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.”

Austin Dillon’s car fails pre-race inspection, will start from rear

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Bristol, Tenn. — Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection three times Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Dillon will start from the rear and his car chief, Greg Ebert, has been ejected from the event.

Dillon had qualified 18th.

Dillon will have to serve a 30-minute practice hold in two weeks at Darlington Raceway.

Kyle Larson seeks turnaround at ‘by far my favorite racetrack’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – With his team in a mini-slump in midsummer, Kyle Larson is back in his happy place, and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver wouldn’t mind returning more often.

“I love racing here,” Larson said Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I wish we could race here weekly. I think our sport would be in a good spot if we could.

“I didn’t watch a ton of NASCAR growing up, but I’d never miss a Bristol race. If you were to ask me what Bristol race stands out, I couldn’t tell you. I just loved watching Bristol. It was always a lot of fun. Ever since they added the progressive banking, it’s been a lot better, too, as far as style of racing goes. It’s by far my favorite NASCAR track.”

The love of Bristol grew only stronger Friday night as he won the Food City 300 and scored his first victory in 18 Cup and Xfinity starts at the 0.533-mile oval.

Larson will be trying for his first win in NASCAR’s premier series at the track – and his first in Cup this season – while starting from the pole position in tonight’s race.

A victory would be a welcome result for Larson’s team, which is virtually locked into the playoffs but has only two top 10s in six races since his memorable runner-up finish to Kyle Busch at Chicagoland Speedway.

While Chevrolet teams Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing seem to have gotten faster in recent weeks, Larson’s No. 42 Camaro seems to have tailed off slightly after easily being the best Chevy in the first half of the season.

“I don’t know where we might be off,” he said. “Nobody really honestly knows where other teams have gotten speed from, so we’re working on all areas, really, I’m pretty sure, to try and get faster. We have moments where we’re really fast, but I would say we’re just a little inconsistent from track to track.

“You look at last year, we were good everywhere. This year, we’re good at our good tracks. Not as good at the tracks that we have struggled at years prior.”

But what about starting and finishing 17th last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, where he won three consecutive races from 2016-17?

A loose wheel after his first pit stop mired Larson in traffic and out of sequence, and then contact on a restart hampered into using an older set of tires for the last run of the race.

“It just snowballed into a bad run where I felt like we were going to have a shot to run top 3 or 5, but it just doesn’t show for it, and other people look at it as we just ran bad all day,” he said. “If you look at lap times, we were running some of the fastest laps of the race, just buried in traffic. I feel like we’re not that bad. We just had a little bit of a bad luck that cost us finishes we deserved the last few weeks.”

The urgency to maximize his speed stems more from being well positioned in the playoffs than making the 16-driver field. Larson is one of three provisionally qualified who have no playoff points yet.

“That part is a little frustrating,” he said. “It makes you more nervous when it comes to the playoffs, but the good thing is there’s been three guys taking up all the playoff points, so the other ones don’t have a whole lot, either, but every point matters.

“You look at it as you need to win some stages and win a race, but I also view Bristol as being my best opportunity to get some playoff points. I feel like we can win both stages and win the race. Not easily but this is our best shot. That five to seven points would be huge.”

And after getting bumped from the lead by race winner Kyle Busch at Bristol in April, Larson has earned some leeway in playing rough – not that he plans to use it.

He prefers the “options” afforded by the 2007 addition of progressive banking (which was retrofitted in 2012 in a manner that often makes the top groove the fastest).

“If there was progressive banking 20 years ago, the racing would have been a lot better back then,” he said. “I’m not a fan of the bump and run. I’m just a fan of Bristol.

“I’d much rather see two to three wide racing at Bristol than single file. I think the racing is really good, and that’s why I love coming here to race.”

Staff picks for Bristol night race

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Here’s who NBC’s NASCAR writers think will triumph tonight under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway (6:46 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Dustin Long

Ryan Blaney gets the win he should have had at this track in April.

Nate Ryan

Kyle Larson. On Thursday, he told reporters he was convinced he could sweep both stages and win. On Friday, he took a big step toward convincing the rest of us.

Daniel McFadin

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins in his last good shot to get into the playoffs with a victory.

Dan Beaver

Really? I’m the only one going with Kyle Busch? I just hope everyone in my fantasy NASCAR league ignores him as well.

Trophy for Charlotte Roval race revealed

Dustin Long
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BRISTOL, Tenn. — The trophy for the Sept. 30 Cup race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval was revealed Saturday prior to the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The trophy is inspired by Bank of America, which sponsors the 400-kilometer race.

It is designed to resemble the Bank of America building in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina.

The track also announced a Sammy Hagar concert the night before the race. The “Rock the ROVAL” concert will be held at 9 p.m. ET on pit road.

 

Photo: Daniel McFadin
(Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images)