What drivers said after the Food City 500

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Kyle Busch – Winner: “It was the best right at the end. I know (Kyle) Larson was a little bit loose right there. It seemed like he was overdriving and trying to hold the bottom, but he was slipping out of the bottom and I got a huge run on him and got to him and it was just on. I knew I might as well just take the opportunity that I got right now. I knew it was a little early ‘cause you tend to try to want to think about saving that bump-and-run deal for the last lap, but I just took my chance with it and if he got back to my rear bumper, then so be it. I think that’s fair game and being able to race that way. Fortunately, I was able to run away from him and he couldn’t get back to me.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “I was really, really good on that long run. And yeah, as soon as we restarted there, I was extremely loose. The No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) got to my inside. I just really didn’t have any grip. I thought it would tighten up for me and I could get going, but it never really did and I was just really loose. I hate that I didn’t win. It’s another one at Bristol. I feel like every time I race here I almost get a win. It was a fun race. I’ve been beat by Kyle (Busch) about every time I race here, too; so that gets frustrating after a while.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 3rd: “Yeah, it really is a great boost. I’ve said for weeks now that we’re getting better and it’s great to finally have a result to back that up. We’ve had decent Fridays and really good Saturdays and then some bad luck in the races. Although we had plenty of bad luck over the course of the four or five days that we’ve been here, we were able to pull through and get a great third-place finish. So, I’m very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and thank everybody on this Lowe’s For Pros team and let’s get home and get out of here. It’s snowing again.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 4th: “The call where (crew chief) Brian (Pattie) got us to come down pit road, that was the longest green flag run we had and we had a little bit better tires than some of the guys up front, so that was nice for us. All in all, I was bummed that caution came out. Being on better tires I thought we were gonna be able to run down the 42 (Larson). He was by far the class of the field I’d say throughout the whole run and the whole race. We were fighting track position, gaining it and losing it back-and-forth over the last two days, but, all in all, it was a really strong run for our Sunny D Ford. We had a good Friday, a good Saturday and a good race on Sunday and Monday. I’m glad we were able to get it all in and we appreciate the fans for sticking around. That was a fun race. I love the race track It’s nice being able to run the bottom, run the top on the long runs. It made for some good racing.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 5th: “I mean we got a good start there for once and had some good track position. Just thankful for driving for Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a lot of fun finally getting some good runs going our way. It’s been cool. To run fifth, it’s not a great day, but it’s better than what we started the year doing. We are making progress, making steps in the right direction and just got to keep doing that.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 6th: “We worked on it all day. We weren’t very good yesterday at all. Finally, when the track moved to the top our car got a lot better, so we kind of were prepared for that and our car was kind of set up to run the top and I was just miserable trying to run the bottom. My car was really, really bad on the bottom and we finally got it to where it was going pretty good up top and the caution would come out. I feel like if the race would have been a normal race and we would have run a lot of green flag (laps) up top, we would have been pretty good. It’s a good day. I’m a little disappointed with sixth, but, at the same time, I’m happy and pleased that we rebounded after a bad day in Texas. To come out of here with a sixth is a great day and I feel like we could have got more if it would have stayed green. I wish we would have run like 300 more laps (laughing).”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 7th: “We weren’t that good pretty much the whole time. Today we were worse, just really loose, especially taking off, but we stayed in there and fought all day. We had another bad pit stop there at the end and wound up seventh, but, all in all, considering all the circumstances I guess it was a pretty good weekend.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 8th: “It was a long weekend. We weren’t very good all weekend long and just kept working on it. We were smart with the race. Early on there was a lot of trouble yesterday and even more today. It was just a weird weekend. I mean, the weather just capped off everything else that was going on. It seemed like the VHT, for whatever reason, a little bit different this time than it’s been in the past. Our tires seemed like they were a little bit different than what we’ve had, for whatever reason. It was a weird weekend, so I’m glad with a top 10.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 10th: “Well, we were a top-five car, just got the wrong spot on the restart there. Wish we would have been sixth instead of fifth, gladly would have been fourth. Good run for our Bass Pro/Cabela’s Chevrolet. The team did a good job this weekend. Starting clear back as far as we did and then being as high as second, good team effort. Something to build on going to one of my favorite race tracks next weekend.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 11th: “I mean it was a difficult weekend overall. With the weather and my hand and everything, but actually it kind of helped me a little bit to rest more and kind of like breaks for myself. On that side, it was kind of nice, but right here over the 300 laps straight, I’m a little sore right now. I feel like we were actually better than 11th, but anyway. It’s been an okay weekend, but we have to keep working. I feel like overall, it was a positive weekend because we showed speed and we run in the front – up front. We have to build on that and go to next week to Richmond.”

David Ragan – Finished 12th: “I felt like it took us about 300 laps to get all the monkeys off of our back and get our car repaired and kind of get some track position. I felt like our car was really good on a long run and we were fortunate that we had a couple of long runs today. I’m proud of our guys for never giving up. We spent a lot of time on pit road, so it was a solid day and I’m happy to get out of here and look forward to Richmond.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 15th: “I know we were better than a 15th-place finish, but the scoreboard doesn’t show it today. We stayed out to try and save an extra set of tires and it ended up being a long run, so we corded our left front tire and went a lap down. You just can never predict when a long run will happen at Bristol Motor Speedway. There were not enough laps after that to earn our lap back. It’s a shame because the No. 3 Realtree Camaro ZL1 was fast today. We ran a lot of the race in the top-five and posted some of the fastest times during the race. We were fast on restarts, and I’m proud of that. I hope all fans enjoyed seeing the new Realtree fishing pattern on the track.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. – Finished 16th: “Yeah, hell of a day. Didn’t know what to expect firing off and we fired off like a freaking badass and got our way up to 10th in that second stage there. That was good, get some stage points and got up to the lead. I was as surprised as anybody. Going through the emotions we were really good and that last caution came out and we were struggling with left front problems there late in runs, locking up easily, but still was able to make decent ground. Then all of a sudden it went away there and man, just blindsided there by that. Great car all day, nothing to be pissed off about, that is racing. You could be good for a second and then the next second you are not, but awesome takeaways. The momentum is still here. I’m just dejected because I’m scratching my head on where in the hell we went wrong or what we wrong. I don’t think we did anything wrong, I guess that is big-time auto racing, but it was a good day.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 23rd: “The tire came apart on that restart and we were trying to bring it on home, but it just didn’t come together.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 24th: “The results stink right now. We want to be clicking off top 15s and top 10s every week, but we haven’t had a clean weekend yet. Something has happened every weekend to hurt our result. We just have to keep working to clean up our weekends. You can’t have wrecks on the race track and you can’t have blown tires. You can’t have silly things happening and some of that is on us, so we just have to keep working to clean it up and get the most out of the weekends. We’ll go to Richmond here this next weekend, another short track where a lot of stuff is happening. I just hope for a clean weekend where we can go get the results we deserve.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 28th: “I always love coming to Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t very nice to our team this weekend, but we made the most out of what we could. We had to take a lot of time during the first stage to fix damage to our front end after I was checking up for a caution and was punted into the 47 car. It put us 17 laps down, but no one on this team gave up when it would have been easy to. We came back this morning to gain as many spots as we could. Every position is worth a valuable championship point. Our goal was to let the chaos breakout in front of us while we ran a clean race to make it to the end, and we did. It is certainly not the result we wanted, but those are the breaks in racing sometimes. We will keep digging and head to Richmond next weekend.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 35th: “By the time I could see anything they were already turned right and there was nowhere to go. Seeing the replay, I don’t know, people not cleared clearing themselves and then wrecking and take the leader out, so that’s unfortunate. Our car was pretty good today. We just kind of got held up there and we might not have been as strong at the end of that run, but I thought we could have at least held on for that stage and never got the chance. The positives you look at is that we had a good car and that’s something to hold your head high about.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 36th: “First off, our Bush’s Baked Beans Camaro was really good today. Unfortunately, we were in one of the accidents before that and got us back there where we really shouldn’t have been. We had three or four of us trying to stay on the lead lap and we were all being held up by the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne). I got a good run on the outside the slower cars and came off the corner and thought we were good, and it just swiped right up the front. By the time you lift, it’s a little too late. It’s really unfortunate. I love this place. It’s my favorite race track that we go to. We had good speed. We’ve just got to get back after it the next time we come here.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 38th: “It’s just unfortunate. There are no excuses. I was just racing the 19 (Daniel Suarez) and got loose underneath him. There’s not a lot of grip. It rained all day and that VHT just doesn’t do well without heat. I was stuck on the bottom and that was about it. I really hate it for my guys. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford and just to be out this early is really heartbreaking.”

Clint Bowyer, William Byron look to extend streak of first-time winners in playoffs

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In the 15-year-history of the NASCAR playoff era, only 16 times has a Cup Series playoff driver earned their first win of the season in the playoffs itself.

Two of those occurrences have happened in the last two weeks.

Kyle Larson got the streak going with his dominating win in the Round of 12 opener at Dover International Speedway. That snapped a 75-race winless streak for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

It continued Monday when Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney barely beat Ryan Newman to win at Talladega Superspeedway. It snapped a 37-race winless streak for Blaney.

Can the first-time winner steak continue?

If it does, it will take place Sunday at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). But of the 16 instances a playoff driver earned their first win in the playoffs, it’s only happened once on the 1.5-mile track.

Jack Roush and Mark Martin celebrate winning the Banquet 400 on Oct. 9, 2005 at the Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

Mark Martin was the winner on Oct. 9, 2005, a day that saw Roush Fenway Racing put four of its five cars in the top five.

It was Martin’s first win in 52 races. It was just the second time a playoff driver’s first win in a season came in the playoffs. The first was three races earlier at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Ryan Newman).

Ahead of Sunday’s race there are only two Cup Series playoff drivers left who could potentially extend the streak: William Byron and Clint Bowyer.

Aside from securing them spots in the Round of 8, wins by either would be notable in their own right.

A victory by Bowyer would be his first on his home track in 23 attempts in the Cup Series. Like Martin, a victory would end a 52-race winless streak.

Bowyer’s best finish at Kansas was a runner-up finish in his second start in 2007. Since then he has just two top fives at Kansas, including a fifth-place finish in this year’s spring race.

Bowyer enters this race 11th in the standings, 24 points back from the cutoff line.

“We know what we have to do this weekend,” Bowyer said in press release. said. “We need to get stage points, a great finish and maybe even a win. We finished fifth here in May, we just have to do a few spots better this weekend.”

A win by Byron would be significant because he’s yet to win a Cup Series race in 67 starts.

In his previous three Kansas starts Byron’s only managed to finish once. The Hendrick Motorsports driver placed 20th in the spring after starting third. He won in his lone Truck Series start there in 2016 and had a top five in his only Xfinity Series start at the track in 2017.

After he was eliminated in a wreck at Talladega, Byron enters Sunday last on the playoff grid, 27 points behind the cutoff and essentially in a must-win scenario.

“I think it will be interesting to see how things play out with how our mile-and-half packages have evolved just throughout the year,” Byron said in a press release. “Whether it continues that trend this weekend or whether it reverts back to how it was in the spring at Kansas. I’m just interested to see how that is since the cars have come a long way since that race. I’m also interested to see with it being an elimination race, I think it will open things up for different strategies. It’s a bit of an unknown at this point.”

NASCAR completes merger with International Speedway Corp.

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NASCAR announced Friday morning it had closed on its merger with International Speedway Corp.

Jim France will serve as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. Lesa France Kennedy will be the executive vice chair. Steve Phelps has been appointed president and will oversee all operations of the company.

“The merger of NASCAR and ISC represents a historic moment for our sport,” France said in a statement. “There is much work ahead of us, but we’re pleased with the progress made to position our sport for success. Delivering for our race fans and partners is job number one and we look forward to doing that better than ever for years to come.”

As part of the new organization, the Board of Directors will consist of France, France Kennedy, Mike Helton and Gary Crotty, chief legal officerPhelps’ direct reports will include Ed Bennett, executive vice president & chief administrative officer; Jill Gregory, executive vice president & chief marketing and content officer; Craig Neeb, executive vice president & chief innovation officer; Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president & chief racing development officer; and Daryl Wolfe, executive vice president & chief operations and sales officer.

Helton and John Saunders will serve as senior advisors under the new leadership structure.

“With great racing across all of our series, an exciting 2020 schedule on tap, and the Next Gen race car in development, we are better positioned than ever before to lead the sport into a new era of growth,” said Phelps in a statement. “We have a strong, experienced leadership team in place with incredibly dedicated employees at every level throughout our organization. Our best days are ahead of us and our new organization is going to allow us to better deliver great racing to our fans everywhere.”

NASCAR’s Friday schedule at Kansas Speedway

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The NASCAR playoff race weekend at Kansas Speedway begins today.

Cup and Xfinity Series teams will each hold two practice sessions.

The wunderground.com forecast predicts a high of 74 degrees, partly sunny skies and a 10% chance of rain.

Here’s the day’s schedule.

(All times are Eastern)

Noon – 11 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

3:05 – 3:55 p.m.  – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:05 – 4:55 – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

5:05 – 5:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

7:05-7:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

 

Friday 5: Is this Kyle Busch’s time?

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Will this become the fall of Kyle Busch?

Not fall as in stumble but fall as in season — when he takes control of the Cup playoffs.

Busch, the regular-season champion, has been many things this postseason — moody, controversial and mistake-prone — but he’s not been a dominant figure on the track.

His average finish in the first half of these playoffs is 16.6 — marking the fourth time since 2015 he’s had an average finish of 14th or worse halfway through the postseason.

Busch, though, made it to the championship race each of those four years, winning the title in 2015.

But with Busch, there’s always something more.

Instead of a streak of Championship 4 appearances, it is his winless streak that draws more attention. Busch has failed to win in the past 17 races, his longest drought since going 36 races between Cup victories in 2016-17.

Since Busch last won at Pocono in early June — before Justin Haley’s improbable win at Daytona, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing and then signing with JTG Daugherty Racing and Bubba Wallace and Busch beating and banging at Watkins Glen — he’s seen Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones all win.

Miscues have hindered Busch’s playoffs. He hit the wall on Lap 3 of the opener at Las Vegas. Busch rallied from two laps down to be back on the lead lap before running into the rear of Garrett Smithley’s car. After the race, Busch called out Smithley and Joey Gase, questioning their credentials to be in the Cup Series.

Busch’s Dover run was hurt by a speeding penalty. He had a flat tire after contact with Kyle Larson on a restart at the Charlotte Roval and had to pit. A suspension issued later led to his day ending. Several laps down and with nothing to gain, Busch drove the car back to the garage during a red flag. His Talladega race was impacted by an accident, just like about every other driver. The only playoff driver not involved in an incident in the race was winner Ryan Blaney.

But things could be changing for Busch.

For all his struggles, he’s finished second three times during his winless drought and had six top-five results. Only Hamlin (10 top fives), Truex (eight) and Kevin Harvick (seven) have had more top fives than Busch in this stretch.

Provided Busch advances — he is 41 points Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a transfer spot — he’ll likely be the points leader heading into the Round of 8 after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Round of 8 begins at Martinsville Speedway. Busch finished third there in the spring. He’s not placed worse than eighth in any of the five short track races this season. He led 66 laps before finishing 10th at Texas and won at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, leading 177 of 312 laps.

Get Busch to Miami (again) and he could leave as a two-time champion.

2. Tough challenge for hopefuls 

The most likely way Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer or William Byron — the four drivers outside a playoff race — will advance to the next round will be to win Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Bowman trails Joey Logano, who holds the final transfer spot by 18 points. Elliott trails Logano by 22 points. Bowyer trails Logano by 24 points, and Byron trails Logano by 27 points.

The only time Byron and Bowyer outscored Logano in a race by as many points as they trail was at Dover in the playoffs when Logano spent the first 24 laps in the garage.

Bowman has outscored Logano by 18 points in three races this year: Dover playoff race, Talladega in April (Bowman was second) and Kansas in May (Bowman was second)

Elliott has had better results. He has outscored Logano by 22 or more points in a race five times this year: Martinsville in March (Elliott outscored Logano by 28 points), Talladega in April (22 points), Kansas in May (29 points), Watkins Glen (46 points) in August and the Bristol night race (25 points) in August. Elliott won at Talladega and Watkins Glen. He was second at Martinsville, fourth at Kansas and fifth at Bristol.

That’s the challenge those four drivers face this weekend trying to knock Logano out of the final playoff spot.

3. Looking to help 

Brad Keselowski expressed his concern about team members who will be or could be losing their jobs in the near future as the sport goes through change.

He recently sent this tweet:

So what can Keselowski do?

“I haven’t gotten an answer to it yet, but I’m looking at it, trying to think about what ideas there might be” Keselowski said. “I haven’t come up with a solution yet. I just wanted those people to know that are affected by it that I cared about it. I can’t employ the couple of hundred people that are probably going to get laid off in the next few weeks, but I’m sure I can do something for someone.”

4. Youth movement?

The last three races have been won by three of the five youngest drivers in the playoffs: Chase Elliott (Charlotte Roval), Kyle Larson (Dover) and Ryan Blaney (Talladega).

Elliott is 23, Larson is 27 and Blaney is 25. The playoffs also include William Byron (21 years old) and Alex Bowman (26). Erik Jones (23) was eliminated in the first round.

5. Drought busters

Five drivers have ended winless streaks of 30 or more races this season: Kyle Larson (75 races) Denny Hamlin (45), Erik Jones (42), Ryan Blaney (37) and Kurt Busch (30).

Among drivers with long winless droughts: Paul Menard (299 races), David Ragan (237), Chris Buescher (118), Ryan Newman (99), Jimmie Johnson (90), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (86), Austin Dillon (66), Clint Bowyer (52), Aric Almirola (36),

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