Getty Images

What Drivers Said after Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway

Leave a comment

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Aric Almirola leaves New Hampshire frustrated after third-place finish

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOUDON, N.H. — Aric Almirola’s first top-five finish of the season was greeted a forced smile.

After leading 42 laps and feeling he “had the best car hands down,” a slow pit stop and a poor restart prevented Almirola from ending his 138-race winless streak Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Instead, he had to settle for a third-place finish

“You would think I’d be really excited to run top five and I’m not,” Almirola said. “We had the best car hands-down. There’s no doubt in my mind. We gave it away on pit road and then I gave it away again on the restart. I spun the tires on the restart and didn’t even give myself a fighting chance, so I’m just really frustrated.”

It continues Almirola’s season of near misses.

He was about a mile from winning the Daytona 500 when a bump from Austin Dillon sent him into the wall.

Last month at Chicagoland Speedway, Almirola was fast, leading 70 laps but two loose wheels doomed him to a 25th-place finish.

Sunday, Almirola was leading with less than 45 laps to go. A caution on Lap 258 brought the field to pit road and Almirola lost the lead. He exited pit road third.

“It’s just frustrating,” Almirola said. “They say you’ve got to lose some before you win some and I feel like we’ve lost some now and it’s time to stop it and go to Victory Lane.”

On the restart, Almirola spun his tires and was seventh before he got back around the track, losing four spots.

“Kyle (Busch) just went a lot sooner in the restart zone than I anticipated,” Almirola said. “I was trying to roll up to the restart zone. When he took off, I kind of pushed the throttle down and spun the tires and didn’t get a good start.”

What drivers said after New Hampshire

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “I just didn’t know if I was gonna get there at the end and I felt like that was my best opportunity to do what I had to do to win. I didn’t want to wreck him, but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of time behind him. I just got to thank everybody on this No. 4.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 2nd: “You know, it’s racing. We had a really, really poor performance today. Our Interstate Batteries Camry just wasn’t there – it wasn’t there all weekend. We kept fighting the same things all weekend long and we never make any gains on it all through practice and we kind of struggled with it through the race and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some really, really good calls – some really good adjustments to just try to keep improving on it. My pit crew was flawless. They gained us all those spots on pit road to get us out front to get us in that position – to have a shot to go after the win – and, you know, we controlled the restart and drove away by a little bit, but we weren’t the best car on the long run. All them SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) cars were really, really good today. They were all fast, so it was going to be hard to hold them off and I was just kind of backing up and, you know, three, four, five corners in a row and with a faster car, I’m not sure he (Kevin Harvick) had to do it, but he did. It’s fine. How you race is how you get raced, so it’s fine.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 3rd: “You’d think I’d be more excited to run top five – and I’m not. We had the best car, hands down. There’s no doubt in my mind. And we gave it away on pit road and then I gave it away again on the restart – spun the tires. Didn’t even give myself a fighting chance.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 4th: “We were fast early. Just VHT wore off and I was no good anymore. A couple guys – specifically the SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) cars – man, they got rolling there about midway through the race and we just pretty much crapped, so couldn’t ever fix it and we had one set of tires that was funny and on that one run there it was wheel hoping real bad, I just – I couldn’t hang onto it, so we lost some spots there, but pit crew kept us in the game. We had a good stop there at the end that gave us a shot. We just didn’t have the speed there after a few laps. We tried hard, but we just can’t quite figure out the second half of this thing, but when we do we’re going to be in good shape.

Chase Elliott — Finished 5th: “I was shocked, to be honest with you, that we ran even that good. Our whole NAPA group did a great job overnight. I really have no idea where that came from. I hope it wasn’t dumb luck. Hopefully we can keep it rolling because it’s really nice to be able to go up there and lead some laps. I know it wasn’t the right part of the race, but still, leading laps for us is big compared to what we’ve been doing. I’m proud of the effort. I appreciate everybody’s effort back at Hendrick and the chassis shop and engine shop and Chevrolet and all the folks that are working hard to try to get better. We took a step in the right direction.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 6th: “Yeah, it was a good rebound from yesterday. The entire weekend they definitely stepped it up. It was a good run for our Chevy Accessories Chevy Camaro. The guys did a good job in the pits today, that was nice to see, we have been struggling a little bit there. Just proud of everybody. Not the end result that we want, but a huge improvement and that is something we want. We will keep digging.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 7th: “It was a challenging day for our Menards/Sylvania Ford Fusion team. We had good speed early, but needed to make sure adjustments to have a chance at the win. We had two things not go our way on pit road, but we fought back for a solid finish.”

Joey Logano — Finished 9th: “We struggled today. We had okay fire-off speed but overall, our Shell-Pennzoil Ford just fell off too early in the run. I fought loose most of the day with a car tucked in behind me on corner entry and at times it was too tight in the center. We got a couple of stage points and a top-10 finish, but we need to get faster now that we’re closing in on the playoffs.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 10th: “I think top 10 is where we need to be. Top five right now on sheer speed is something we are achieving and trying to get to. We scored some great points in the stages. … All-in-all we had a good day, always could be better, but a nice solid step forward.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 11th: “We really struggled. We were 10 out of 10 plowing tight, had the track bar maxed out all the way up, all the rear brake I could stand and doing everything I could to try to get the thing to turn, it just wasn’t going to turn. Hate it. I hate that we unloaded with so much speed and just kind of I guess didn’t go the right way or the track changed on us, but really proud of Greg (Ives, crew chief) and everybody for getting the car better there at the end. Had a good restart there and almost got a top 10. It could have been a lot worse.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 13th: “No doubt. Yeah, I mean, there’s several different approaches, several different things I tried to do inside the car to get the front to turn. Just would not turn. Does it for a couple laps in open track, but once I get in traffic it just plows through the front – touch the gas and it plows through. I can’t keep it one lane, so it’s a struggle with balance. I think our cars have speed, we just have to get our – do the best to get our setup on there that we can be aggressive with.”

William Byron — Finished 14th: “Yeah, I mean it was okay. I thought at the beginning of the race we kind of just got really loose in (to turns) which made it really hard for us to hold position. And then I felt like once we got that back out of it we just had that one weak run and once we got that back out of it we were pretty good again. Just kind of missed it that one run and hard to make up track position after that.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 21st: “The Dow Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was loose on entry to start the race, but a pit stop for four tires, fuel and adjustments definitely improved the car’s handling. We kept up with changing track conditions through adjustments in the pits throughout the race, and ended up with a pretty good handling Camaro ZL1. We were posting top-10 lap times during most of the race and running in eighth when we ended up with a loose wheel and had to make an unscheduled pit stop under green flag conditions. It cost us the lead lap. It’s a shame because we had a rocket ship but couldn’t do anything with it. I’m proud of the guys for building a really fast car. We are on the right track.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “This GEICO Camaro ZL1 was incredibly fast today. It was one of the best pieces that we have brought to the racetrack all year. I hate that my restart violation at the start of Stage 2 put us behind. My crew chief made every strategy call that he could to keep us in the game and get laps back, but we never could get back ahead. I have no doubt that this was a top 10 car, and I’m disappointed that we couldn’t show everyone that. But, we’re still only halfway through the season with a lot of racing left. We can’t and won’t let ourselves get down. We will put one of these races together from start to finish here soon.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 32nd: “We had a disappointing day for sure. I don’t know if I used too much brake trying to keep up or what. We’ll go on to Pocono and try to get a win there next week.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 35th: “It just sucks. First and foremost, I hate that for my teammate. It was his first win and he was dominating the race. I was trying to nurse it around. Something in the left-rear was broke and no more than Brett (Griffin, spotter) told me, ‘we’re having trouble, let’s just get off the track,’ and I was kind of thinking the same thing. Literally, as he was saying that and I’m thinking it, something broke on the right side and away it went. That sucks. I hate it for him.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 36th: “I think Ryan Newman got into the side of me pretty early at the start of the race. I was kind of nervous about it there was no smoke in the car though, so I thought we were okay. And then we went back green and, on the restart, it just felt like the car was moving around a lot and down the front straightaway I felt it go. I tried everything I could do to slow the car down to get it stopped, but there was nothing I could do. Usually when you hit here you hit big and just disappointed. We have had a rough few weeks. Obviously, Daytona was okay, but other than that is has been a rough few weeks.”

Chase Elliott ‘shocked’ with New Hampshire top five

Leave a comment

After the end of a long, wet day, Chase Elliott was “shocked” with how he fared in Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver placed fifth, earning his first top five and top 10 on the 1.058-mile track in five starts.

That was after Elliott claimed his first stage win of the season, winning Stage 2 over Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr.

Elliott, who started 10th and finished Stage 1 in second, led a season-high 23 laps after passing Truex for the lead on Lap 132.

In the previous 19 races Elliott had led only 19 laps.

“I was shocked, to be honest with you, that we ran even that good,” Elliott said. “Our whole NAPA group did a great job overnight. I really have no idea where that came from. I hope it wasn’t dumb luck. Hopefully we can keep it rolling because it’s really nice to be able to go up there and lead some laps. I know it wasn’t the right part of the race, but still, leading laps for us is big compared to what we’ve been doing.”

The top five is the first for Hendrick Motorsports since Elliott placed fourth at Sonoma Raceway four races ago. Before that, Jimmie Johnson had the most recent top five in the Coke 600 in May.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Elliott said. “It was a huge points day for us. Obviously, we’d love that win to not have to worry about it. But, we got 19 points between the two stages, that’s 19 positions on-track, and that’s a lot. Anything can happen in these next few weeks and to have all you can get is really important.”

Through 20 races Elliott has five top fives and nine top 10s.

Elliott leaves New Hampshire 13th in standings, two points behind Johnson.

Johnson ran in the top five late in the first stage after he, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth did not pit during the competition caution that waved on Lap 35 (since they had stopped earlier).

Johnson placed third in Stage 1 and eighth in Stage 2 before finishing in 10th. It’s his first top 10 in six races and the first time Hendrick has had two drivers in the top 10 since Sonoma.

“I think top 10 is where we need to be,” Johnson said. “Top five right now on sheer speed is something we are achieving and trying to get to. We scored some great points in the stages. … All-in-all we had a good day, always could be better, but a nice solid step forward.”

Kyle Busch on contact from Kevin Harvick: ‘How you race is how you get raced’

Leave a comment

LOUDON, N.H. — Kevin Harvick didn’t want to wait. Kyle Busch won’t forget.

Harvick’s bump-and-run of Busch with seven laps left Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway spiced what has the potential to be quite a duel between the two the rest of the season.

“How you race is how you get raced,” Busch said after his runner-up finish to Harvick.

Busch said he felt Harvick didn’t need to be as physical when he was.

“He did that because of Chicago,” Busch said, alluding to the beating and banging Busch and Kyle Larson had on the last lap of that race. “Everybody has fair game on Kyle Busch that’s for sure when it comes to the fanbase. That’s fine. That’s how they want to race, that’s how I’ll race back.

“It’s just a bump. He didn’t wreck me or anything like that. He did it early enough, but he did it way harder and pushed me out of the groove three lanes and it just takes you so long to recover here that there was no possible way I could get back to him and I was slower anyways so I was in the way. So no harm no foul.”

But Busch won’t forget.

“When you’re slower, you kind of expect that but you also think that you a guy is going to race you fair and clean first,” Busch said. “I don’t think he ever tried to pass me clean once he got there. He just kept hitting me in the rear bumper each and every time it was getting increasingly harder.”

Harvick never intended to wait so long.

“I figured that’s exactly what he was thinking,” he said of Busch. “I knew I needed to take the opportunity as early as I could get it because I knew that he was thinking late and needed to do it when he wasn’t expecting it.

“The more opportunities to get into his wheelhouse, in his thought process, the less chance that you have. He’s that good. If you wait until two or three to go, the entries are going to get shallower, he’s going to start grinding on the brakes a little bit harder. He’s going to put himself in a position to not get hit and he’s going to go on defense and really start to be aggressive. I wanted to do it earlier just to try to catch him off guard.”

Is he worried about how Busch could race him the rest of the regular season and the playoffs?

“You do and you worry about that stuff later,” Harvick said. “It’s not like I wrecked him. It’s the same thing as Chicago.”

Harvick said one has to do all they can to win races, especially against another playoff foe. The victory allowed Harvick to gain five playoff points and kept Busch from collecting those.

“These races are hard to win,” Harvick said. “When you’re in position, it’s one of those things that you have to do what you have to do for your team. You want to do everything you can to not spin him out and not wreck him and just make it as clean as possible and try to accomplish the bump and run. Today we were able to accomplish it well and win the race.”

 and on Facebook