What drivers said after Watkins Glen

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Chase Elliott — Winner: “Holy cow! What a thrill! I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thrilled and so emotional. There’s so much relief you know; it’s been working on three years and I hadn’t won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done. But, just thanks to all the fans. I hope all my buddies are ready to get rowdy tonight because it’s going to be a good one.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I gave it everything I had for our guys at Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY and Toyota, and all of our partners. I gave it everything I had every single lap. I could catch him but right when I got close, I’d get loose and fall back. I was too loose all day. Traffic made it worse for sure. He had the upper hand there at the end. We were a little faster but hats off to him. He did a great job. He put his car exactly where I needed mine to be. I couldn’t get it and I was sideways. Congrats to him on his first win. We ran out of gas the last lap anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. I’m proud of my guys. I am proud of the effort. I love coming to these road courses.”

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “I think what impressed me the most was just that (Elliott) was hammer down and elbows up and flying – loose here, loose there and going through everything and doing everything right and really attacking the race course and not putting the wheel too far out of shape. He did a really good and he was really hustling it and keeping the car under him. He looked like a pro. That was cool to see. It’s pretty early for him – like what third year – to be able to come out here and run like that at Watkins Glen and to be able to win, so pretty impressive. Overall, wish we could’ve raced with him and certainly think we would’ve had a shot for him.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 4th: “It was a decent race. I felt like we had a top five, top seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We’re getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I’m going to be a happy boy.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 5th: “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve only had one bad race since Daytona and that was New Hampshire. Two top fives in a row for us, so we need to keep going that way and hopefully we can contend for a win at Michigan. That’s the goal. We want to win another race. I know we can do it. If we’re this close on a road course, I know we can do it on an oval, so we’ll keep working on it.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “Yeah, a lot better finish than I thought we would have. I always feel like I don’t race well at these places, but able to run a nice smooth race, so I was happy about that and I think we finished sixth or seventh, so yeah, pretty cool. … Today was a fun day, finally, on a road course.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I think we finished sixth or seventh and that was about where we were when we unloaded and we had a really clean race, we had good fuel mileage.  Just a really good day for our GearWrench Chevy. “

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Good for those guys to get the win. I feel like we are just getting faster and it’s just being easier. I don’t know if we hit everything just right today, but it was easier to run where we were. It’s fun, it’s getting there. I’m excited.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “We had a surprise flat right-rear (tire) and that forced us into taking two tires and we had to improvise from there. It’s kind of a bummer, but we made the best we could with it and got a top 10. We want to win, but the car can’t quite steer from the rear and the front is chattering a little bit. We’re close, but we’re not quite there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “That was a tough day for the Rush Truck Centers Ford, but we fought hard. It was hard to pass out there. We were struggling to make grip. We tried to play the strategy game, and that got us a decent finish. It was a long weekend, but everyone worked hard.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “It was a long day. We struggled all weekend, really, and just couldn’t really go anywhere. We’d fire off OK and then just fade terribly, so we’ve got some work to do here.” 

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I really feel like the car was a little better than the driver all day. But it still wasn’t a terrible day for us. Just a little off of where we needed to be. Still a good points day and the pit crew was really good, they did a good job. We will move on and got to Michigan.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 15th:  “I was just kind of in the train of cars there just trying to be patient and they just stopped. I tried to get checked up and just got into the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and it just got the nose. Did decent amount of damage and took a lot of the front aero away and the car wasn’t the same, obviously. … The guys did a good job to kind of button it back up and at least make it somewhat drivable. It didn’t have the speed that it was going to have. I don’t think we had the pace all weekend to go win the race, but for how the car drove with that much damage, I thought we could have easily run in the top 10 and got a decent result out of it, but that is just the way it is.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 16th: “All in all it was a decent weekend. Practice was good and qualifying not so good. The first quarter of the race we obviously had a lot of issues, but we were able to bounce back and get a good, decent finish. We had good, decent speed at the end of the race, so it’s something to build off of on the road course for sure. I look forward to getting to Michigan and hopefully keep improving.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 19th: “The start of our race went as planned. Our goal was to earn as many stage points as we could and we accomplished that in the first stage by finishing sixth. That’s a positive. But 20 laps into Stage 2, we got spun out by a competitor and it was costly to us, resulting in the 34th-place running spot. We regrouped and drove up into the top 20 but that’s all we could get by the time the checkered flag waved. We had a good run against the No. 2 car, but our handling needed a little more work. We just battled with Turns 5, 6 and 7 all weekend. I feel like our Lucas Oil Camaro ZL1 was an improvement from last year so we’ll take it and keep digging.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “I don’t know what happened there. I’d have to see it, so it’s hard to say. The 12 (Blaney) diving inside of me, I guess, kind of dive-bombed in there. It’s really hard for the spotters to see over there because we’re coming out from behind the trees and I honestly didn’t know he was there. I guess he hit the curb and wiped us out, so it’s disappointing. I thought we had a car we could have run in the top 10 or top 12 with and just didn’t do it. This is a couple weeks of bad luck and we’ve got to battle back from this and rebound and get going before the Playoffs start.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Making the trip up to The Glen is always interesting. We only come to this track once a year, and we came this year with a new crew chief, a new body style and a new inspection system to adapt to. We had decent practice sessions with our GEICO Camaro ZL1, and I felt good going into the race today because I like road-course racing. We just struggled through the esses all weekend. I was loose all the way up the hill at the start of the race. We improved it a bit with air pressure adjustments, but then the front end was struggling to turn and we had to address that with changes too. We made the adjustments that we need to throughout the day to make it to the end of the race. I wish we could have cracked into the top 20, but this team worked hard. We’ll have all of these notes to build on next year.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “What a day for the Dow Racing team. Going into the weekend, I had high hopes for our team because I felt like our car was really good on the long run. We were challenged throughout the race, but we were able to run solidly in the top-20. When the caution flag was displayed with 53 laps remaining we decided to gamble and pitted for fuel only, which put us in the second spot for the restart. We fought hard for the remaining laps to keep track position on old tires, knowing that we would have a fresh set ready for a late-race caution. Our strategy proved challenging, though, because tires meant so much today and the late-race caution we gambled on never came. Oh well, it was worth a try. We have a lot to work on when it comes to road course racing, but we will get there as a team.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 33rd: “I think we exploded a gear. I felt a drive line vibration for a little bit and it finally let go, so these places are tough on cars. Those kind of failures can happen, so we’ll see. We struggled with the car all weekend, so it was a tough weekend.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 37th: “We were just racing hard and I tried to make a run off the carousel. Pulled out on (Kyle) Larson and tried to keep the nose out going into the bus stop. I saw they were all racing in front of me hard and thought I could make a run and get some momentum off the carousel and I was right on Larson. I think they checked up in front of him. He lifted, and I was right there. I guess my bumper bar went underneath his bumper and just knocked into the radiator and punctured a whole in it. … I went from hero to zero pretty quick.” 

Brad Keselowski puts on driving clinic with convincing win at Martinsville

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Brad Keselowski put on a driving clinic Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, leading 446 of 500 laps to win the STP 500. It was Keselowski’s second win of the season (also won at Atlanta), and his fourth top-3 finish in the last five races.

It was also Keselowski’s 29th career Cup win and his second Cup Series triumph in 19 career starts at Martinsville. Starting with his first win there in April 2017 and including Sunday’s win, Keselowski has now led 712 total laps over the last five races at the southern Virginia short track. 

“The car was really good,” Keselowski told Fox Sports 1. “Just a great day for our team. Awesome execution on pit road. … Just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver, where you have a great car.

“(Runner-up) Chase Elliott was real strong. He passed me with about 200 laps to go. I watched him and studied and knew what I had to do to hold him off and really pulled it off.”

Elliott tried to mount a last lap surge — two of the previous three races at Martinsville have been won on last lap passes — but ran out of time and fell short.

“Our Camaro was good and felt we were about as even with him as we could be,” Elliott said. “I tried to move up there at the end, but I don’t know if I could have got to him, maybe if I had moved up a little sooner. Maybe next time.”

Kyle Busch, making the 1,000th overall start of his NASCAR career, finished third, snapping a two-race winning streak (Phoenix and Fontana). Busch and Keselowski are now the only two drivers to win more than one race thus far this season.

Ryan Blaney finished fourth, followed by Denny Hamlin. Sixth through 10th were Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez.

There were only three leaders in the race: Keselowski, Chase Elliott (49 laps) and Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate and pole sitter Joey Logano (6 laps).

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

WHAT’S NEXT: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 31 (Fox); green flag shortly after 3 p.m. ET.

We’ll be back with more information, including quotes, full results and updated standings. Please check back soon.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch has idea for NASCAR’s Xfinity, Truck limits

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kyle Busch would entertain the opportunity to pursue the one NASCAR championship that has eluded him – in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series – when his Cup career is over.

But he’s got an idea that would allow him to run both series concurrently and address the limits on Cup drivers running in lower series.

“Why don’t you let us run as many races as we want to run and then once we miss one, we’re done?” Busch pondered after his victory Saturday in the TruNorth Global 250 truck race at Martinsville Speedway. “So if I go all the way to (the June 15 race at Iowa Speedway) in the trucks and run 10 races and can’t go to Iowa, I’m done.

“You can race for points or whatever and so if that ever came down to that, then maybe there’d be an opportunity years down the road that then you can run multiple series and try to go after a championship that way.”

What was NASCAR’s reaction to the plan?

“That’s probably the first time I’ve said that or thought about it,” Busch said with a laugh. “Now that it’s out there … there’s not a damn fan that’s ever going to let it happen.”

Indeed, Busch’s 201st career victory in a NASCAR national series drew the usual outrage on social media Saturday, both from his Rowdy Nation legion of fans and those who vehemently believe he should be limited beyond the NASCAR cap of five truck races and seven Xfinity races allowed for full-time Cup drivers.

Busch has won in seven of 11 starts in trucks, Xfinity and Cup this season.

“Could have been nine or 10 (victories) probably, that’s what the scary part is if it wasn’t for simple mistakes,” Busch said. “Overall, it’s been fun. It’s a damn shame I’m only allowed five and seven.”

Busch has two 2019 starts left in trucks: at Texas Motor Speedway next week and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

He said the chances are solid for going 5 for 5.

“I’d like to think Texas is a good place,” he said. “I think our guys have a good baseline. Charlotte is always one of my best tracks, favorite tracks and enjoy running there with the trucks, especially. There’s a good opportunity.

“It’s kind of an expectation (to win every race). We just go out, work hard and smart, and today we let the race play itself out and come to us.”

Busch won the 2009 Xfinity championship in the last season in which he ran full time in NASCAR’s top two series. He has focused solely on Cup full time since then, and NASCAR has changed rules over the past eight years limiting the ability to run for more than one title.

Despite 148 starts (and 54 victories), he is yet to run a full truck season, but the 2015 Cup champion has said he’d like to become the first driver to win a championship in each of NASCAR’s top three series.

Three Cup cars fail prerace inspection at Martinsville Speedway

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The cars of William Byron, DJ Kennington and Jeb Burton failed inspection Sunday morning at Martinsville Speedway.

Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet failed mechanical measurements. His sixth-place qualifying time will be disallowed, and he will have to start from the rear.

Kennington failed the OSS. He qualified 34th.

Burton had qualified 33rd.

The three cars will officially start behind those that passed inspection. Cars that qualified behind them will move up one spot.

The No. 24 suffered a right-front tire problem in the opening minutes of first practice Saturday morning, and the team made repairs to put the car back on track.

Today’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway: Start time, lineup, more

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MARTINSVILLE — High downforce could bring hot tempers to Martinsville Speedway, where today’s STP 500 will mark the first short track of the 2019 Cup schedule.

In the last visit to the 0.526-mile oval, Joey Logano bumped Martin Truex Jr. aside entering the last two corners in one of the most thrilling finishes of the 2018 season.

Here’s the pertinent information for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Robert DeRidder, the senior vice president and general manager of Energizer Holdings Inc. (owners of STP), will give the command to start engines at 2:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:07 p.m.

PRERACE: The crew chief and drivers meeting is at noon. Driver introductions will begin at 1:20 p.m. The invocation will be given by track chaplain Mike Hatfield at 1:54 p.m. The 380th Army Band will perform the national anthem at 1:55 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (263 miles) around the 0.526-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 130. Stage 2 ends on Lap 260.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. MRN’s coverage begins at 1 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast, which is also available at MRN.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 63 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: In a race delayed to Monday by a snowstorm, Clint Bowyer scored his first victory for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Busch finished second. Ryan Blaney placed third. Joey Logano won at Martinsville last fall. Denny Hamlin placed second. Martin Truex Jr. was third. 

TO THE REAR: William Byron (mechanical measurements), DJ Kennington (OSS) and Jeb Burton will start from the rear after failing inspection Sunday morning.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.