What drivers said after Sprint Cup’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix

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Joey Logano won the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, clinching a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here is what most of the 40 drivers had to say about their day in the 324-lap race.

Joey Logano – Winner: “This feels so good. I’ve never felt this good about a win before. There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it. Man, this feels so good. I had a good restart there at the end and holding off Kyle (Busch) to try to get this thing into Miami. We’re racing for a championship now. We did exactly what we had to do. We’ve got to go to Homestead and do the same thing. I couldn’t be more proud of this team. Roush Yates Engines bringing the heat again … I’m speechless right now. I feel like I just won the Daytona 500 again.”

Kyle Busch – Finished second: “It’s really unfortunate and devastating to have the race come down like that. I got a little bit better restart than (Alex Bowman) did and I felt like I had a run on him and had enough that I got to the inside and if he chopped me he was going to get wrecked and that’s what happened, but it carried on into (Matt Kenseth) and essentially I guess I wrecked a teammate.

“It’s so frustrating and aggravating and I feel horrible about it. It’s a shame to see it come down like that. I was really hoping I could get a good restart and force (Bowman) off the bottom and have him kind of block (Joey Logano) and I could have a position in between me and (Logano) and myself and both (Kenseth) and myself would transfer on into the final round. That’s how I was projecting the restart going, it certainly didn’t end that way. I felt really bad for (Kenseth) and all those guys. That was a really ugly race for us.”

Kyle Larson – Finished third: “I made a big mistake on the first lap and got loose into Turn 3 and got up into (Joey Logano). It obviously didn’t affect his race. Then we were coming in for a green-flag stop and all kind of had our hands full getting to the commitment line. I think (Ryan Newman) must have wheel-hopped behind me and had a lot of speed. He tagged me in the rear bumper and spun me around. So we went a lap down but we got the Lucky Dog pass-around later and fought hard the rest of the way.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fourth: “We just started way too far off on Friday. We never got a handle on the racecar. They made it a ton better in the race and we were in contention there at the end and just came up short. Just really proud of everybody for the effort that they put in. It was a very challenging Chase for us for all the mechanical failures and situations that we had going on. We kept rebounding and winning races and today we were a lap down and came back to have a chance at the end. That says a lot about the character of our race team and we just came up short this year.”

Kurt Busch – Finished fifth: “We got up to the front as high as third and sniffed the front to try to win because we had to win to advance. We didn’t get the job done. The long run speed is where our Achilles Heel was these last few Chase races. It’s a little disappointing, maybe we can pinpoint that as our exact problem and figure out how to fix that, but really proud of (crew chief) Tony Gibson and everybody that worked on these cars all year-long from Stewart-Haas Racing. Thanks to Haas Automation, Monster Energy, Chevrolet, we finished fifth today, we battled hard we just didn’t have enough. You’ve got to have it all if you want to be in that championship four.”

Alex Bowman – Finished sixth: “We had a great car. We took four there and restarted on the bottom twice. Our car didn’t really take off on restarts all day long very well, so had to make our way back up through there, and we got to second at the end and had that caution come out, and didn’t get a terrible restart, and (Kyle Busch) turned me sideways getting into the corner … I almost feel like (Matt Kenseth) thought he was clear because I was against the ‑‑ I wasn’t at the best angle but I was also against the inside wall when we made contact. I guess he said something on the radio that he thought he was clear. I hate it for Matt. You take somebody out like that. I would have raced the hell out of him for the win, but definitely don’t want to do that.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished seventh: “We took two tires and I knocked my right front trying to avoid the 20 (Matt Kenseth) and really hurt the good rubber that I did have on my tires. That hampered us a little bit and we climbed back. We just needed those guys to tussle up front a little bit more, but proud of my whole FedEx team this whole year. Our Camrys have been fast and giving us a chance to win each and every week and we’ll go to Homestead and try to win that one and get our fourth win of the year.”

Paul Menard – Finished 10th: “I’m proud of my team and the never-give-up attitude they showed today. This was the first uneventful race we’ve had in awhile. We made a lot of adjustments and tried a few different things on our Rust-Oleum RockSolid Chevy throughout Friday and Saturday. I think those changes translated well to today’s race. We only had to make a few adjustments to get the handling where it needed to be. It was a good day.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 12th: “This day is on me. We had a much better Cat Minestar Chevrolet compared to where we finished. That first deal, I did not anticipate the amount of rear brake we had and I spun entering pit road. I hit the commitment cone and it cost us a lap. It seemed like every time we were in a position to get our lap back, we’d come up short. Then I spun with Martin Truex Jr. and it just compounded everything. Fortunately, we raced back on the lead lap and up to ninth but the final restart did not go our way and we ended up 12th. I told (crew chief) Luke (Lambert) and the Caterpillar team that they did a great job improving our car from yesterday. I’m just sorry we did not get the result based on the quality of car we had.”

Carl Edwards – Finished 19th: “Our race day wasn’t that great. Yeah, we just struggled for a little bit of speed all weekend, and then we got some track position. I thought we were going to be good. I thought we were going to come out of here with a top five, and at the end we were on old tires and I think somebody might have bumped me. I didn’t feel the impact but I almost wrecked into (Turn) 3 and I thought I had a flat tire so I went too easy into the next corner and they all drove by me. I think we could have squeaked out a top five, but definitely not a great day, but definitely excited to go down to Homestead and race for that championship.

Matt Kenseth – Finished 21st: “(Alex Bowman) was laying way, way back for that restart, more than a car would so I got going early on purpose and I looked at him at the start-finish line and I thought we were doing okay and I looked back and it looked like he had a little run on me, maybe not and shortly thereafter (spotter) Chris (Osborne) cleared me so with the glare I started looking to the corner to approach the corner and I got turned out of the way. He hollered ‘inside’ at the same time I got turned towards the fence so I really don’t know what happened. I was just going off the information I had to try to get the best corner I could and lead more laps.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 23rd: “We really struggled all weekend. We made our car better throughout the race but after we lost two laps from pit strategy, the cards never fell our way to let us get back on the lead lap. I’m looking forward to going to Homestead and ending the season on a high note.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 38th: “The thing there was just kind of a minor wreck in front of us and got into the back of (Greg Biffle) and it knocked the fitting off the oil cooler and we started leaking some oil. I think before that was the penalty I received for pulling up to pit, which was mind-blowing. In the 15 years I’ve been here that has never been officiated that way. The leader has always had the ability to pull up and maintain whatever gap they had to the cars behind them. They have never penalized the leader and make the leader stay alongside the pace car. On the majority of the tracks we compete at you just naturally progress in front of the pace car. So now to all of a sudden officiate this is mind-blowing to me. As long as they continue to do it from here on forward I will bite my lip and won’t say another word, but it just seems a little odd to be quite honest with you.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 39th: “This is a difficult one to stomach. We had another fast American Ethanol Chevrolet today but, unfortunately, we had a part failure that shut the engine off. Everything seemed fine but when we restarted the race following a caution flag, the car just locked up and shut off. We ended up in the garage making several changes and were able to fix the problem and return to the race. It’s a bummer to run in the top five and then finish 23 laps down. We only have one race left this season. I’m looking forward to Homestead-Miami Speedway and having the chance to finish the year off strong.”

Clint Bowyer, William Byron look to extend streak of first-time winners in playoffs

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In the 15-year-history of the NASCAR playoff era, only 16 times has a Cup Series playoff driver earned their first win of the season in the playoffs itself.

Two of those occurrences have happened in the last two weeks.

Kyle Larson got the streak going with his dominating win in the Round of 12 opener at Dover International Speedway. That snapped a 75-race winless streak for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

It continued Monday when Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney barely beat Ryan Newman to win at Talladega Superspeedway. It snapped a 37-race winless streak for Blaney.

Can the first-time winner steak continue?

If it does, it will take place Sunday at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). But of the 16 instances a playoff driver earned their first win in the playoffs, it’s only happened once on the 1.5-mile track.

Jack Roush and Mark Martin celebrate winning the Banquet 400 on Oct. 9, 2005 at the Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

Mark Martin was the winner on Oct. 9, 2005, a day that saw Roush Fenway Racing put four of its five cars in the top five.

It was Martin’s first win in 52 races. It was just the second time a playoff driver’s first win in a season came in the playoffs. The first was three races earlier at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Ryan Newman).

Ahead of Sunday’s race there are only two Cup Series playoff drivers left who could potentially extend the streak: William Byron and Clint Bowyer.

Aside from securing them spots in the Round of 8, wins by either would be notable in their own right.

A victory by Bowyer would be his first on his home track in 23 attempts in the Cup Series. Like Martin, a victory would end a 52-race winless streak.

Bowyer’s best finish at Kansas was a runner-up finish in his second start in 2007. Since then he has just two top fives at Kansas, including a fifth-place finish in this year’s spring race.

Bowyer enters this race 11th in the standings, 24 points back from the cutoff line.

“We know what we have to do this weekend,” Bowyer said in press release. said. “We need to get stage points, a great finish and maybe even a win. We finished fifth here in May, we just have to do a few spots better this weekend.”

A win by Byron would be significant because he’s yet to win a Cup Series race in 67 starts.

In his previous three Kansas starts Byron’s only managed to finish once. The Hendrick Motorsports driver placed 20th in the spring after starting third. He won in his lone Truck Series start there in 2016 and had a top five in his only Xfinity Series start at the track in 2017.

After he was eliminated in a wreck at Talladega, Byron enters Sunday last on the playoff grid, 27 points behind the cutoff and essentially in a must-win scenario.

“I think it will be interesting to see how things play out with how our mile-and-half packages have evolved just throughout the year,” Byron said in a press release. “Whether it continues that trend this weekend or whether it reverts back to how it was in the spring at Kansas. I’m just interested to see how that is since the cars have come a long way since that race. I’m also interested to see with it being an elimination race, I think it will open things up for different strategies. It’s a bit of an unknown at this point.”

NASCAR completes merger with International Speedway Corp.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images
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NASCAR announced Friday morning it had closed on its merger with International Speedway Corp.

Jim France will serve as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. Lesa France Kennedy will be the executive vice chair. Steve Phelps has been appointed president and will oversee all operations of the company.

“The merger of NASCAR and ISC represents a historic moment for our sport,” France said in a statement. “There is much work ahead of us, but we’re pleased with the progress made to position our sport for success. Delivering for our race fans and partners is job number one and we look forward to doing that better than ever for years to come.”

As part of the new organization, the Board of Directors will consist of France, France Kennedy, Mike Helton and Gary Crotty, chief legal officerPhelps’ direct reports will include Ed Bennett, executive vice president & chief administrative officer; Jill Gregory, executive vice president & chief marketing and content officer; Craig Neeb, executive vice president & chief innovation officer; Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president & chief racing development officer; and Daryl Wolfe, executive vice president & chief operations and sales officer.

Helton and John Saunders will serve as senior advisors under the new leadership structure.

“With great racing across all of our series, an exciting 2020 schedule on tap, and the Next Gen race car in development, we are better positioned than ever before to lead the sport into a new era of growth,” said Phelps in a statement. “We have a strong, experienced leadership team in place with incredibly dedicated employees at every level throughout our organization. Our best days are ahead of us and our new organization is going to allow us to better deliver great racing to our fans everywhere.”

NASCAR’s Friday schedule at Kansas Speedway

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The NASCAR playoff race weekend at Kansas Speedway begins today.

Cup and Xfinity Series teams will each hold two practice sessions.

The wunderground.com forecast predicts a high of 74 degrees, partly sunny skies and a 10% chance of rain.

Here’s the day’s schedule.

(All times are Eastern)

Noon – 11 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

3:05 – 3:55 p.m.  – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:05 – 4:55 – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

5:05 – 5:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

7:05-7:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

Friday 5: Is this Kyle Busch’s time?

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Will this become the fall of Kyle Busch?

Not fall as in stumble but fall as in season — when he takes control of the Cup playoffs.

Busch, the regular-season champion, has been many things this postseason — moody, controversial and mistake-prone — but he’s not been a dominant figure on the track.

His average finish in the first half of these playoffs is 16.6 — marking the fourth time since 2015 he’s had an average finish of 14th or worse halfway through the postseason.

Busch, though, made it to the championship race each of those four years, winning the title in 2015.

But with Busch, there’s always something more.

Instead of a streak of Championship 4 appearances, it is his winless streak that draws more attention. Busch has failed to win in the past 17 races, his longest drought since going 36 races between Cup victories in 2016-17.

Since Busch last won at Pocono in early June — before Justin Haley’s improbable win at Daytona, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing and then signing with JTG Daugherty Racing and Bubba Wallace and Busch beating and banging at Watkins Glen — he’s seen Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones all win.

Miscues have hindered Busch’s playoffs. He hit the wall on Lap 3 of the opener at Las Vegas. Busch rallied from two laps down to be back on the lead lap before running into the rear of Garrett Smithley’s car. After the race, Busch called out Smithley and Joey Gase, questioning their credentials to be in the Cup Series.

Busch’s Dover run was hurt by a speeding penalty. He had a flat tire after contact with Kyle Larson on a restart at the Charlotte Roval and had to pit. A suspension issue later led to his day ending. Several laps down and with nothing to gain, Busch drove the car back to the garage during a red flag. His Talladega race was impacted by an accident, just like about every other driver. The only playoff driver not involved in an incident in the race was winner Ryan Blaney.

But things could be changing for Busch.

For all his struggles, he’s finished second three times during his winless drought and had six top-five results. Only Hamlin (10 top fives), Truex (eight) and Kevin Harvick (seven) have had more top fives than Busch in this stretch.

Provided Busch advances — he is 41 points ahead of Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a transfer spot — he’ll likely be the points leader heading into the Round of 8 after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Round of 8 begins at Martinsville Speedway. Busch finished third there in the spring. He’s not placed worse than eighth in any of the five short-track races this season. He led 66 laps before finishing 10th at Texas and won at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, leading 177 of 312 laps.

Get Busch to Miami (again), and he could leave as a two-time champion.

2. Tough challenge for hopefuls 

The most likely way Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer or William Byron — the four drivers outside a playoff race — will advance to the next round will be to win Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Bowman trails Joey Logano, who holds the final transfer spot by 18 points. Elliott trails Logano by 22 points. Bowyer trails Logano by 24 points, and Byron trails Logano by 27 points.

The only time Byron and Bowyer outscored Logano in a race by as many points as they trail was at Dover in the playoffs when Logano spent the first 24 laps in the garage.

Bowman has outscored Logano by 18 points in three races this year: Dover playoff race, Talladega in April (Bowman was second) and Kansas in May (Bowman was second)

Elliott has had better results. He has outscored Logano by 22 or more points in a race five times this year: Martinsville in March (Elliott outscored Logano by 28 points), Talladega in April (22 points), Kansas in May (29 points), Watkins Glen (46 points) in August and the Bristol night race (25 points) in August. Elliott won at Talladega and Watkins Glen. He was second at Martinsville, fourth at Kansas and fifth at Bristol.

That’s the challenge those four drivers face this weekend trying to knock Logano out of the final playoff spot.

3. Looking to help 

Brad Keselowski expressed his concern about team members who will be or could be losing their jobs in the near future as the sport goes through change.

He recently sent this tweet:

So what can Keselowski do?

“I haven’t gotten an answer to it yet, but I’m looking at it, trying to think about what ideas there might be” Keselowski said. “I haven’t come up with a solution yet. I just wanted those people to know that are affected by it that I cared about it. I can’t employ the couple of hundred people that are probably going to get laid off in the next few weeks, but I’m sure I can do something for someone.”

4. Youth movement?

The last three races have been won by three of the five youngest drivers in the playoffs: Chase Elliott (Charlotte Roval), Kyle Larson (Dover) and Ryan Blaney (Talladega).

Elliott is 23, Larson is 27 and Blaney is 25. The playoffs also include William Byron (21 years old) and Alex Bowman (26). Erik Jones (23) was eliminated in the first round.

5. Drought busters

Five drivers have ended winless streaks of 30 or more races this season: Kyle Larson (75 races) Denny Hamlin (45), Erik Jones (42), Ryan Blaney (37) and Kurt Busch (30).

Among drivers with long winless droughts: Paul Menard (299 races), David Ragan (237), Chris Buescher (118), Ryan Newman (99), Jimmie Johnson (90), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (86), Austin Dillon (66), Clint Bowyer (52), Aric Almirola (36),

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