought we were going to have a good opportunity to have a good finish and then we had the 3 (Austin Dillon) spin his tires and clog up the inside lane and just chaos started and I did the best I could to try to avoid it and I didn’t want to check up too bad and slow down too much and get run over, but I ran over the guy in front of me, so I hate it that we ruined Chase’s (Elliott) day like that, but, man, things happen quick like that on restarts too, so I wish it – we had a little bit better breaks, but we certainly didn’t have a whole lot go wrong like some of them other guys.”

Brad Keselowski – finished seventh: “It’s a solid day. To run seventh is OK. We just weren’t quite anywhere near as fast as the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 24 (Chase Elliot), and we were behind a bunch of the others, so we just need to find a little bit of speed, but the execution was great. On the last pit stop my guys got the Wurth Ford out with the leaders, which was really good. We’re executing well. We just need to find a little bit more speed to be able to make that execution and speed and win races.”

Kurt Busch – finished eighth: “We went through a lot today. The restart, I guess we survived it better than most when everybody had that trouble. We just missed on the setup on the first five laps and then after 30 laps, man, she would just go away. We got what we could out of it and all-in-all an eighth-place finish, guys had trouble, it is one of those days where you just go ‘alright’ we will take it. It’s not the best, but with Haas Automation, Monster Energy, that is the finish we need to advance through this Chase.”

Tony Stewart – finished ninth: “Real proud of my guys today. We battled hard. The pit stops were great. I didn’t think I’d have a top-10 at the end of the day.”

Jamie McMurray – finished 10th: “I got lucky to get through the wreck. I thought we were torn up a little more than what it shows there. I don’t know we were really good the first 200 laps and then for some reason the last 100 we just couldn’t go on restarts, didn’t hang on very well.  We just didn’t have the speed we did earlier in the day, but still pretty solid day for both (Chip Ganassi Racing) cars.”

Danica Patrick – finished 11th: “The No. 10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet was loose for most of the race. Billy (Scott, crew chief) and the guys did a great job on adjustments to get us in solid position for the second half. We had a mistake on pit road late in the race and lost some ground when I overshot the pit stall, but the guys quickly recovered and we ended up only losing a couple of spots. The car got a little tight, but they took some wedge back out, and it was pretty good there at the end. I was really hoping we’d end up getting a top 10, but (Jamie) McMurray got us on the last lap, so we ended up 11th. Still, I think that’s our best run so far this year, so we’ll take it and try to keep building over the last few races to put ourselves in a better position for next season.”

Carl Edwards – finished 12th: “We had all sorts of trouble today. We had something wrong with the exhaust and then thought we had a tire coming apart and an engine coming apart – it ran for about 400 miles I guess so hat’s off to TRD, they did a good job keeping that together. I all but wrecked and somehow came out of that and then we had a lug nut hang up in the gun so we had all sorts of adversity to come out of here with a cushion on ninth so this is good.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 13th: “The clutch went out. I had the clutch on the floor sitting there in first gear when they dropped the right side and the clutch just pumped up and pushed my foot all the way up so the clutch just went completely out and I had no clutch at the end. I had to start it in gear and luckily we were able to get it started. Not sure what happened, just one of those freak deals. Just happened at the wrong time.”

Chris Buescher – finished 16th: “Overall, it was a tough day to move forward. There were a lot of wrecked race cars, which I was kind of surprised about. The track still had decent grip. It was nice and cool out, but it just led to a wild race. I guess everybody was figuring they’ve got a little cushion. They’ve got two more races before they really have to worry about the cutoff, so this was one of those days that we kind of expected three weeks ago.”

Landon Cassill – finished 19th: “We had a pretty good car up until we got some damage on that big wreck and that kind of killed my speed. We were fortunate we could at least maintain position on fuel mileage. It all worked out. The fuel-saving got us back to where we were running before the damage on that restart. These races at Charlotte seem to be pretty unpredictable, which is why they’re so much fun.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 20th: “We struggled with the handling. Under the right circumstances we could have probably finished on the lead lap but I got a speeding penalty on pit road under the green flag pit cycle. It was a crazy race. It was good points day for us though. We’ve got six more races to learn from and carry that momentum into the off-season.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 30th: “Just an engine failure there. We hadn’t had one in a long time with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Toyota. It’s just my time and it’s usually Chase time when I have these things happen. Tough break obviously. Had a good car and we’ll have to go to Kansas and get a good run there and do everything we can to advance.”

Austin Dillon – finished 32nd: “I am fine, it just sucks. We will have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back.  I felt like I got to third gear pretty clean and then the next thing – I feel contact and I am spinning through the grass. It’s part of it and we took two tires there and you know the risk when you get into it. You just hope that doesn’t happen obviously. I got to third without spinning the tires, and I felt like we got contacted. We will just go on to next week.”

Chase Elliott – finished 33rd: “I think the No. 3 (Dillon) they stayed out on tires and tried to get some track position. The No. 78 (Truex) ended up getting him out of shape and then after that I tried to check up. I don’t think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) saw it, got into us and got us turned the wrong way. It happens we just got to go and try to have more runs like that next week.”

Paul Menard – finished 34th: “I have no idea. We got behind early and just got back on the lead lap, making some gains with the No. 27 Valvoline/Menards Chevy. Excited to be back on the lead lap and then that next restart everybody just kind of checked up and I got pushed out to the outside wall and couldn’t see anything, I just ran into Chase (Elliott). I’m not sure what started it all. I guess some guys took two tires, probably spinning tires and bumping and shoving each other.”

Greg Biffle – finished 35th: “Everybody got checked up there and sideways. My spotter did a great job and kept me out of it. I kind of thought everything was clear and I let off the brake and the 27 was spinning when all of a sudden somebody bounced off the wall right out in front of me. I didn’t see where they came from or what they did. We weren’t going very fast, but just enough to do a bunch of cosmetic damage and knock the oil cooler and radiator out. I don’t think we’re going to get that fixed and get the duct work back in it. The nose separated from the splitter, so it’s unfeasible to fix it in that amount of time.”

Joey Logano – finished 36th: “We’re not out by any means. We had a very fast car. I’m super-proud of the car we brought here. It was capable of winning, for sure. We ran up from 10th to third and was still running down the leaders early in the race, so I felt really good about the Pennzoil Ford we had. Things happen. It’s part of racing, but we’re not out. We’re not gonna die. This team is resilient. We’ve proved it before and we’ll just have to go out and prove it again. We just have to have two flawless races. It’s something we can make up.”

AJ Allmendinger – finished 37th: “I’m alright that was definitely a hard hit when you start from the bottom and get to the top not the way you ever want to hit. I’m not sure what happened. First off I can’t thank all my guys enough. Harris Teeter on the race car, Stouffer’s, everybody that is a part of this, built a brand-new race car it’s our first one since really the beginning of the year. It had a lot of speed in it. There is something weird that started to happen kind of I would say the first third of the race to where I didn’t like what was happening with the front end of the car. I couldn’t tell if it was just rubber build up or anything like that, but we kept having tire problems with 15 laps to go in the run. Had one start to delaminate and the same thing right there, I started feeling something go again and I don’t know if the tire went or something broke, but something was definitely starting to get messed up in front of cars when was costing us speed. We had a lot of speed early in the race, probably the most speed we have had all year at a 1.5-mile early in the race. There is something to be positive about just not the way we want to end it.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 38th: “No, it just suddenly shut off and the things that it points to are no oil pressure. It’s definitely not a power issue with the battery or anything like that. They are trying to diagnosis it. I hate it for everybody on our Busch team they made some great adjustments today and got our car back where we needed to be to run up front and everything was going fine. Lots of things can go wrong and today they did.”

Alex Bowman – finished 39th: “Blew a tire I guess. It’s really unfortunate. I hate it for these Axalta guys. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports worked so hard. They brought a great race car here, brand new and destroyed it. Really unfortunate, but it’s not anybody’s fault. We didn’t hit anything we just must have run over something.”

Casey Mears – finished 40th: “I don’t know. I just was going into the corner and I saw him come up all of a sudden. I don’t know. It’s too bad he didn’t put us out of our misery there. We were having a rough start of it. We were just kind of hanging on and actually those guys were going by us. They either blew a right-front (tire) or had something come loose or something and came up into us.”

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “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 sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.

Talladega jumbles Cup playoff grid heading to elimination race

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In an unpredictable season and topsy-turvy playoffs, it only made sense that Talladega would deliver a wildcard result.

A playoff driver won a playoff race for the first time this season. How about that?

Chase Elliott’s victory moves him to the next round, the only driver guaranteed to advance heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are tied for the last transfer spot, but Briscoe owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. At least for now.

Hendrick Motorsports will have its appeal this week on the 25-point penalty to William Byron from the Texas race. Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega, but if the team wins the appeal and he gets all 25 points back, Byron would be back in a transfer spot and drop Briscoe below the cutline.

 

XFINITY SERIES

AJ Allmendinger became the second driver to advance to the next round, winning at Talladega.

Ryan Sieg finished fourth and holds the final transfer spot heading into the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Reigning series champion Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sieg. Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones are each 10 points behind Sieg. Jeremy Clements is 47 points behind.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Matt DiBenedetto’s first career Camping World Truck Series victory didn’t impact the playoff standings after Talladega since DiBenedetto is not a playoff driver.

Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot. He leads Christian Eckes and Stewart Friesen by three points each. John Hunter Nemechek is five points behind Rhodes, while Grant Enfinger is 29 points behind Rhodes. Ty Majeski is the only driver guaranteed a spot in next month’s championship race.

The Truck Series is off this weekend. The next Truck race is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Winners and losers at Talladega Superspeedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

WINNERS

Chase Elliott — After a rough race at Texas, Elliott returned to the role of championship favorite Sunday with a victory. He takes the point lead to Charlotte and, with Sunday’s win, is locked into the Round of 8.

MORE: Talladega Cup results

MORE: Talladega Cup driver points

Ryan Blaney — Despite another tough race day and a second-place finish in a race he could have won, Blaney remains in good shape in the playoffs, even without a points win. He is second in points to Elliott, only two behind.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin took some time off from leading the charge for changes in the Next Gen car to run an excellent race. He led 20 laps, finished fifth and is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five playoff races. He gained a spot in points to fourth.

LOSERS

Christopher Bell — Bell zipped onto pit road with too much speed during a round of pit stops and slid to a stop, earning a speeding penalty. He is 11th in points.

Kyle Larson — Larson led eight laps Sunday but was not a part of the drafting mix at the front at the finish. He was 18th and fell three spots in points to sixth.

Joey Logano — Logano held the point lead entering Sunday’s race. At day’s end, he had a 27th-place finish and had fallen four spots to fifth.