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.”

NASCAR’s Friday schedule at Kansas Speedway

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The NASCAR playoff race weekend at Kansas Speedway begins today.

Cup and Xfinity Series teams will each hold two practice sessions.

The wunderground.com forecast predicts a high of 74 degrees, partly sunny skies and a 10% chance of rain.

Here’s the day’s schedule.

(All times are Eastern)

Noon – 11 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

3:05 – 3:55 p.m.  – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:05 – 4:55 – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

5:05 – 5:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

7:05-7:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

 

Friday 5: Is this Kyle Busch’s time?

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Will this become the fall of Kyle Busch?

Not fall as in stumble but fall as in season — when he takes control of the Cup playoffs.

Busch, the regular-season champion, has been many things this postseason — moody, controversial and mistake-prone — but he’s not been a dominant figure on the track.

His average finish in the first half of these playoffs is 16.6 — marking the fourth time since 2015 he’s had an average finish of 14th or worse halfway through the postseason.

Busch, though, made it to the championship race each of those four years, winning the title in 2015.

But with Busch, there’s always something more.

Instead of a streak of Championship 4 appearances, it is his winless streak that draws more attention. Busch has failed to win in the past 17 races, his longest drought since going 36 races between Cup victories in 2016-17.

Since Busch last won at Pocono in early June — before Justin Haley’s improbable win at Daytona, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing and then signing with JTG Daugherty Racing and Bubba Wallace and Busch beating and banging at Watkins Glen — he’s seen Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones all win.

Miscues have hindered Busch’s playoffs. He hit the wall on Lap 3 of the opener at Las Vegas. Busch rallied from two laps down to be back on the lead lap before running into the rear of Garrett Smithley’s car. After the race, Busch called out Smithley and Joey Gase, questioning their credentials to be in the Cup Series.

Busch’s Dover run was hurt by a speeding penalty. He had a flat tire after contact with Kyle Larson on a restart at the Charlotte Roval and had to pit. A suspension issued later led to his day ending. Several laps down and with nothing to gain, Busch drove the car back to the garage during a red flag. His Talladega race was impacted by an accident, just like about every other driver. The only playoff driver not involved in an incident in the race was winner Ryan Blaney.

But things could be changing for Busch.

For all his struggles, he’s finished second three times during his winless drought and had six top-five results. Only Hamlin (10 top fives), Truex (eight) and Kevin Harvick (seven) have had more top fives than Busch in this stretch.

Provided Busch advances — he is 41 points Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a transfer spot — he’ll likely be the points leader heading into the Round of 8 after Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Round of 8 begins at Martinsville Speedway. Busch finished third there in the spring. He’s not placed worse than eighth in any of the five short track races this season. He led 66 laps before finishing 10th at Texas and won at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, leading 177 of 312 laps.

Get Busch to Miami (again) and he could leave as a two-time champion.

2. Tough challenge for hopefuls 

The most likely way Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer or William Byron — the four drivers outside a playoff race — will advance to the next round will be to win Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Bowman trails Joey Logano, who holds the final transfer spot by 18 points. Elliott trails Logano by 22 points. Bowyer trails Logano by 24 points, and Byron trails Logano by 27 points.

The only time Byron and Bowyer outscored Logano in a race by as many points as they trail was at Dover in the playoffs when Logano spent the first 24 laps in the garage.

Bowman has outscored Logano by 18 points in three races this year: Dover playoff race, Talladega in April (Bowman was second) and Kansas in May (Bowman was second)

Elliott has had better results. He has outscored Logano by 22 or more points in a race five times this year: Martinsville in March (Elliott outscored Logano by 28 points), Talladega in April (22 points), Kansas in May (29 points), Watkins Glen (46 points) in August and the Bristol night race (25 points) in August. Elliott won at Talladega and Watkins Glen. He was second at Martinsville, fourth at Kansas and fifth at Bristol.

That’s the challenge those four drivers face this weekend trying to knock Logano out of the final playoff spot.

3. Looking to help 

Brad Keselowski expressed his concern about team members who will be or could be losing their jobs in the near future as the sport goes through change.

He recently sent this tweet:

So what can Keselowski do?

“I haven’t gotten an answer to it yet, but I’m looking at it, trying to think about what ideas there might be” Keselowski said. “I haven’t come up with a solution yet. I just wanted those people to know that are affected by it that I cared about it. I can’t employ the couple of hundred people that are probably going to get laid off in the next few weeks, but I’m sure I can do something for someone.”

4. Youth movement?

The last three races have been won by three of the five youngest drivers in the playoffs: Chase Elliott (Charlotte Roval), Kyle Larson (Dover) and Ryan Blaney (Talladega).

Elliott is 23, Larson is 27 and Blaney is 25. The playoffs also include William Byron (21 years old) and Alex Bowman (26). Erik Jones (23) was eliminated in the first round.

5. Drought busters

Five drivers have ended winless streaks of 30 or more races this season: Kyle Larson (75 races) Denny Hamlin (45), Erik Jones (42), Ryan Blaney (37) and Kurt Busch (30).

Among drivers with long winless droughts: Paul Menard (299 races), David Ragan (237), Chris Buescher (118), Ryan Newman (99), Jimmie Johnson (90), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (86), Austin Dillon (66), Clint Bowyer (52), Aric Almirola (36),

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2019 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award finalists announced

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Comcast has announced the three finalists for this year’s Community Champion of the Year Award, which recognizes the philanthropic efforts of individuals within the NASCAR industry.

Through the award Comcast has donated $600,000 to 15 different NASCAR-affiliated organizations to honor their efforts and help further the impact of their causes.

The three finalists are:

  • Artie Kempner, NASCAR on FOX Coordinating Director and Co-Founder of Autism Delaware
  • David Ragan, Cup Series driver and Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for Children
  • Mike Tatoian, President and CEO of Dover International Speedway and USO Delaware Chairman

The award winner will be selected by a panel composed of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano, who won the award in 2018. Comcast will award $60,000 to the winner’s affiliated charity, and $30,000 to each of the two remaining finalists’ selected charities.

The winner will be announced Nov. 14 at W. South Beach Hotel in Miami in conjunction with the NASCAR Championship Weekend.

Artie Kempner (Wilmington, Delaware) – In 1998, a small group of parents got together in the living room of Marcy and Artie Kempner’s house in Wilmington, Delaware. The Kempner’s had three boys and their middle son, Ethan, had been diagnosed with autism a year earlier. All of the parents at the table had children on the autism spectrum. That gathering was the beginning of Autism Delaware and Artie became the group’s first president. The organization started as a simple support group, but 20+ years later it’s a statewide service agency, fielding more than 1,500 calls from families annually, offering lifespan services, as well as social and recreational program for families in a safe and welcoming environment.

Kempner’s work on the Drive for Autism Celebrity-Am Golf Outing, helped the group raise the necessary money to launch its critically acclaimed adult vocational and employment program known as POW&R, Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation. Now in its 11th year, POW&R assesses an individual’s strengths and vocational goals, and matches them with community-based employment, volunteer and recreational opportunities. Today, the program serves over 150 adults with autism in paid employment.

David Ragan (Unadilla, Georgia) – Since 2012, Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan has been dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospital for Children as a part of their ambassador program. Ragan spends much of his off-time visiting hospitals, fundraising, as well as inviting patients to the race track for once-in-a-lifetime experiences at NASCAR events. Ragan’s passion for the hospital goes beyond just the bare-minimum appearance, he makes an effort to remember each patient’s name + story and will continue to stay in touch long after he meets them. Ragan knows the children and families he meets are likely struggling and wants to do what he can to put a smile on their face. His association with the Shriners, as well as being a Shriner himself, has not only brought attention to the hospitals and the great work they are doing, but has increased donations from race fans and team partners. Many people aren’t aware of the great work that the Shriners do, but Ragan has been a strong voice for them for the past 10 years and has changed countless lives because of his great work.

Mike Tatoian (Dover, Delaware) – Mike Tatoian has been a staple of the Delaware and mid-Atlantic charitable communities, particularly with local military organizations at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, since he began his tenure at the “Monster Mile” in 2007. One of his longest commitments has been with United Service Organizations. Established during World War II, the USO supports U.S. service members wherever they are, including on-base, deployed abroad, passing through an airport or in local communities at more than 200 locations around the world. One-particular duty that distinguishes USO Delaware is it’s the only USO in the world that shares the responsibility of bringing home fallen service members, working alongside other units such as the Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the Joint Personal Effects Depot and the Families of the Fallen. For 13 years, Tatoian has assisted USO Delaware with countless programs and currently serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Council for the organization.

NASCAR America’s The MotorSports Hour live at 5 p.m. ET

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s The Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda is joined by Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger as they discuss the major storylines in multiple racing disciplines, including NASCAR.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.