What drivers said after the All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick – Winner: “I thought on that last restart that my best opportunity was (Joey) Logano. He is one of the best on the restarts. I knew he would work with me as good as possible because that is just the way that most of us do it from Ford. We were able to just stay even through (Turns) 1 and 2, and I really thought once we got to the backstretch, we could clear him. I didn’t want to be on the bottom. I didn’t feel my car was stable enough to be under someone when they were on my right side. I had to take my lumps through (turns) 1 and 2 and hope that the guy behind me was still with me when we got to the exit of 2, and we were able to win.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 2nd: “I felt like we had a car actually capable to win the race. We were very strong, competitive. For whatever reason (on) restarts, my car was taking like one lap to go and those guys, when two Fords were connected, they were pretty strong. We just – I needed a little bit more right there. (Denny Hamlin) got disconnected with myself a little bit. I tried to side draft (Kevin Harvick), but it was just tough. After that it was pretty much game over because I started racing (Joey Logano) instead of (Harvick), but proud of my guys. We’ve been racing really in the All-Star twice already, two times, so that’s not bad. It hurts to be close and to not get it.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “We wanted to be up in the lead, and I thought we were in the best spot. We put tires on, and the cars ahead of us didn’t have as good of tires as us. We restarted fifth, and the bottom is just rough down there. We were able to push ahead, and the car in front of me got pushed back and the bottom lane fell apart. I lost like five spots at least and started making them back up and got tangled up and put in the wall and got back and thought I had a decent shot there at the end hooking up with Kevin. Kevin and I always end up together at superspeedway races, and we did again tonight, which is kind of funny.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 4th: “I think in general our cars were just too slow to be up front. Once we did get the lead, it was complete defense mode. It looked like when (Kyle Busch) and (Martin Truex Jr.) were up front as well, it was just constant defense where when (Kevin Harvick) got up front, he could just kind of run his line. Hard to overcome that seven tenths that we were off from speed, especially in a drafting type race. Still, we did a good job there. Tried to get (Daniel Suarez) free of (Harvick) there on the bottom, I just came off his bumper there just slightly there and he wasn’t able to get us free of (Harvick).”

Chase Elliott – Finished 5th: “Yeah, I actually had some fun, really. It was different for sure, but it wasn’t all bad, I don’t guess. Obviously, there was way more potential to crash and what not, which is I guess good and bad depending upon who you are. If you are sitting at home and watching it was probably fun because we are all close. If we see this package more, I’m sure you will see some more torn-up cars, too.  And I’m sure the teams will get better at building and preparing for it too, but proud of our night. To be able to come from last to fifth, and I get the fan vote and end up coming home with a top five wasn’t all bad.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 6th: “I mean, it’s funny how there ends up being a sweet spot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restricted motor or not.  The outside lane was really the place to be to keep the momentum up.  Depending on the restart you had and the lane you are in and how to time a pass, I spent plenty of time kind of coming through the field. I really couldn’t get past second or third.  The times I tried to make a pass on the leader, I would get pinned on the bottom and go to the back and have to start all over again.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 7th: “It was just tough.  I felt like I could get to around second or third, just getting to the lead was tough.  I never really got to lead. The times I would get to lead, they would get a run on me and pass me right back.  We just didn’t have the speed the Toyotas had.  I thought the Toyotas were super-fast and then obviously, (Kevin Harvick) I mean he won, but (Martin Truex Jr.) was ridiculous. But, yeah it was a pretty fun race.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 8th: “The first stage was pretty awesome to go 18th to fourth in a couple of laps.  The car handled really good. I just got a little bit tight there with the track getting going into the night.  We were a little bit draggier down the straightaway, so I had to keep the momentum up that second stage. I just got too close to (Truex), and it snapped loose and got some body damage.  The guys did a good job to fix it. Kind of salvaged the third session there.  I thought if we could have got back up there we could have maybe had a chance to fight inside the top three or top four again. I cost us a little bit there, but I was getting after it.  It was a fun night.  Really competitive and proud of the guys.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 11th: “We weren’t very good tonight. We were slow. The car drove about the same with this package as it did with the other package, and everybody else was just a lot faster. It was a bummer we couldn’t take that front row start and do something with it. We were kind of a moving road block out there.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “What a race! I had a blast out there tonight, and I hope it was as fun to watch as it was to drive. Throughout the race, we made quite a few adjustments to the Dow Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. With limited practice and this being the first time we have raced this package, we were a little off on the setup. We got it pretty close, though. At the end, we opted to pit. Looking back, it’s a toss-up on whether that was the right call or not.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 16th: “This one is on me. I miscounted the green-white-checkered flag to end Stage 3, and I left off the gas too soon. It cost us a top five on the final restart and instead we took the green in 11th. I hate it for the Caterpillar/Grainger team. We got off sequence on pit stops and the way the cautions fell from there, it really worked in our favor. I simply messed up. I did all I could do to regain the ground I had lost. On the final restart, we climbed back into the top five, but unfortunately when we took the white flag, I made contact with the wall and lost all our momentum resulting in the 16th-place finish. We had nothing to lose so I went for it in the end.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 17th: “This was the first time running this package and we had to gamble a little bit. We had to roll the dice a little bit, and we were off when we came in. Had a lot to learn today and we used it well. The guys did a really good job with our car. Pit stops were really good tonight again. We had a lot to be proud of, just sucks that we couldn’t finish it off. We had a really strong race car and felt like we maybe had a shot to win it, just four wide going into three there we all just ran out of room. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), I had him squeezed down so low, I just don’t know that he could hold it down there. I was trying to keep (Clint Bowyer) to my outside and just one those deals at the end of the race.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 20th: “You definitely seem to draft more, which has its highs and lows. Track position, power and drag is super important. Give us a few weeks to work on the race cars with a package like this, and I am sure we can mess it up.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 21st: “Yeah, just got loose. We had been really tight all night.  I knocked the nose off of it early.  We got slid, and I wasn’t happy about it and instead of checking up, I didn’t lift.  I probably should have lifted because it hurt me more than the guy that ran us like that.  I’m just frustrated.  I feel like these guys have taken advantage of me quite a bit this year, and I’m over lifting for guys.  I’m not going to go out of my way to slow myself down to help somebody else out.  They would race me the same way.  I’m just kind of over it, but as far as the crash, I just got loose, and it stepped out. I saved it, it stepped out again, and I couldn’t save it.  Really frustrating.  I hate it for my guys, it’s my fault that we were in the situation further back than we should have been.  I should have just been more patient and not knocked the nose off of it early.”

Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’m smarter, stronger’ after COVID-19 episode

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Having been in an admitted “dark head space” after testing positive for COVID-19 a week ago, Jimmie Johnson said Friday that he is “ready to go” to return to the NASCAR Cup Series and Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Johnson was forced to miss last weekend’s race at Indianapolis after testing positive for COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Johnson tested negative twice more than 24 hours apart. After that and being cleared by a doctor, NASCAR reinstated Johnson.

“It’s been an interesting week or so, to have a positive test and then the two negative tests, just the emotional journey you go through and worrying about your safety, your family’s safety, watching a race with someone else in your race car,” Johnson said during a media Zoom conference. “Coming to grips with the reality of all that has been challenging.

“I feel like I’m a smarter, stronger person today experiencing all this. Clearly extremely happy to be reinstated and ready to be back with my race team and that race car.”

Johnson proved to be asymptomatic. He demurred when asked if the original test was a false positive.

“I’ve had no symptoms through this journey,” he said. “There are a lot of scenarios that can play out and to go through them and to form an opinion would just be speculating. At this point, I just don’t think that’s very intelligent or smart to do.

“I followed the protocol that NASCAR has in place and is the same protocol all the other major sports have as well. I’ve been watching the numerous positives take place and also seen many examples of a double negative within a 24-hour period take place and those athletes have been reinstated. It’s a science-based reinstatement process.

“… I’ve followed the protocol, it brings a lot of questions as to where I was in the journey of being positive. There’s a lot of speculation there. I don’t know those answers and I’m the most frustrated person out there, especially living in the world of facts that I do. To not have the facts drives me bananas.”

Johnson pronounced himself fit for Sunday’s race: “I feel great, I’m excited and I’m ready to go. … I’m super excited. In my head of optimism, boy, what a comeback story, the COVID comeback. It would really be a special moment. I’ve always been highly motivated but it would be really cool to have great success Sunday or certainly in the near future with everything.”

As the last week has played out, Johnson has run the gamut of emotions since he was first told about the positive result.

“My first response was just anger, I started cussing and I used every cuss word I knew of and I think I invented a few new ones,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “It was just so weird at the anger because I’ve been asymptomatic. First anger hits and then speculation in my mind and it was like wait a second, there’s nothing good to come of this. No one knows, I don’t know, it’s just time to move on.

“Then I got very excited looking at the facts: I missed just one race, still am above the (playoff) cut line and then the optimism I hope I get that second negative (result) and then I did. I feel like I’m more on the optimistic side of things and really out of the dark head space I was in, and moving in the right direction and looking forward in all this.”

Last Sunday, sitting at his family’s home in Colorado, Johnson admitted it was strange to see someone else – namely fill-in driver Justin Allgaier – in his No. 48 Chevy for the first time since Johnson first began driving that car in Cup late in 2001.

“It’s a weird set of events,” Johnson said. “Saturday night trying to go to sleep was probably the most difficult time for me, knowing I wasn’t going to be in the car.

“It was the peak of emotions going with missing a race and the consecutive start streak coming to an end, not being in a car, my final year (racing in NASCAR), all the things you can think of.

“Sunday morning wasn’t great, but I joined the team call we have before the race, I was able to hear the voices of my crew guys, and give them a shot in the arm and pump them up and just be involved in that team moment. It’s crazy how that relaxed me because I was convinced I wasn’t going to be able to watch the race.”

Johnson’s teleconference lasted nearly 30 minutes. Here are some other topics he covered:

Racing this weekend at Kentucky, one of only four current tracks the seven-time Cup champ has never won on (others are Charlotte Roval, Chicagoland and Watkins Glen): “Kentucky has probably been one of my top two or three most difficult tracks to compete at. I have mixed feelings for the place because when I first started at Hendrick Motorsports, I felt like I lived at that raceway doing testing for the team, getting in my laps and reps as a rookie coming into the sport. I have positive vibes from there, but my race experience there from the Busch Series days and even the Cup (series), has been demanding and tough. I hope to conquer the track from that personal standpoint and then clearly with what I’ve been through, my friends, family and fan base have been through, it’d be nice to leave there with a trophy.”

Why he tweeted out another show of support for Bubba Wallace earlier this week: “With the current events, just letting it be known I stood with Bubba at the beginning of this journey and I continue to stand with Bubba. (It was in response) to the tweet the President put out.”

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Friday’s Xfinity race at Kentucky: Start time, forecast and more

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Time for Part II of the Xfinity Series doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway.

Xfinity teams return to the 1.5-mile speedway tonight for the Alsco 300.

The top-15 finishers from Thursday night’s race have been inverted, resulting in Myatt Snider starting on the pole for tonight’s race. Jesse Little will start second.

Here’s all the info you need for the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be at 8:05 p.m by Tyler Reddick. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:14 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 10:30 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments are at 6 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:57 p.m by Larry Campbell of Kentucky Raceway Ministries. The national anthem will be performed at 7:58 p.m. by Felita LaRock, former lead vocalist, United States Air Force Band of Flight.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 20

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for mostly clear skies, a high of 81 degrees and a 2% of rain predicted at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Austin Cindric beat Riley Herbst in overtime to win Thursday night’s Kentucky race.

TO THE REAR: Daniel Hemric (driver change for No. 8 car), Justin Allgaier (backup car), Colby Howard (backup), Brandon Jones (backup), Kody Vanderwal (backup), Timmy Hill (backup), Brandon Brown (backup), Ronnie Bassett Jr. (backup)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup

Stage is set for Cup teams in race for points

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With 10 races left in the Cup regular season, the push for stage points is starting to play a key role in strategy and the results are showing in the standings.

Austin Dillon holds what would be the 16th and final playoff heading into Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1). But as Matt Kenseth nearly showed last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a victory by a driver outside the top 16 will take a playoff spot away from one hoping to make it by points.

Teams also are mindful that the regular season finale will be at Daytona International Speedway, which could lead to a surprise winner. Three of the last five Cup points races at Daytona saw a driver score either their first or second career Cup win: Dillon, Erik Jones and Justin Haley.

Teams already are trying different strategies to get away from 16th in the standings or climb into a potential playoff spot.

Matt DiBenedetto entered the Pocono doubleheader weekend 15th in the standings. Focusing on stage results, he scored 17 stage points in the two races that weekend and added 11 stage points last weekend at Indy.

Stage points can just make such a huge difference, especially this point in the year when the point stuff is really starting to settle out a little bit,” DiBenedetto said after the Pocono weekend. “People are settling in place, so you’ve got to take everything you can get because that makes a big difference as far as securing a solid spot in the playoffs.”

Those 28 stage points he’s earned the past three races helped DiBenedetto climb to 12th in the standings heading to Kentucky. He’s scored 26 more stage points than Clint Bowyer the past three races. That 26-point advantage helped put DiBenedetto three points ahead of Bowyer in standings.

William Byron‘s stage win at Indy proved key in helping him climb the points standings. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

William Byron won the first stage last weekend at Indy and collected 10 stage points (and one playoff point) after crew chief Chad Knaus had Byron stay on track under caution when most of the leaders did pit with eight laps left in the stage. Byron restarted in the lead and held that position for the final four laps of the stage under green.

Those 10 points helped Byron pass Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for 14th in the standings. Byron leads Johnson, who sat out Indy because he had tested positive for COVID-19, by two points. Johnson has since had two negative tests for the coronavirus and been reinstated for this weekend.

Another driver who has benefitted from a strategy focused on stage points is Dillon. He’s scored 18 stage points the past three races to nine stage points by Jones. Dillon holds what would be the final playoff spot by six points on Jones.

2. Will this be Kyle Busch’s weekend?

The reigning series champion has one win in the last 38 races but heads to a Kentucky Speedway that has been good to him, even though Kurt Busch nipped his younger brother for the win in last year’s race.

Kyle Busch has two wins in nine starts at Kentucky and leads all drivers in top-five finishes (seven), top-10 finishes (eight) and laps led (621) at the track.

Busch’s lone victory in the last 38 races came in last year’s championship race in Miami. In that same span, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have combined to win 14 races.

Also during that 38-race stretch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 16 races (42.1%). Each has eight wins in that time.

3. Speeding on pit road

Here’s a look at the number of pit road speeding penalties drivers have had in the first 16 races of the Cup season:

6 – Quin Houff

5 – Ryan Newman, Bubba Wallace

4 – Corey LaJoie, Garrett Smithley, Daniel Suarez

3 – Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JJ Yeley,

2 – Christopher Bell, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Brennan Poole, Ryan Preece.

1 – Chris Buescher, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Joey Gase, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick,

0 – Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Cole Custer, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr.

4. Streakin’

With Jimmie Johnson missing last weekend’s race at Indianapolis after testing positive for COVID-19, his consecutive starts streak ended at 663, ranking fifth on the all-time list. Johnson has since been cleared to race this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Kevin Harvick ranks sixth on the list of longest consecutive starts streak with 656 consecutive starts heading into Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Here is the top 6 in longest consecutive streaks:

797 — Jeff Gordon

788 — Ricky Rudd

704 — Bobby Labonte

697 — Rusty Wallace

663 — Jimmie Johnson

656 — Kevin Harvick

5. More of the same for Chevy teams?

Chevrolet teams are winless in their last eight Cup races and the manufacturer has one win in nine races at Kentucky. That victory came last year with Kurt Busch beating Kyle Busch at the finish.

Since Chase Elliott won the second Charlotte race in late May, Chevy drivers have not won. Elliott finished second in Miami, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second at Talladega and Matt Kenseth was second at Indianapolis.

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UPDATE: Justin Allgaier cleared to race tonight at Kentucky

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UPDATE (1 p.m. ET): After Thursday night’s wreck that sent him to a local Sparta, Kentucky area hospital, Justin Allgaier has been cleared to race in tonight’s second half of the Xfinity Series weekend doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway.

His team, JR Motorsports, made the announcement via Twitter:

Allgaier will have to start from the back of the field due to having to go to a backup car, as his primary car was damaged in Thursday night’s wreck.

UPDATE (9:15 a.m. ET):

Justin Allgaier was released early Friday morning from a local Sparta, Kentucky area hospital after being evaluated following his last-lap crash in Thursday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

According to a tweet from his team, JR Motorsports, “Justin Allgaier was treated and released from a local hospital early this morning for non-racing related medical purposes following last night’s event at Kentucky Speedway. He will undergo further evaluation today before being cleared to race.”

The second race of the Xfinity Series weekend doubleheader at Kentucky will take place tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

Allgaier’s wife, Ashley, was upset at several rumors that appeared on social media regarding her husband’s condition which ultimately were proven to be false.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Justin Allgaier has been taken to a local hospital for further evaluation after he was involved in a last-lap crash in Thursday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway.

The wreck occurred in overtime and involved four drivers: Allgaier, Kody Vanderwal, Timmy Hill and Ronnie Bassett Jr.

The other drivers were checked and released from the infield care center.

The Xfinity Series is set to hold its second race of a doubleheader at Kentucky Friday night at 8 p.m. ET.