What Cup drivers said after Talladega playoff race

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Here’s what the field had to say after the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski – Winner: “This is still sinking in. It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three, and we had them all today.”

Ryan Newman – Finished second: “We held them off longer than I expected. I couldn’t tell how much nose damage I had, and I hadn’t led all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I saw (Brad Keselowski) in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught (Joey Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run. I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. They were double-teaming me, and you know it was still a good race to finish second.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished third:  “I was right in the middle of it and, man, I was sliding backwards up the race track thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to hurt.  Somebody is coming through or I’m going to back it in the fence.’  I just kept turning the wheel to the left trying to get the nose to slide around and it did, and I ended up going straight, so that was pretty cool.  My guys did a good job of fixing the damage. We couldn’t have been back out there with speed if they didn’t assess it.  We got a red flag to be able to look at everything, and they did a great job getting the work done, getting it back on track and just thankful we finished one. We just survived better than everybody else. It wasn’t injury-free for sure.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished fourth: “Brad and I worked well together, and we were able to help him win the race today, which was good.  I wish we could have won the race.  I had a good enough run, but the damage and all – even though the guys did a good job fixing it – you could tell the speed wasn’t there as much at the end, but we were still able to pick up enough to keep some speed in it and get a fourth-place finish.  It’s a good way to recover after a crash to finish fourth.  I guess you should be proud of that, but I’m still mad I didn’t win.”

Aric Almirola – Finished fifth:  “That was exciting.  The whole race was exciting.  Right there at the end I was really committed to making sure that we got a blue oval (Ford) to Victory Lane.  I was kind of watching (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano), and we were all kind of trying to work together, and my car had some damage on it from earlier in the race, and I knew my car wasn’t probably good enough to lead, but if I could have done something right there at the end, we might have been able to pull one off.  But, nonetheless, we were able to get a (Ford) to Victory Lane.  It’s great for everybody at Ford and cool to see Brad win.  He’s obviously been really successful here at Talladega, but I honestly thought for a minute there we might have a shot at it.  Some things just didn’t work out going down the back straightaway.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished sixth: “I maybe should’ve pushed (Ryan Newman) a little bit longer. I tried to pass him in a different spot. Yeah, just a flick shy of clearing him there, and I knew if I could clear him, then the runs were going to be very small because there were very few cars out there. I did what I wanted to do. I pushed him out there to the lead, stayed attached and then made a move, but I just didn’t do a very good job there those last two laps.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished seventh: “Yeah, we got lucky. That was just luck being in the right place at the right time and not getting swept up in any of those wrecks. We had one there that knocked the splitter down really bad on the right front, and that is why we couldn’t do anything at the end.  The car was just dragging the ground and wouldn’t go, wouldn’t take off, so it was a little wounded out there at the end.  Still got a decent finish and came out of here in one piece.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 11th: “We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega, and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast. We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn’t anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn’t get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It’s just tough, and it’s disappointing we couldn’t get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 13th: “I think (Chase Elliott) got into (Daniel Suarez) and got him sideways and in to me. There are a lot of torn up cars, but we still finished 13th and maintained our points on the cutoff there. It would have been a worse day. But it also could have been better … could have won. I was glad we decided to race there in the second half. There was a lot of opportunities to get caught up in crashes. It was just crazy that a lot of the playoff guys, pretty much everybody except Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) got collected in wrecks. Pretty crazy day but a typical Talladega. Just need to go to Kansas and have a solid race. A top-10 run will be all we need to do probably.”

CHASE ELLIOTT – Finished 16th: “I had a really big run, Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) was giving me a great shove and Daniel (Suarez) had left enough room in the middle and (Kyle) Larson left me enough room from the bottom. There was a hole and I filled it. I don’t guess Daniel (Suarez) either saw me in time or what it was just had a high rate of speed coming and he didn’t know or tried to block it I’m not sure. We will move on.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 18th: “We were up by the wall, and somebody probably got turned, and I got in it.  I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it and a good day kind of down the drain.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: “I’m fine. The last (wreck) we slowed down, and I got in the back of (Brendan Gaughan). I checked up and then (Ryan Blaney) popped up on the race track, and I couldn’t get slowed down. It was just a bad weekend. The Busch Light Ford wasn’t as good as we needed. We had to start in the back and went to the back a couple other times and just couldn’t make anything happen.  We were on defense the whole time and wound up wrecked twice, so not a good weekend.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 23rd: “I got into the right rear of (David Ragan) a little bit, and he got squirrelly, and then they started wrecking in front of us so I don’t know if I turned him sideways, and he hit somebody on the inside and then hit somebody on the outside in front of me. I’m not sure if that was the cause of the accident or it was just a secondary thing. I hadn’t seen anything up ahead of us. If it was my fault, I hate it for everybody involved. Just Talladega. Just everybody running hard with 18 to go and trying to get in a hole that really wasn’t there yet.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 24th: “Really hard to tell what started (the wreck with 16 laps to go). I just saw (David Ragan) turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car, and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter, and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 25th: “We got hooked in the right rear, and I was pretty close to the front of the pack. I am just happy everything turned out the way it did to just not get clobbered by all the cars coming by. My guess is the outside lane was all jumbled up getting aggressive and pushing and somebody spun out and clipped us in the right rear. I thought we were looking good. We were coming from behind and the inside lane was open and we were making hay but now here we are coming out of the infield care center. That is just Talladega. That is how it works out. We need to figure out how to make the cars better so everybody can bump draft a little harder.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 26th: “I really haven’t seen the replay. I was just running up the bottom there and (David Ragan) ended up right in front of us. It was a bummer. We were working on getting our track position back. We felt good in the first run and got hung out there at the end of the second stage and were just working on our track position. I felt like we had a really fast Ford to contend for a win and put on a show for all these fans that came out. Bummer we don’t get to do it but we will go on to Kansas next week and have some fun.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 27th: “I’m fine. I just didn’t know where the heck (Jimmie Johnson) came from with all of the headrests and all of that stuff I never saw him coming. I wish I would’ve obviously, I would’ve tried to dodge left and go to the apron and shoot down there. Looking at it, it looks like I could’ve missed it. Just never seen him coming, so unfortunately we got caught up in that mess. None of our own wrong doing. I thought when I cleared (David Ragan), I was home free of it and then had another one come up from the left side. Just hate it for my guys and everything going on with what our situation was today. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas now.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 28th: “Honestly, I just saw David (Ragan) sideways in front of me.  I don’t know what started (the wreck) or if he was the second thing that happened, but somebody hit me from behind or something and sent me into the wall.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 29th: “Just part of this racing. What do you do? You can go and race hard all day. You can ride in the back and try to not to get in one of those big wrecks. I was proud we got some of those stage points. Was trying to push back up there. We were in a pretty good spot. Had a little momentum there. Just got caught in the wreck. There was nowhere to go. You are just holding on after that. It took the car out. (Ryan Newman) got shuffled to the back and (was) just riding there. He does that a lot in these races and it seems to work out. Maybe I need to do that strategy. If your car is not fast enough to lead, you should probably stay in the back.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 30th: “It was just chaos. Just tried to get clear of it. I almost had it cleared and then somebody came down the track and got us. It is part of Talladega racing. You know there is going to be a big one, but you don’t where or when, you just hope you aren’t in it. Just doesn’t seem to matter if you are in the front, or the middle or the back. You just aren’t immune to it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 36th: “It was kind of hard to see from my view. I was behind (Kyle Busch) and he started checking up, he swerved off to the left, and (Jamie McMurray) was sitting there really slow on the race track so I didn’t really have any choice. Unfortunately ran him over and kind of caused a chain reaction from there. It’s a bummer. We didn’t get to race today and I was hoping we’d just get a chance to go up and see what we had. It’s unfortunate, but those kind of things are going to happen here.”

JAMIE McMURRAY – Finished 37th: “We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit. You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said (Kyle Busch) was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where (Erik Jones) was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”

Entry lists for Talladega playoff weekend

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NASCAR’s playoffs continue this weekend on its largest oval track, Talladega Superspeedway.

All three national series will be competing on the 2.66-mile track.

More: Las Vegas winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Talladega:

Cup – YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

Brendan Gaughan is entered in Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 Chevrolet for his final start of the year and his NASCAR career.

Ryan Blaney has won the last two Cup races at Talladega.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity – Ag-Pro 300 (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-five cars are entered.

AJ Allmendinger is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet.

No driver is listed on SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

Justin Haley won at Talladega in June over Ross Chastain and Jeb Burton.

Tyler Reddick won this race last year over Gray Gaulding and Christopher Bell.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered.

Natalie Decker is on the entry list after she missed Friday’s Las Vegas race due to not being medically cleared.

Trevor Bayne is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 truck for the fourth time this season.

Spencer Boyd won this race last year over Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst.

Click here for the entry list.

Las Vegas Winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kurt Busch Winless in 21 previous attempts at Las Vegas, Busch scored an emotional win at his hometown track. Busch took advantage of a strategy call by crew chief Matt McCall and a timely debris caution to take the point and led the final 26 laps. He earned his first win of the season. “This is 20 years of agony and defeat and now today with triumph,” Busch said after the race.

Matt DiBenedettoStill seeks his first career Cup win and the 100th series victory for Wood Brothers Racing, but DiBenedetto finished second in both Las Vegas races this season.

Alex BowmanHe finished fifth but scored more points (43) than any driver except Denny Hamlin, who had 53 points. Bowman holds the final transfer spot to the next round.

Chris Buescher — His ninth-place finish is his second consecutive top 10 and third top 10 in the last five races.

Chase Briscoe Had a dominant car and scored the win in the playoff opener for the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas.

LOSERS

Austin DillonHis race was going well — he scored 10 stage points — until overheating problems sent him to pit road. He lost nine laps as his crew made repairs and went on to finish 32nd. That drops him to last among the playoff drivers with two races left in this round.

Chase ElliottWas 10th on the overtime restart but got shuffled back and finished 22nd.

Caution comes at wrong time for Denny Hamlin at Las Vegas

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Denny Hamlin said he knew it would happen. He just didn’t know when.

A debris caution during a green-flag cycle proved key to Kurt Busch winning Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Las Vegas and Hamlin finishing third despite leading a race-high 121 laps.

The caution on Lap 237 caught most of the playoff drivers a lap down, forcing them to wave around. Busch was the only playoff driver who had not made a pit stop.

Hamlin, who was leading, pitted on Lap 233. He came in a lap after Alex Bowman stopped. Bowman was running second to Hamlin before the stop.

“Our hand got forced by (Bowman) by him coming in early there,” Hamlin said of his team not wanting to have Bowman gain time with fresher tires. “We both had a lead over the field. I thought we could have run a little bit longer, but we had to answer their strategy because they were within one second of us. We didn’t want to just to kind of give them the lead and count on running them down at the end of the race. You have to keep yourself in front of them.”

Instead of possibly celebrating a win and advancing to the next round, Hamlin left Vegas frustrated with his third-place showing.

“I just hate getting burned by the same thing, that’s it, that’s all I’m saying,” Hamlin said on the radio to crew chief Chris Gabehart after the race. “It’s the same thing I get burned on. I know we had no choice because (where) we were at.”

Gabehart responded to Hamlin on the radio: “The choice is I stay out another five or six laps and if the caution doesn’t come, we have no shot to win. I don’t know what I’d do different. The problem is there is no reason for the leaders to come early because you leave yourself vulnerable to that, but you can’t get all these goofballs to understand that. It’s what happens.”

Even after such a finish, Hamlin is 58 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the next round.

But that wasn’t enough to console Hamlin.

“I just hate missing out on victories,” he said of his playoff spot. “We’re so much better than the six victories that we’ve got. It’s just disturbing. I’ve never been so fast in so many races and not finish it like we feel like we should, but we’re up front. That’s what counts. That’s what’s going to get you to Phoenix, keep getting those wins and keep battling for race wins. You’ll get yourself to Phoenix (for the title race) and hopefully you’’ll get a championship out of  it. That’s what we’re all here for. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Hamlin’s finish was his best in the playoffs and came after a first round that saw him score a stage win but not place higher than 12th.

Hamlin discounted the notion that putting together a new Cup team with Michael Jordan for next year and signing Bubba Wallace to drive for it had been a distraction earlier in the playoffs.

“I’ve been working for like 10 weeks on stuff, not just racing stuff, but stuff in general,” Hamlin said. “We’ve had bad breaks. Tonight was just another bad break like Darlington was, to be honest with you. Or Bristol. We led laps. We were, I thought, the best car.”

At Darlington, Hamlin missed pit road and had to go back around. Then a debris caution about 10 laps buried him outside the top 10 with less than 50 laps left. He finished 13th.

At Bristol, Hamlin started at the rear because his car failed inspection twice before the race. He ran fifth when he had contact with teammate Martin Truex Jr. as Truex returned to the track after pitting. Hamlin finished 21st.

Kyle Busch still below playoff cutline after ‘pretty dismal’ Las Vegas race

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Though he finished sixth Sunday night in the Cup playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch described his experience in the Round of 12 opener as “pretty dismal.”

The defending Cup champion now goes into the second race of the round, at Talladega Superspeedway, outside the transfer position to the next round. He trails Alex Bowman, who holds the final transfer spot, by nine points.

“Started a little up, went a little down and finished just kind of mediocre there,” Busch said. “We brought an okay M&M’s Camry. Just didn’t seem to have the overall speed that it needed, especially on the long runs early in the race. Then there late, just no overall speed. Nothing to go blitz anybody and try to make moves and get to the front. We just salvaged along and got what we got. We got lucky to get what we got for sure. It was looking like it was going to be a 12th- or 14th-place day, but came home sixth.”

Busch’s issues began at the start of Stage 2 after he earned the lead by getting off pit road first. As he raced Joey Logano for the lead on the Lap 87 restart, he was on the inside of Logano as they drove toward Turn 3.

That’s when Busch’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, dove to Busch’s inside to make it three wide and then take the lead.

But as Hamlin pulled even with Busch, Busch lurched to the right and made contact with Logano. The Team Penske driver would pit to repair a tire rub while Busch continued.

“I don’t know if (Logano) knew that was coming and didn’t adjust for it and didn’t plan for it,” Busch said. “It kind of seemed like he expected me to go to the bottom and run the bottom and he was gonna run my door.”

Logano said on the radio to his spotter he didn’t realize he was three-wide until it was too late.

Later, Busch pit from fourth on Lap 118 and fell to 28th when his front tire changer’s pit gun broke, resulting in a 22.5-second stop.

“We worked on it and I thought we were making some gains on it and then we got that damage and got way back in traffic,” Busch said. “Then there towards the end, was just able to get lucky on a couple of the last restarts in order to pick off a few spots with the M&M’s Camry and get ourselves in a better position for the finish. It was a pretty dismal day I guess.”

Busch heads to Talladega. He has one win in 30 Cup starts there. He has just one top 10 there in the last six races.

How does Busch plan to navigate the race as he faces his nine-point deficit to the playoff cutoff?

“I’ll just do what I’m told,” Busch said.