What drivers said after the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

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Denny Hamlin, winner: “Our car was really, really fast. We obviously saw that. Once we got out front, we were able to pull away from the pack a little bit.  Got a little bit loose when we were racing our teammates in the 18 and the 20. So wasn’t able to be as aggressive as I was earlier in the race.  We had a super fast car. That’s why we won.

“I missed pit road under green, that cost us three or four seconds, as well.  I don’t know.  We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 2nd: “We had to unclog ourselves.  Once we unclogged ourselves, we were really good. Our Mustangs were fast all weekend long.  Took a while for our Mustang to get good.  This Rush Trucks Center Cummins car was a little off all weekend long.  I was pretty nervous coming into the race.  (Crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz), and everybody made some good adjustments, and then lean on your teammates.

“When you only have an hour’s worth of practice, it pulls you away from something you were trying, anything out of your wheelhouse.  Just kind of put us all back together with all four cars at Stewart‑Haas. All in all, hey, I wanted to catch him (Hamlin) bad.  He just come out of the pits way too far ahead of me.  Wasn’t much I could do about it.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 3rd: “It was a solid day, for sure. Overall I want to just say that I’m very proud of Stewart‑Haas Racing, everyone that makes this possible.  We’ve been working very hard to make our race cars better. Definitely we’re heading in the right direction. It’s the second week in a row that all Stewart‑Haas cars are in the top 10.  That’s something very good.”

Erik Jones, finished 4th: “It was good. We had a really good Craftsman Camry, but I put us behind there at the start getting myself in trouble spinning out. I was in a weird spot with fuel and what we needed to do. We needed to take more fuel than everybody else and ended up losing the lead there on that green flag cycle. It’s a good day, but it’s disappointing at the same time. We knew we had a car that could’ve won and to not capitalize on that is frustrating, but it’s also nice to get on track and have some good runs again.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 5th: “We are definitely moving in the right direction. The car was good in clean air and had a lot of speed in it, so I think we have found kind of center for our cars and what has to happen. It was a little evil in traffic, and I had a heck of a time on green flag restarts but really worked hard to get it up underneath me and tightening the car up a little bit for us to race. Ended up having great pace and decent drivability, so we are working in the right direction. I am just so proud of everybody on this Ally team. We’ve had a lot of pressure on us, and everyone has stepped up and (are) getting it done.”

William Byron, finished 6th: “it was good. We had a gun break on the first pit stop. I felt like we were running in the top five at that point. And then we got back to the top five later in the race, and I ran about fifth or sixth. It just felt like we were right there all day. It was a little bit free after that last green flag pit stop and that hurt us a slight bit. But, overall it’s good and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Aric Almirola, finished 7th: “I’m tired.  It was a long night last night.  I didn’t sleep at all, throwing up with a stomach bug, so I’m really, really depleted.  I haven’t been able to keep anything down, so I’m just really hungry and I’m really tired. … We don’t get to call in sick.  That’s the challenging part of our job occasionally.  The flu or a cold or a stomach bug pops up and you’ve got to fight through it.  I’m really proud of everybody on our Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford Mustang.  We had a good car and track position there and strategy and pit stops and stuff and we still got out of here with a top 10, so that’s six in a row.  I’m proud of that.”

Kevin Harvick, finished 8th: “Our day was a disaster.  Our car drove terrible, and that pretty much sums it up.”

Kurt Busch, finished 9th: “It was tough today. We had a right front (tire) go bad. So, somehow we’re not getting enough heat into the tires to get a good qualifying run and not lose spots on restarts, but then the car comes alive once it has heat and then that was burning up right fronts going too far through them. So, it was kind of a weird day; really confused about a lot of different things with the dirty air and the grip level. But, all-in-all to be another top 10, I’m really happy for the GEARWRENCH Team and everybody that’s working on the car. We really need to get into some big detail and debrief and figure out what we can do to be better.”

Kyle Busch, finished 10th: “The car just got loose there. We had made an adjustment to help with the loose issue, but it went the other way for some reason – so something to learn from there. We were in a good position there though to get the win today with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We will go on to next week and get back on it at Bristol.”

Ryan Newman, finished 11th: “It was a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford.  We just didn’t have everything we needed.  I fought track position there for a while, but the guys did a good job.  We gained some spots in the pits, so it was a good day in general and our best finish of the year, but we still have some work to do.  We’ll keep working on it.  We’re just off a little bit on speed.  When you’re only lifting once it’s hard to make up much.”

Austin Dillon, finished 14th: “We had a strong Realtree Chevrolet this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. After qualifying in the top five and showing speed in practice on Friday and Saturday, we were able to run in the top five through much of Stage 1. The biggest issue throughout the race was keeping up with the balance of the car. We could hold our own in clean air, but we were too loose on our last run. We led laps in the final stage before pitting for fuel with 12 laps to go. These RCR and ECR Chevrolets have had speed all year, and we put up a good fight today.”

Joey Logano, finished 17th: “Something came apart in the bracing underneath the hood, I believe, and then the hood started flaring all over the place.  The hood was gonna blow off the car if we didn’t get a caution, so we were able to fix it but went down a lap and there weren’t enough cautions to ever get the lucky dog.  We rode around in the lucky dog spot for a while, but never got that.  That really altered the handling once we had all the bearer bond on the front.  The car got really draggy and got real tight, but we won a stage.  I was proud of the speed that was in the car.  Our car was capable of winning the race, but didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

Ty Dillon, finished 21st: “My team built a fast Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1. We had strong practice sessions and had a great qualifying effort. I was really proud of these guys for all of their hard work in earning the ninth-place starting spot. We were pretty good at the start of the race. I was just a little tight with being on the splitter. Our Stage 1 strategy ended up not working out the way we thought it would, and that put us behind a bit. We made up as much ground as we could, but unfortunately the cautions just didn’t fall in our favor. We didn’t get the finish that I know we deserved, but we’ll take the positives of having seen major improvements in our intermediate track program with this new package. We’re making gains and seeing results every week.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 33rd: “After our strong qualifying effort with the No. 8 Bulwark FR/Wayne Workwear Chevrolet, clearly this was not the result we had hoped. The car was strong all weekend long and felt good in the pack. We were too free in traffic, but (crew chief) Luke Lambert and the guys worked on the handling each time we came to pit road. I made slight contact with the wall off Turn 2 late in the final stage and that eventually caused the right-rear tire to go down. The guys did all they could to clear the tire, but the rubber wrapped around everything under the car and we lost a lot of laps getting it fixed. We will keep our heads high and look to rebound next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 36th: “Something broke out of nowhere.  We weren’t going very fast or anything, and something in the back of the car broke and it won’t go.  It’s one of those really important parts, as Kenny Schrader would say.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 37th: “A part broke off and leaked all the water out, so that’s the way it goes. It just seems that’s the way this season is going. We’ve had a shot to win pretty much every race, and something happens. That’s getting old, but the car is fast. That’s the bright side, but I’m kind of tired of looking at the bright side. I want to actually start finishing where we should. It’s just one of those days.”

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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Cup champion’s celebration painful to those who didn’t win title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year after being feted for his first NASCAR Cup title, Joey Logano returned to Champion’s Week with a different feeling.

“These banquets aren’t really the same after you’ve won it and you know what it’s like to see your car plastered everywhere and your team and everyone is having fun together,” Logano said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in Nashville, there’s a lot of really cool things, but it really stinks for the competitor to come to the banquet because it’s just like another reminder that you got beat. That’s not much fun. I don’t really like that part.

“When you leave the banquet that night, you really wish you could race the next day because that’s about the most motivating thing you could do is go to a banquet that you didn’t win because all you want to do is change that. And you want to do it as quickly as possible but you’ve got to wait until Daytona to get going again.”

The sport celebrates Kyle Busch’s championship at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This marks the first year the NASCAR Awards Show has been in Nashville. Busch was a part of the WWE event in the city on Monday, was honored by the Nashville Predators before Tuesday’s NHL game and took part in the Burnouts on Broadway on Wednesday with many other playoff drivers.

While Busch basks in the celebration, teammate Martin Truex Jr. deals with the pain of finishing second in the championship for a second consecutive year. Logano passed Truex late to win last year’s championship. Truex’s title run this season was derailed, in part, by his crew putting the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car in last month’s championship race in Miami.

Had things gone a little differently, Truex could have won three consecutive championships, matching Cale Yarborough’s accomplishment from 1976-78.

“I’ll tell you when I get over it,” Truex said of the pain of finishing second again for the title. “It’s a  big deal. Work all year long to put yourself in that position. When it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, it’s tough.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It’s not something that goes away. It takes time. Honestly, I’m still sour about finishing second last year, too. Two years in a row finishing second hurts. you have to learn from it and move on, but you never forget it.”