What Drivers Said after 3rd Cup playoff race at Dover

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Kyle Busch was like a cop in Chase Elliott’s mirror.

The more Elliott tried to get away in the closing laps, the closer Busch got until finally overtaking Elliott with two laps to go in the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

It was Busch’s second consecutive win in the playoffs and denied Elliott his first career Cup win.

Twelve of the original 16 playoff contenders now advance to the start of the second round of the playoffs, which begin next Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s what Busch, Elliott and other drivers had to say after Sunday’s race:

Kyle Busch – Winner: “I think the biggest thing there at the end was just having a little bit fewer, fresher lap tires than Chase (Elliott) did and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough when I got close. I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lap cars in front of him, so I think the lap cars actually helped us with that one, but overall just a great day for us. … (Now) we’ve got to win Charlotte. Apparently, I haven’t won there before, so I need to go get that win and check that one off the list and that will put us into the next round and we’ll go from there.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 2nd: “I’m just so disappointed in myself. Golly, I couldn’t have had it any easier. It ran green from the stage break all the way to the end. And, I gave it away. I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “We had a very competitive car today.  The car was good, we just kind of fought track position and I wish I had done a better job on Friday and got us up in that front three sooner. It was so tough to pass, I think whoever came off pit road or had control of a restart was really in the catbird seat. But, a great day for our Lowe’s Chevy. These banked tracks seem to suit us much better than a lot of the flat we saw during the summer. Usually, if you run well at Dover, you run well at Charlotte, so we are excited to go to next week as well.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 4th: “Struggled all day a little bit, but guys worked hard and we never quit and just stayed after it – come home fourth. Thought maybe we should have been second or third, but that last run just really went away on us. It is what it is, but I look forward to Charlotte next week and see if we can keep this thing going.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 5th: ��It was a really good race. I won that second stage and was the leader off pit road and then my engine was kind of struggling firing up when I would cycle the engine and cool it down under yellows. It just didn’t re-fire that one time and had to restart fifth and fell back to sixth. Kind of hard to pass when I got back there. I couldn’t really move up the race track because I would be in dirty air. We short pitted, got to third, but fell back and finished fifth. I felt like if I could have restarted the leader I probably would have had a shot to win like the No. 24 (Chase Elliott), but once I had to restart on the inside of the third row I was kind of done unless I had a caution, which there wasn’t any left the rest of the race.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 6th: “We had a really good car today. That first caution didn’t help, and that put us a lap down. We battled back pretty well. We seemed to have our balance shift in waves today. First it’s too tight, then too loose, then back again. It wasn’t a win, but it was a good day.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 7th: “I told (Ryan Blaney) last night I would just take a top 10 after the year that I have had. I know the car was good enough to run in the top five and we showed that at certain points in the race and certain points of the weekend too. … It (his best finish since Sonoma) feels good. This team is really a good team and we have just had a lot of odd misfortune and we have ill-prepared ourselves at times. When the car is good, it seems like we have some bad luck. Then there are weekends where we just can’t get the car right. It’s been a pretty down year but hopefully this weekend is the start of some more good runs. I think we will end this thing strong and I am excited. I am optimistic that our performance is on the uptick and we will see how it works out for next week.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 8th: “(My day) was good. It was consistent solid top-10. I think it’s pretty much all we had and then we got stuck in the race caution and that’s part of it. It worked out well in the end with a decent result.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished 9th: “I’m pleased. I feel like and I said it on media day that we have run about eighth all year long, so if we just did what we had done all year long that we would be fine. Had a great car today. Got behind in qualifying, but recovered well and we were a little safe on our strategy, but man, had a great car again.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 10th: “Qualified 16th. Had some pretty good strategy running long and caught the yellow cycle. Had a good pit stop that put us in position to win the first stage, which was good. Then we cycled back to sixth the next two rounds and fought really hard from there to just keep track position. We were holding on to sixth or seventh most of the race and at the end we tried to a little bit of strategy and it just didn’t quite work out.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 11th: “(Our race) sucked. We were just never very good, then I sped on pit road and got to the back and then just couldn’t go anywhere, so, it wasn’t good for us. We weren’t real competitive and then I made that mistake and could never overcome it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 12th: “The SiriusXM Toyota was always way too tight firing off regardless of what we did. Just a frustrating day. I had to chase it up the hill in the turns all day. It was like I was skiing on the track all day. Just frustrating. Somehow we were able to salvage a 12th-place finish out of it.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 13th, eliminated from playoffs: “We just weren’t good enough, as simple as that. We didn’t have a fast-enough race car, we didn’t have the right strategy. We qualified better, that was a plus, but these first three races were a challenge for us. It seemed like everybody else stepped up their game and we didn’t.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 14th, eliminated from playoffs: “Just track position was one of the biggest challenges for us. It was just tough. We didn’t pass really well, but had a pretty decent car, but it was a bit of a struggle to pass guys that were running the same speed, so we just kind of ran in that spot and tried to use some strategy to get up. It seemed to really work, but then on the long end of it, it didn’t work out.  Darien (Grubb, crew chief) did a good job.  The guys worked hard and that was the best we could do.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 16th, eliminated from playoffs: “It started off pretty good. We were headed to the front and were really good on that first long run. We pitted and the caution came out. That was pretty much it. (Ricky) Stenhouse getting those stage points; we were better than him all day. It would have come down between me and the No. 31 (Ryan Newman). We decided we had to run long right there to see if a caution would come out and put everybody a lap down to get us on the same strategy Stenhouse got his points on. It stinks.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 18th: “We’d hoped to get a top-15 run today, but it just didn’t work out in the end. We needed just a little bit more, but overall it was a solid day for the Warriors in Pink Ford team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 19th: “The feeling is lucky really. We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turning point of the day. Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. … We have to run better. We have to bring faster race cars to the track because what we are bringing to the track right now is not nearly fast enough. All in all it is positive momentum that we did make it to the second round.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 20th: “Yeah, disappointed in the way that I drove all through this playoff run. I was driving at 101 percent, trying to get every ounce of speed out of it. It just never had a flow for three races. We might have finished 10th here today. The wreck last week really put us in a hole. We needed a perfect day today and playoff stage points. We just really never did well in Stage 1 and I thought that it might be our Achilles heel. If we add up the numbers (that’s) probably where it was. I can’t fault anybody. We ran hard. We gave it everything we had. … Winning the Daytona 500, you always see the jinx that happens afterwards. We experienced it. There’s a lot that goes on with it. My car never had the handle in it this year where I was always loose in, tight on exit. Loose in, tight on exit. I don’t know why we had that so bad this year.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 23rd: “It is definitely not the day we wanted and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good. At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end. It figures. We got the car better and then just had to kind of ride around the last 60 laps or so. That stunk. The main goal is to transfer and I think the second round is really good for us. I am really excited about that. I am excited to get to Charlotte.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “Today was a battle. I just want to thank all my guys on this Roush Fenway team for their work this weekend. We will move on from today and get ready for some racing at home this week in Charlotte.”

Paul Menard – Finished 26th: “This Richmond/Menards Chevrolet fired off pretty decent to start the race. It hugged the center okay, but we couldn’t go anywhere in traffic. We were in a decent place and hit pit road for some solid adjustments, but when that caution came out in the middle of green flag stops it hurt us pretty bad. Track position was key and we were stuck laps down and forced to take the wave around and get on a different strategy. You can’t predict cautions and we were just on the wrong side of that deal today.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick back at No. 1

NASCAR Power Rankings
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Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Kevin Harvick is the No. 1 driver in this week’s NASCAR rankings.

Martin Truex Jr. held the top spot for just a week before Harvick reclaimed the crown with his series-leading ninth Cup win of the year Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This week’s rankings includes three ties as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Round of 16

Harvick takes his power rankings lead to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the start of the Round of 12.

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has three wins in the last five races: Dover, the Southern 500 and Bristol night race.

2. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 7): Finished seventh at Bristol for his third top 10 in five races. His 11 top fives so far matches his total from each of the last two seasons. He scored a career-high 12 top fives in 2017.

3. (tie) Kyle Busch (Last week No.  9): Finished second in Bristol after he started from the rear due to inspection failures. Has three consecutive top 10s for the first time this season.

3. (tie) Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Followed consecutive third-place finishes with an 11th at Bristol.

5. (tie) Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 1): Finished 24th in Bristol following contact with Denny Hamlin after an unscheduled pit stop.

5. (tie) Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): After winning at Richmond, Keselowski had a rough night in Bristol. He finished 34th due to power steering problems.

7. (tie) Aric Almirola (Last week unranked): Finished fifth in Bristol for his third consecutive top 10 and his fourth in five races.

7. (tie) Clint Bowyer (Last week unranked): Placed sixth in Bristol for his third consecutive top-10 finish and to keep his playoff chances alive.

9. Austin Dillon (Last week No. 3): Placed a respectable 12th to finish the first round after consecutive top fives.

10. Erik Jones (Last week unranked): Placed third in Bristol for his seventh top-five finish of the season and his second in the last three races.

Also receiving votes: Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Silly season features Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan

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NASCAR Silly Season took a twist Monday. A day that started with the announcement that Ross Chastain would drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year ended with the news that Denny Hamlin would co-own a team with Michael Jordan and have Bubba Wallace as the driver in 2021.

As JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full Cup season. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

A team name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a later time.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

No. TBA: Bubba Wallace joins the new team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA great Michael Jordan. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter. Germain Racing will not continue after this season.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that Wood Brothers Racing has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Brad Daugherty: Michael Jordan to NASCAR is ‘huge moment’

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Brad Daugherty calls Michael Jordan’s ownership of a Cup team a “huge moment for NASCAR.”

Jordan and Denny Hamlin will co-own a Cup team next season. Bubba Wallace will be the driver. Jordan will become the first Black majority car owner of a full-time team since Wendell Scott owned and raced cars in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Daugherty, the only Black owner of a full-time Cup team currently, is excited about Jordan’s entrance into NASCAR.

“It’s a big momentum shift for this sport culturally, period,” said Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and an analyst for NBC Sports. “Three years ago, this would have never happened. A year ago, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s the timing. If the timing is right and you have someone like Michael Jordan put his brand and what he’s all about into whatever you are doing, it adds a lot of credibility. I look forward to whatever he can bring to the table to help continue to build NASCAR.”

Daugherty told NBC Sports that Jordan can help the sport reach more people.

“The eyeballs are going to be incredible,” Daugherty said of Jordan’s potential impact. “The opportunity for entrance into the sport will be made more available as far as people being aware of the availability to get involved in NASCAR as a fan or as a business. There’s just so many different areas that will light up just because of who he is and what he represents. His entire legacy creates opportunity for everyone.

“Now, we start talking diversity with what he’s able to do from a corporate standpoint and also just from a legacy standpoint with his brand. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited because I think more people now, more than ever, will take a look at NASCAR with a keen eye and keen interest and be excited about maybe participating as a fan or as a business partner or as someone wanting to learn how to drive a race car or own a race team. The more notoriety the better.”

NASCAR stated Monday: “Michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”

Jordan told The Charlotte Observer on Monday that the deal came together in about 10 days because of the chance to hire Wallace.

“When (Hamlin) told me there was a possibility of getting Bubba Wallace, I’m saying, ‘OK, this is perfect!’” Jordan told The Observer. “If I’m getting involved in NASCAR, then get a Black driver (with) a Black owner.”

For all that Jordan can bring to NASCAR, Daugherty knows that the competition can prove challenging.

“I’m sure he’s committed to next season and we’ll see how that goes and if it goes well, you go beyond that,” Daugherty said. “He had a (Superbike) team for a long time and loved that. He understands it’s a different business model. He’s at the point in his life, he’s like Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick and those guys to where it’s really not a detriment to him financially if he’s not making money. We’ll have to see how much he can stomach because it’s an interesting business model for sure.”

Jordan told The Observer he’s in it to win.

“If I’m investing, if I’m a participant, then I want to win! I don’t want to be out there to be just another car,” Jordan said.

Daugherty looks forward to seeing Jordan, Hamlin and Wallace at the track.

“I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” Daugherty said. “They’re going to be like rock stars.”

Daugherty also looks forward to something else next year.

“Look forward to racing against those guys,” he said, “and trying to kick their butts.”

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

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Germain Racing car owner Bob Germain announced Monday that he has sold the team’s charter and will end the team after this season.

The charter was purchased by a new team that will have Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan as owners and Bubba Wallace as the driver.

Germain said in a statement that the No. 13 team will continue the rest of the season with Ty Dillon as driver.

“Being an owner in NASCAR for the last 16 years has been a thrilling and rewarding adventure,” Germain said in a statement. “From winning two NASCAR Truck Series championships in 2006 and 2010 to competing at the highest level of motorsports in the Cup Series for the last 12 seasons, I have experienced the highs and lows of our sport. I’m extremely proud of what Germain Racing has accomplished at every level and I will be transitioning out of ownership with many memories and friendships. I appreciate the interest and offers made over the last couple of weeks and I am excited to see how the sport continues to grow in the future.

“Thank you to GEICO for their loyalty to Germain Racing for over a decade. It has been a great source of pride for our team to represent their brand on the track. Doug Barnette with Player Management International has facilitated our GEICO relationship since the beginning and I truly appreciate his efforts. Finally, to my employees: building a team camaraderie and creating a family atmosphere has been a highlight of this journey. I will miss each of you.”

Germain pondered a sale when GEICO decided not to renew its contract after this season with the team.  GEICO is one of NASCAR’s Premier Partners, joining Busch Beer, Coca-Cola and Xfinity.

Dillon spoke in late August about the challenges facing single-car teams in Cup.

“The model is very tough right now for single-car teams,” he said. “I’m hoping that NASCAR is going to change it and help on it. But it needs to change for one-car teams to be more successful that haven’t already been at the top level of the sport or have an incredible amount of money to leapfrog into the top spot. If you don’t have three or four teams to spread the wealth with big name sponsors and a lot of money behind the effort, it’s just not a model that’s going to survive long term.”

Hamlin acknowledged the challenge a one-car team can have.

“I do believe that the (ownership) model will hopefully get better,” Hamlin said before last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Do I think it’s fixed? No, I think there is still some work to be done to make the model a viable business. You want a business that everyone wants to be a part of, not the ones that are fleeting. Certainly, I think NASCAR is trying it’s best to make the teams a little more healthy. I think that outlook toward the future is what’s interesting to me.”

Germain Racing is the second team to sell its charter since August. Leavine Family Racing announced it had sold its charter on Aug. 4. Spire Motorsports purchased it and will be a two-car team in 2021.