What drivers said after Pocono

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Kyle Busch — Winner: “I just can’t say enough about my teammate (Daniel Suarez). What an awesome race. He was probably the third-best car – (Kevin) Harvick was the best car and we were the second-best car and then Suárez was the third-best car. He gave us a run for our money there on those last couple restarts. The last one I spun my tires a little too much and he got a really good run and I think that gave (Erik) Jones an opportunity to make it three-wide down into one and those guys got to racing and just kind of let me get away. Just can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and all my guys. This Caramel Toyota Camry was awesome and had a lot of speed, but we fought it all weekend. Glad to get here and glad to get another win for all the Rowdy Nation fans out there and everybody here at Pocono. We swept the weekend and taking home both eagle trophies this week.”

DANIEL SUAREZ — Finished 2nd: “Well, I thought I was a little better than Kyle (Busch) and the 18 guys with new tires with five, seven laps or so, but in the longer runs he was better than me. He was just turning better for whatever reason. I was getting too tight and I was trying to adjust my tools as much as I can to free the car up a little bit, but it wasn’t helping the rotation – what I needed – and every restart I felt like I was decent, but, no, not great. I felt like if I was able to complete the pass by corner one I was going to be able to hold him off, but I just never had the help from behind.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 3rd: “We really struggled all weekend until today. Then the boss showed up, so maybe Mr. Hendrick just needs to come to every single race and we will all run better. It’s kind of some light at the end of the tunnel. We didn’t have the raw speed it looked like the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) did. We were a little off, but anytime all four of us are running better is a good week for us.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “It was eventful. I think we went to the back twice and made our way back to the front each time. We made a good race out of it but it is hard to swallow on a day like that when our Mobil 1 Ford was the class of the field. You never know what is going to happen on these days. It is hard to put them together and you win some and lose some.”

Erik Jones — Finished 5th: “I think at that point, if I stayed and pushed the 19 (Suarez), I run the same spot I do now. I mean, if we make the move we did, we at least had a shot and we have a chance to go down there and clear, so we had to do what we had to do to win and that was our one chance in the Reser’s Camry and it just didn’t work out, so still a good, top five day. We ran up in the top five all day and just had a good car, so need to probably be a little bit better. I think the 4 (Harvick) was the class of the field today, but, you know, it was good to run up there in the top five and lead some laps.”

William Byron — Finished 6th: “There are a lot of big positives. I feel there are a couple of things we could have worked on and we’ll keep working on those things. Our cars are just getting faster. Now we have the speed to run in the top 10, which makes it a lot easier to do things and allows us to be more aggressive and allows me to drive the car the way I know how to drive it. I feel like our speed is just starting to get us in a position to be more aggressive, which is really good.”

CHASE ELLIOTT — Finished 7th: “I think a little bit of everything. I don’t even know why some race tracks seem to be more suitable for what we have, and some don’t. We think we’re better as a whole, but I think we still have some work to do.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 8th: “I don’t ever give up and this No. 31 Bass Pro Shops / Cabela’s Camaro ZL1 team doesn’t either. Our race was pretty frustrating to me. I knew we had a top 10 car, but we got blocked quite a bit which caused us to lose momentum and track position, especially during the middle portions of the race. All and all another solid job in the pits for the pit crew. For a while there, our track position didn’t reflect the kind of Chevy Luke Lambert and the team prepared for me, but it doesn’t matter now. We finished eighth and we’ll certainly take that result.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “We have nothing much to show for the effort but we do have a lot to show for it at the same time by going through all that adversity. I didn’t think we would get a top 10 out of today with the damage on the splitter. The left front tire was weird. It blew out halfway down the front straightaway and I was able to keep it off the wall and keep most of the damage to a minimum. The guys were able to fix me up and we just kind of battled through and took advantage of other people’s mistakes.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “It was a long weekend. We struggled a little bit off the truck and just could never really get where we were very good. I was hopeful that we would get a little better in the race but we never really did. We have work to do. Hopefully we can get there.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 13th: “The American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was extremely tight through Stage 1. We made chassis adjustments that we were confident would help with handling, but when Stage 2 started it felt like I was driving a pogo stick, and by the end of Stage 2, the car was just way too loose. I have to give it to the entire No. 3 American Ethanol team for working hard and never giving up. I feel like we were actually pretty good on takeoff, so we pitted during a late-race caution for 4 scuff tires, which is all we had left. On the restart, I ended up scraping the Turn 3 Wall with the right side of my car. Luckily, I was able to continue but it killed my momentum and made the car really tight. In the end, it was a hard-earned 13th-place finish.”

Matt Kenseth — Finished 18th: “We were definitely better than the spring race when we couldn’t even stay on the lead lap. This time we had a pit road problem, sped and lost a lot of track positions. I thought we ran better, we were just really weak on restarts and would lose a lot of spots. In today’s day in age of racing it is a huge disadvantage because you just can’t get those spots back. I felt we took a step up in performance, not where we need to be yet but still a step up. The stat sheet doesn’t show it but it is a step in the right direction.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 24th: “Pocono is definitely a hard track to get a handle on. You have to be perfect in each corner on every single lap, and all of the corners are completely different from one another. It is a challenge to be able to have a car that’s set up to get through all three turns perfectly. It’s called the “Tricky Triangle” for a reason. We battled with the balance of our GEICO Camaro ZL1 on exit through all of Stage 1 and most of Stage 2. My crew chief and the team were able to get the handling closer to where we needed it to be, but we have to be there from the very beginning. We know that, and this team continues to work hard week in and week out to keep us competitive and moving in the right direction. We are going to keep digging.”

BUBBA WALLACE — Finished 33rd: “Yeah, I’m okay. Just brake failure there. It blew up going down the straightaway the right front, I believe. I can’t remember if I turned left or if it just kind of jolted to the left and I should have stayed to the right. And I went for a hellacious ride and just for about two or three seconds you can really slow it down and you are just helpless. There is nothing you can do and you are just like, please stop. And it does, it does when it hits the fence and all-in-all it was okay, knocked the wind out of me. It took me a minute to let the window net down because that was the last thing I thought about, so apologize to everybody worried about that, but just an unfortunate ending for us and our Mile 22 Chevrolet.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 38th: “We just blew a rear tire in the corner and backed into the wall. The car wasn’t terrible but wasn’t enough to get fixed in the time that was allowed so we limped it back to the garage and they made me come to the care center. That is just the way it was today for the Alliance Ford.”

Who is hot and cold entering Cup elimination race at Kansas

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After a wild finish Sunday at Talladega, the Cup playoffs chug along this weekend with the second playoff elimination race.

The series heads to Kansas Speedway, where the playoff field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers.

Here’s a look at the drivers – playoff eligible and not – who are on hot and cold streaks entering the weekend via Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Aric Almirola
• Won at Talladega (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); passed Kurt Busch in Turn 4 on final lap when Busch ran out of gas.
2018 Season-Good
• Advances to Round of 8 for first time in career
• Ended a 149-race winless streak
• Finished in top 10 in 3 of last 5 races
Kansas-Good
• Finished 9th in back-to-back Kansas races, including May
• Started 25th, 17th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, finished 9th in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Joey Logano
• Finished 5th at Talladega (5th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2)
2018 Season-Very Good
• Finished in top 10 in 3 straight races and 7 of last 9
• Finished in top 5 in 2 straight races and 5 of last 8
Kansas – Hot and Cold
• Last 5 Kansas races: Finished 3rd twice and 3 finishes of 21st or worse
• Finished in top 5 in 7 of last 10 Kansas races (2 wins)
• Started 17th, 22nd in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 21st in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Clint Bowyer
• Finished 2nd at Talladega (2nd in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Good
• Finished in top 10 in 3 of last 4 races and 4 of last 6
• Last 8 races: 5 top 10s and 3 finishes of 23rd or worse (2 DNFs)
Kansas – Terrible
• One top 10 in the last 10 Kansas races (9th in May 2017)
• Started 9th, 14th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, finished 19th in this race one year ago; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

Denny Hamlin
• Finished 4th at Talladega (8th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Great in round 2
• Finished in top 5 in the last two races of 2018
• Finished in the top 5 in both races in the round of 12 after failing to finish in the top 10 in any of the three races in the round of 16
Kansas – Good
• Finished 5th in back-to-back Kansas races
• Last 8 Kansas races: 4 top 10s and 4 finishes of 15th or worse
• Started 4th, 3rd in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 5 laps led, finished 5th in this race one year ago; penalized for speeding entering pits on Lap 163 while running 1st

 

Who is Cold

Brad Keselowski
• Finished 27th at Talladega (34th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, 21 laps led); pit on Lap 41 from 6th due to a loose wheel; pit for fuel coming to green in overtime
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished 14th or worse in the last three races
Kansas – Bad
• Last 7 Kansas races: 4 top 10s and 3 finishes of 13th or worse (14th in May)
• Finished 13th or worse in 3 of last 4 Kansas races
• Started 10th, 11th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 18 laps led, finished 13th in this race one year ago; penalized for speeding entering pit on Lap 163 while running 3rd; penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 239 while running 7th
1.5-mile tracks – Too early to tell
• Won last the 1.5-mile race at Las Vegas (opening race of playoffs)

 

Ryan Blaney
• Finished 29th at Talladega (6th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2, 6 laps led); pit for fuel coming to green in overtime
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in 2 straight races and 3 of last 4
• Last 13 races: 6 finishes of 7th or better and 7 finishes of 11th or worse
Kansas – Very Good
• Top 10 in four of the last six Kansas races, top 5 in three of the last five
• Started 40th, 4th in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 3 laps led, finished 3rd in this race one year ago; qualified 3rd but had time disallowed

 

Kyle Larson
• Finished 11th at Talladega (22nd in Stage 1, 33rd in Stage 2); started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; spun from 11th on backstretch on Lap 104 with flat tire
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in the last three races of 2018
• Last 9 races: 4 finishes of 7th or better and 5 finishes of 11th or worse
Kansas – OK recently
• Finished top 10 in two of the last three Kansas races
• 29th or worse in four of the last six Kansas races including two DNFs
• Started 13th, 38th in Stage 1, 39th in Stage 2, finished 39th in this race one year ago; DNF – pit from 3rd on Lap 65 with engine issue; lost engine on Lap 77 while running 37th

 

Ryan Newman
• Finished 25th at Talladega (12th in Stage 1, 34th in Stage 2); pit on Lap 75 from 22nd with loose wheel; involved in multi-car accident on last lap
2018 Season – Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in 4 straight races and 8 of last 10
Kansas – Very Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 4 straight Kansas races (30th in May)
• DNF in 3 straight Kansas races
• Started 18th, 13th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2, finished 33rd in this race one year ago; DNF – penalized for speeding entering pits on Lap 176; involved in multi-car accident on Lap 198

 

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Preliminary entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Kansas

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NASCAR returns to the Midwest this weekend for its second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second-round elimination race Sunday.

The Xfinity Series begins its second round Saturday.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 entries.

Kyle Weatherman is entered in StarCom Racing’s No. 99 Chevrolet. It would be his fifth start for the team this season.

Kevin Harvick won at Kansas in May from the pole, beating Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. This race last year was won by Truex from the pole. He beat Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 42 cars entered. Two cars will not qualify.

Angela Ruch, niece of Derrike Cope, is entered in RSS Racing’s No. 38 Chevrolet. It would be her second start of the year.

Bobby Earnhardt, son of Kerry Earnhardt and grandson of Dale Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Dodge. It would be his first start of the season.

There is no driver attached to J.P. Motorsports’ No. 55 Toyota.

Last year, Christopher Bell won his first career Xfinity race after passing Erik Jones with four laps to go.

Click here for the entry list.

Bump & Run: Which drivers will not advance to Round of 8?

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Brad Keslowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman enter Kansas outside the transfer spot to the next round. Who are the four drivers you think will not advance this weekend at Kansas Speedway?

Nate Ryan: Probably these four. Blaney and Keselowski could advance on points but will need to run well and get some major help from those above the cut line. Larson and Bowman will advance only by winning, and the odds of that are only realistic for Larson.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski. Kyle Larson was strong at Kansas in May and should provide a valiant run but he’s in essentially a must-win situation and it will be hard to beat Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. at that track.

Daniel McFadin: Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.

Dan Beaver: Blaney, Larson and Bowman effectively need a win to advance and they have not shown enough consistent strength on the 1.5-mile tracks to get that done at Kansas. Keselowski and Truex have – and after two frustrating weeks, they will do enough to get into the next round. That leaves Clint Bowyer as the odd man out. Kansas may be his home track, but it has not been particularly welcoming since 2013.

After nearly winning at Dover and then winning at Talladega, how do you rate Aric Almirola’s championship chances?

Nate Ryan: Still fair to middling. He will likely run well at Texas and possibly Phoenix but Martinsville (three top 10s in 19 starts) will be a challenge.

Dustin Long: Better than it was two weeks ago but still not among the favorites.

Daniel McFadin: 65 percent. Phoenix and Kansas are among his top nine tracks in average finishes, but he’s finished in the top 10 at Texas once and Homestead twice (in 2010 and 2012). Almirola hasn’t finished in the top 10 at Martinsville since 2014.

Dan Beaver: Almirola has not been able to sustain momentum for very long in 2018. Unless he wins at Kansas, he’ll enter Round 3 with less than 10 bonus points and that is going to make it difficult for him to advance. Almirola’s odds of winning a championship are low.

Do you rate Aric Almirola’s title chances better than any of the Big 3 drivers? Why or why not?

Nate Ryan: No. It still seems better than 50-50 odds that Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all advance to the championship round, partly because of their playoff points cushion but also because the five remaining tracks (three 1.5-mile ovals) lay out well for the trio.

Dustin Long: Still a gap between the Big 3 and the rest of the playoff field.

Daniel McFadin: Less. Kevin Harvick is the biggest threat at Phoenix and he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 there in the last 10 years. And with 1.5-mile tracks in the form of Texas, Kansas and Homestead, you have to believe the Big 3 are the favorites regardless of how well Almirola is doing.

Dan Beaver: Almirola had a couple of strong runs at Homestead with Richard Petty Motorsports including a fourth in 2010. He has only three top-fives this year – none of which came on 1.5-mile tracks. He won’t be able to outrun Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch in the finale.

What did you think of the Talladega race?

Nate Ryan: It was unlike anything at that 2.66-mile oval in nearly a half-century – look no further than the 15 lead changes being the fewest since 1973. Based off fan and driver reaction, NASCAR assuredly will take steps to improve the stability of the cars for a return to pack racing and nonstop drafting in 2019.

Dustin Long: An unusual race because of rule changes this season that made the cars so hard to drive. At the end it was still the same Talladega — chaos.

Daniel McFadin: It was by far the most fascinating Talladega race in recent memory, despite the fewest lead changes in a Cup race there since 1973. Seeing the Stewart-Haas Racing cars pull ahead of the field by at least a dozen car lengths at times was an echo of plate races there when Y2K was a threat. I’m completely game for a superspeedway race where the field isn’t one giant blob that’s only broken up by large crashes.

Dan Beaver: I’ve learned to never be surprised by anything that happens at Talladega. The four-car domination by the Stewart-Haas drivers was interesting, but it wasn’t very entertaining to watch. 

NASCAR America: Only one playoff win for the Big 3

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The Big 3 of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to win 17 of the first 23 races this season.

Since then, they have one victory in the last eight.

Busch has the only playoff win among the Big 3. He led the field to the checkers at Richmond, but that is not representative of his recent results. During Round 2 of the playoffs, he has recorded an average running position of just 11.95. Martin Truex Jr. has been worse in that regard with an average running position of 16.70.

“Those numbers are not as eye-popping as we saw from this trio earlier in the season,” Nate Ryan said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Especially I look at Kyle Busch. … This is a guy who had one good race – the race he won at Richmond – through the first half of the playoffs.”

Busch and Harvick still have a substantial advantage in playoff points to ease their path to Homestead. Busch has 55 playoff points; Harvick has 53. But Truex was made painfully aware last week that his 38 playoff points are not a sufficient safeguard. He spent much of the Talladega race below the cutoff line in terms of points-as-they-ran.

Equally disturbing for the Big 3 may be that parity has returned to the series.

The five playoff races have been won by five different drivers – all of whom are in championship contention. Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas, Busch has his Richmond win as a highlight, Ryan Blaney won on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Elliott won at Dover and Aric Almirola won last week at Talladega.

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