What drivers said after Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas

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Drivers had quite a bit to say after Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, particularly about the new aero package.

Check out their comments:

Joey Logano, winner: “What a great car. What a great weekend for Mustang to get a win, playoff points and stage wins. And Mustang also won down (in Supercars) down in Australia, so pretty proud of that. We’ve got to figure out qualifying better, but the racing part, the cars were fast, we showed it last weekend and were able to show it again this weekend. Couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 2nd: “I’d like to have had one more lap. It was a good battle. We were both fighting really hard for the top. It seemed to really come down to what the lapped cars were going to do. If the lapped cars screwed the leader, then the second-place guy would get a really good run and that just kept happening over and over. First Joey got hosed by a lapped car and I got by him. I got hosed by a lapped car and he got by me. It was definitely a good battle.”

Kyle Busch, finished 3rd: If we didn’t have the speeding penalty on pit road, we would have won this race, but the guys gave me a great piece and we were certainly fast there at the end. We were running some of them leaders down and closing in on them running 31-flats and once I got within the vicinity of them, I just stalled out to 31.40s and couldn’t go any faster in order to gain on them anymore. I would try to go low, they would go low, try to go high and they go high and it’s just an air game. Very frustrating, but overall we had a really fast car – the M&M’s Camry was good and driver threw it away.”

Kevin Harvick, finished 4th: “Our Jimmy John’s Ford was too tight the second half of the race. That’s two weeks in a row we’ve gotten tighter as the race goes on. We’ve done a great job of getting in the game, being way off at the start of every practice for the last two weeks. Just a huge credit to our Jimmy John’s team for everything they do to this Ford Mustang. Got to thank everybody for that and we’ll keep plugging away. We’ll work on our car.”

Kurt Busch, finished 5th: “We made one adjustment and it got real tight in traffic. If we stay long on the second stage, we can stay out, so we worked that. It played out to where we got clean air but it completely changed the complexion of the car. When we were in clean air, the car (points down). When we’re in dirty air, it’s like that (points up). I’ve got to get it to where it’s balanced evenly. But it gave us a lot to learn from today and I’m real proud to get a top five today. We’ve got two top fives to start the year but we know we have some more work to do.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 6th: “It was a battle. It was fun. You couldn’t give up any track position. If you slipped up and a car got a run on you, you did everything in your power to hold them off. I did that to other people and people did it to me. So it was a tough battle out there. We got off a little bit there in the middle part of the race. The first part of the race, we were really, really good. Our Mustang was as good as what we thought it was in practice. What we had there translated over to the race. I think we were a top five on long runs. Struggled a little bit to get going. Looking forward to building off that. (Almirola) and I had a heck of a battle at the end. That’s how hard you have to drive to pass people.”

Aric Almirola, finished 7th: “We have a lot of learning to do, but overall a good day for a Smithfield Ford team. We saw a lot of similarities from Atlanta where we’re good on the short runs and fall off on the long runs. Everyone at Stewart-Haas is working hard to make our cars as competitive as can be, and we’ll get there. Right now, I think we’re a fourth- to eighth-place car, and we have some work to do if we want to win.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished 8th: For whatever reason, that last restart to begin the third stage, we just got really tight for some reason. But the car was really good before that. Especially in long runs. We had probably a third, fourth or fifth-place car. In the long runs, we were the best car and then it just completely jumped the fence and went tight. We made some good adjustments on the last pit stop and gained more spots. It was just too tight at the end. (Coming through the field is) insanely tough. You have to hope other guys run different lanes than you. It’s hard to follow through the corners. You have to be a half-second quicker than they are to be able to stay in line against them in the corners. It’s really tough once you get a few laps on your tires.”

Chase Elliott, finished 9th: “Definitely a lot better than last week (finished 19th). There were times throughout the day where we were better than that. That run there at the end was one of our worst of the day, I thought, which is never a good way to end it. So, just needed to finish a little stronger and I think we could have been maybe a few spots better. I don’t think we had anything to win, but could have maybe grabbed a few more spots there. Really important to have track position and hard to pass at times. You had to be really good and really think about your passes to get them done. The really fast guys could do it, so it’s not impossible, but definitely have to think through that a little bit.”

Denny Hamlin, finished 10th: We had a couple tough pit stops that set us back and we just weren’t fast enough to maintain from there. It seemed like we had about a fifth-place car, but we would come in and lose three or four seconds and then some guys would jump us and then it would put me behind some other cars. It’s just so tough to pass once you get strung out that you have to maintain your track position and we kind of struggled with that. Then we lost the balance there at the end. (The aero package was) about what I expected. The restarts were super exciting and you’re able to kind of dice around and put yourself in good positions and then once it gets strung out with all the on-throttle time, it seems like the bottom lane is the place to be and then if you’re second you can’t run the bottom either because the wake is so big. It’s kind of a catch-22 and it will work really, really good at some tracks. Other tracks it won’t, but overall, I don’t know how tight the field was there, but it definitely seemed like it strung out.”

Kyle Larson, finished 12th: “We fought as much as we could there throughout the race. Just tough when you don’t get any cautions or anything like that. I felt like our car was really good on the long runs. Just the short run, I mean, I felt okay on the short run too, I just didn’t have speed. So, we will have to work on that, but all in all we finished 12th the last few weekends and we should have been a lot better than that. That is positive. We have good handling race cars and just got to get a little bit faster is all and clean up pit road a little bit. You know on my end, I think, I probably messed the guys up a little bit. I just didn’t come in the pit stall hard enough and I think they jumped over too soon. Just got to clean up some things I’m doing, but the cars are decent.”

Chris Buescher, finished 13th: “That was a solid day for our Natural Light Naturdays Camaro ZL1. We were a little bit loose to start the run, but the car would come to us as the run went on it would come to us and we had decent speed to gain positions. The guys worked really hard all weekend and it’s a good start to our west coast swing.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 14th: “That was a tough afternoon for us. We made a lot of changes throughout the weekend, but we fought tight most of the race. We trimmed our car out and got it a bit better, but it was tough to pass today, real tough. We have a lot of work to do, but Phoenix next week will be better.”

Austin Dillon, finished 20th: “We had a really fast Dow Silastic Silicone Elastomers Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 throughout the weekend. We raced as high as second in Stage 1 even though we were battling a loose-handling chassis and lacked grip. During the first round of pit stops, we were penalized for having an extra man over the wall when one of the crew guys slipped and had a hand touch pit road. The penalty put us one lap down and altered our race strategy slightly, but we were able to take the wave around at the Stage 1 break and get back on the lead lap. After pitting under green in Stage 2, we were posting the fastest laps of everyone and went to work on regaining track position. We stayed out a little longer than everyone else during green-flag pit stops in Stage 3 and ended up leading a few laps. Unfortunately, the car’s handling became much too tight in the final Stage. I think we had a top-10 car, just never got the track position we needed. We ended up 20th and definitely learned a lot about this new package.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 17th: “We had a good Haas Automation Ford Mustang on the long runs, but we didn’t have the short-run speed today. I felt like we had a top-10 car, but once we lost a little track position it was hard to get back up there. Overall though, from Friday’s practice to Saturday’s practice we made improvements on the car, so our communication is good and the guys are able to adjust on the car to help me. We’ll move on to Phoenix next week, which is one of my best tracks.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 22nd: “A really frustrating day for our Menards/Pennzoil team. We had a really good car but just couldn’t overcome the unscheduled pit stop early in the race. I hope this is the end of our bad luck and we have a good run next week in Phoenix.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 23rd: “We just missed it a little bit today with our No. 8. Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, with this new package. I couldn’t go through the corners like I needed to at the start of the race, which set us back and caused us to fall down a lap. (Crew chief) Luke Lambert and the team didn’t give up though and we kept fighting and working on our Camaro. It started to come back to me towards the end of the race, and I was able to carry gas into the corners better than I could at the start of the day. We just ran out of time to really make anything up. I’m confident in this team’s ability to bounce back from this. We know what we need to work on and will regroup to get back after it at ISM Raceway.”

Ty Dillon, finished 29th: “There is still a lot left to learn with this new package. There is no doubt about it. Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 is showing speed in practice and in qualifying. As we continue to run with this package, we will be able to make it all come together during the race. We want to have the advantage over the field, so we will keep grinding at the shop and at the track to learn everything we possibly can about the new rules package. I’m proud of this team’s hustle here in Las Vegas, and I’m excited to turn our focus to Phoenix.”

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Daniel Hemric fastest in final practice; Kevin Harvick second

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Daniel Hemric turned the fastest lap Friday in the final Cup practice at Kansas Speedway, turning a 177.830 mph lap in his No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Kevin Harvick was second followed by Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski (who paced the first practice) and Ryan Blaney.

Hemric has yet to announce a ride for 2020 after RCR announced last month that the rookie would be replaced by Tyler Reddick next season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.

Here are the rankings speeds of the other playoff drivers: Denny Hamlin 12th; Alex Bowman 15th; Joey Logano 16th; Clint Bowyer 19th; Chase Elliott 20th; and William Byron 22nd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for speeds from the final practice at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Ryan Preece praises team for its work after hauler fire

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ryan Preece praised his team for converting teammate Chris Buescher’s backup car into Preece’s primary car Friday after the hauler carrying Preece’s cars and equipment caught fire this week en route to Kansas Speedway.

“I know some of the guys haven’t had much sleep, very proud of them,” Preece said.

The team’s hauler pulled over near New Columbia, Illinois, on Thursday after a fire in the rear axle area that spread to the hauler. A team spokesperson told NBC Sports that crew chief Eddie Pardue and a couple of team members flew there to take what could be salvaged before driving to Kansas City.

The team spokesperson said that the lockers and uniforms in the hauler were heavily damaged. Both cars had damage with the backup car suffering smoke damage.

NASCAR allowed JTG Daugherty Racing to enter the garage at 8 a.m. ET Friday — five hours before the garage was scheduled to open — and allowed members from both JTG Daugherty teams to work on the car. Preece said he was there with the team when it arrived and worked on the interior as the crew converted the car.

“We’re in it as a team,” Preece said. “I wasn’t going to show up later in the afternoon. I wanted them to know that I was right there with them. I wanted to help in every way I could.”

Preece said his car was loose in the first practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway. He was 32nd on the speed chart in that session, making it on track about 10 minutes after practice began.

Brad Keselowski fastest in first practice at Kansas; Kyle Busch makes big save

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Brad Keselowski turned the fastest lap with a minute remaining in Friday afternoon’s first Cup practice at Kansas Speedway.

The 176.499-mph lap by the No. 2 Ford of Team Penske nipped a 176.389 mph lap by the No. 10 Ford of Aric Almirola.

Daniel Suarez was third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.

Here’s how other playoff drivers fared during the practice:

Kyle Larson 11th; Joey Logano 13th; Clint Bowyer 15th; William Byron 20th; Alex Bowman 21st; Kyle Busch (who had an impressive save; video below) 22nd; Chase Elliott 23rd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Gray Gaulding out Friday after suspected allergic reaction

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Stewart-Haas Racing plane made an unscheduled stop in St. Louis on Friday after Gray Gaulding had a suspected allergic reaction.

SS Green Light Racing confirmed Gaulding had an issue en route to Kansas City. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson confirmed that its plane made the unscheduled stop, and that emergency personnel came on board after the plane landed. Gaulding remained in St. Louis while the plane continued to Kansas City.

SS Green Light Racing stated that after arriving at the track, Gaulding went to the infield care center and was not cleared to drive Friday. Gaulding will be re-evaluated Saturday. J.J. Yeley drove the car for Gaulding in practice Friday.