What Drivers Said after the Clash at Daytona

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Even though it was a non-points exhibition event, the first race of the 2019 NASCAR Cup season is now in the books, with Jimmie Johnson winning the Advance Auto Parts Clash on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

The race was shortened due to a massive crash on Lap 55, followed by resulting heavy rain, prompting NASCAR officials to call the event on Lap 59 of the scheduled 75-lap race.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson wins rain-shortened Clash at Daytona after contact with Paul Menard.

Here’s what drivers had to say afterward:

Jimmie Johnson, winner: “This is great to have all four Hendrick cars qualify 1-4, us in third with the Ally Chevy and then to have a very competitive race here today. I wish we could get in the full distance, but obviously the weather isn’t cooperating. I knew the rain was coming, so I was trying to set-up my move and make my run on the No. 21 car. I had it kind of set up down the backstretch a few laps prior to that and then my opportunity came along, I made that move to the inside and then we kind of got together. I’m not sure if just the air breaking his bumper plane pulled his car over or if he was late to block, but it was just really a racing thing honestly. So, I made my move and unfortunately he got sideway and it collected a bunch of cars. Without a doubt. I was going down into Turn 1 looking out into the distance and I could see it getting darker and darker and closer and closer. I knew within that lap or the next lap if I had a run, I had to take it. (Winning) feels good. I’m just really happy about honestly, a great day for Hendrick Motorsports, for Chevrolet, for Ally coming on board and qualifying third for the Daytona 500 and then to win the Clash. Kevin Meendering, leading this team; there have been a lot of things going on. I’m extremely excited to win. It’s not a points race, but it’s a good start.”

Kurt Busch, finished 2nd: “It was a pretty crazy day with the rain and just the yellows and the line-up and it was just kind of everybody getting back in the groove, but man, there was a lot to digest especially with me on a new team. I love all the guys at Ganassi, Matt McCall (crew chief), I didn’t know we were quite pitting under green at lap 25, but those are just those little things that we will learn to iron out. Today was a great day for us to finish second, get some bugs worked out and to jump into next week’s qualifiers.”

Joey Logano, finished 3rd: “We worked our way up into maybe the fourth spot when they started crashing in front of us. I’m proud that we were able to make the bottom work at least a little bit, but it’s just tough sledding down there. If you can get a few cars to commit with you, you can make it happen. It shows that we’ve got speed in our race cars. That’s a great thing, and then after that it’s a matter of getting people to work with you, which we did. They were our teammates, but I think we showed that we’ve got plenty of speed, which will help us in the 500. (We have to look at that race with) discipline, for sure. Everyone was very discipline to run the top, but I also felt like when you can get a few cars to really commit and you can work the bottom lane the way you’re supposed to, I feel like you can move up some and that’s what we were able to do. We had the Penske Fords and a couple other Fords down there with us as well and we were able to move fast, so I think that’s a good sign for what the 500 brings for our cars.  I feel like we’ve got fast cars that can commit to each other and we can draw to the front from the bottom lane. I didn’t see many other cars be able to do that, so that was good.”

Alex Bowman, finished 5th: “We were running almost last and just got through the crash okay. It is a really frustrating day. We kind of lucked our way into the top groove up there, we could be okay, but just didn’t have any speed. The car drove really good, probably drove too good. We probably have to make it drive bad again and then we will go fast again.

Austin Dillon, finished 6th: “Just tried to hold the wheel straight and punch a hole really. I tried to slow down, but you can’t stop from going 200 mph it’s a hard thing to do. You know we made it back around so I’m happy with that. The car drove well. I was really disappointed in the drafting. Everybody got to the top and it was really about track position, hard to make a move. We were just kind of where we were. I felt like my car was faster than some of the guys I was around, but you can’t really do anything with it unless you get really aggressive. I tried to get aggressive and no one was wanting to work. I think it is good for the (Daytona) 500 to have a handling car because so many things happen.You can get track position other ways than just racing. So, we will do our job.”

Ryan Newman, finished 9th: “Our Ford was pretty tore up, but I would have rather gone back green and had a shot at passing the 8 than where I was there when that melee happened on the back straightaway. We learned a few things today. Number one, watch the radar. Number two, there’s gonna be a crash, and, number three, we’ve got to work on our car and make it just a little bit better for just raw speed and some driveability.  It looked like it was pretty much follow the leader. Hopefully, the more cars that get on the race track that will change and make the racing a little bit more exciting.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 10th: “The car is good. Our Mustang was very, very fast, so I’m pleased. We had a lot of good speed, but just got caught up in something with that wreck right there at the end, but the car was pretty fast. That’s what I’m going to keep from today’s race is the car had pretty good speed and was handling pretty good as well. I was able to make good, aggressive moves, but we just have to make sure that we are there at the end to be able to be contending for the 500.”

Jamie McMurray, finished 11th: “I wasn’t as torn up as those other guys, but we were still pretty torn up and I don’t know what happened. I kind of saw a replay but I still know what really happened. When we get 40 cars out there it will be way better. It’s hard at plate races when you don’t have enough cars on the track, but I was shocked by that too. I was shocked by that too. I thought that race people usually don’t care if they have to go to the back so they will make it two-wide and it certainly got racier towards the end. The 150’s might be similar, but the (Daytona) 500 will be totally different and hopefully it gets hot. If it gets hot and the track gets slick it will be way different.”

Kevin Harvick, finished 12th: “It was an adventurous day. We got hung out in the beginning and went to the back and tried to make something happen. Everybody was in a single-file line and didn’t really want to race much. We had ourselves positioned in the outside line headed in the right direction and they all crashed when they decided to start racing for the first time.”

Paul Menard, finished 13th: (Leading the most laps is) something for the history books, I guess. Unfortunately, we just got turned there. I didn’t really know what happened until I saw a replay.  I felt like it was aggressive side-drafting. I got turned to the inside and hooked to the right and all hell broke loose. It was a pretty tame race up until that point. We knew that last restart was basically a new race – a little dash for cash to the end. It was definitely expected. I’m surprised we actually got single-file up top again after that last restart, but I knew something like that was gonna happen. It was just a matter of time.”

Kyle Busch, finished 14th: “I don’t know exactly. I wasn’t necessarily – I was paying attention obviously, just when I was behind the 1 (Kurt Busch) I was so focused on him, I guess, and the move that kind of went to the bottom I saw the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) making a move on the 21 (Paul Menard). I don’t know if the 21 came down and what all contact initiated it and just tried to squeeze through the hole before the 21 got back up to me but couldn’t do it. It’s just a product of kind of what we’ve got going on just with everybody trying to make runs sometimes and when do you get those runs you try to make sure that they stick and you can get past a guy so the side draft is really important and there’s not a lot of room for the cars to move around like they tend to do. Overall, I thought we had a good race going and I wish we would’ve ended up being able to finish it but we look forward to the 500 now. … (On his sprained ankle) It’s fine. Just messing around with my son and just playing on the trampoline and stuff like that. I guess I can’t hang. It is what it is. I’ll be fine next week. I’m moving and I’m walking and everything. It’s just a bit tender, but overall it will be alright.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished 15th: “It was a big crash. I saw the 21 (Paul Menard) sideways in front of me, the 1 (Kurt Busch) go down the track and turn the 21 and that’s all I saw. There was crap everywhere. Just get restarts on the outside and stay there and hopefully stay near the front somewhere. Pray the new package is better here than this one is.”

Denny Hamlin, finished 17th: “I think cars were skewed in Talladega and with the new rules, you’re not able to do that as much with the track bar. Relative to competition, they’re a little bit closer, which allows them to not just overpower us like they did at Talladega? It’s crucial. Any time you can get up beside somebody by an inch or so it just is such a big parachute on either side of the car. The moment you can break that plane, it’s amazing how much these cars get drug back versus cars in the past. Really, I try to work on the defense of that more than anything. You know it’s there. You just want to put yourself in the position that if you’re going to get passed, put them on the correct side of what side you want to get passed on that way you have a good defense when you get beside them.”

Erik Jones, finished 20th: “I didn’t see (the big wreck) very good. I haven’t seen a replay, but it looks like the 48 and the 21 were pushing and just got caught up. We were kind of mid pack and kind of got pushed into the wreck, so it’s unfortunate. Our Sports Clip Camry is pretty good, we just could never really get up front. I think we learned some good stuff for next week which is a positive, so we’ll apply it and hopefully be good Sunday. Everybody was getting more and more aggressive. We knew the rain was coming. Everybody gets pushing and shoving and things get moved around. The car drove really good which is a positive for me at least. We’ll keep working on it and hopefully have a good car for the 500.”

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.