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What drivers said after the NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix

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Here’s what most of the field had to say following the NASCAR Cup Series’ Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway, which was won by Ryan Newman.

RYAN NEWMAN – Winner: “I’ve lost count; that’s how long it’s been (since I’ve won). I’ve got to thank Grainger, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, Monster Energy for supporting our series, and Chevrolet. The list goes on and on.  What a gutsy call by (crew chief) Luke (Lambert). I called for two tires and he called for none. I’ve won more races (with) no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “Like I’ve been saying all of this early year, we’ve never had that speed.  It’s a lot of fun right now.  I’m sure, you know, if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it’s probably going to grow old.  But, yeah, it’s so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week.  I feel like I’ve got a shot to win every week at a racetrack like here and Vegas where I don’t normally run good, and challenge for wins.”

Kyle Busch – Finished third: “We had a good car and that’s what it takes. When you have a good car you can run up front like that and we kind of missed it a little bit at Atlanta and we rebounded and tried to rebound a little bit at Vegas and had a shot for a top five there, but we weren’t able to capitalize on that, but we were today thankfully. It seems like every finish that’s destined for us it seems to end in a worse finish that day.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished fourth: Brian Pattie made a lot of adjustments overnight.  We weren’t that great during practice as far as speed goes.  But I felt our car had good long run speed.  It proved that today.  I was glad we were able to get some long runs there.  Actually, it wasn’t as bad on restarts as I thought we were going to be. There at the end, I thought Brian wanted us to stay out when the caution came out. I kind of second‑guessed him. Then when I told him everybody was coming down pit road, I already kind of committed to stay out and went with his gut instinct, and it paid off.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fifth: “We ran kind of right in that second to fifth range the whole day. We clawed away. I thought we might have had a shot at getting the win but the 18 car was just a touch better. We were all real close there. Whoever got the track position was going to run away. The clean air was so important which was a bit frustrating. There was a lot of parity today and of course the crazy finish there at the end with the yellow coming out when it did and all the different strategies.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished sixth: “We just didn’t ever get it exactly how we wanted all weekend. Luckily it is a good race track for us and we were able to battle and use all the tricks of the trade we know to get ourselves up in contention. We definitely need to do some work on this style race track with our Jimmy John’s Ford but it was a heck of a battle all day.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished seventh: “It’s a big deal because in the last two races we have struggled. We didn’t have the speed and the communication wasn’t great, but we’ve been working very hard trying to work on chemistry, communication and for sure we’ve been getting better. Yesterday in the last practice, in the happy hour, I felt very good about the car. I feel like we were going to have a shot to have some fun in the race and I wasn’t wrong. The team did a very good job.”

Erik Jones – Finished eighth: “It’s a good day. Your expectations kind of change as the day goes on. When you feel like you have a fifth-place car, you want to run fifth, but it just didn’t work out at the end. We had a lot of guys take two (tires). A lot more than I thought would. A lot more obviously than (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) thought would. We had a great restart and were able to get back up to eighth. Not too much gain, not too much loss. A solid day for us. Definitely the best day overall for the 5-Hour Energy Camry.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished ninth: “There was just a lot of chaos on the last start. No tires won, so certainly a good call on their behalf.  Our own struggles we really lacked short-run speed today, but we had great long-run speed.  The last restart I knew it wasn’t going to be favorable for us and it just didn’t turn out. But a decent performance, probably a top-five car or top-three car on the long run, just lacked too much on the short run.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 11th: “We restarted third at the end, knowing that some of the guys with fresh tires would most likely pass us, but we held off a lot of them too. Had we pitted then we would again have lost a bunch of spots on pit road due to the clutch problem. We had an easy top-10 car and possibly a top five or better Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, but the issues we faced made it a rough day.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th – “Even the really good cars had a really hard time getting to somebody, so track position was big as it always is, every week, everywhere we go and that will continue to be the case throughout the year.  So, if you don’t have it at the end of the race it is going to be an uphill battle I feel like throughout this season.  That is going to be a big trend.  Proud of our group.  We have fired off strong.  We didn’t finish strong today, but I’m happy about how we started the season and the runs we’ve had.  Nice to win a stage and get a point towards the champion this year, which is big.  Those stage wins are going to be really important come time the playoffs start.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 13th: “It was that kind of weekend for us really. Just a little off all weekend long. We got it better Saturday and I really thought we were going to be alright there but we actually ended up racing the way we struggled all day Friday. We came full circle.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 14th: “We fought the balance of the car quite a bit, but we lost quite a bit of brakes there. We were on the floor on the brake pedal and had to really… just couldn’t run hard, just had to wait. I was having the same problem the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was having. He popped a tire. So, we were just trying not to pop a tire.  Couldn’t run hard there the last probably half of the race just kind of had to sit there and keep the brake pedal from going to the floor.  You could run just hard enough to keep it from overheating the brakes, but you couldn’t really compete like you wanted to.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 19th: “We fought hard all day. Our AdvoCare Ford was just really tight rolling through the center but my guys worked hard on it all race long and we were able to get a decent finish out of today. (Crew chief) Matt (Puccia) made that two-tire call at the end that really helped us pick up a couple of spots. Now it’s on to California where we hope for another solid run.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 22nd: “The TaxAct Ford started out loose in and tight in the center. It was alright in the middle stages of the race, but in the final segment it just took too long to come in during the runs and we lost a ton of ground. We were able to pick some spots back up late in the run and then it took off pretty good on the last restart. I have to thank the guys for doing a great job in the pits all day.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 23rd: “There was a lot of craziness out there today. I thought our car was okay in the beginning and we were trying to get it better. About halfway through the race our trackbar stopped working, which was bad. That really hurt us. That really hurt from being able to adjust our car throughout the run. That is what we needed. That really sucked when that stopped working. We take for granted those things. Then I sped on pit road and that put us in a bigger hole. We had an issue and then I compounded the issue by speeding and you can’t have that. I made a mistake on that deal.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished 31st.: “The brakes are fine, we just blew a right front. Probably just overheated the bead. I am sure that is what it was. There is not much you can do when the right front blows out. We had a good car in the beginning of the race and then just fell off and got a pit road speeding penalty and it was hard to get back up there. We were getting closer but out long run speed was off. We have to figure out how to get faster here on the long run.”

David Ragan – Finished 35th: “Really, Trevor Bayne is the one that is kind of to blame. He tried to wreck Danica (Patrick) three of four consecutive laps. He was driving over his head and all over the race track. I was kind of a result of their shenanigans. They were bouncing off each other and I tired to go low and actually made contact with Matt DiBenedetto and had a tire rub and was going to come in that lap. Just cut our tire.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished  37th: “We just blew a front tire. We kind of struggled with our Tide PODS Camry most of the day. We got a little bit better that run, but we weren’t handling the way we needed to for sure and just ended up failing a front tire.”

NASCAR America: Dog days of summer can challenge teams in many ways

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Today is the first day of summer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows better than most how hot temperatures can change a driver’s season.

The dog days of summer 2004 contributed to the breakup of Junior’s team.

“If the car’s not running well, the driver’s got to bite his tongue,” Earnhardt said. “If he doesn’t bite his tongue, he gets snappy at the team. The team gets frustrated. A team can literally unravel as the season goes. Me and Tony (Eury) Jr., Tony (Eury) Sr. won six races in 2004 going into the playoffs and we split up at the end of the year because we were so upset and mad at each other at the end of the season. The heat can do that.”

Being trapped inside the car in unbearable heat takes a toll on the driver – but it also wears on the crew.

“I don’t think it translates well over to the public how hot it is throughout the weekend in the summer races. The humidity in Michigan – it’s a 120, 130 degrees inside the cars. The crews are dealing with this heat in the garage during practice.”

Critical moments exacerbated by heat in the next five races might very well decide who wins and loses the championship once the cooler temperatures of fall arrive.

“If you’re not running well – you’re inside that car during practice. You can’t get out, they’re making a change and sending you back out. You’re sweating, you’re miserable, the car’s not responding. If you say the wrong thing, it can set the tone for the entire weekend.”

And the entire season, like it did for Earnhardt in 2004.

“For drivers that can handle that kind of heat and handle that frustration when things aren’t quite right, those guys will excel and not stub their toe, not make those mistakes going into the playoffs,” Earnhardt said.

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America: Better equipment, skilled drivers changed road racing

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The Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is the first of three road course races on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and the preparation involved in setting up these cars is much greater today than it has been in the past, according to NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett.

“I think the same emphasis is put in those two road course races and the cars that will be in those races,” Earnhardt said. “And now the Roval that will be at Charlotte – being a very important race in the playoffs – these road course racers are even more important.”

Man and machine need to be equal to the challenge.

“Not only is the emphasis more on the drivers to prepare and learn how to become road course racers, but there is a lot more emphasis on the cars too,” Earnhardt said. “All the cars are so much more similar and there is a lot more dedication to preparing the cars for these particular races. It’s almost like there is as much effort into putting a good road course car on the track as there is speedway cars – like Daytona and Talladega cars.”

Even the best driver cannot compete in equipment that is not up to the challenge and it took some outside expertise to raise NASCAR to the level of other marquee road racing series mechanically. Car owners like Jack Roush and road ringers like Boris Said contributed to the evolution of the racing discipline.

“The cars are so much better now than when we started,” Dale Jarrett said. “Whenever I got started in the Cup series fulltime in ’87, there were a couple of good road racers – and I think of Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace … but Jack Roush brought something totally new into the sport a little later in the 80s and early 90s. … Their equipment was a little bit better because they understood road racing a little more. Now everybody has all that.”

Jarrett recalled what he believes might be one of the biggest upsets of his career. He won the pole for the 2001 Global Crossing at the Glen because he received a tip from Said, who told him he was not getting deep enough into the corners because his brakes were not good enough.

“You talk about road course ringers: Boris Said and Ron Fellows and some other guys coming in,” Jarrett said. “One of the things that helped them, they were better because they did it all the time, but they also would tell the teams they were going to drive for, ‘hey, there’s a lot better braking and other things out there that you can do.’ They came in and they had better equipment, which made them look even that much better than what we were.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett preview upcoming races

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his weekly appearance on the show.

Krista Voda hosts with Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

· Not long ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. bragged about his ability to remember who he’s beaten for wins in past races. In this episode, we’ll test his memory in a trivia game called “Who Did Junior Pass For The Win?” We’ll be taking your questions for Junior throughout the show. Just send it on social media with the hashtag #Wednesdale.

· Sonoma begins a critical summer stretch for the Monster Energy Cup Series. With Chicagoland, Daytona, Kentucky and New Hampshire on the horizon, teams will be challenged and playoff hopes will rise and fall. Dale Jr. & Dale Jarrett preview the upcoming races.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones at Sonoma

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Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones when the series visits Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

Ryan Newman leads the way with his 600th Cup start.

The Richard Childress Racing driver will become the 28th driver to reach the mark. His first start came on Nov. 5, 2000 at ISM Raceway with Team Penske.

Newman is one of four remaining active Cup drivers, including Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Derrike Cope, who competed against Dale Earnhardt in a Cup points race. Only Newman and Busch compete full-time.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will make his 450th start. He will become the 52nd driver to reach that mark.

Hamlin’s first start came on Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway. All of his starts have been with JGR.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his 200th career start. He will be the 132nd driver to reach that mark.

Stenhouse’s first start came in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 with Wood Brothers Racing when he substituted for Trevor Bayne, who was out due to illness. Every other start has been with Roush Fenway Racing.

The last race at Michigan International Speedway saw AJ Allmendinger make his 350th Cup start. 71 drivers have reached that mark.