What drivers said after Michigan

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Kevin Harvick— Winner: “Keelan is saving me some work. Usually when I get home the next day we have to mock up a victory lane celebration. For him to be here and able to do that and be a part of NASCAR and bring your son to work and do all the things that we get to do with our kids, I have had him with me by myself the last three weeks and we have had a ball. I couldn’t be happier to be a dad and be a part of NASCAR where they let your family come to the race track and be a part of it.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “We kind of clawed all day and had some good restarts with the Discount Tire Ford and got all we could get out of it but just ended up one spot short and that is so frustrating.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “You better be right on to win these races these days with the guys that are winning and being able to execute at the end of the day. Our Interstate Batteries Camry was pretty close, but certainly wish we had just a tick more. Overall, good day for us – it’s Michigan and we don’t count on much when we come to Michigan. We were able to take that, but the restarts were the name of the game here and we were kind of on the bottom there the last couple of them and got shuffled back and wasn’t able to pass once everybody got strung out. Air was the reason why everybody got strung out and one everybody did that you couldn’t make up any time on anybody at that point. Best chance we had to pass guys was just on strategy there at the end and on pit road. The car was good and we got the most out of our day.”

AUTIN DILLON — Finished 4th: “I got to battle with (Kevin) Harvick there and that was awesome. I’m so proud of the guys for having a car capable of doing that. Yeah, (losing positions on the last lap) really stunk. We were kind of in position that if something happened to the No. 4 we could win the race. With two (laps) to go, I went into (Turn) 3 and I kind of missed the corner. When I came down the straightaway, it was just shaking like either the tire was unraveling or it was a loose wheel. But, I didn’t want to lose this great finish we had in front of us, but we brought it home with a top five at least.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 5th: “It was a good showing for us today. Really all weekend I thought we were pretty strong. There were a couple cars better than us all day and a couple that got better at the end. Second half of the race the track kind of changed and our car lost a little bit of speed but I am happy with a fifth after the last two weeks that have been a struggle for us. It is good to get back on the right track which is where we belong. Hopefully we can keep this going here for the next few weeks and then into the playoffs.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “Is this groundhog day? Is it deja vu? We are running so strong, not making mistakes and chiseling away. That is why we are fourth in points. Consistency. Anytime I get to the back bumper of the 4, 18 or 78 they inch away from us. We are sliding both ends of our car. We are so close. We will find our day. We have good rhythm, we just can’t steer to far away from this rhythm.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 7th: “It was a solid day. We ran top 10 both stages and finished top 10. Finally a normal weekend for us where we had good speed and kind of executed all day. We had some bad restarts and had a couple stops on pit road that we struggled on but overall it was a decent day and a good way to build our momentum back as we head into the playoff stretch.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 9th: “Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of pace and very frustrating, but I feel like we made the most of it.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “It is frustrating. I felt like we finished 10th with a fifth place car today. I couldn’t restart very well and I lost spots on every restart. I am proud of the team though. Everyone else did good, I just wasn’t able to get anything going on the restarts and that made life really difficult today.”

Erik Jones — Finished 13th: “It just wasn’t a very good day right from the start. I spun out early and had some contact late and spun us out again. We were fighting from behind all day. Our stuff wasn’t that great as it was, but we made the most out of it – it wasn’t a top 10, that would have been an extremely stellar day. We worked on the Doosan Camry to get it better and we got a little bit better, but not where we needed to be. We have to work here and get better for next time, but fortunately it’s not a Playoff race and this track isn’t in the Playoffs either so we’ll be alright.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 14th: There’s one thing that was for certain, it was not our day. I told our friends in the 5-hour Energy suite this morning that whatever it is, we either finish top-five or 14th. Sure enough we’re 14th. I think what we can take out of today is that we got the race car a lot better and we had good speed, we were up front there saving fuel and they couldn’t do anything with us until we started saving so much that obviously I had to let them go. I passed a lot of cars today and had a good car today when we could get some track position. It’s one of those days where we had bad pit stops and nothing just went our way. Getting spun out early really hurt. That damaged the car and that hurt us, but we were able to recover from that and then the fuel situation and being a lap down because of the penalty, it just wasn’t our day. Still to come back to 14th isn’t awful.

Ryan Newman — Finished 15th: “It was a good rebound of a day for the Grainger Chevrolet. I barely caught the wall off of (Turn) 4 in some dirty air there. It basically rubbed a hole in the right rear tire. Had, I guess, probably the save of the day going 290 into Turn 1 it felt like and just lost a brake line, recouped from that and the guys did a good job of fixing it. My fault, I stuck it in the fence in the first place. A good rebound, but not near where we should have finished.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 28th: “Yeah, we led some laps and were much more competitive today, so that was encouraging. Unfortunately, a loose wheel there at the end relegated us to laps down in the result, but we definitely raced way better than that.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 38th: It was either a battery or a chunk of lead, which is really unfortunate. When you’re going that fast, you don’t realize until you hit something and it goes through your oil cooler and you have no control of your car.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Las Vegas recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at the weekend’s racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Steve Letarte will be joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

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 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After Las Vegas incidents, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson look for Richmond rebound

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with a mixed bag of potential strategies to develop heading into the next race, this Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Kurt Busch, the first NASCAR playoff champion in 2004, was involved in a wreck at Vegas with eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 189 that knocked him out of the event, ending with a last-place finish of 39th.

We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done,” Busch told NBCSN after he left the medical center. “It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

As a result of the poor finish, Busch finds himself in 14th place among the 16 playoff contenders, a distant 63 points behind points leader Truex Jr.

How Busch rebounds at Richmond will go a long way toward determining whether he will advance to the Round of 12 following the Roval elimination race at Charlotte in two weeks. Busch is currently 14 points behind 12th-ranked Aric Almirola, but he is also only 12 points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones.

There’s no question Busch is in need of a big comeback at Richmond, a track that he has had decent success at, including two wins (last time was in spring 2015), seven top five and 15 top-10 finishes in 37 career Cup starts there.

A win would immediately wipe out the Las Vegas nightmare and push Busch into Round 2.

And then there’s teammate Kyle Larson, who had a car that looked like it could challenge for the win at Vegas. But a costly pit road penalty — a behind-the-wall crew member trying to grab tires back over the wall slipped, touching the ground on pit road — pushed Larson back and he wound up playing catch-up the rest of the race. He settled for an eighth-place finish that potentially could have been a top five showing had it not been for the penalty.

Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be,” Larson said. “We were able to battle up front there in the second stage. Then, we had the pit road penalty and had to come from the back.

The restarts were crazy and I was just being safe. It probably cost us a little bit, but we still got a top-10 out of the day and some decent stage points. So, all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad day.”

Busch has one win this season, while Larson is still looking for his first.

Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point,” Larson said. “We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

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Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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Brad Keselowski rebounds to ‘steal’ third-place finish in playoff opener

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Usually when you see a race car on pit road with its hood up in the middle of a race, it’s a sign that a team’s race is over or will be soon.

It’s not typically a prelude to a third-place finish.

But that’s what happened to Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The adjustments made to his No. 2 Ford on pit road during the Stage 2 break, including adjustments to the front suspension, helped cure what was a “miserable” first 160 laps for Keselowski.

“Nothing I was doing was working,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his top-five finish. “We were losing spots to everybody out there.”

Keselowski, the race’s defending winner, qualified 18th. But while his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went from 22nd to first in 34 laps, Keselowski was “just kind of bleeding positions.”

“I am disappointed we didn’t start the race any better than we did but very proud that we didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders,” Keselowski said.

After Stage 2, Keselowski pitted from 13th. He would pit twice under the caution before the start of the final stage.

“The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot to where we could kind of almost steal a win,” Keselowski said. “I thought for a minute we might be able to.”

Keselowski thought if he had gained one or two spots on the final restart with 71 laps to go, he might have been the winner instead of Martin Truex Jr.

Instead, “we kind of stole a third place today,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I guess I can’t complain. … Decent recovery, great fight. That’s kind of what these playoffs are about. Minimizing your bad days. That’s what we were able to do.”

Keselowski’s finish is his ninth straight top 10 at Las Vegas. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh on the 1.5-mile track since 2012.