What Cup drivers said after New Hampshire playoff race

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What drivers said after the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch – Winner: “It was just a great day for our team and for the 18 team we were able to execute all day long and we did everything right. We did everything we were supposed to do and that’s where you end up when we’re able to do those things and it was a great race up front too with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) there. The 20 (Matt Kenseth) was there for a little. I think he was a little better on that long run that one time, but overall we had some really good short-run speed there at the end. We were able to get out front there and kind of set the field because – set the pace – and that was what we needed to do today.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “I felt like on really long runs I was fairly equal to those guys in front of me. But, on the short run there, I could get pointed to the exit, but I couldn’t get the throttle down. I’d get loose. So, he just was really good. I think the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) was also really good, but he had his trouble. The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) was also good. We were next best. So, we finished second again (eighth time) with our Target Chevy. That’s a lot of second-place finishes this year, but I’m fine with second. Top fives will get us to Homestead.”

MATT KENSETH – Finished third: “We were decent on the long run, just really struggled getting through the gears and getting through (Turns) 1 and 2, and that really hurt us at the end, obviously, with all those short runs and restarts at the end.  I thought we had a third‑place car most of the day.  I thought the 78 (Martin Truex) and 18 (Kyle Busch) were better.  If I had the track position, I felt like I could do okay with them on the long run, but short run they’d get away from me pretty far, and it was hard to make that distance back up.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fourth: “It was great execution.  The pit crew was really solid today and a pretty good setup too.  Paul Wolfe and the engineers did a good job putting the right stuff under the car.  I felt like we were where we needed to be to win and to run up front with the pit crew and the setup, just kind of lacking a little bit with aero stuff to keep up, but this type of track aerodynamics are a little less important and I felt like it helped us run a little bit higher this week.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. – Finished fifth: “I could not see anything and I was just approaching the smoke and I’m like, ‘Oh no, where am I going to go?’ I mean, literally I couldn’t see anything and my spotter said go low. By then, it was kind of too late and I was already like to the smoke and I couldn’t commit. I just kind of like just kept slowing down and the 33 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) just came by me on the outside and hit me and spun me down through there, so just unfortunate, you know? We were coming to the green-white-checkered to win the second stage, which would have been another bonus point, which would be helpful and, of course, you know we had damage and had to fight from the back of the pack the rest of the day, so proud of our effort to run fifth after all that, but it definitely hurt our day.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished seventh: “It really wasn’t a strategy race.  We just kept digging and were just off a little bit.  The same cars are kicking everybody’s butt every week.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished ninth: “We were kind of in that fifth to 10th range all day and we ended up with a decent finish. We worked hard on this race track. It definitely has not been one of my best, but it’s nice to see a decent run here. We finished OK and go on to a place like Dover, where we run pretty decent.  Hopefully, we can survive next week and move on.”

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: “We worked our way up into the top 14 or 15 the first run from last and that was the highlight, and then we just kind of stayed right there around 10th the rest of the day and finished there.  I don’t know, you can say if we started a little closer to the front we could hold a few of them off, but we’re just not fast enough really.  I sound like a broken record, but we’re just not fast enough.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 13th: “We fight. This 31 team never gives up. After a rough week at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend, we rallied and turned in a respectable performance today. I wasn’t sure how good we would be because we had two tough days of practice here.  I was happy to see us race into the top 10 in Stage 3. Everyone on this team turned in a solid performance, made gains and now we’re just one point out of the Round of 12. Dover is a good track for us so we’ll keep fighting.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 14th: “We had a lug nut not on our last pit stop on the left-front, so when I went to leave the box I had to stop and back up and put a lug nut on, so I fell from fifth to 15th or something and then just stuck in traffic and couldn’t go anywhere.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 15th: “I think it went as expected. It was a struggle for us all weekend.  I told my guys I felt like we were in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather all week. We just couldn’t find speed, couldn’t find the handle on the car. We made a lot of adjustments for today and was surprisingly a little bit better than we were in practice. I didn’t think we were as capable of a car to finish where we did, but we did what we needed and had some good breaks and some good pit stops and ended up gaining some points. That was our goal, so I feel really good about that. I’d say we’ve had two sub-par weeks and we’re still in this thing, so we’ll regroup and get focused and go to Dover.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 18th: “Billy (Scott) made a good call to wave around, and then we got the free pass, which put us back on the lead lap, and we were able to gain some ground there at the end. Overall though, the Code 3 Associates Ford was just too tight most of the day.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 19th: “We had a decent Chevrolet Accessories SS today but I think that long red flag hurt us. We had a little bit of front end damage, and the brakes getting hot and then cooling down during the red flag certainly did not help. We’re 13th in points now heading into the cut off race, so our goals for Dover are to go out and have a good race. We’ll see where we end up, and hope for the best.”

Paul Menard – Finished 20th: “Everyone on this team fought hard and never gave up today. The SYLVANIA/Menards Chevrolet handled well throughout the weekend, we just got behind on track position and couldn’t really make it up. We had a close call on the backstretch when they wrecked ahead of me and blocked the track. We thought we should have been in the free pass position. I slowed to avoid the wreck, was not involved at all, but for some reason NASCAR determined we were not the free pass. We finally raced back onto the lead lap during the last caution which was a good way to end the race.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 22nd: “We have had some hurdles this weekend in New Hampshire but we were able to make the most of what we had. The backup (car) rolled off the trailer pretty decent especially considering we had no practice laps in it. The GEICO pit crew took a big swing at it under the first stage break caution and we didn’t have to do a lot more to it. It was still a bit too tight but we were able to work with it and learn a lot today.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “We kept fighting all race long today. We will keep digging and get ready for next week in Dover. I want to thank all my guys on this AdvoCare Ford for their hard work this weekend. Today wasn’t the result we were looking for but we will rebound next week and look for a solid run in Dover.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 35th: “Something broke.  I think they said track bar, but that is all I know, I didn’t talk to Darien (Grubb, crew chief). But, that is what he had said while we were in the garage.  We were working hard.  We got really loose that first run and then got control of the car.  And then it was really tough to pass, but we worked our way back up and were passing for 12th when that happened. …  I think we had a top-10 car if the restarts went the right way.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 36th: “I know as I got sideways there I tried to get thing whoa’d down and pointed in the right direction and it snapped back the other way.  I tried to lock it down and it was too far up across the race track.  I knew I was probably worse off at that particular point, so once it turned back right and I was in trouble I should have just tried to keep it left, but I couldn’t really tell where I was with all the smoke and everything that was happening, but just got hit from behind and spun out.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 37th:  “I don’t know what to say.  It’s tough when you’re running where we were.  We were just trying to limp it to the end of stage two and I heard, ‘Car spinning off of two’ in my ear.  I saw smoke up ahead.  A lot of times they’ll come back up, and I tried to leave the high side or the low side and then, boom, as soon as the smoke cleared I’m looking at Harvick’s door, my teammate.  We’re both running for the Playoffs and it’s a shame that the handling is off and we’re both running where we were, but we were still going to fight all the way to the end, but now we don’t have a chance.  I cannot understand the bad luck that we’re having.”

Mechanical issue drops Martin Truex Jr. to final transfer spot entering Kansas

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Martin Truex Jr. knows Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway could have been worse because of a mechanical issue that made his car “evil to drive.”

The result is that Truex, one of the members of the Big 3 that has dominated the series this season, holds the final transfer spot entering next weekend’s cutoff race at Kansas Speedway.

MORE: Aric Almirola wins at Talladega 

MORE: Kurt Busch criticizes NASCAR 

With an issue in the rear gear, Truex said he fought the car most of the race.

“Couldn’t even go straight,” he said after finishing 23rd. “There was no chance of me getting up there and racing as much as I wanted to.

“I rode around all day broke, hanging on, miserable. I couldn’t even race, my car was so screwed up. It felt like the rear end housing was falling out of it.”

The struggles had him in a spot late in the race where he would have been outside the cutoff spot heading to Kansas.

Truex’s fortune changed when some playoff drivers, including Brad Keselowski, had to pit for fuel in overtime and gave up several spots.

Instead of being outside the cutoff,  Truex enters Kansas in the final transfer spot and has an 18-point lead on Keselowski and a 22-point lead on Ryan Blaney.

Truex won at Kansas last fall and finished second there in May.

“I think that’s a good place for us even if we had to win,” Truex said. “I am not saying we’re going to go there and win. But anytime we can go to any of those tracks, I feel like we have a shot. It’s racing. A lot can happen as we saw today. We’ll give it everything we got and bring a great car to Kansas. We’ll try to get the checkered flag.”

What drivers said after the Cup race at Talladega

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Aric Almirola — Winner: “I felt like I kept giving it away and I was so disappointed for all these guys behind me because they’re awesome. They’re the best. I’m with the best team in the garage and I felt like I kept letting them down not winning a race. Today, the Good Lord was shining on us and we went to Victory Lane. We did it, finally.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 2nd: “Man, that was about as easy of a Talladega race as I have ever experienced. What a day to be in a Ford! Every time I looked in my mirror it was a wave of blue ovals. What a day for SHR, too. That was all about cooperation. There’s no way you could overstate how good our cars were today. We finished second in both stages and the race, so that’s a pretty good day for us. We’ll go to Kansas and get a good run and make sure we are in the Round of 8 after next weekend.” 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 3rd: “We definitely had to fight hard today. We weren’t near as good as we normally are at the speedways, so that was a real bummer, but we fought hard and made a lot of adjustments to try and make our car faster. It seemed to work a little bit there and obviously fell on the lucky side of having to pit and having enough fuel, so everything worked out good for us today to get that good finish and back-to-back top 10s is a start.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “I thought we were the next best in line today. The Ford cars seemed to have a little more speed than us. We stayed disciplined and in line there. We chose the right line when the lines came. Got a great top-five finish today. We were almost the best in class there.”

Joey Logano — Finished 5th: “Those Stewart-Haas cars drove great and they were really, really fast. They showed it in qualifying and they were so committed to each other and they did a great job. They probably would have finished 1-2-3-4 if they didn’t run out of gas, so they were definitely quick. We had a pretty good Shell/Pennzoil Ford, not the winning car, but definitely a top-five car, the best of the rest you could call it. We scored some stage points and then a solid top five, so I’m proud of that. I don’t know where that puts us in points, but I think it puts us in a decent spot to where we can go to Kansas and race hard, so not that we didn’t race hard today, but it was just gonna take a lot to beat the teamwork and the cars that they had today.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 6th: “I thought prior to the final restart I got myself in a good position on the outside there. It just seemed like every time the line went to move somebody made a move and it checked the lineup. I was just getting pinned out there. I thought my car handled good compared to the guys I was around. I thought that was our strength. And then the No. 88 (Alex Bowman) got turned, I saw him get turned and figured at some point he was going to come snapping back up the race track and I was like to say that was skill missing that, but it was pretty much luck that he didn’t hit me. The final restart was just trying to pick a lane. A couple of guys ran out of fuel coming to the green, so we got to move up a couple of rows and then it was just trying to pick the right lane coming to the checkered. For once we didn’t wreck at Talladega, so that is a good day.” 

Kyle Larson — Finished 11th: “We just had a terrible race car and were really slow all weekend. We were able to salvage a decent finish, but the Fords are so fast here and can rack up a lot of stage points. Even when they have a bad day, they still gain points on us. It is what it is. We’ll just go to Kansas and try and win.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 14th: There was two missed calls by NASCAR at the end. Why did we have an extra yellow flag lap is beyond me. The track was ready to go. And at the end. Once we crossed the white flag, if there’s a wreck and an ambulance needs to be dispatched. I’ve been on the other side of that where I was racing coming back to win the race and they said ‘Well, we had to dispatch an ambulance.’ There was two cars dead in the water.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 15th: “This was a solid day for our GEICO Camaro ZL1 team. We didn’t make any mistakes on track. My spotter did a great job and kept me clean all day. Talladega has always been a strong track for me because I’m comfortable with this style of racing. This was the kind of day our team needed after a couple of tough weeks. We ran up front, earned a bonus point at the end of Stage 1 and showed once again that Germain Racing builds fast superspeedway cars. I wish we could’ve gotten a top 10, but those are the brakes sometimes at these tracks with how quickly drafts change and cars move around. I’m proud of my team’s effort today, and I’m looking forward to Kansas next weekend.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 15th: “To he honest, I was worried at the start of the race because the American Ethanol Camaro ZL1 was not handling very well. My crew chief, Justin Alexander, and the team worked hard to fine-tune our Chevy throughout the race and we were able to earn some Stage points at the end of Stage 2. We opted to hang back in Stage 3 in anticipation of ‘The Big One.’ We knew that if we could avoid that, we would have a solid shot at the end. It didn’t work out quite the way we hoped with a relatively calm race and not enough laps to get to the front at the end. You win some, you lose some.”

William Byron — Finished 20th: “It was good. I thought my goal was really to survive. We were fortunate to lead some laps when we got the track position, which was good. Just couldn’t get enough guys to work with me. Hopefully, next year will be different with the rookie stripes off, it should make a difference, but other than that I thought our day was good. Got the car better handling-wise, handling was pretty important and then from there we just were kind of trying to fight for track position. I was able to bring it home, which was good.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 23rd: “It didn’t really matter what we did to the car. It didn’t go away. We tried a lot of stuff. It was tough to drive. It couldn’t even go straight. I could run hard for two or three laps. As soon as the tires got some air pressure, I was just hanging on. The longer the runs were, the worse it got. There was no chance of me just getting up there and racing. I wanted to. Luckily, we were able to get some tires there in the end. I could go for about three laps. I felt good going to the green-white checkered. They wrecked in front of us and we barely made it through. As soon as we got through there, I was able to salvage something.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 25th: “Before the final stage, we did a fuel-only pit stop to give us options later in the race. We were in lucky dog position for the final 20 laps and eventually caught a break to put us on the lead lap with two laps remaining. However, in overtime I was caught in a wreck and the car was heavily damaged. I know we were better than where we finished, P25. Sometimes the dominoes just don’t fall your way. We’ll be ready for Kansas next week and hopefully string together some solid runs to close out the year.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 26th: “We tried everything today and struggled to get up front.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 27th: “We ran out of gas from what I could tell, so we’ll go through and look at it and see.” 

Kevin Harvick — Finished 28th: “I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. Mine sputtered there on the fuel pressure and it dropped down in the red and they did the right thing of coming in and pitting and not taking a chance. You just need to put yourself in a position to where you’re good for next week and just glad that one of our cars won and happy for Aric.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 31st: “Yeah, I mean it is what it is. We were far enough back in the pack where if it does happen you are probably going to be in it. Yeah, it happens.”

Late fuel stop adds to ‘frustrating three weeks’ for Brad Keselowski’s team

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — All that positive momentum Brad Keselowski’s team had entering the playoffs is long gone after another frustrating finish that has his title hopes in jeopardy.

Keselowski pitted for fuel in overtime and finished 27th Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. He is 18 points out of the final transfer spot entering next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway.

“Ever since Richmond, we haven’t done much, made bad decisions and we didn’t have speed this weekend, and last weekend was bad,” crew chief Paul Wolfe told NBC Sports. “We wrecked two cars at the Roval. It’s been a frustrating three weeks and now we’re sitting I don’t know how many points out … We’ll go to Kansas and do what we try to do every week and that’s win and see what happens.”

It’s a marked change for the team, which won the Southern 500 and at Indianapolis to end the regular season and won the playoff opener at Las Vegas.

At Richmond, Keselowski finished ninth, hindered by a slow pit stop in the first half of the race. At the Charlotte Roval, he was fastest in practice but crashed in the final session and had to go to a backup. He crashed while leading late in the race and placed 31st. Last week at Dover, Keselowski finished 14th after he was hit by Aric Almirola in the final laps and his car was damaged.

“We made a bad call not to pit last week there at the end and then we got run over,” Wolfe said. “So that’s not good.”

Sunday, Keselowski had a loose wheel that forced him to stop under green and fall a lap down. He recovered to lead 21 laps but Stewart-Haas Racing’s cars were clearly better.

Why?

Sounds like they’ve got some really good engineering,” Keselowski said.

The team made some changes this weekend to the car but couldn’t counter the Stewart-Haas Racing cars.

“We went for handling today, thought that’s what we needed and I don’t know, I didn’t really see it pay off for us,” Wolfe said. “There were cars out there driving a lot worse than we were but we weren’t able to capitalize on it. Disappointed in that.”

Keselowski was running ninth when the race went to overtime and then pitted for fuel while most of the field stayed out.

“We just got a little bit of air in there and I think he panicked and came to pit road and likely should have just rolled on and we would have probably run out down the back (straightaway) or something but had enough speed to carry it around and maybe finish a few spots higher,” Wolfe told NBC Sports.

“When you get down to the end like that and you got a lap-and-a-half of fuel, we’re talking about half a gallon of fuel, you’ve got to be really aggressive keeping that pick up full and sometimes you‘ll get a little sputter there and got to let it recover and go on. It’s just been a frustrating three weeks.”

Results, stats for the Cup race at Talladega

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
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Aric Almirola passed a fuel-starved Kurt Busch in Turn 4 on the final lap of  the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to win his first race of the season and advance to the third round of the playoffs.

Teammate Clint Bowyer followed him across the line.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.

Stewart-Haas Racing started first through fourth and ran that way for most of the race. With less than 10 laps remaining, they separated from the field – building an advantage of more than 20-car-lengths with five to go.

That advantage was erased with three laps remaining when Alex Bowman spun and brought out the caution.

Kurt Busch fell to 14th on the final lap. Teammate Kevin Harvick pitted as the field was about to take the green flag. He finished 28th.

Click here for complete results