What Drivers Said after Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway

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Kyle Busch – Winner: “It’s been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today. … We didn’t really outsmart anyone today, we just kind of played our race and our own strategy and thought about it a little differently than others and it worked out for us.”

Kevin Harvick – finished second: “Kyle (Busch) had the class of the field all weekend. His car was really, really fast. He got the pole. Got the win. Pretty much just charged through the field. We definitely have a little bit of work to do. I feel like we got closer and closer. I feel like we raced around all the Toyotas all day. Just proud of everyone on the Mobil 1 Ford.”

Martin Truex Jr. — finished third: “It wasn’t the right strategy, but I think we still had a shot at it if we hadn’t got caught up there at the end in traffic so bad. Just kept catching lapped cars in the wrong spots and that cost us second without a doubt. I don’t know if we could have beat Kyle (Busch), he was really, really fast there at the end and we were off there at the end.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fifth: “A strategy day for sure. Our car was okay. I thought we had the best strategy out there, we just needed a little bit more speed.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: “It was a big pit strategy day for sure and you know that going into a race like this. Our car was good all weekend. We unloaded a fast car. This is the best car that we’ve unloaded in quite some time. A little bit different build. Hopefully this is what we’re looking for, what I’m looking for and build on this.”

Erik Jones — finished eighth: “It was okay, just up and down, just needed track position most of the day and then got behind, had a loose wheel and put us way behind. Just had to work back from that. The SiriusXM Camry had good speed, but just the handling wasn’t great all day – rear grip really. We made some adjustments throughout the day and just have to keep working at it.”

Chase Elliott – finished 10th: “Our race was alright.  I made a mistake, thought I had a flat tire and pretty much ruined our day.”

Kasey Kahne – finished 11th: “We had a strong car, just track position was tough. … (On his run-in with Jimmie Johnson) Jimmie was high and everybody was going by him on the inside. I followed the next car and I was like way lower than where the groove is and he still hit me. I thought maybe he couldn’t steer because he had a problem or like something was flat because he obviously spun right after that. So, I’m not exactly sure what happened to him.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – finished 12th: “Man, I don’t know where the speed is that the front three or four have and they’ve got it every week. We don’t have that and we are not going to find it in that garage on Friday or Saturday. If we don’t show up with it, we ain’t going to find it. That is somewhere in the shop … so we will have to keep working back there.”

Kurt Busch – finished 13th: “I thought we did a good job on strategy based off the pace of our car. We were just kind of welded to 15th-place all day. We weren’t close enough to gamble and pit while it was under green conditions and the Stage breaks. We just kept chipping away at it. Restarts for us were 50-50; some were good, some were bad. Overall, we experimented with some suspension and we know not to do that again.”

Ryan Newman — finished 14th: “Our Caterpillar Chevrolet was loose in Turn 1 and tight in Turn 3 for most of the race. We had some pit strategy scenarios and we chose to go for the stage points in Stage 2 which was good for our team. But I found with our overall handling, our speed was in line with the six to seven cars in front of us and when you are all running equal, it’s tough to pass. We definitely have improved our race package from when we raced here in the spring. I’m happy to see our team starting to make the turn for a change to have a strong run during the Playoffs.”

Danica Patrick — finished 15th: “The Code 3 Associates Ford team did a great job today getting us another top-15. We have really gained some consistency over the past few weekends. I think we’re going to put together more top-15s and top-10s this season as long as we can stay out of trouble and finish the race.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 16th: “This is probably one of the best cars I’ve had at Pocono. We should’ve had a better finish today but the pit-road speeding penalty cost us. Overall we had a good weekend and will keep learning in these final races before the playoffs.”

Paul Menard — finished 19th: “We had our work cut out for us from the opening laps here at Pocono Raceway. When they wrecked ahead of us on the first lap, I got into the back of another car and it damaged the nose and hood on the Moen/Menards Chevrolet. The guys in the pits worked on it each stop and finally got it fixed up to where it wasn’t an issue. Thanks to my team, we were able to earn a top-20 finish. They kept fighting and never gave up.”

Trevor Bayne — finished 20th: “We were just really tight at the end. As each run got longer the handling would shift more and more toward being tight on the exit of the corners. But I want thank all of my guys for their hard work this weekend. We’ll rebound from this next week in Watkins Glen. We got a top-10 there last year and I’m confident that we can unload another fast AdvoCare Ford when we get there next week.”

Austin Dillon — finished 21st: “We got off on the wrong foot today that’s for sure. It’s one of those situations where we were at the wrong place at the wrong time. We got hit from behind on Lap 1. I hate if for our American Ethanol team but they pulled together and worked hard to make the repairs so we didn’t lose any laps. This weekend was a challenge from the get-go, but we are by no means giving up. We keep improving on our cars and it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing better results.”

Kyle Larson – finished 33rd: “I had a drive shaft break. I don’t know if it was my doing or what, but I didn’t change my motion up or anything like that. I thought it was fairly normal from what I did and everything just shattered when I got into third gear. Yeah, a little disappointing because our Energizer Chevy was pretty good today.  I thought we had a top five car for sure.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON – finished 35th: “It’s just hard racing. … I was in the outside lane and losing some spots. I think the No. 5 washed-up into me and kind of finished me off over there in Turn 3. It’s definitely not the day we wanted to have but I don’t think either one of those situations were intentional by any stretch. It’s just a bummer day for this whole Lowe’s team and we’ll get our Chevy ready for next week and go do it again.”

Aric Almirola – finished 38th: “(What happened on the first lap crash?) I have no idea. Our Smithfield Ford Fusion was really good to start off there. I had passed about seven cars the first two corners. I was making a lot of progress and then we got to Turn 3 and everybody just stacked up. I saw some smoke. I saw some cars stopped. I got piled in from behind and just drove into the accident. I haven’t seen a replay and have no idea what caused the wreck. Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap. Not our day.”

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William Byron focused on Talladega, not upcoming appeal

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — William Byron enters today’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway not knowing if he truly is above the cutline or below it.

He’s listed as eight points outside the final transfer spot after NASCAR penalized him 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal will be heard this week. Should the team win, Byron could get those 25 points back. 

But that doesn’t matter to Byron this weekend. He views himself outside a playoff spot.

“I race eight behind,” said Byron, who starts ninth in today’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC).  “I don’t think about the hypotheticals.

“Obviously, I feel like we’ve got a good case and a good amount of evidence that we put together, but I race (as the points are). So just move forward with it. Go after the stage points and feel like we’re capable of running really well at superspeedways.”

If he wins today to advance to the next round, the points he was penalized won’t matter, but if he doesn’t win, those could prove valuable. 

The points deducted are an element of the Hendrick appeal. 

“The severity of the penalty, that’s what we were opposed to and that’s what the appeal is about,” Byron said.

His point is that being docked a similar amount of points in a three-race round as during a 26-race regular season is too severe. The suggestion being that point penalties should be modified for the playoffs because drivers have fewer races to make up those points before the playoff field is cut. 

That will be up to the appeal panel to determine. Should Hendrick lose, the team could further appeal that decision. 

Byron is in this situation after being upset with how Hamlin squeezed him into the wall last week at Texas. Martin Truex Jr. crashed to bring out the caution a few laps later. As Hamlin, running second, slowed, Byron ran up to Hamlin’s car and hit it in the back, sending Hamlin spinning through the infield grass. 

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said series officials in the control tower didn’t see the contact. Series officials did not penalize Byron during the event but announced a penalty two days later. 

Hamlin had wanted to be placed back in his original spot after the contact but series officials put him back in the field where he blended in. Asked if he was satisfied with the penalty to Bryon, Hamlin said: “It didn’t help my finish. … It didn’t change the fact that I could have won the race instead of finishing 10th.”

Byron said he and Hamlin spoke this week.

“It was a good conversation, learned a lot from him,” Byron said of Hamlin. “Got a better understanding of what he was thinking.”

Byron’s incident shares similarities to what happened to him at Darlington in May. Joey Logano was upset with Byron for crowding him into the wall with 26 laps left. Logano caught Byron and hit the back of Byron’s car, knocking it out of the way with two laps left. Logano won. Byron finished 13th. NASCAR did not penalize Logano.

That incident was under green and in the final laps — when NASCAR is more likely to allow drivers to settle the race between themselves within reason. Byron’s contact of Hamlin last week was under caution and NASCAR typically frowns upon such action.

Earlier this season in the Xfinity Series, NASCAR did not penalize Noah Gragson for wrecking Sage Karam and triggering a 13-car crash at Road America. Four days later, NASCAR penalized Gragson 30 points and $35,000.

Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really the biggest, fastest, fiercest track?

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Talladega Superspeedway has a reputation as one of the wildest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

Is it hype? Or do the numbers prove the point?

The biggest

Talladega is the longest oval track in the NASCAR circuit. At 2.66 miles (14,045 feet), one Talladega lap is the length of about 468 football fields. Talladega is longer than Mauna Kea is tall.

If we measure lengths in terms of Talladega:

  • The distance from Charlotte to Nashville (the location of the NASCAR awards ceremony) is 339 Talladegas.
  • If you flew direct from Los Angeles to New York City, you would cover 2500 Talladegas.
  • Martinsville is just 0.20 Talladegas.

Talladega also holds the record for banking in current Cup Series tracks with 33 degrees. Talladega’s banking is so high that the outside lane of the 48-foot wide racing surface is 26.1 feet higher than the inside lane. That difference is about the height of a two-story house.

Talladega is a tri-oval. Think of it as three straight lines connected by three curves.

A graphic showing the tri-oval shape and how it got its name

 

While tri-oval describes the track shape, it is also used to refer to the frontstretch — the most triangular part of the track.

And Talladega’s frontstretch is formidable. The 4,300-foot segment is banked at 16.5 degrees. Talladega’s frontstretch has more banking than all three of Pocono’s turns.

The backstretch, known as the Alabama Gang Superstretch, isn’t too shabby, either. It’s 1,000 feet longer than Daytona’s backstretch. If you were to unroll Richmond, its entire 0.75-mile length would just cover Talladega’s backstretch.

Talladega’s infield is so large that it could hold the L.A. Coliseum, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover, Richmond and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A graphic showing that it's possible to pack five smaller tracks, plus the NASCAR Hall of Fame into Talladega's infield

The Fastest

Bill France Sr. originally envisioned Talladega as Indianapolis Motor Speedway with higher banking. At a time when raw speed was the big attraction, higher banking would allow Talladega to wrest away the closed-track speed record from Indy.

In 1970, just six months after Talladega hosted its first race, Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph mark on a closed course.

Baker’s breakthrough happened at a testing session. It wasn’t until 1982 that Benny Parsons became the first Cup Series driver to qualify over 200 mph. Just four years later, all but one of the 42 drivers starting the spring race qualified over 200 mph.

In May 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time Cup Series qualifying record at 212.809 mph. That record will likely never be broken. During the race, Bobby Allison got airborne and crashed into the catchfence. NASCAR subsequently mandated restrictor plates (and now tapered spacers) to keep speeds down and cars on the ground.

Restricting airflow to the engine makes drafting even more important. That, in turn, leads to large packs of cars racing within inches of each other. That’s why four of the top-10 closest finishes in the Cup Series happened at Talladega.

In the spring 2011 race, Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by just two-thousandths (0.002) of a second. That ties the famous 2003 Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch Darlington finish for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history.

Of all Talladega races run after NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in May 1993, 44 ended under a green flag. Of those races:

  • Seven (15.9%) were won by less than 25 thousandths of a second.
  • Fifteen (34.1%) were won by less than one-tenth of a second.
  • Thirty-nine (88.6%) were won by less than two-tenths of a second.
  • The largest margin of victory was 0.388 seconds.

The Fiercest

Pack racing leads to more contact. Out of 35 Talladega races run under the current green-white-checkered rule, 14 (40%) ended under caution. Rain caused one of those yellow/checkered finishes. The rest were due to accidents.

In 64 races since 1990, Talladega has seen 228 caution-causing spins or accidents, which involved 1,120 cars.

Almost half (49.2%) of these incidents involved only one or two cars. A one- or two-car accident is no less problematic for the drivers involved than a larger crash. But the more cars involved in accidents, the more likely a driver is to be knocked out of the race.

  • 3.5% of all accidents since 1990 involved 20 or more cars.
  • 5.7% of accidents collected 15 or more cars.
  • 16.7% were 10-car or larger crashes.
  • 38.2% involved five or more cars.

While probable, the Big One is by no means inevitable.

Neither are accidents in general. Three races since 1990 finished with no cautions, but all three of these races took place before 2003. The lowest number of cautions in a Talladega race since 2003 is three. That happened at the fall races in 2013 and 2015.

The average number of caution-causing accidents and spins in a Talladega race is 3.5.

  • Seven races (10.9%) had a single caution-causing accident or spin.
  • 14 out of 64 races (21.9%) had four caution-causing accidents or spins
  • 13 of 64 races (20.3%) had three caution-causing incidents.

Races with four or fewer accidents make up 71.9% of all Talladega races — which means that races with five or more accidents only account for 28.1%.

The numbers definitely uphold Talladega’s reputation. Although the track itself remains the same, the racing varies. Tune in to NBC (2 p.m. ET) to see whether this fall’s bout is accident-filled or accident-free.

Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

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AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

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Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.