What Cup Championship 4 drivers said at Media Day

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The drivers who will compete for the Cup title this weekend convened in Miami Beach today for the Championship 4 Media Day.

Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick addressed many topics ahead of Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here are highlights from each driver’s availability.

 

Martin Truex Jr.

On being less successful on 1.5-mile tracks than last year: “If I compare this year to last year, I would say this year ‑‑ you know, like last year, we were lights out.  The 4 car (Kevin Harvick), if they could hit it, they could beat us.  This year the 4 car has been lights out, and if we hit it, we can beat them.  I know, if we hit it, we can beat any of them, and we showed that.

“It’s been harder to consistently hit that target this year.  It’s been more difficult.  With that said, though, I felt like both Kansas and Texas, we weren’t bad.  Man, we had everything go against us.  Like everything that could possibly happen wrong went wrong, so we really had to battle and fight.  You know, pit stop issues and cautions falling at the wrong time and all that stuff, and we didn’t have any of that last year.

“All that being said, I feel good about this weekend.  But it’s going to be tough.  It’s not going to be easy.  There’s no question.”

 

On what he’ll miss about working with Furniture Row Racing: “I’ve never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend.  Always finds a way to make me better.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue that.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to put together a group that can keep that going.  I know (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) is a really, really big part of that, so obviously, staying together with him is important.

“But there’s so many things that go into building a championship caliber team and so many decisions throughout the week.  You know, I don’t know how the dynamic will change, but just feeling the way I feel every weekend that I go to the racetrack, and I feel like we can win.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr.: ‘I won’t just wreck a guy … unless it’s the 22’

Joey Logano

On being with his Championship 4 rivals during a long week of promotion: “You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get there sometimes, how everyone is going to handle the situation.  There’s been times I’ve been part of this, the head games start when we go to New York.  Everyone starts throwing little jabs here and there.  You’re like, ‘Wow, okay.’

“Then the last couple times really for me … we’ve all tried to find ways to enjoy it.  The situation is we’re all going to be stuck on an airplane together, we’re going to be stuck in a car together, we’re going to do all these things in New York together.  There’s no one else with us.  We didn’t bring our assistants with us or anything like that.  We were on our own.

“Actually we talked a lot, talked a lot about racing, talked a lot about not racing.  We have so much in common, race car drivers do, right?  No one else knows our lifestyle but other race car drivers.  I think you have a lot in common to talk about things like that.

“I think everyone understands that when we get to the racetrack, you put the helmet on, you’re there to win.  You’re still a competitor, there to beat them.  You got to be able to find the light switch in there at some point.  I feel like I found that quite a few years ago to where you can flip a light switch, be competitive, be a hard racer, but flip it off and be human.”

 

On making Championship 4 after missing playoffs in 2017: “I think you finish second in the points (in 2016), you think making the playoffs is a given.  That’s going to be easy.  We quickly found out that is not a given.  It’s a little harder than you think.  We learned a lot last year as a race team.  We dug hard.  We’ve slowly scratched and clawed our way back to where we are.  Didn’t come till about 10 weeks ago.

“We scratched and clawed throughout a lot of this season to find a little bit more speed, a little bit more, a little bit more.  We kept ourselves up there in points all season, but we weren’t in contention to win, like I said, last 15 weeks or so.”

Kevin Harvick

On how having children keeps him from losing his temper: “Look, if I was jumping over the hood of a car right now, went into my house, had a 6‑year‑old (who) saw me trampling, do you know how embarrassed I would be to walk in the front door and answer that question?  ‘Hey, dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ Well, probably wasn’t the right thing to do. Then it would get more embarrassing as you take him to school, drive through the carpool lines to see his teachers that are all watching as well. Don’t say all the right things, do the right things.  As you go through life, I would hope we all mature from a life standpoint to be able to be a better person. I still screw up a lot.”

On his strengths and weaknesses at Miami: “A lot of that depends on what your car is doing on a particular weekend.  I don’t think any year is going to be the same as to what you fight. They changed the tire this year.  That’s obviously a little bit different than what we’ve had in the past. It’s definitely a situation to where tomorrow is really not going to tell us anything as far as that goes, as well, because you’re going to run three laps in practice, hopefully run three laps in qualifying, then you’re going to put it into what matters, and that’s race trim. You want to qualify on the pole if you can because the pit box is an advantage, so close to the timing line.  It’s a unique racetrack. You know running right against the fence is probably the fastest way around after lap 25. What happens if there’s only 20 laps left? Where do you run then? Do you run the bottom, the middle? You just have to have options here from what your car will do, what you do as a driver because it’s such a unique track.”

 

Kyle Busch

On the finale being disappointing if Joey Logano wins the title:  “I would agree with that statement.  He’s been there.  He’s been consistent.  He’s been good.  He hasn’t necessarily performed to the level of the Big 3 and that’s no shake on them at all.  It’s just the fact of the matter.  So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.”

 

On if he gets nervous in championship scenarios: “I think so. I think last year in the situation between myself and Truex, like, yeah, I wouldn’t say you’re nervous, but you’re just feeling everything and pushing everything.  So you’re tensed up a lot more than what you would probably normally be just trying to not mess up and hit every single mark exactly perfect.

“Sometimes that’s ‑‑ I go faster in those situations, and sometimes I go slower in those situations.  So you’ve always just got to try to keep a level head and a frame of mind of being able to go out there and just focus on the job and the task at hand.”

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Kyle Busch touts support he’s received for comments at Las Vegas

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RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch says he’s received support from fellow drivers, who told him “what I said is not wrong” about the ability of some competitors.

Busch was upset last weekend after running into the back of Garrett Smithley’s car and being impeded by Joey Gase in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the race, Busch told NBCSN: “We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Smithley responded on social media and Gase later responded on social media.

MORE: Kyle Busch’s comments address murky issue with no solution 

Busch was asked Friday at Richmond Raceway if he watched video of the incident with Smithley since last week and if his opinion changed.

“I did see video of last week,” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. I get beat up on it anyway.”

Busch was encouraged by support he received.

“I’ve had multiple texts from other people that are race car drivers and non-race car drivers this week that have said what I said is not wrong, but there’s other general masses that say different,” Busch said.

Busch’s race at Las Vegas started poorly when he hit the wall in the opening laps and went down two laps. He explained what happened:

“We started out, we practiced our car and we were pretty decent in practice, but I felt like I was a tick tight, so we made some changes going into the race to free it up,” Busch said. “The first run at Vegas is always looser. And I guess I didn’t mentally prepare myself for that enough, and we were 10 numbers loose, like crashing loose.

“I got myself in trouble. I got myself into the fence. Was able to battle back from all of that throughout everything of the day and put ourselves in position for a solid finish and we just didn’t get it.”

Asked what he could have done differently, Busch said:

“I should have been prepared for it,” he said. “I actually prepared (crew chief Adam Stevens) for it, but I guess didn’t prepare myself for it. I was getting passed, guys were going by me and I was falling backwards and I was like I got to go here, I’ve got to move forward and pushed too hard.”

Busch recovered to get back on the lead lap and was running in the top five when he had the contact with Smithley. Busch finished 19th.

“For as bad as our day started, we were certainly able to make something of it and come back for a top-four run until close to the end,” Busch said when asked if his frustration hurts his performance. “People want to say because of my state of mind that’s the reason I ran into the back of a slow car, that’s funny people know how I think and what I am inside my helmet. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

Busch, the regular-season champion, qualified fourth for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Results, Xfinity point standings after Richmond playoff race

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Christopher Bell led a career best 238 laps Friday night on his way to winning the Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond Raceway.

It is his seventh win of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

Bell secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs with his win.

The four drivers currently below the cutline for advancing to the next round are Brandon Jones (-15 points from cutline), Ryan Sieg (-19), Justin Haley (-20) and John Hunter Nemechek (-21).

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond

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Christopher Bell put together a convincing win Friday night at Richmond Raceway to open the Xfinity Series playoffs.

Bell led 238 of 250 laps – a career high – and swept each stage to earn his seventh victory of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has now won three of the last four races at Richmond and six of the last 11 short track races.

The top five was made up of pole-sitter Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

“That one was pretty special,” Bell told NBCSN. “Going 92 laps straight there is really difficult, man. We were sliding all around. I felt like if I could get to traffic I was going to be in good shape. Because my car could really move around good. I could run up, I could run down. (Cole Custer) was keeping pressure on us pretty good, but this Rheem Supra was too good.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

More: race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Harrison Burton was the highest finishing non-playoff driver in sixth … Austin Cindric earned his first top five in the last four races. He finished second in both Richmond races this year … In his 300th career Xfinity start, Justin Allgaier finished fourth after he had to start from the rear for changing a tire … Chase Briscoe earned his first top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Mike Marlar wasn’t able to complete the first lap of his first Xfinity start. He was involved in an incident and finished last … Vinnie Miller had a mechanical failure with 25 laps left in the first stage. He finished 35th … Tyler Matthews finished 33rd after he wrecked in Stage 1 … Playoff driver Justin Haley had a pit road penalty and finished 17th … John Hunter Nemechek finished 15th after he spun while trying to intentionally spin Joe Graf Jr. right before the race’s conclusion. It was retaliation for a bump-and-run by Graf earlier in the lap.

NOTABLE: Christopher Bell has a win percentage of 22%, third all-time in the Xfinity Series.

WHAT’S NEXT: Drive for the Cure 200 on the Charlotte Roval at 3:30 p.m. ET Sept. 28 on NBCSN

 

Provisional starting lineup for Richmond Cup race

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Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are on the provisional front row for Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The top five is completed by playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

The highest qualifying non-playoff driver is Jimmie Johnson (10th).

The lowest qualifying playoff driver was Joey Logano (28th).

The starting lineup will be made official after pre-race inspection Saturday. One failure will result in a qualifying time being disallowed.

Click here for the provisional starting lineup.