What drivers said after the Charlotte Roval

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Ryan Blaney — Winner: “We restarted sixth the last one there and got to third with a couple to go. I was really just riding third. We were good to go on points and was going to advance to the next round on points no problems. They were so far ahead I wasn’t even really trying and then I saw them kind of close to each other through the oval track in three and four and I was like, ‘Oh, something might happen here.’ And we went down I there and they touched just trying to win the race and I was lucky to sneak through there. That’s not how you really want to win them. I’d rather go out and dominate the race and win by a lap, but you’ve got to take them how you can get them nowadays. We put ourselves in a spot to be there, though. We did a great job all day of winning a stage and putting us in a good spot for points. “

Jamie McMurray — Finished 2nd: “Our DC Solar Chevy was really good all day long. We got a little bit off in the last pit sequence. We got a little bit behind, but had a really good car and then we had the one restart when Brad (Keselowski) was on the front row and I happened to be on the inside and that was the lane to be in so you could avoid the wreck. And then on the last restart, I got a good restart being on the outside… a little bit disappointed only because my left-side mirror fell off in the chicane with like 25 laps to go and I ended up having to let the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney) go because I couldn’t see if he was inside of me. I don’t think he was. I’m like, if that wasn’t the case, you would be the guy in Victory Lane now versus finishing second, but overall it was a pretty fun day. I thought Marcus (Smith) and the team here did a really good job getting the track ready. It’s crazy that we ran a road course inside of this facility, but really great place.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 3rd: You knew something was going to happen at this deal.  Everybody knew, everybody dubbed this the wild card race, and I guess I’m lucky that I survived it, but I’m happy for our sport that it lived up to the expectation, up to the hype that you guys all sold.

… It wasn’t much sleep the last couple nights.  The little one woke up at 5:00 a.m., and once you’re up, you start thinking about this gremlin that’s ahead of you today, there wasn’t any more sleeping.  I stood there and watched the sun come up thinking about the chicane on the back straightaway, thought about the chicane on the front straightaway, thought about Turn 8, how I was going to get off that.  I hit the wall in Turn 8.  Just thought about restarts and things like that.

Now it’s time to think about a cold beer because, my God, I want one.

Alex Bowman — Finished 4th: “Yeah, it makes up for the fact that we probably should have won there. We just got boxed in that last restart. We had 20 lap fresher tires than all the guys in front of us. Things kind of fell our way there at the end to get us up front. Just got boxed in and couldn’t make it happen. Congrats to the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney) we were on the same strategy as them. It is what it is. Glad to make it in. A lot of people said we were going to be one of the guys out and to make it in and prove some of those guys wrong, definitely makes me feel good.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 5th: “I thought we did as good as job as communicating as a team and working together through all the different obstacles all weekend. The only thing that went against us is I had a bad restart on the outside lane once and I lost four or five spots and that’s when we were hanging out with the 48 and the 78 most of the day, so that means Billy Scott chose the right strategy. I just lost three or four spots on that one restart and then we gained some back on the next one, but too far. You’ve got to be like top four or top six if you want a shot at it and we were just a little bit too far behind at the end. All in all, maybe we got the most points out of today because we were second in the first stage, third in the second stage, so a lot of points today. We had to race that way, but the race almost came to us at the end.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 6th: “It was still kind of eventful for us. You look at how the day went there and just anything can happen. It’s just hard and you can’t feel comfortable in those situations there at the end. I wish I had been a little more aggressive on that last restart. I felt like I was just kind of playing defense. It’s just not worth busting your butt and not making it through to the next round when you had a little bit of cushion. So, I am just glad we are moving on and I am looking forward to the next three because there are some good tracks for us.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 8th: “I had been so good into that final breaking zone, I really felt like I could put some pressure on them and take a shot at it. I got out of the chicane on the back straightaway better than he did and put some pressure on him. Got him loose and off the bottom and I thought that was my chance. Unfortunately, down here through the bumps coming into that braking zone, I just locked up the rears (tires) and couldn’t control my car and spun. I didn’t think that I initially got into him, but clearly, I did and spun him around. Took myself out of a shot at the championship and obviously affected their day which I feel bad about. (Sigh) I wish I wouldn’t have been so focused on a race win and I could have transferred and kept my championship hopes alive, but we had such a good car and just one of those split-second decisions to race for the win instead of for the points and it bit me.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “Today actually went way better than I hoped it would. I think as you look at the way that we ran all day and where we ran all day, we were in the top 10 and up in the top five and back and forth, and just way better than we were yesterday. It’s tough starting behind your teammate who is trying to make it in there at the end. You’ve got to be careful with what you do and not drive in there too far and do something dumb. I lost a couple spots, but in the end it was a good day for us.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “We executed the plan. The plan wasn’t fun, but we did the plan. My plan is to win a lot of times, not that if it was there we would have tried to take it, but in general to transfer was the ultimate goal and I’m happy we were able to do that.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 11th: “I told Johnny (Klausmeier) when we came in here, leaving here plus one will be fine with me. I guess plus zero is good enough too.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 14th: “Last corner desperation behind us, that’s what you get. I gave him (Johnson) the inside lane and he had the run through (Oval Turn) 4 and I was real tight down there. I let him have the inside going down inside coming out of four there to the chicane. He just over-drove it and was never going to make it and used me as brakes and turned us both around. It sucks, we could have raced side-by-side off the last corner for a win and that would have been cool. The fans would have been digging it, but instead we finished 14th and he’s locked out of the Playoffs. I guess that’s what he gets.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 25th: “I knew that it was going to be tough to turn getting into (Turn) 1. I didn’t know that all of us were going to go in there and not be able to turn at all. I was going to struggle to make the corner and then the No. 2 (Keselowski), he just went head-on into the wall. I was hoping I would have enough room to squeak by him, but I got into him and destroyed the right-front of our car. So, I mean I still don’t really know if we are in or not, but we had a great Clover by First Data Chevy today, led a bunch of laps, would have liked it to have played out there and just run to the end there. I was saving fuel and it sounded like the No. 2 was really short on fuel. I felt like I could have won, but the No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.) ended up spinning out and the caution came out. Obviously, we all went down on that restart and couldn’t turn, so like I said, I hope we made it, pretty hectic last lap for me. They said they were all crashing there at the end and I ran really hard and blew a right-front and hammered the wall twice and got at least one extra point. So, it sounds like we might be in a tie. Not sure who the tie breaker goes to, but hopefully it’s us.”

Erik Jones — Finished 30th: “It was a good year, but we just didn’t have a good first round. We didn’t finish in the top 10 in any races and that’s not going to get you to the next round. Some circumstances we couldn’t help, but we just need to get it better.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 31st: “The whole field went down into Turn 1 it looked like and we all went straight. I don’t know. Maybe we all overdrove it. Maybe the track had something on it. I don’t know. I got in the corner. I didn’t feel like I got in it, I got in hard, but not like ridiculously hard and it just locked up. I couldn’t get the tire to unlock, so I felt really, really dumb when I hit the wall and then I got back in the care center and saw the replay and saw everybody kind of did the same thing. I don’t know. It’s frustrating, but I really have to give a lot of credit to Paul Wolfe and the team on this Truck Alliance Parts Ford. This car was a rocket. I wrecked the car in practice and we unloaded this car just for the race and it was screaming fast. I thought we were gonna win today. It just didn’t come together.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 32nd: “I guess (the accident) just comes down to us all being on old tires and not really knowing what to expect or how much grip these tires would actually have. That’s about all that happened – we all over-drove the corner, and that’s all there is to it. I mean, you hate tearing up racecars and what not, but I guess they’re road course cars anyway, so you don’t necessarily need them anytime soon. Overall it just wasn’t a good day for our M&M’S Toyota Camry. It was going to be a fine day if we could’ve made it through that corner and had those other two guys out of our way, and then it was a race between the 78 (Truex) and us, but it doesn’t matter anyway.”

William Byron — Finished 34th: “We were having such a good run today – staying in the top 10 most of the day. It was definitely disappointing to have this happen so late in the race. We’ve run so good on the road courses. This was a good challenge, and I felt like we were making the most of it. The Roval is a good, new challenge, maybe we do better figuring out the restarts and clean up the track a little better because nobody could get any grip on the restart. But it was a good challenge.”

Trevor Bayne — Finished 35th: “I’m really frustrated with that result. I felt like I put together a really good weekend and had speed. I never made any mistakes in practice, qualifying or the race for that matter until I got caught up on that last lap. I said it was gonna happen and I told my spotter, ‘They’re gonna crash in Turn 1, just get me through it,’ and they did. They all crashed. I made it through the first part of the wreck and I guess it was the 18 (Kyle Busch) that bounced off the front of the 8 (Daniel Hemric) and I couldn’t check up and hit him. I thought we were done wrecking and got the second one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 37th: “I just struggled here all week, really. I didn’t feel comfortable at the test and then the infield section I feel like I was really good, and really from the time I got on the big track through the chicanes I was really struggling. We got some damage there on that restart when we were leading and our car was really loose after that and hard to drive.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 39th: I just … really wasn’t a mistake by me, the No. 37 (Chris Buescher) through NASCAR (turns) 3 and 4 I don’t know if it was damage or what, he got loose and when he did I was on the outside of him and I lost it after I tried to miss him. I hit the right-side wall and the damage ended up cutting our right-front (tire) down.”

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.