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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NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Mike Wallace’s appeal of indefinite suspension denied

NASCAR suspends Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace‘s indefinite suspension by NASCAR was upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday.

Wallace, who has made three Xfinity Series starts this season, was suspended Sept. 10 for violating Sections 12.1; 12.8; 12.8.1.e of the rule book.

According to the rulebook, a violation of section 12.8.1.e is any “Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

As part of the suspension, Wallace is required by NASCAR to attend sensitivity training.

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Dixon Johnston, Bill Lester and Kevin Whitaker.

Wallace has the right to appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Wallace wrote the following on Facebook shortly after his suspension was originally announced:

“You know as I fly across the United States today I’m ready various people’s political views and I have to say a famous four star Military General that I spent time with in the MidEast told me Mike let me give you some advice don’t ever get in a conversation about politics or religion unless you are really smart. I said why do you say that comment His response it’s like being balanced on a single edge razor blade if you slip you will get cut!

Think about that before we all make foolish uneducated post! Moral of this story is most of use just repeat what we have heard we really don’t know.
Have a great positive day!”

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.