What drivers said after Dover Cup race

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Kevin Harvick — Winner: “I felt like we had a really good car from the time we unloaded, and I think you could tell that from when we qualified. That’s usually not my strong point, qualifying up here, and to be able to qualify on the front row, we had three great practices and everything just kind of fell into place, and when they dropped the green flag, it was definitely still good. It was just one of those weekends where the car was spot‑on from the time we got here, and the guys are just doing a great job.  Everybody is just so detail oriented right now, and I feel like we’re playoff racing on a weekly basis, and if you’re going to win a bunch of races, that’s what you have to do.’’

Clint Bowyer Finished 2nd: “We had a really good car all weekend long, and I would say speed‑wise, sheer speed‑wise, Kevin was a little bit better. That’s a pretty good man to have happy right there, know what I mean? But I mean, it just ‑‑ I needed a run in clean air to work on my car. That was the first time that we took off on stickers in that clean air, and the cars just drive way better, way different. You can carry momentum and do things that you can’t do mired back there in traffic. Battled through a lot of adversity today, having that bad pit stop and having to come back in and go to the back and battle back up through them. This is a fun racetrack. This is a challenging racetrack, a very competitive racetrack, one of the most competitive and challenging tracks I think we go to. The balance of your car is just so important, balancing those front tires to the rear. You’ve got to enjoy places like this.’’

Daniel Suarez — Finished 3rd: “My pit crew did an amazing job right there in the last stop picking – I don’t know, four, five spots. They did it right when it counts, so very proud of those guys. The team actually did great adjustments to help me in the short run when we were struggling a little bit and we were able to keep the third-place, which is good for us. In the beginning of the season, we had some struggles and now finally it seems like we’re going in the right direction.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 4th: “It was up and down, you know? We – I thought we were pretty good at the beginning of the race and lost that lap and had to come from the back. Just really hard to pass here today. Our car was fast in clean air, but I couldn’t pass anybody – especially those last 200 laps once we got somewhere up towards the front, so it was all about where we come off pit road and how we restarted and it’s frustrating, but we just couldn’t seem to make the car turn off the corner all day long. It was tight from the get go and that really hindered me in traffic.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 5th: “It’s all about the team effort. Good day for us. The way that the pit stops went, we had to come back from a penalty. Restarts went fair the early part of the race and went good in the latter part. Those restarts are close quarters and you need to grab spots then. These cars are really aero-sensitive. Thanks to Haas Automation and Ford we had a top-five day.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 6th: “We led some laps which was good. We kind of fell apart on the last two runs. We’ll just keep working on it.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 9th: “All in all, it’s been a really good day for our Lowe’s for Pros Chevy. We had a couple of restarts being in the wrong lane. We pitted and we expected a lot more (cars) to come but they didn’t, so we had to start in the teens and start all over again. It’s a good driving car. I’m was really happy with it. It’s amazing how much faster I was when I was up in third and fourth; just had a half a second of speed on our side just due to the cleaner air.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 10th: “It was a hard-fought top 10 for sure. We were three laps down at one point. I guess happy about the top 10. I was hoping we could pick off some cars there that last run once we finally got on the lead lap, but it was just so hard to pass. Everybody was the same speed until the very end of the run and then you could kind of move around. Found a little bit of time and was catching a few of them in front of me, but just ran out of time.”

William Byron – Finished 14th: “It was hard for us to get track position. We had a couple of times we had to go to the back, but overall once we got up there it felt like we were a 10th to 15th kind of day. We kept making the car better, we just kind of needed to end on a short run there on the last run and also have some rubber in the race track. Long race, it was good to get all 400 laps in and hopefully we can definitely come back stronger here in the fall. I think we have a lot of ideas on what to work on, so looking forward to that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “I feel like we’ve had a top-15 to top-10 car throughout the race. We decided to stay out on that caution not to use up another set of tires. We had a great restart. I tried to gap myself as much as I could knowing that the guys on four tires were going to be coming. I wish it would have rained really bad when I was leading (laughs). All in all, we gained a lot of track position making that strategy call. It’s been a decent day for us. A decent weekend.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 19th: “We just didn’t have any grip when the track rubbered up.  Every time the track cleaned up for a few laps we would be OK, but the more rubber got down the worse our performance was.  We just couldn’t get the car to turn in the middle like we needed it to and every time we tried to make it turn better we just took the back end out and got it too loose in and never fixed the center.  I fought being on the splitter early in the run all race long and that hurt us, so we finished 19th.  That’s not the day we wanted for sure, but we also gave it everything we had.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 20th: “It wasn’t a bad day for us, but I wish it could have been better. Just got a little off on the last run of the day as you would have it. Unfortunately, we lost rear grip there. During the weekend, we made some good progress from practice and qualified good. There’s a lot of positives, but still a lot to work on yet.” 

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 21st: “Thanks to my guys for always working hard. It was a tough day overall for us. We started off comparable to where we had been all weekend. Then the end of the second stage the car got really loose. It jumped sideways on me so quick I thought something broke. I don’t know what happened there, but I killed the right side of the car. It was just really loose and it took the side force we had away from it. Chris (Buescher) and I were pretty comparable during the race. We would kind of go back and forth. We still have got to keep working on stuff. I didn’t help us at the last half of the race. It was just survival at that point and we got what we could.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 23rd: “Just got off on pit sequence there and there was no coming back from it. I feel like we had a solid top 10 race car, but you just can’t make up two laps without some help. There weren’t very many cautions today and it’s a bummer because we had a decent race car. Proud of my guys.  We were really bad yesterday in practice and we made a lot of gains, but it’s just part of it.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 24th: “Today was a challenge for our GEICO Racing team. Dover is such a tough track to get a handle on, and we struggled with overall grip and speed throughout the weekend. Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 certainly wasn’t perfect, but we kept working at it and made the most of what he had. This Germain Racing team has been gaining momentum over the past few weeks, and this weekend will not get us down. We are always building and improving our program so that we can keep growing as a team each and every week.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 35th: “We started the race with (a vibration) unfortunately and it just kept getting worse and worse as the day was going. I don’t know why we started the race with it – we hadn’t had anything like that in a long, long time. I know what it was, but not sure why we had the problem to begin with, so, you know, we had a really fast Pedigree Camry. I thought we were going to be top-three car for sure – no question about that – but then what was going to happen with the guys in front of us. I felt like if we could have jumped them In track position, maybe we could have done something better about keeping the clean air and keeping the lead and stuff like that, but it just got so bad there that last run vibrating it even blew the shifter ball off the shifter and when it finally broke, I couldn’t even grab the shifter in order to knock it out of gear so I could just push the clutch in, so I had to nurse it back and get out of everybody’s way.”

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Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

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AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

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Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.

Safety key topic in meeting for drivers at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Cup drivers met Friday with Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council, and discussed safety issues ahead of this weekend’s playoff race, which will be without two drivers due to concussion-like symptoms from crashes.

Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch will not race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Busch suffered his head injury in a crash at Pocono in July. Bowman’s injury followed his crash last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Both were injured in accidents where the rear of the car hit the SAFER barrier first.

Two drivers injured in less than three months — and the series racing at a track where crashes are likely — raises tension in the Cup garage. 

Denny Hamlin blasted NASCAR on Saturday, saying it was “bad leadership” for not addressing safety concerns drivers had with the car. Hamlin also said that the Next Gen vehicle needs to be redesigned.

Burton, who also is an analyst for NBC Sports, said in an exclusive interview that Friday’s meeting was lengthy because there were several topics to discuss. Burton didn’t go into details on all the topics.

Safety was a key element of that meeting. Burton, whose role with the Drivers Advisory Council is to coordinate the group and communicate with NASCAR, discussed the cooperation level with NASCAR.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” he said. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car. 

“We want to see that come to conclusion as soon as possible. They have made commitments to us and are showing us what is happening, communicating with us in regard to timing, and we want to see it come to conclusion, as they do. 

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some changes done before last weekend. It just takes a long time to test stuff.”

NASCAR has a crash test scheduled next week on a new rear clip and rear bumper. Even if the test goes well, there’s not enough time for any such changes this season with five races left.

The frustration from drivers — and voiced by Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — has been that NASCAR was informed about issues with a stiffer car for more than a year. Some questions were raised after William Byron crashed in a test in March 2020 at Auto Club Speedway.

“William Byron busted his ass at (Auto Club) Speedway and that should have raised a red flag right off the bat,” Harvick said Saturday.

Hamlin said more drivers needed to speak up about concerns with the car.

“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives,” Hamlin said.

Byron is looking for changes to be made.

“I want to have a long career, and I don’t want to have a series of concussions that make me either have to step way from the car or have to think about long-term things,” he said.

Chase Elliott also shared his frustrations Saturday.

“You come off a week like we had in Texas and somebody getting injured and then you come into here, where odds are we’re probably all going to hit something at some point (Sunday) and probably not lightly at that,” Elliot said.

So what do drivers do?

“Do you just not show up?” Elliott said. “Do you just not run? I don’t think that’s feasible to ask. There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. 

“My frustration is … I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had a choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry. 

“That should have just never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. So my disappointment lies in that that we had years and time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t, and now we’re having to fix it. 

“I just hate that we did that. I think we’re smarter than that. I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.”

Burton told NBC Sports that drivers did not discuss in Friday’s meeting running single-file in Sunday’s race as a form of protest.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for me to see single-file (racing Sunday) because of what happened at Texas and what could happen next week (at the Charlotte Roval),” Burton said. “Drivers need a period of calmness. 

“There was not a discussion, a collaborated effort or any sort of thing of how you race (Sunday). That conversation did not come up in that meeting.”

Harvick said Saturday that he’ll continue to be vocal about safety issues.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure these guys are in a good spot,” Harvick said. “Whatever I have to do.”

Harvick later said: “I don’t think any of us want to be in this position. We have to have the safety we deserve to go out and put on a great show and be comfortable with that. 

“Obviously, we all have taken the risks of being race car drivers, but there’s no reason we should be in a worse position than we were last year.”

Harvick said it was a matter of trust.

“The reality of the situation is much different than what they’re looking at,” Harvick said of NASCAR officials. “I think that the trust level is obviously not where it needs to be from getting it fixed. I think they’re going to have to earn the trust level back of reacting quick enough to do the things that it takes. The drivers’ opinion, especially when it comes to safety side of things, has to be more important than the data or more important than the cost. Safety can’t be a budget item.”

Corey LaJoie, who is a member of the Drivers Advisory Council board, said that while challenges remain with the car, he sees the effort being made by NASCAR.

“Nothing happens quick in this deal when you have 38 teams and you have seven cars per team,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “It has to be a well-thought-out process to implement the changes.

“It’s easy to get up in arms and prickly when we have guys like Alex and Kurt out. You don’t ever want that to happen. Every conversation I’m having is what we, as the Driver Council, is trying to communicate to NASCAR and NASCAR making proactive changes and moving timelines up aggressively to try to implement these changes.”

Matt DiBenedetto wins NASCAR Truck race at Talladega

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Matt DiBenedetto won Saturday’s 250-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on a day pockmarked by numerous accidents, including a major one at the finish.

As the field swept to the finish line in overtime, a multi-car crash developed as Corey Heim lost control of his truck in the trioval. Several trucks crashed approaching the finish as the caution flag flew.

NASCAR officials studied video of the final lap to determine that DiBenedetto was in front when the caution lights were turned on, although Bret Holmes appeared to beat him to the finish line by inches. When caution lights appear, the field is frozen at that point, so any position changes after the caution are irrelevant.

MORE: TalladeTalladega Truck results

MORE: Talladega Truck driver points

The last lap was the only one led by DiBenedetto, who has been racing in NASCAR national series since 2009 but scored his first win.

Following DiBenedetto, a non-playoff driver, at the finish were Ben Rhodes, Holmes, Ryan Preece and Christian Eckes.

With one race remaining in the Round of 8, Ty Majeski has locked in a spot in the final four at Phoenix. Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Rhodes are above the cutline. Below the line are Stewart Friesen, Eckes, John Hunter Nemechek and Grant Enfinger.

MORE: Denny Hamlin says NASCAR needs leadership changes

A string of accidents left only two playoff drivers — Eckes and Rhodes — in the top 10 with 10 laps remaining.

Carson Hocevar dropped out of the lead group with five laps to go when he lost a tire, prompting a caution flag and pushing the race into overtime.

The race was marred by a fiery crash in the early going as Jordan Anderson‘s truck exploded in flames while running in the top five in a tight draft.

Anderson steered the truck to the inside as flames fired up on both sides of the vehicle. The truck crashed into the inside wall even as Anderson climbed from the driver-side window. He was transported to an area hospital.

On Lap 35, Lawless Alan hit the wall hard after his right front tire blew. He was evaluated and released from the infield medical center.

Another dangerous situation developed on Lap 63 as numerous trucks pitted at the same time under green. As Hailie Deegan attempted to stop in her pit, one of the crew members lost control of a tire, and it rolled into traffic and onto the grass area separating pit road from the track. A Deegan crew member chased down the tire in the grass and later was ejected from the track by NASCAR officials for a safety violation.

On Lap 79, Enfinger’s truck blew a tire and slammed the wall, starting a crash that collected Tanner Gray, Johnny Sauter and Austin Wayne Self.

Stage 1 winner: John Hunter Nemechek

Stage 2 winner: Chandler Smith

Who had a good race: Matt DiBenedetto had been waiting a very long time for this winning moment. … Alabama driver Bret Holmes almost won in front of the home crowd. He finished third.

Who had a bad race: Jordan Anderson had one of the most frightening crashes of the season, bailing out of his flaming truck after it caught fire in the middle of a pack of drafting trucks. … Playoff drivers John Hunter Nemechek (finished 24th) and Grant Enfinger (29th) had rough outings.

Next: The Truck Series is off for three weeks before racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 22. The series’ final race is scheduled Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.