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.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).

Long: NASCAR needs to quickly correct officiating issue from Texas

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NASCAR’s admission that it did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is troubling.

With video evidence of impropriety and Hamlin’s team vigorously arguing for relief, there were enough reasons for series officials to take a closer look at putting Hamlin back to second before the race returned to green-flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race resumed. 

Add the lack of access series officials had to Byron’s in-car camera— something fans could readily see at NASCAR.com and the NASCAR Mobile App — and changes need to be made before this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

While NASCAR should make every effort to judge matters between drivers regardless of their playoff status, that it was two playoff drivers involved in an incident demanded greater attention. With three races per round, one misstep can mean the difference between advancing or being eliminated. 

Just as more is expected from drivers and teams in the playoffs, the same should be expected of officials.

“If we had seen that (contact) good enough to react to it in real time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Sunday night. “One would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, or the other would be to have made William start in the back.”

Here is how the incident played out:

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash at 8:19 p.m. ET.

As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

About 90 seconds after the caution lights illuminated, the USA broadcast showed a replay from a low angle of Byron directly behind Hamlin’s car and apparent contact. 

Contact can happen in multiple ways. It can come from the lead car hitting the brakes and forcing the car behind to hit them, or it can come from the trailing car ramming into the car ahead. The first video replay did not make it clear what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to rule one way or the other based solely on that.

This also is a time when NASCAR officials were monitoring safety vehicles on track, checking the lineup and making sure pit road was ready to be open. It’s something NASCAR does effortlessly much of the time. Just not this time. 

A different replay aired on USA 11 minutes, 16 seconds after the caution that showed Byron and Hamlin’s car together. That replay aired about a minute before the green flag waved at 8:31 p.m. ET. Throughout the caution, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.

But once the race resumed, the matter was over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.

Three minutes after the green flag waved, the NASCAR Twitter account posted in-car video that showed Byron running into the back of Hamlin’s car while the caution was out. Such action is typically a penalty — often parking a driver for the rest of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done during the rest of the event. 

After the race, Miller told reporters that series officials didn’t see the contact from Byron. 

“The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them,” Miller said. “By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

But it didn’t happen that way.

”By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green,” Miller said.

NASCAR didn’t act. By that time maybe it was too late to do so. But that’s also an issue. Shouldn’t the infraction be addressed immediately if it is clear what happened instead of days later? Shouldn’t officials have been provided with access to the in-car cameras so they could have seen Byron’s actions earlier and meted the proper punishment? Instead, Miller hinted at a possible penalty to Byron this week.

Miller didn’t reveal details but it wouldn’t be surprising to drop Byron in the field, costing him points. He’s 24 points from the cutline, so a penalty that drops him from seventh to 30th (the position ahead of Truex) could be logical and that would cost Byron 23 points, putting him near the cutline. 

Texas winner Tyler Reddick said something should have been done. He knows. He was parked in a 2014 Truck race at Pocono for wrecking German Quiroga in retaliation for an earlier incident.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

“I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Texas shuffles NASCAR Cup playoff standings

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Texas marked the fourth consecutive playoff race that the winner didn’t advance to the next round.

All three races in the first round were won by drivers not in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday at Texas, a week after he failed to advance from the Round of 16 and was eliminated from title contention.

Texas did shake up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott entered as the points leader but a blown tire while leading sent his car into the wall, ending his race. He falls to the No. 8 spot, the final transfer position with two races left in this round. He’s tied with Daniel Suarez, but Suarez has the tiebreaker with a better finish this round.

Chase Briscoe, who scored only his second top 10 in the last 22 races, is the first driver outside a transfer spot. He’s four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Cindric is 11 points out of the transfer spot. Christopher Bell is 29 points out of a transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.

The series races Sunday at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

XFINITY SERIES

Noah Gragson’s win at Texas moved him on to the next round. The win was his fourth in a row.

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer are tied for the final two transfer spots to the next round. Riley Herbst is one point behind them. Daniel Hemric is eight points from the final transfer spot. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements is 29 points shy of the final transfer position.

The series races Saturday at Talladega (4 p.m. ET on USA Network).

 

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

The series was off this past weekend but returns to the track Saturday at Talladega. Ty Majeski has advanced to the championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.