What drivers said after Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

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Here’s what most of the 21 drivers in the first of two Can-Am Duel races had to say after Thursday night’s race:

Chase Elliott (winner): “Just a great way to start the season. I know it’s just a Duel win. We wished it counted towards the playoffs. We would rather it be on Sunday, but at the same time it means a lot to me and means a lot to our team. … We didn’t say one word about points before the race. We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around. I think sometimes you ride around and you don’t know what your car is like and if it’s going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble riding around. We took chances and it worked out, so I’m excited for Sunday.”

MORE: Chase Elliott wins first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

MORE: Results from Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

Jamie McMurray (finished 2nd): “I went home (after the Clash race) and watched a lot of video on Monday, of some of the cars I thought were really good, to see how they were getting runs and how they were doing restarts. And, this car just had a little more speed in it and was able to suck-up a lot better than our other car. The balance was a little bit better. … I got hung out a couple of times and I was able to maintain and come back in at around fifth. So, it’s a really good car. I’m proud of our guys and glad that it’s still in one piece.”

Kevin Harvick (3rd): “We got there, but we just didn’t clear the 24. … We’ve got a couple things we need to work on before the 500, but, all in all, I’m pretty happy with no practice and still building our notebook on all these Fords.  We’ve still got plenty of speed, so that’s a good thing. … We got some points and that’s a good thing. … We didn’t get to victory lane like we wanted to, but still okay.”

Brad Keselowski (4th): “We had a good night. We knew the 24 car (race winner Chase Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn’t shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, that’s part of it. I could have taken a few more risks. We’re going to work on some things that make that possible.”

Matt Kenseth (5th): “It was pretty good. We got in a lot of different situations out there. I felt like we had pretty decent speed. Wish we would’ve finished better but it was a productive race and didn’t get wrecked and got in a lot of different spots and kind of got a pretty good feel for what we’ve got.”

Trevor Bayne (6th): “My car felt really good tonight. It pushed like crazy and it runs the bottom better than any car I’ve ever really had here. It’s funny seeing all the Fords now. There are more out there with the 4 (Harvick) and the Stewart-Haas guys, but they seemed strong tonight. The RPM car, our Roush Fenway cars, Penske cars, Stewart-Haas cars — all the Fords are just fast, so it was fun sticking together and pushing up through there with the 4 and Joey (Logano) pushing me there at the end. I thought if we could have gotten the bottom lane rolling there at the end we had a shot at a top-three finish or so, but it was a good day and we raced hard, so it was a lot of fun.”

Martin Truex Jr. (7th): “Without a doubt it was more aggressive than I expected. I thought it was just as aggressive as the Clash on Sunday. That’s really saying something when you’re talking about a non-points race and everybody going for the win compared to a qualifying race, so Sunday is going to be a wild one for sure with the sun is out. Guys had their hands full tonight. I can’t imagine what Sunday is going to be like. It should be a lot of fun. We’re going to have to work on handling a little bit tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get a bunch of cars out there to do that with.”

Aric Almirola (8th): “It was a good run for us. I think that our Smithfield Ford Fusion had good speed in it. We mixed it up there a bit. I thought we had better car, I just couldn’t make the moves when I wanted to. We’ll find some more speed in our car. All in all it was a decent race for us. I think we have good momentum heading into the Daytona 500. We have good speed in our car. Our car drove well. We’ll just tune on it and find some more speed.”

Joey Logano (9th): “I was just talking with Todd (Gordon) and trying to figure out where our mistakes were tonight. I made a few on the race track. I was up there toward the front and made a move and lost everything I had gained. That one sucked on my part. We also had a loose wheel and need to understand why we had that. We had a couple of mistakes we need to clean up. Besides that, we learned some stuff tonight.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th): “I was really hoping that outside line would have got going. The front couple of cars just kept getting held back some. We were just in line and I was hoping with Kevin (Harvick) leading, it seemed like he had a strong car qualifying and stuff, but it just wasn’t as strong as the 24. I thought the 2 was a little bit better leading than the 4 was, but we were just riding in line behind the 43 (Aric Almirola). I thought the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) was just gonna keep trying to get that line to go and they got checked up and he jumped to the outside, and then we were stuck in the middle.  I just kept trying to push the 43, but we weren’t going anywhere.”

Landon Cassill (15th): “Not much changed other than the fact we got in the back and couldn’t back up to the front. I tried to get behind the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) there at the end, but it was blocked up front and we couldn’t go anywhere. It was kind of like gridlock, but I feel like my car is fast and faster than what we had last year, for sure. I’d like to get it handling a little bit better. I wanted to get up front and it did. I felt like it wasn’t handling quite as good at the end of the race as it did at the beginning for sure, but the holes just opening up for me and I was able to get up there.  I just wanted to try and hold that track position if I could.”

Chris Buescher (16th): “I am glad it was clean. That was my biggest worry was coming into this one and tearing up our Daytona 500 car. I’m glad to get out of here without a scratch on it. We can take the Cottonelle Mega Roll Chevrolet to the next one, which is the big one, the one that means something. Unfortunately, didn’t get any bonus points out of it, but was pretty happy with what we got.”

Corey LaJoie (18th): “Every kid in a race car dreams of racing in a Daytona 500 and I get to do that on Sunday. I really do feel bad about Reed (Sorenson). I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him. … Man, you come here idolizing Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., all of these guys. I’m fans of all of these guys and I get to race all of them on Sunday. It’s amazing. The big man has got a plan. I’m excited to get up there and dice it up.”

Paul Menard (20th): “We had a good run and I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) kind of came up to shoot the middle and I was kind of side drafting and we just came together. I’m not really sure what happened. Good run with the Peak/Menards Chevy, it was tight, but fast all day long. We could get some momentum, just couldn’t do much once we got towards the front.  I’m proud of my guys. Shook some rust off from the off-season.  We will be ready for the (Daytona) 500.”

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Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

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.