What Drivers Said after Bristol

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

Kyle Busch – winner: We’re crazy. We just do what we do, try to win. It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol. Love this place. It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end. I know we didn’t quite get side-by-side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I’m like, I better go. I got up there, was able to make some ground. Man, just awesome to be here in front of this crowd, here at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of not having the best and got everything we needed here at the end. … (On having won eight times now at Bristol; Darrell Waltrip has 12 wins) It ain’t 12, that’s for sure. So I got more to go. We’re getting there and it’s fun. It’s the most (among) active driver(s), I guess. I think I heard that. But, you know, there’s a lot more years left hopefully. … I felt like we had to overcome a lot especially there just on the short runs. We just didn’t have the burst-off speed that we needed for the first 30-40 laps. It kind of seemed after that we could maintain with a bunch of those guys and then we could kind of run those guys back down just a little bit. It was hit or miss a little for us today and this weekend. We thought we had a pretty good car in second practice yesterday and going into the race. We just didn’t quite have the speed. We just didn’t show exactly what we needed there. … I love winning at Bristol. You love winning everywhere. It’s nice to continue to bounty up some of those bonus points for the playoffs.”

Kurt Buschfinished second: It was tough battling our No. 1 Chevy. The Monster Energy team is doing a good job. But that one was tough. I really wanted to beat him. I was going to wreck him (laughter). I was wanting to stay close enough so that when we took the white, I was just going to drive straight into (Turns) 3 and 4; I mean he’s already won. I figured he could give a little love to his brother, but no. I wanted that one bad. I feel like him right now. I’m like ugh, I’m mad because I didn’t win. But, this car, we’re struggling on qualifying and we struggle on taking off. And, I just can’t get the right rear to grip until it gets heat in it. And, it’s hard to be patient when you’re running for the win on old tires. So, I’m happy that we were in position to do it, this group of guys. We’re not quite ready to win yet, but that was close. And I was going to wreck my little brother to win today. But with three laps to go, I just stepped out in Turn 1 and I wasn’t close enough after that. But, thanks to (crew chief) Matt McCall and everybody at Ganassi. This No. 1 Monster Chevy is fast. We’ve just got to fine-tune it all.”

Joey Loganofinished third: “Right at the end there, I thought when we got by the 2 (teammate Brad Keselowski), I said, ‘If I can just hold him off, that’s the pass for the win.’ I was pretty confident we were gonna be able to do that for 15 laps or so and then the caution came out and what do you do? Do you pit? Do you stay out? You know a few of them are gonna stay out. It’s really hard to pass and by the time I got to third those cars were so far ahead of me I was stuck and was not going to get to them. It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work. We had the car part figured out today, we just missed it on some other ends and just have to keep fighting hard. We got a stage win and that was nice, and led a lot of laps, but you want to win at Bristol so bad. Bristol is the coolest track. You see the start-finish line and think you’re gonna get it, but things happen quick here.”

Ryan Blaneyfinished fourth: “I need to get better as the track kind of rubbers out. Joey is really good at it. I thought he had the best car, probably. The track rubbers in and I just need to do something different there. Overall, not a bad day. We were up there all race and just tried to keep up with the track. The track was really racy today from bottom to top. I thought it put on a really good show.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “We struggled today. We just didn’t really have the car that we needed to go out there and compete. It was just a little bit off. We kind of hung around that 10th to 13th place all day and then we just got it closer there at the end and that’s when we kind of made a charge towards the front – that and some good strategy. I screwed up our strategy on pit lane. We’ll get it cleaned up. Just got to work through all the kinks and clean stuff up. We didn’t have a race-winning car. Top-five finish with a car that probably shouldn’t have been there is a good day.”

Paul Menardfinished sixth: “We qualified really well and had good track position from the start. I messed up our first pit stop and got us behind. I went to neutral to stop and it popped into third, so I killed the car. I put us behind doing that and track position is so important. Greg (crew chief Greg Erwin) made a good call to stay out and came home with a top 10.”

Clint Bowyerfinished seventh: “We had a good car, it’s just horribly disappointing. You get that close. Long runs were my strong suit. I couldn’t take off all day long. Some of those things made sense. We were down a little bit on air and it took a little bit of time for them to come in. The problem is when you balance around that and you just pump the air-pressure up, then it doesn’t work either and you don’t handle there. It’s just disappointing.”

Daniel Suarezfinished eighth: “Today was difficult. We made a lot of mistakes that we were lucky to overcome and finish in the top 10. I’m proud of that. We have to keep better, but it’s kind of good that we’re making these mistakes now so we can clean them up and be stronger in the second part of the season. We have a very good team. We have great race cars and it’s always good to perform well. Today, we had a lot of speed. I felt like we had top five speed at times and when we’re not very good we have top 10 speed and that’s where we ended up, so after all of those mistakes it was still a decent day.”

Ryan Newmanfinished ninth: “It was a good run for us. We had a car better than what we finished. I’m not sure what the call was on pit road there with the penalty, but then I don’t know why we ended up having to start fifth when we were actually sixth. It was a penalty to be moved up a spot, but a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford. The guys did a good job today, we just don’t have the total result to show for it, but it’s definitely and improvement and I’m proud of them.”

Jimmie Johnsonfinished 10th: “We did make a jump in our performance so I hope we can find another chunk that quickly that will put us in that top-five mix consistently. I think we are going to right way and I am very optimistic about that, so I am very thankful and grateful for that. We will celebrate these small victories and get ready for the big one.”

Chase Elliott – finished 11th: “Definitely not what we started out hoping for. We got turned late in the race, that was about it. We fell behind from there. Had a great car, even without the power steering.”

Austin Dillonfinished 14th: “We had a struggle with our Camaro all day. It wasn’t ever really good but somehow we maintained, stayed on the lead lap. More attrition, working hard to stay up there. At one point we got the car pretty decent. The car was pretty tight, but it was decent. There at the end I hit the wall because we had the rear to free. It damaged it. So through all that, 14th is 14th. But I’ll take it.”

Ty Dillonfinished 15th: (On his stage win) “That was huge for our team, to go head-to-head with the top teams is huge for GEICO and Germain Racing. That was a really cool moment, something we are really proud of. We are proud of the direction we are going with our race team. We are going to keep getting better for Chevrolet, GEICO and Germain Racing. I’m really proud of how we are doing with our Camaro.”

BRAD KESELOWSKIfinished 18th: (On restart controversy where he was penalized) “Nobody could figure out the lineup. There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”

Kyle Larsonfinished 19th: “Not much up to it. We had a loose wheel and we had to come down pit road and lost two laps. Then we had an uncontrolled tire. Had a penalty for that and lost a lap. We fought back to get on the lead lap and then had a right front tire going down, so we lost a lap and finished a lap down. Not much to show for how quick our Camaro was today.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 30th: “Man, what a day. We knew going into today’s race we had a tall task ahead of us, but a few things in the opening stage made it an even tougher day. When the first caution of the race happened, I had slowed down but got hit from behind and received damage to the nose of the No. 8 Caterpillar/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The pit crew did a good job making the necessary repairs, and we were logging some laps in the top 20 when we just got hit from behind by the No. 15, spun and backed into the wall. That hurt the handling of the car pretty bad, and it was all I could do to hang on for the rest of the day. This was definitely a frustrating race, but the crew never gave up all weekend and made the most of the situation. Here’s hoping we find some good luck soon. We just need a clean race, and that is the goal next weekend in Richmond.”

Aric Almirola — finished 37th: “The 24 (William Byron) just got loose under me. He struggled to get going on the initial start. He spun his tires and then was just loose and out of control that whole first lap. When we went down in turn one he lost it under me and wiped us out. I’m pretty frustrated. You work all weekend, all week getting ready for the event and to make it one lap is kind of uncalled for, so I’m disappointed, frustrated, but life goes on. We’ll go to Richmond. Honestly, I think some of it is inexperience on William’s part. I think he started to panic because he started to lose spots on the start because he spun his tires on the start, and probably a little bit over his head with the tire pressures and everything not coming up and he just lost it. He got loose underneath me, lost it and ran right into the side of us and wrecked us. Part of that comes with experience, I guess, but, either way, it doesn’t change the outcome for us today.””

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.

Talladega jumbles Cup playoff grid heading to elimination race

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In an unpredictable season and topsy-turvy playoffs, it only made sense that Talladega would deliver a wildcard result.

A playoff driver won a playoff race for the first time this season. How about that?

Chase Elliott’s victory moves him to the next round, the only driver guaranteed to advance heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are tied for the last transfer spot, but Briscoe owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. At least for now.

Hendrick Motorsports will have its appeal this week on the 25-point penalty to William Byron from the Texas race. Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega, but if the team wins the appeal and he gets all 25 points back, Byron would be back in a transfer spot and drop Briscoe below the cutline.

 

XFINITY SERIES

AJ Allmendinger became the second driver to advance to the next round, winning at Talladega.

Ryan Sieg finished fourth and holds the final transfer spot heading into the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Reigning series champion Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sieg. Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones are each 10 points behind Sieg. Jeremy Clements is 47 points behind.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Matt DiBenedetto’s first career Camping World Truck Series victory didn’t impact the playoff standings after Talladega since DiBenedetto is not a playoff driver.

Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot. He leads Christian Eckes and Stewart Friesen by three points each. John Hunter Nemechek is five points behind Rhodes, while Grant Enfinger is 29 points behind Rhodes. Ty Majeski is the only driver guaranteed a spot in next month’s championship race.

The Truck Series is off this weekend. The next Truck race is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Winners and losers at Talladega Superspeedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

WINNERS

Chase Elliott — After a rough race at Texas, Elliott returned to the role of championship favorite Sunday with a victory. He takes the point lead to Charlotte and, with Sunday’s win, is locked into the Round of 8.

MORE: Talladega Cup results

MORE: Talladega Cup driver points

Ryan Blaney — Despite another tough race day and a second-place finish in a race he could have won, Blaney remains in good shape in the playoffs, even without a points win. He is second in points to Elliott, only two behind.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin took some time off from leading the charge for changes in the Next Gen car to run an excellent race. He led 20 laps, finished fifth and is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five playoff races. He gained a spot in points to fourth.

LOSERS

Christopher Bell — Bell zipped onto pit road with too much speed during a round of pit stops and slid to a stop, earning a speeding penalty. He is 11th in points.

Kyle Larson — Larson led eight laps Sunday but was not a part of the drafting mix at the front at the finish. He was 18th and fell three spots in points to sixth.

Joey Logano — Logano held the point lead entering Sunday’s race. At day’s end, he had a 27th-place finish and had fallen four spots to fifth.