What drivers said after Talladega Cup race

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Joey Logano – Winner: “I guess we got luck. I have a great spotter. Dale Jr. left me a good one with TJ Majors, who allowed me to make the right decisions. He gives me the picture behind me and tells me where to go. I just hold the steering wheel and make the right moves. It was a great car, very fast. The Fords dominated today. I am so proud to be in a Blue Oval with Roush Yates motors under the hood. That is a huge deal. A big part of our victory today. Teamwork was a big part of it as well. At the end you are racing and don’t know what will happen, you just hope to get in the right lanes at the right time with the right moves. It is always exciting to win at a superspeedway, especially Talladega because you never know you’ve got it until you cross the line. After waiting a full year since our last win, it feels so good to get back in victory lane and get into the playoffs. It feels really good to get those playoff points, and now we will make a run at a championship.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 2nd: “We just needed the assistance from behind. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) was strong. All the Fords were great today. I was hoping he would get to us on the back straightaway so we could go on offense on the front to go win it but it just didn’t materialize. I wanted to stay with Harvick, my teammate, and navigate around (Logano), but everyone behind kind of broke off and was racing too hard and nobody got that big head of steam to try to push through and break apart (Logano)’s lead.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 3rd: “I thought our NAPA Chevy was good. It wasn’t as fast as we’ve been previously at the restrictor-plate tracks, but I feel like it was a solid car. I got to the end, and those guys around me were working together so much. I thought for sure one of them wanted to win a little worse than what they did. They were being very patient with one another, and I was surprised by that. If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push, and they were not interested in advancing. So, it could have been a lot worse, so we’ll move on to Dover.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 4th: “We had a really good Bush Ford. We got the handling a lot better there after the first run of the race when it was pushing really bad and loose in the corners and through the trioval. They did a good job adjusting the car. (Kurt Busch) pulled out sooner than I thought he would there, and we wound up getting hung out. All in all, it was a really good day. I am happy to finish the race. It is a good day for the guys. We can tweak on one finally rather than having to rebuild one.”

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – Finished 5th: “I just wasn’t sure what to do there. I knew (Chase Elliott) was going to try to get by us, and we are all trying to get a win there. (Joey Logano) was in a great position. When we got two-wide behind him, it didn’t slow him down much. We weren’t ever really gaining on him. It was a lot of fun out there today. I made a few mistakes on pit road, and we caught some good cautions to keep us on the lead lap. I thought the racing was good. The cars were super tough to drive. They were sliding around everywhere, which was fun. I think that made for a good race throughout the runs and the stages and the different strategies that we had. All in all it was a fun weekend, and I had fun on the boulevard with all the fans. I appreciate all of them coming out. I really wanted to win on Dale Sr.’s birthday. That would have been really cool.”

David Ragan – Finished 6th: “We had a fast car all weekend. We qualified 12th, and if it wasn’t for my speeding penalty early, I think we could have run in the top 15 all day. Kudos to the Front Row Motorsports guys for assembling this car and the team at the shop and the engine shop and even Roush Fenway Racing, who put a lot of effort in. Special thanks to Jimmy Fennig for helping us on this car.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 7th: “It was an unusual Talladega. The cars are a big handful. They keep getting them lower and lower and lower, and we are going faster and faster and faster, but the cars just drive worse. It is a lot harder to run in a big pack three- and four-wide all day long. You definitely saw it kind of file out and pit strategy and a lot of that stuff. The one thing that I do know is that the Fords were all really fast. All of us were really fast. We had a great Smithfield Ford Fusion the whole weekend. We put ourselves behind in qualifying, but that was a nice way to battle back with a solid day for us. I thought we had a car capable of getting up there and racing for the win, but we got shuffled there on the restarts. Coming from the back to get a top 10 is a good day.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 8th: “The cars are just pretty unstable, so the racing is just different. Nobody is going to want to race quite as hard because their stuff is not driving as good to be able to do it. I feel like people were pretty limited on how their stuff drove, but our stuff drove better than most. We were really fast until we got that hole in the nose, and that just killed us. Miscommunication on that, but we will learn from it and move on.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 9th: “I’m just happy to have been in front of the ‘Big One’ for a change. The start of our weekend saw us caught up in a practice wreck. It is what it is at a place like this. So many things happen here that are out of our control, but we kept our primary engine and raced the backup. Stage 1 did not go as planned for us, but we managed to get back out front by Stage 2 to run in the top 10. My plan was to go when we could but be smart about it, and fortunately for us, we had luck on our side. We’ve been running well but haven’t had much to show for it as of late, so I’m happy that this Cat Racing team can leave here with a ninth-place finish.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 10th: “It was OK. Made a lot of mistakes through the day. We went out there to survive and tried to get a decent finish, and that’s what we got. We have to keep working to get these race cars a little bit better. There were a lot of people who were having issues handling-wise; we were one of them as well. We don’t have a lot of luck at superspeedway racing, but there’s definitely work to be done.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 11th: “Yeah, that was good for our Kroger Clicklist JTG Daugherty team. We needed to come here and have a good showing. We ran good at Daytona this year and trying to stick to a strategy that keeps us out of trouble. It’s still hit or miss. AJ (Allmendinger) was on the same deal and got caught up in that one there. It’s a little bit of luck involved with just being out of that stuff. Definitely, a more white-knuckled race than usual here. Very on edge. Tires gave out a lot and really slowed our pace down or hurt the handling. So, it was a more fun race than normal out here. I will say that. I am not the best advocate for plate racing, but I can enjoy it from time to time. I’m glad we were able to bring our Degree Camaro ZL1 home in one piece with very limited damage, and we got an 11th-place finish out of it.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “I knew I had help somehow just the way it turned around. Unfortunately, when I was sliding, (Ryan Blaney) hit us and bent something in the rear end. It wasn’t the same after. (Looking at the car), there really isn’t much damage, and he hit me pretty hard on the other wheel and it was just super draggy and slow that last restart. Something is bent in the rear end and very loose.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 13th: “Once we got in that wreck, it was over, but we had a decent car up until then. We got the car handling better all day long and every adjustment we made to it was an improvement and gave us more on the racetrack, but we just lack speedway speed.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 15th: “Geico 500 weekend was not an easy one for us. Our primary car was incredibly fast in practice, but we were forced pull out our backup car after I got caught up in the big wreck on Friday. We were confident in this backup car though because it has run well at superspeedways in the past. We knew that we wanted to run a conservative race at the beginning after we got too aggressive in Daytona and were taken out before the end of Stage 1. Our plan to survive worked, but we were bit by a tire issue early on and had to come back from a lap down. It is not how we wanted to race, but we battled back to the lead lap and a top-15 finish. A solid finish is exactly what we needed. I know it was a tough weekend for our Geico Camaro ZL1 team, and I appreciate all of their hard work to keep us in this thing.”

William Byron – Finished 29th: “Honestly, I think we just got side-drafted going into (turn) 3 and got me a little bit free and then I think I just packed some air on his (Jimmie Johnson) left rear. I haven’t seen a replay, so I can’t really tell. Hopefully, one of our guys can get it done. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the end of the race, but we’ll learn from it and come back here in the fall and hopefully have an even better run.”

Paul Menard – Finished 30th: “We just got the bottom lane rolling decent and kind of got shuffled back. It is so hard to get back forward. We went for the top, and that wasn’t working, so we went to the bottom and started going forward, but (Jimmie Johnson) just cut across (William Byron) from what I saw and caused a big wreck.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 31st: “It looked like, I don’t know if he got loose or was trying to get in a whole, but (Jimmie Johnson) wasn’t clear and wrecked a bunch of us. That was just kind of par for our day. It started when we locked the right-rear wheel up somehow coming to the pits and flat spotted that and had to come back in. We finally got two laps back. I got one lap back and then finally got on the lead lap and then we wrecked. Par for the course.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 32nd: “All I saw was smoke unfortunately. We were just in the wrong lane at the wrong time. We had a really fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Unfortunately, that happens here at Talladega, and it always feels like it is 20 to go when we crash. I am not sure how to get to the end of these ones. It has been a rough last few years.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 33rd: “There was just a wreck in front of me, and I couldn’t make any sense really of what happened, and we just got into it.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 34th: “Yeah I’m not sure what happened. I just saw (Jimmie Johnson) spin, and all heck broke loose after that. I actually got it checked up, got it to the apron. There was so much smoke and grass flying. I had it slowed down. I wasn’t going to drive into the wreck and just got clobbered from the right side. I don’t know. I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do and still got wrecked.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 35th: “I just saw them wrecking in front of me and I got it slowed down. I went to cut through the grass because everybody was kind of wrecking that way, and when I hit the grass, it just tore the oil cooler off of it. It sucks because we really wouldn’t have had any damage if I had kind of rolled through the grass. It’s part of this racing and hate it. We were on the good side of it at Daytona, bad side here we will just go back to Daytona and see what we can do there.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 38th: “We went into Turn 1, and I saw Kyle Busch kind of get rooted up high. The third lane seemed to be the best for us. The car was on the splitter, and the higher I could stay the better off we were. I went to the top to keep my run going and coming off the corner, I didn’t see what happened but watching the replay it looks like (Erik Jones) got turned and turned up into us. It stinks. You try to manage your highs and lows, though. We will move on and go to Dover next weekend. It is frustrating because Talladega is one of the ones you know you can win at, and we wanted to do that today.”

Erik Jones – Finished 39th: “We’ve been fighting a loose car all day and unfortunately just got down on the apron there and kind of fighting it being free and then it took off up the hill after that. I was out of the throttle with it cranked left, and there’s only so much you can do. Unfortunately, it ruined our day and took out a few others along the way, so it’s really unfortunate for them and for us. It’s not what you want to have happen. We’ll move on and go to Dover next weekend and hopefully have a better weekend.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 40th: “Yeah, I mean I haven’t really seen what happened. I saw Jamie (McMurray) get loose and then I saw (Erik Jones) get into the wall and then Jamie came back down, and I ran into him. Just nothing I could really do, and then there wasn’t much we were trying to repair there. We were just waiting on pit road to close so we could back up and get back to the garage area and out of the way of everybody on pit road. I hate that we are going to get a DNF (Did Not Finish) here. I feel like our Credit One Bank Chevy drove a little bit better than it did at Daytona, so would have liked to have gotten to race. I didn’t really ever feel like we got to race. We were just single file, and it was kind of boring. I was ready to start racing, get two and three wide. It would have been fun but ended up getting in a crash.”

Bristol winners and losers

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WINNERS

Matt DiBenedettoHe won the night at Bristol if not the race, starting with his selection of the theme from “Rocky” for his intro music and then strolling on to the walkway in a silk boxing robe and boxing gloves. He led 93 laps and looked to be headed toward his first Cup win until Denny Hamlin passed him with 12 laps to go. DiBenedetto’s emotions after the runner-up finish also garnered new fans. They showed their appreciation with loud cheers when his interview was played on the track’s video board.

Denny Hamlin — Scored his fourth win of the season and sixth consecutive top-five finish. He is showing that this could be the year he wins that elusive championship.

Jeremy Clements Finished fourth in the Bristol Xfinity race, his best result since he won at Road America in 2017. Next up on the Xfinity schedule? Road America. Clements said that “it wouldn’t matter if we wrecked and finished last, I’d still be pumped up to go to Road America. I’m ready to kick their ass. That’s a place we can win”

Gray GauldingPlaced sixth in the Xfinity race for his best finish of the season at a track other than Daytona and Talladega. Afterward, he said: “What an awesome night. For all the little guys out there, this is what we work for … We’re definitely going to celebrate.”

Timmy HillMatched his career-best finish seventh in the Xfinity. That marked the first race in the partnership between Hattori Racing Enterprises and MBM Motorsports. How did the partnership help a team that had been cash strapped? Hill said HRE joining “gave us a little more tires. Normally we’re running on 40-50-lap scuff tires. That certainly helped tonight to have fresh tires.”

LOSERS

Austin DillonHis 34th-place finish was his fifth finish of 30th or worse in the last seven races.

Clint BowyerHis spin after making contact with Quin Houff just before the end of stage 2 could cost Bowyer a spot in the playoffs. The leaders pitted but those needing stage points, including Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman, stayed out. Suarez scored nine stage points and passed Bowyer at the end of the night for the final playoff spot. Newman gained eight stage points and pulled further ahead of Bowyer in the points.

Aric AlmirolaDamage from a crash led to a 29th-place finish. He has placed 29th or worse in four of the last five Bristol races.

Former NASCAR driver Scott Speed begins recovery from broken back

Photo: Scott Speed official Facebook page
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Former NASCAR and Formula One driver Scott Speed remains in a Utah hospital after suffering three broken vertebrae in his back following a hard landing on a jump during qualifying Friday for the American RallyCross Championship Nitro World Games in Salt Lake City.

MORE: Scott Speed breaks back in rallycross landing

Even with the injuries he suffered and the pain he was in, the 36-year-old California native remained in his Subaru USA car to finish the qualifying session before he climbed out and was immediately sent to a Salt Lake City hospital.

Here’s part of what Speed — including a photo of him giving a thumbs up — posted on Facebook after being admitted to the hospital, saying he and surgeons are working to determine the best course of action to treat the broken back.

“CT scan confirmed a destroyed t6 then … was taken to a spine specialist at University of Utah,” Speed posted. “Finally got an MRI done around 3 am… We found I have 3 fractured vertebrae. Waiting now for the surgeons to give us the game plan. Last night was easily the scariest and most painful time I can remember. Was in a pretty dark place.”

 

Later on Saturday, Speed gave this update:

Speed won the inaugural Americas RallyCross championship last season for Andretti Autosport. He entered this weekend holding a five-point edge over Tanner Faust in the series’ standings.

After competing full-time for two seasons in Formula One in 2006 and 2007, Speed competed in NASCAR from 2008 through 2013. He made 118 NASCAR Cup starts with a career-best of fifth-place in the spring 2009 race at Talladega.

He also made 29 Xfinity Series starts, and 16 Truck Series starts, including the lone win of his NASCAR career in 2008 at Dover International Speedway for Bill Davis Motorsports.

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Long: Fans, family and foes help Matt DiBenedetto leave Bristol with a smile

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — After climbing from his car, Matt DiBenedetto celebrated his runner-up finish at Bristol Motor Speedway by unzipping the top of his uniform to remove a bag of ice on this hot, sticky night and toss it to the ground.

DiBenedetto’s slumped shoulders, pursed lips and faraway glaze displayed the angst, frustration and disappointment that have been constant companions since he was told Tuesday that he would not return to Leavine Family Racing after this season, leaving him without a ride for 2020.

While this was the 28-year-old’s career-best result, DiBenedetto only felt pain immediately after the race. He led 93 consecutive laps in the final stage, but contact with Ryan Newman’s car with about 40 laps to go as Newman sought to stay on the lead lap damaged the left front of DiBenedetto’s car. His car’s handling suffered.

“When I was marching through the field, I was hoping that somebody would pass him so that I didn’t take the win away,” Hamlin said. “I knew I was going to get him. I was just thinking, there’s a lot of people at home and a lot of people in the stands that probably don’t want to see this happen but it’s going to happen.”

Hamlin passed DiBenedetto with 12 laps to go.

DiBenedetto was close enough to Hamlin that he could see the leader in the final laps — “I was screaming in the car,” DiBenedetto said — but far enough away that he could not get to Hamlin’s rear bumper even as his spotter repeatedly said on the radio “whatever it takes.”

Passion, persistence and even the hopes of many fans at Bristol were not enough to keep Hamlin from winning his fourth race of the season.

DiBenedetto suffered in silence as Hamlin celebrated.

“The pain was like being stabbed a hundred times in the chest,” DiBenedetto said.

Tony DiBenedetto tried to console his son with a hug. DiBenedetto looked down as his father spoke to him.

“I cannot believe you don’t have a ride (for 2020),” Tony DiBenedetto said he told his son. “I cannot believe you do not have a ride in a top race car. I don’t know what else you can do.”

Sandy DiBenedetto, who cried earlier this week after being told that her son was without a ride beyond this season, saw only success in the second-place finish. The proud mother yelled “Yay! as she hugged her son.

His look was not one of excitement.

“Wrong thing to say in the moment because he’s devastated,” she said.

DiBenedetto’s mood lightened as other drivers congratulated him. Chase Elliott was first. Then came Daniel Suarez. Ryan Blaney. Clint Bowyer. Jeff Gordon. And others.

“It was hard to hold it together with all these drivers coming up to you,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s amazing to have earned that respect from them.”

Denny Hamlin gives Matt DiBenedetto private encouragement after Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

DiBenedetto later went to victory lane to congratulate Hamlin and they embraced. Hamlin whispered encouragement.

What Hamlin said, he will keep to himself. As they separated, DiBenedetto told Hamlin: “Means more than you know.”

Hamlin later said he expects DiBenedetto to continue to race in Cup after this year.

“Matt is doing a phenomenal job of showing his résumé in front of everyone,” Hamlin said. “So he doesn’t need to type it out. He’s going out there and performing. He will land as good or better on his feet, I am certain of it, after this year.”

DiBenedetto’s humility, his roller-coaster journey and his underdog story is making him a fan favorite. The crowd gave its loudest roar of the night when his interview was played on the video board and PA system after the race. He responded by turning and raising his arm to the crowd. The fans yelled louder.

While all drivers experience racing’s highs and lows, DiBenedetto has been challenged as much as anyone in Cup. After his family moved from California to North Carolina to further his racing career when he was a teen, they eventually reached a point where they could not support his racing. He landed a ride in Joe Gibbs Racing’s development program but ran only seven Xfinity races in 2009-10 because of a lack of sponsorship.

He later drove start and parks in the Xfinity Series, feeling that it was better to be in even a low-budget ride than not being at the track.

His first season in Cup was in 2015 with BK Racing, a team that was sold in bankruptcy court last year. He decided to leave his ride with Go Fas Racing after last season even though he had no ride lined up at the time.

DiBenedetto landed with Leavine Family Racing for this season but there were questions even from the beginning of if he would last more than one season because of Toyota Racing Development’s backlog of drivers.

Once Joe Gibbs Racing completes an extension with Erik Jones, all four of the team’s drivers will be set for next season. But there still needs to be a place for Xfinity driver Christopher Bell in Cup. With Leavine Family Racing aligned with JGR, it only made sense that Bell could go there. No official announcement has been made but all indications are that Bell will be driving the No. 95 next year.

So DiBenedetto faces an uncertain future. Again.

“This journey has made me strong and I would not change it for the world,” he said. “It makes you appreciate being here 1,000 times more. This journey has beat me down on the ground more than I can possibly explain.

“It’s hard. It’s been really hard. I’m glad it’s been hard. I want to appreciate it the most that I can. I want it to make me fight and claw and dig as hard as I possibly can, and that’s what this journey has done.”

It was only fitting that with drivers picking the song to be played when they were introduced before the race that DiBenedetto selected the theme from “Rocky” to serenade his arrival.

DiBenedetto thrilled the crowd by wearing a silk robe with “Italian Stallion” on the back and boxing gloves. He threw a few punches at the air as he sauntered down the walkway.

Call him the people’s champ.

“It was what I was going to do it last year, but it was more fitting this week,” DiBenedetto said with a smile of his song and outfit. “It was a cool intro and fitting, I guess, for my story that fans have embraced so much.”

Each time DiBenedetto has been challenged, he’s come back in his career. Now that he’s with a ride that has had him racing closer to the front than any time in his career, the next chapter is finding a ride that can keep him in that spot. Or better.

He said Friday that he just wants to win in Cup. He came as close as he ever has Saturday night.

The pain on his face showed. But just as the ice in that bag he tossed after exiting his car melted, so did his disappointment.

And what could have been one of his most frustrating finishes ended with him smiling, and fans chanting his name as he walked out of the track and toward the next part of his journey.

What Drivers Said after Bristol Night Race

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Denny Hamlin – winner: “It feels good. My first reaction was I was sorry to Matt (DiBenedetto). I know those guys really wanted to win and Matt deserves a win, but –  I’m watching him do an interview, I get emotional for him. Just hate it that I had to take it from him. … (What does it say about your team that you bounced back from early damage from contact and rallied to win?) It means a lot. It’s emotional in a lot of reasons. … (DiBenedetto) was good. I knew it was something – that car, it was probably a setup that I ran last year. I know Mike Wheeler has a great set up for this place and Matt was just doing a phenomenal job. That’s all you can say. He’s just a hell of a racecar driver. He’s going to land on his feet in a better ride than he’s got now.

“(Is your team on a roll?) Absolutely. It’s on a roll like I’ve never seen before. It hasn’t been this good in a long time. … (About the battle with DiBenedetto?) I’m so sorry to Matt DiBenedetto, (crew chief) Mike Wheeler. I hate it. I mean, I know a win would mean a lot to that team.  I have to give it 110% for FedEx and my whole team.  Just sorry. Proud of this whole FedEx team for giving me a great car, pit crew, crew chief, everybody doing an amazing job.  Jordan, all the girls at home.  Just the whole team is just doing an amazing job right now.  They’re just kicking ass.

“(How did you chase DiBenedetto down?) Between my spotter and the crew chief, just stayed on me to not get anxious, just kind of take my time. I had plenty of time. I just worked him over, worked him over. I knew I didn’t want to show him the bottom until I knew I could make the pass. I ran the top, ran the top, ran the top, got the position on the bottom and finished it. We had a great car that could move around.  Came back from a couple laps down and here we are.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished second: “I don’t even know what to say. I’m so sad we didn’t win, but proud, proud of the effort. I got tight there from the damage from trying to get by (Ryan) Newman and that immediately flipped a switch and got tight. Man, this opportunity has been – that’s what I want everybody to know, how thankful I am that I got this opportunity and to work with great people like (Mike) “Wheels” (Wheeler), my crew chief. I am so thankful everyone on this team gave me this opportunity – all of our sponsors, ProCore, Dumont Jet, Anest Iwata spray equipment, Toyota for backing me this year, everybody at Leavine Family Racing. I want to try not to get emotional, but it’s been a tough week and I want to stick around and I want to win. That’s all I want to do is win in the Cup Series and we were close. It’s so hard to be that close, but it’s neat to race door-to-door with Denny Hamlin, someone who I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid.  It’s amazing. Great day, but this one is going to hurt for sure.

“(What is going through your head right now?) I don’t know. So much. I wanted to win so bad for these guys, for this team, for them giving me this opportunity. I’m just thankful that they gave me this opportunity, Toyota, Procore, Dumont Jets. I’m so thankful. But, man, I’m sad. We got tight after the deal with (Ryan) Newman when he came up into us. All of a sudden it got really tight after that. Congrats to Denny (Hamlin). He raced hard. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid. To be racing door-to-door with him at Bristol, in front of a great group of fans – I’ll try not to get emotional, but it’s been a tough week. I just want to stick around and keep doing this for a long time to come. I love it. I love the opportunity. I’m not done yet. Something will come open. It’s going to happen. I’m here to win. Something’s going to come open. I’m proud of these guys. Thankful for my wife and fans for sticking with me. It’s been a tough journey, a hard week. Cool for this team.”

Brad Keselowski – finished third: “My nose without a hole in it would have been really good, but it was a decent finish for us nonetheless.  We led a lot of laps and that’s something to be proud of. … (What did you need to contend?) We seemed to fall off a little bit on the long run and then got in the back of some lap traffic and put a hole in the nose, and that knocked a little bit of speed out of it. That’s all she wrote for us. … (Was it hard to pass?) No more than usual Bristol.  It’s just the way the cars are around you. … (Are you disappointed?) We had a shot at winning. We probably weren’t good enough on the long runs to just dominate, but on the short and medium runs we were. I got a hole in the nose there late and that kind of ruined our day.”

Kyle Busch – finished fourth: “I was just too loose at the end. The car just wasn’t there really all weekend long. I  just never really found what I was looking for. We were kind of all over the place. Early on, we were so loose that I was just barely hanging on and trying to make up time there. We finally got it tightened up enough there when I was racing with the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and got the lead from the 2 before that caution came out. Then we tried to make it a little bit better for exit after that because we were going to go a long ways on tires we figured and just made it too loose. I just had no rear traction getting into the corner. We salvaged a hard-fought day for fourth. That’s about it.

“(What does it say to come back from being a lap down and finishing as strong as you did?)  “It’s better than some other situations for sure. Obviously Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys do a really good job of being able to work on the car and constantly improve it and constantly make it better, but flat out getting our ass kicked right now by our teammates, so we’ve got to get better.”

Chase Elliott – finished fifth: “I thought we were just off a little bit off all night. All weekend we just needed a little bit. I felt like we were really close. We just never got over the hill. But our Hooters Spirits team did a good job. Heck, they executed a great race. I think we gained spots on pit road every time we came; like more than one spot, too. So, they did a great job. Alan (Gustafson) called a great race. I lined-up in the top multiple times. You can’t really ask for anything else. From a driver’s standpoint, I just didn’t do a very good job with it. I seemed to be a little bit better than these guys. I felt like the past Spring race and this race, we’ve been off just a touch. We’ve got to go to work.”

Kyle Larson – finished sixth: “It was difficult to pass. I think we could have had a good run for the win there, but we had some left front damage on the second to last stop that we made. As soon as I turned into my stall, the 20 was going to put his right front on and I clipped him. It pushed our left front fender in and then we had to come down and repair it the next pit stop. If we didn’t have to do that, we would have restarted sixth, which would have been really nice for that last big run there. I felt like my car was really good on the long runs. We could have given it a run for the win, but we ended up coming home sixth. We were probably the third-best car there at the end. … All-in-all, a really good day again. It was a solid points day and we jumped up a couple of spots in points. Hopefully we can get to 10th at least when the Playoffs get started. We’ll see. But, I’m happy with our day. The Credit One Bank Chevy was good, just not good enough early in the run.

“(You are building consistency for the playoffs, aren’t you?) Yeah, no doubt. We’ve been quietly building momentum and speed and have had a lot of good runs here recently. We’ve just got to keep it going here in these next couple of races and get in the Playoffs and carry it on through that. (How disappointed are you for not winning tonight?) You are disappointed that you didn’t win, but for Bristol, I felt like this was one was uneventful for us other than the minor fender damage. It was cool to not have to fight leaders off from going a lap down, miss wrecks and things like that. We had a good car, too. I felt like I could run the bottom really well. We were just too loose all race long to be really aggressive on the short runs. It maybe benefitted me for the long runs.”

Clint Bowyer – finished seventh: “We had a good race.  We were too loose.  I needed more rear grip all night long.  That’s probably the loosest I’ve ever been here.  We kind of fought front turn all weekend long and was trying to make up for it with wedge out and track bar up – stuff like that – and it just hurts rear grip.  I mean, all in all, it was a good weekend for us.  It was kind of a rebound weekend and what we needed, but you can’t expect those guys to just lay over for you.  We did all we could do.  I was hoping to be a top five car and when you’re a top five car here you’ve got a chance to win, but were just a beat off of that all night.

“(It looked like your night could have been a lot worse?) Yeah, but it could have been a lot better.  It’s short track racing.  You’re making split-decisions.  I was trying to pass those two cars and get some more stage points for us and I clipped him.  It wasn’t nothing he did, I was just trying to shoot the gap and I had a run on those guys and trying to do all I could do.

“(Your thoughts on Matt DiBenedetto’s race?) I hate that for that guy. He’s racing for a job and everything else. You know those Gibbs cars are fast. You knew he was gonna have a rocket and he did. Man, that last run those cars took off like crazy. I was just too loose to go with them.”

Daniel Suarez – finished eighth: “The racing was fun.  All in all it was a pretty solid day for the 41 Ford Mustang Haas Automation.  I feel like we had a top 10 car the entire weekend and that’s pretty much where we ran.  We had some ups and downs on pit road and had some mistakes there as well as some electrical issues that I feel like we’re lucky we were able to continue to finish the race with the battery, but overall I’m proud of my team.  Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going in the next few weeks. … (How big was it to get those stage points tonight?) I feel like that was probably the biggest thing of the day.  I feel like that was an amazing call from my crew chief Billy Scott and I’m proud of that call.  We have to just keep making those decisions. … It was a positive weekend.  I wish we could have finished a little bit better, probably in the top five or so, but for whatever reason we’re strong but we’re not super-strong.  We’re a top 10 car and that’s where we ended.

“(Your thoughts on Matt DiBenedetto’s performance?) He did an amazing job.  I feel like he deserved the win, but you never know how things are gonna work out.  I feel like I have to do my race and let everything else play out by itself.  I can’t control that, but I will tell you that I wish in a way I’m kind of lucky that he didn’t win, but I wish he would have won the race because he’s an amazing driver.  He deserves that ride and he’s been doing a very good job this year.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “We just weren’t quite there all night. I think we had a nice sequence to get a stage win, but just tight center out. We just didn’t have the mojo all weekend. The first few laps in practice, I was like man I have to get this rotation to help turn center out. We just didn’t get it done. … (Were you rooting for a late caution?) It wouldn’t have helped us much.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 10th: (Did you see DiBenedetto leading near the end of the race?) “We were getting lapped there at the end and I was like, ‘Who is leading?’ And they said, ‘The 95 and the 11 is right there.’  I’m like, ‘No way, man.’ The 11 just got by him. That’s tough. That would have been a pretty cool story.  He just announced that he’s not gonna be in that car next year and I think he does a great job.  He really drove for that one.  It stinks he couldn’t get it done, but he’s a great driver.  I hope he lands somewhere good.

“(What was the racing like?) Typical Bristol, I thought.  I thought the bottom was gonna be a little bit more competitive.  A little bit later in the race when the top kind of was dominant I got in that wreck there.  I cut the right-front tire down on the restart and plowed into a couple of them.  We got it fixed and I was glad we were able to come back.  I would have liked a caution to see what we could have done, but the thing was killed.  That’s a big Dent Wizard car for sure, but I’m just glad we were able to salvage a decent day.  It could have been a lot worse.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 12th: “We worked hard during practice on Friday and made a few changes to the initial setup of our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet that Luke Lambert and the guys had success with in the past at Bristol Motor Speedway. I feel like that effort on Friday really helped us on Saturday during the race when the top of the racetrack came in, especially in Turns 3 and 4. At the start of the race, we rolled by a couple of cars and thought we’d be okay but as soon as we got in clean air our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet was way too loose, which made it hard to make speed on the bottom. We worked all night to get our Chevy tightened up and the handling would come to me if we could get a heat cycle on the tires. The race pace was so fast that it was a challenge to stay on the lead lap, but we had some things fall our way from time to time to get the free pass. If I had another corner or two, I think I could have passed the No. 6 car for 11th, but I’m just proud of everyone on the Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team for never giving up and bringing home the finish that we did.”

Joey Logano — finished 16th: “It was a tough night for our Shell-Pennzoil team. We started the race tight and then we had the right-front tire go down. We were able get back on the lead lap and kept making adjustments to get better. But once we got the damage late in the race, that pretty much sealed our fate.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 19th: “After the first incident, it was just too hard to make up ground after that. We just had so much damage. To come back 19th is respectable. The other part is that we had to get off strategy because we lost two laps. So, the first two-thirds of the race, we were running old tires against the field a lot of the time trying to get laps back. It was just one of those nights. Qualifying put us in that spot. A better qualifying effort would have had us in a much better position. I wouldn’t have been there when the 3 blew his tire and life would be totally different.

“(You seem like you’re in good spirits) For as beat up as that car is and the runs we did on old tires, we had a good night and just a lot of bad luck. I have to look at the truth inside of this team and how strong this team is, how good this team is. I know the results are coming, it’s just a series of bad luck and it all started with a bad qualifying effort. We have to clean things up for sure. This team is really starting to gel and come along. … (Is it pretty much win or else now?) I’ve got one more shot. I don’t know, it’s so hard to predict. These are two great tracks for me, two places that I love. We’ll see what happens.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 33rd: “It was a bummer of weekend, but at least we put ourselves in the top 10 towards the end of the race and it just didn’t work out. … (How devastated are you?) I didn’t feel like we were gonna win anyway, so I’m not super-bummed, I’m just more bummed that our car wasn’t better.  We struggled all weekend for speed.  We got closer when the top came in, but we still weren’t capable of going up and leading the race and running up front, I didn’t feel like.  I thought about 10th-place was as good as we could be tonight and we were doing that and that’s where we needed to be from what we had.  It’s a bummer to have it end that way, but I didn’t feel like we had a shot at the win.  I’m not as bummed as I thought I would be. … It’s just racing.  They got together and I was already committed to the outside of the 12.  They made contact, but I didn’t think it was gonna blow his right-front that quick.  Unfortunately, it did and trapped us between the wall.”

Austin Dillon — finished 34th: “I thought we did a good job with the balance of our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 so I’m not sure why we cut a tire. The balance of the race car was better than anything else we’ve had. It was early in Stage 1 and I didn’t really have much warning. We started to get tight off of the corners but the right-front tire went down really suddenly at the start finish line and I just tried to hold on. We might have been able to save it if the No. 48 car didn’t hit my rear but he just had so much momentum going and it was all over at that point. We scraped the wall with the right-side of our Chevy pretty bad and spent the rest of Stage 1 and the majority of Stage 2 in the garage making repairs to the suspension. That basically ruined our day but this Richard Childress Racing team never gives up so we went back out and finished the race, albeit multiple laps down. I hate that we couldn’t be more in contention today for Bass Pro Shops, Tracker Off Road and our friend Johnny Morris.”

David Ragan – finished 36th: “I saw Blaney cut a tire just past the start-finish line and I knew he was gonna run up and hit the wall, and I started trying to slow down.  I was already committed to running the top and that happens in a fraction of a second and I got off the gas and hit the brakes, tried to go low, but as they bounced off the wall they came back down the track a little bit and just knocked the radiator out.  That’s racing at Bristol.  That’s short track racing.  We had a solid run.  I felt like we had a top 15 to top 20 car.  We made some good adjustments throughout the night and it’s just one of those things.  That’s kind of the way short track racing goes.

“(How was the racing?) It was great.  I felt like the bottom groove was still really good for some cars.  Our car wasn’t that great on the bottom, but our Mustang was really fast up top.  I felt like the second stage we had a top 12 or 14 car because it was rubbered up a lot up top, and I think the top has kind of evened out some.  It’s a great race.  Bristol is a great track and it’s gonna be a good finish. I wish we were gonna be out there.”

Michael McDowell – finished 37th: “There’s always a lot going on at Bristol and a lot happening at one time.  The top was pretty much the dominant line.  It’s hard to pass, so guys were aggressive in making moves.  There at the end it looked like maybe the 12 blew a right-front tire.  Somebody blew a tire and they all slid up, and it’s Bristol you check up and you kind of all wash up into the same spot.  I saw my teammate try to dive low to miss it and just caught it and when he caught it, I just ran right in the back of him.  It’s unfortunate for everybody at Front Row Motorsports – lost two cars in that accident and not really anything of our own doing, just wrong place wrong time.  It’s unfortunate for the Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang and for David (Ragan) – not his last Bristol race, but this was an important race for him and I hate it for him.”

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