What drivers said after Pocono 400

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Here’s a sampling of what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono Raceway:

Ryan Blaney – Winner: “Kyle (Busch) stayed out and he was on a little bit older tires and it looked like he was getting pretty tight, especially off of (Turn) 1 and that’s where new tires really seemed to come alive because you could hold the line and get runs on him, downshift and get next to him. I had a big run on him off of (Turn) 3 and he did a good job blocking, and we were able to get under him, but then I had to hold (Kevin Harvick) off. He was super-fast. I can’t thank Kevin enough for racing me clean.  That was really cool of him, but it was definitely hectic. Hopefully the fans liked it. It was really cool.”

KEVIN HARVICK – Finished 2nd: “I got behind a couple times and had a fast enough car to make it back up. And then I missed a shift from third to second. I just have to thank the Roush Yates engine shop for building a pretty sturdy engine because it should have blown up and it never blew up. I think there at the end I just couldn’t get into the corner like we needed to all day and I couldn’t stop like I needed to. (Blaney) could charge the corner, so I needed for him to make a mistake and try to get up underneath him on the exit of the corner. He never made a mistake and did a great job and ended up winning the race.”

Erik Jones – Finished 3rd: “It’s just gratifying. You stick with it and stick to your guns and know what you have and keep doing the same thing week in and week out and sometimes it’s tough to do that. You hope it’s going to come back around and I got the finish I felt like we deserved.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “It was warm and we battled really hard today and had a nice, consistent run. I just didn’t have any special speed, but we ran good lap times, so I’m really proud of our Haas Automation/Monster Energy guys. It’s great to see a Ford in victory lane, so congratulations to the Wood Brothers. They deserve this. To see Ryan Blaney win, he’s gonna be a superstar in this sport. NASCAR loves him. We love him. He’s a good kid and I’m gonna keep pushing hard, though. We’re chiseling away at this and we’re gonna get in good position.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 5th: “I just didn’t get enough go on the restart, which was a bummer. I don’t know, I feel like I probably could have won it if I had just gotten that launch. Kyle (Busch) got a great launch. He went a tiny bit before the line, but not enough to where NASCAR was gonna call it, and I didn’t get the launch I needed.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 6th: “It was a tough day, but we battled hard after having to start at the back due to an engine change after Saturday’s practice. This team never quits, fought right to the end and did have a shot of winning this thing. But when the race restarted for the final time we weren’t in the preferred outside lane. We wanted to be fourth instead of fifth and have the inside lane. But (Ryan) Blaney got that spot by just beating us off pit road.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 7th: “It was a decent day. I would have liked to finish better, obviously; I just didn’t get the best restarts. It seemed like if I was on the top I was behind guys that were on no tires and they’d be three-wide into (Turn) 1 and I’d be on the very top. And, when I’d restart on the bottom, I’d just get slowed down too much and then I couldn’t have a very good run off the corners. So, my restarts weren’t great. But, our car was a lot better than I thought it would be after practices.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 8th: “I wasn’t real pleased with it. That’s not a comforting feeling if your brakes are going away. But, mine weren’t bad enough. I could manage it. I could kind of keep them in check. I knew kind of when I was pushing them the pedal would fade, but if I took it easy on them they’d come back. So, it was on the edge but manageable.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR – Finished 11th: “I’m really proud of my team. We struggled all weekend with the handling of our car so to leave Pocono with an 11th – place finish is a true testament of the strength of our team. Our focus this year is to be consistent. We definitely learned some things for next time.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “The balance felt good for most of the race, but would tighten up in Turn 3 every now and then, so I had to really focus on my entry and exit in that corner. One of the biggest challenges was the heat. By lap 28, it felt like my A/C unit overheated or something and from there I had no air conditioning. I was alright during most of the race, but that red flag was just miserable. I was able to make it through and started dumping water on my face when I could, which helped a little bit. But we battled through the challenges; that’s what this team does. We were able to hang on and grab a 13th-place finish.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 14th: ”Unfortunately we had overheating issues with trash and then we sustained an exhaust leak that made my driver’s seat extremely hot during the race. It’s a shame. It’s like we never had the chance to show our muscle. We were just tending to issues that kept creeping up, instead of focusing on getting our car better to contend with the front-runners.” 

Danica Patrick – Finished 16th: “All in all, it was a clean day for the Aspen Dental Ford team. We didn’t make any mistakes at all and ended up with a solid finish. I wish we’d had more grip there at the end, but overall it was a good day for our team.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 17th: “I thought we had a pretty good car on long runs today, but we got into the wall and that ruined our race. We got a lap down but battled back. Our guys didn’t give up and we got an OK finish.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 18th: “There was so much strategy in today’s race at Pocono. Once we got close to what we needed, we started playing with a strategy to make up track position in the final two stages. It’s so important at this track, but so hard to get once the field spreads out. It worked how we needed it to, and our car really started to come around there at the end. I took off on that last restart and picked off a couple other cars in the short amount of time that I had. Now I’ll focus on our plan for Michigan next weekend.’’

Paul Menard — Finished 20th: “Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the team did a really good job finding the right balance. The pit crew did a great job. We were able to race around the top 15 for a majority of the day and had some really good speed in the final segment. Our fuel strategy worked and by the time the final pit stop came around, we were in position to score a top-10 finish. I’m not really sure what happened on that last restart, but I didn’t get the best restart and messed up shifting gears into Turn 1.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 21st: “We just kept getting tighter throughout the day. We made adjustments all day long but our Ford Fusion was still tight on the exit of the corners. We’ll regroup and get after it next week in Jack’s (Roush) backyard in Michigan.”

David Ragan – Finished 25th: “We had good strategy by Derrick Finley and our 38 team. We had one weak run – the second-to-last run when we were racing for the lucky dog. I don’t know if we had a funny set of tires or if we went a little too far on an adjustment, but that was our weakest run. All in all, we made improvements on the car. We just have to start a little bit better at the beginning of these races, but I’m proud of this Overton’s team. They had good strategy and a good day on pit road and we were able to salvage a decent finish.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. — Finished 26th: “I’m just so bummed out and frustrated with myself. I know my family is going to be hard on me after this, not to be so hard on myself, but I’m competitive and I want to win races and I want to lead laps. Just wanted to have a good showing, and to speed four, five times, same segment, that was pretty tough to swallow, and then this race just going green the whole time … it was just not our day.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 27th: “We got it better later, but we just didn’t have a very good first half of the race and we never had a chance to fight back.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 34th: “I was going down the front stretch about halfway and the right front popped. I had been fighting serious brake problems for a while. So, I’m guessing it had something to do with that.  But it happened in the middle of the front stretch so I just kind of rode the wall, blew my brakes off, rode the wall to the backstretch, which actually was a very easy ride for where it happened. Just disappointed that happened, that is three weeks in a row we have had issues.” 

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 36th: “No, (the brake pedal) went right to the floor and I saw a replay inside the medical center. The smoke, I think, is the brake fluid coming out of wherever failed and onto the rotors. I can only speculate that I got the brakes too hot and when I went to the brakes they just traveled straight to the floor. I didn’t even have a pedal to push on. At that point, I threw it in third gear and I was just trying to slow it down. I was heading to the grass and I was wondering why I didn’t turn right and get to the wall sooner, but I’m fine. Certainly, a big scare. I haven’t had a scare like that since 2000 at Watkins Glen.” 

Jamie McMurray – Finished 37: “I didn’t really even see the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car wrecking until I just went down and I got on the brake pedal and my pedal started to go to the floor and I had a little bit that I could kind of pump it and I thought I was going to be okay.  And then, I don’t know if I got into some oil or what happened, but I just started spinning and didn’t have any brakes.  So, it was really weird that we kind of both had the same thing happen at the same point on the racetrack, but fortunately, we are both okay and yeah, move on.” 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 38th: “It’s just my fault. I wish I could say that the shifter is different and something is out of line or not something I was doing last year as far as where we had the shifter mounted for Pocono. This really concerns me coming back here and the road courses you know. But, we haven’t had any problems all year long, but at places where we do a lot of shifting I don’t know what is going on, what I’ve got to do or why this is really happening out of nowhere. We don’t really have an answer to it other than me just having to pay more attention, but I mean I’ve been doing this all my life and this isn’t a common issue, but it has been this weekend.”

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Long: NASCAR needs to quickly correct officiating issue from Texas

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NASCAR’s admission that it did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is troubling.

With video evidence of impropriety and Hamlin’s team vigorously arguing for relief, there were enough reasons for series officials to take a closer look at putting Hamlin back to second before the race returned to green-flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race resumed. 

Add the lack of access series officials had to Byron’s in-car camera— something fans could readily see at NASCAR.com and the NASCAR Mobile App — and changes need to be made before this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

While NASCAR should make every effort to judge matters between drivers regardless of their playoff status, that it was two playoff drivers involved in an incident demanded greater attention. With three races per round, one misstep can mean the difference between advancing or being eliminated. 

Just as more is expected from drivers and teams in the playoffs, the same should be expected of officials.

“If we had seen that (contact) good enough to react to it in real time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Sunday night. “One would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, or the other would be to have made William start in the back.”

Here is how the incident played out:

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash at 8:19 p.m. ET.

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.

About 90 seconds after the caution lights illuminated, the USA broadcast showed a replay from a low angle of Byron directly behind Hamlin’s car and apparent contact. 

Contact can happen in multiple ways. It can come from the lead car hitting the brakes and forcing the car behind to hit them, or it can come from the trailing car ramming into the car ahead. The first video replay did not make it clear what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to rule one way or the other based solely on that.

This also is a time when NASCAR officials were monitoring safety vehicles on track, checking the lineup and making sure pit road was ready to be open. It’s something NASCAR does effortlessly much of the time. Just not this time. 

A different replay aired on USA 11 minutes, 16 seconds after the caution that showed Byron and Hamlin’s car together. That replay aired about a minute before the green flag waved at 8:31 p.m. ET. Throughout the caution, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.

But once the race resumed, the matter was over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.

Three minutes after the green flag waved, the NASCAR Twitter account posted in-car video that showed Byron running into the back of Hamlin’s car while the caution was out. Such action is typically a penalty — often parking a driver for the rest of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done during the rest of the event. 

After the race, Miller told reporters that series officials didn’t see the contact from Byron. 

“The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them,” Miller said. “By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

But it didn’t happen that way.

”By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green,” Miller said.

NASCAR didn’t act. By that time maybe it was too late to do so. But that’s also an issue. Shouldn’t the infraction be addressed immediately if it is clear what happened instead of days later? Shouldn’t officials have been provided with access to the in-car cameras so they could have seen Byron’s actions earlier and meted the proper punishment? Instead, Miller hinted at a possible penalty to Byron this week.

Miller didn’t reveal details but it wouldn’t be surprising to drop Byron in the field, costing him points. He’s 24 points from the cutline, so a penalty that drops him from seventh to 30th (the position ahead of Truex) could be logical and that would cost Byron 23 points, putting him near the cutline. 

Texas winner Tyler Reddick said something should have been done. He knows. He was parked in a 2014 Truck race at Pocono for wrecking German Quiroga in retaliation for an earlier incident.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

“I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Texas shuffles NASCAR Cup playoff standings

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Texas marked the fourth consecutive playoff race that the winner didn’t advance to the next round.

All three races in the first round were won by drivers not in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday at Texas, a week after he failed to advance from the Round of 16 and was eliminated from title contention.

Texas did shake up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott entered as the points leader but a blown tire while leading sent his car into the wall, ending his race. He falls to the No. 8 spot, the final transfer position with two races left in this round. He’s tied with Daniel Suarez, but Suarez has the tiebreaker with a better finish this round.

Chase Briscoe, who scored only his second top 10 in the last 22 races, is the first driver outside a transfer spot. He’s four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Cindric is 11 points out of the transfer spot. Christopher Bell is 29 points out of a transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.

The series races Sunday at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

XFINITY SERIES

Noah Gragson’s win at Texas moved him on to the next round. The win was his fourth in a row.

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer are tied for the final two transfer spots to the next round. Riley Herbst is one point behind them. Daniel Hemric is eight points from the final transfer spot. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements is 29 points shy of the final transfer position.

The series races Saturday at Talladega (4 p.m. ET on USA Network).

 

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

The series was off this past weekend but returns to the track Saturday at Talladega. Ty Majeski has advanced to the championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

 

Winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s marathon race at Texas Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Tyler Reddick – Reddick isn’t acting like a lame duck. Headed for 23XI Racing in 2024 (if not sooner), Reddick now owns three wins with Richard Childress Racing, the team he’ll be leaving.

Justin Haley – Haley, who has shown flashes of excellence this season for Kaulig Racing, matched his season-high with a third-place run.

Chase Briscoe — Briscoe wrestled with major problems in the early part of the race but rebounded to finish fifth. It’s his second top-10 finish in the last 22 races.

LOSERS

NASCAR Officials – Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted that series officials missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution after Martin Truex Jr.‘s crash. Such a situation could have major playoff implications, although Miller hinted that series officials may still act this week.

Christopher Bell – Bell met the wall twice after blown tires and finished a sour 34th, damaging his playoff run in a race that he said was critical in the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. – Harvick (finished 19th) and Truex (31st) were late-race victims of the day’s tire dilemma. Both crashed while leading.

Track workers  Somebody had to clean up all that tire debris.

Chase Elliott – Elliott remains a power in the playoffs, but he left Sunday’s race in a fiery exit after a blown tire while leading and finished 32nd. He holds the final transfer spot to the next round heading into Talladega.

 

 

Blown tires end race early for several Texas contenders

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Goodyear official said that air pressures that teams were using contributed to some drivers blowing tires in Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all crashed while leading after blowing a tire. Among the others who had tire issues were Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher Cole Custer and Christopher Bell twice. 

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

MORE: NASCAR says it missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution 

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

Eight of the 16 cautions were related to tire failures that caused drivers to spin or crash.

“It’s not a good look, that’s for sure,” Ryan Blaney said of the tire issues others had. “How many leaders blew tires tonight? Three or four?

“You just don’t understand what is making these things do that. From last week to this week, it’s really unfortunate. It’s just luck now.

“You never know if you’re going to blow one. You go into (Turn) 3 almost every lap with 40 laps on your stuff and I don’t know if one is going to blow out or not. That’s not safe. That’s for sure. Running (180) into (Turn) 3 and the thing blows out and you have no time to react to it. It’s unfortunate. I hope we can figure that out.”

Blaney said he was confused that the tires were blowing partly into a run instead of much earlier.

“It was weird because those tires didn’t blow right away,” he said. “Like the pressures were low. They blew like after a cycle or two on them, which is the weird thing.”

Asked how he handles that uncertainty, Blaney said: “Nothing I can do about it. Just hope and pray.”

After his crash, Elliott was diplomatic toward Goodyear’s situation:

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Tyler Reddick, who won Sunday’s race at Texas, said his team made adjustments to the air pressure settings after Saturday’s practice.

“We ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire,” he said. “So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”

This same time was used at Kansas and will be used again at Las Vegas next month in the playoffs. 

Reddick is hopeful of a change but also knows it might take time.

“I just think to a degree, potentially, as these cars have gotten faster and we’re getting more speed out of them, maybe, hypothetically speaking, we’re putting the cars through more load and more stress on the tire than they ever really thought we would be,” he said. 

“I know Goodyear will fix it. That’s what they do. It’s going to be a process. I know they’re going to be on top of it. Hey, they don’t want to see those failures. We don’t want to see them either. They’re going to be working on looking through and trying to find out exactly what is going on. We’ll all learn from it.

“It’s a brand-new car. It’s the first time in the history of our sport we’ve gone to an 18-inch wheel and independent rear suspension. All these things are way different, diffuser. All these things, way different. We’re all learning together. Unfortunately, just the nature of it, we’re having tire failures.”