What drivers said after Atlanta Cup race

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Here are the comments from drivers after Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

Brad Keselowski — Winner: “I wouldn’t say a lot of things fell our way.  I don’t know if I would call it that way.  But I would say we’ve had races where we’ve led a bunch of laps and things fall apart at the end.  That’s just part of how this sport works.  You take advantage of the opportunities when they come, and we certainly call it an opportunity, but I don’t know if I would call it a break.  I didn’t really think much about Kevin or his scenario because at that time I still had multiple cars I had to pass, and I was just worried about doing the best I could to make the most of our day.’’

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “I can make the high line work at most tracks.  Here at Atlanta, I don’t do a good enough job up top.  That’s why I try to commit myself to the bottom throughout the race.  There when I restarted the leader after our Christmas present we got there, and Brad lined up behind me, I knew he was going to be the one to beat. I’d spent a lot of time around him throughout the race, especially on the short runs he was better than I was, and he would always pass me in 1 and 2. I knew I was going to have to try and take his line away.  I tried a few times, and he finally kind of guessed where I was going right one lap and got to my inside.’’

Joey Logano — Finished 6th: “We had some loose wheel issues and once the first one got loose it messes up the threads and then that is the end of that. We just kept battling and had a pit road speeding penalty, a loose wheel again and another loose wheel. Man, we were two down and before you know it we were back on the lead lap and had a shot there at the end, 13th to 6th the last 10 laps or so. Man, as fast as that thing was at the end, I wish we were toward the front.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 3rd: “It was an uphill battle all day. For some reason, our speed was off on pit road and we got two penalties there that put us behind and just the cautions fell and everything and it took all day to get our laps and get back in position, so everything kind of went our way at the end, except for that outside restart hurt us, but we had a good car and glad we got a decent result.”

Kasey Kahne — Finished 4th: “It’s hard to do when you are one of the best teams and drivers and running up front all the time and you get back there, it’s tough to dig out of. For us, the last year or two it’s been really hard and today we did it, so that was really nice to see and nice to be part of and we will just keep building from there. It feels really good to dig out of where we started. It wasn’t good at the start.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 5th: “I really didn’t feel like Kevin’s (Harvick) car was any better than ours. I think he just did a little better job of driving and using the bottom of the race track and keeping his tires on his car and still going fast all at the same time. I think we made a big start in the right direction for me being able to keep up with him moving forward. At this place, he’s obviously really good. But the biggest thing is just seeing him have a struggle there at the end and us running second to him all day all the way up to the very end is pretty frustrating.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 7th: “It seemed like the stages really caught other teams off guard. We did a middle of the road approach. I liked it because we didn’t quite have the speed in the car to attack for those points but didn’t want to sacrifice tires and be caught at the end with fresh tires. We managed the stages, were just missing the handle.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 8th: “We needed longer runs. Once we got them, we were really good. Then we had a speeding penalty that got us back and at the same time the clutch went out and then we were just – kept losing spots on pit road because I’d have to shut out off to stop to pit and then we push started every time and we’d lose a bunch of spots, so really proud of the effort of my guys – everybody all weekend.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “I just made a mistake that I preach all the time that you don’t need to make and beat yourself and then you go out and make it yourself instead of following all the things you preach. That part is hard for me to swallow. The good part about it is our Ford has been really fast. We didn’t know what we were going to have when we got here and we had a great weekend the whole time. Man, I just, one way or another I have figured out how to lose races here at Atlanta after being so dominant. We will pick ‘em up and start again next week.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 10th: “The alternator went out really early in the race. We just kept having to change batteries, but we were fortunate there weren’t a lot of cars on the lead lap, so I only had to restart like 12th or 14th and our car was really good on restarts, so you could get a few. Both cars ran really good.  I look forward to Las Vegas and Fontana and all the 1.5-miles coming up.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 12th: “We had some good speed right off of the truck with our Liberty National Ford and were able to make good adjustments throughout the day today that kept us in the game. I can’t thank these guys enough on this team for their hard work. Today was a good step in the right direction and we’re ready to build off of this next week in Vegas.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 13th: “We weren’t really good for the first couple of laps of a run, but we could gain some of it back later in the run. I’m disappointed because I think we should have had a top-10 finish. It was a strong testament of our Fords with Trevor (Bayne) finishing 12th so I’m looking forward to Vegas.”

Erik Jones — Finished 14th: “I thought we had a seventh- to ninth-place car probably most of the day – ran around there, maybe a little bit farther back. Just last restart we came in, put tires on and just got super tight. Not sure why. Didn’t really know. Can’t really figure it out, so it’s going to be tough to figure out why, but it’s unfortunate. I wish we could have went up there and finished I feel like where we deserved, where our car was capable of. Just didn’t work out.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 15th: “We got in a little bit of a hole early and got ourselves a couple of laps down, but (crew chief Bootie Barker) made some good calls there at the end to do the wave around. Our car was strong, so a strong car kind of overcame some mistakes from us early.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 19th: “Tough day with two speeding penalties. We will have to look at our math and figure out what was going on there. The first one, I’m sure I could have gotten popped. The second one I made sure I didn’t get popped again and I still got in trouble. So, we might have had something off on our end. But, at the end I thought we were going to finish on the lead lap and there was some confusion on why the caution came out, who it came out for and if we were eligible for the ‘lucky dog’ scenario. The way it unfolded certainly didn’t work in our favor.”

Landon Cassill — Finished 22nd: “It was okay. I thought the car was alright, a little better than I thought based on Saturday. The caution at the end kind of killed us but I am pretty happy with the day overall.”

David Ragan — Finished 23rd: “I am really proud of the team. We made great adjustments to start the race. We weren’t expecting it to cool off and finish under the lights and I think I got a few adjustments behind. The first half of the race we were a top-20 car and just got off a little bit. That is a great race for our first downforce track back in the 34. We will learn some because the track changed a lot. I feel like our car was pretty good throughout the day but not as good as I needed it to be at the end.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 24th: “We fought a tight race car all race, and our steering was off a little bit throughout the run. Tire wear is so important here and luckily that wasn’t a huge factor for us, and crew chief, Trent Owens made a good call to keep us out during scheduled flag stops and we got the caution that gave us back a lap.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. – Finished 30th: “Well we got caught speeding on pit road as I guess a lot of people did. So, we got to look at that and see what we have wrong. I was on my lights perfectly, but seems like a lot of guys got popped in the same segment.  And then we had a flat right-rear tire and then we had a gun go bad and we had loose wheels all day long. And then when we tried to get the wave around the cautions didn’t quite fall in our favor to be able to try to find a way back to a respectable position. The car had good top-10 speed and we just had a lot of bad luck today and can’t really get too upset about that.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 32nd: “Got to go back to work.  I’m proud of my guys for the speed they put in this race car. We worked hard, really hard, this one just hurts there is nothing better to say about it, it just hurts.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 35th: “Just lost the charging system and therefore the battery went dead.  It took us out of it.  It was unfortunate.’’

Gray Gaulding — Finished 37th: “You’re going to have blown engines, blown tires and wreck and it’s all part of the deal, but I thought we had a solid run going. We had a couple bad breaks on pit road, but my fault. I sped on pit road one time, but I’m going to live and learn. I felt like I passed a lot of good cars. We beat some cars that – we were in front of some cars that usually should be in front of us.’’

Denny Hamlin — Finished 38th: “We had a decent car – top-10 car – and it’s up here hanging out around seventh or eighth all day. We kept gaining on them, which is a good thing, but just had a mechanical failure here.’’

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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.

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).