What Drivers Said after Richmond

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. – Winner: “I’m really excited to win here at Richmond. I’ve always really enjoyed this track. I’ve always loved coming here. The short track win – everybody kept asking me when it was going to happen. Tonight we didn’t have the best car, but we’ve lost here with the best car a bunch of times. We just fought, we battled. … (On Logano getting close late in the race) I was struggling the last 40 laps. I had no front turn. I was just real, real tight in that last run. You just had to hold them off. Being out front was important tonight.

“Thanks to the pit crew, they kept us out there. They had a tough year and a tough week last week. We beat up on them pretty good all week after Bristol and they had the best stop of the year tonight. Just really proud of everyone. Really, really happy to get our first win with (Joe) Gibbs and definitely our first short track win is pretty awesome too. … (How difficult was it late in the race) It’s like driving in the snow and trying to hit a line of six to eight inches in the center of the corner. It’s just – it’s lack of grip. The car wasn’t doing anything I wanted to do that last run. We got really, really tight. Being out front was really the key and trying to do all I could to not screw up and hold those guys off. It was definitely really, really difficult.”

Joey Logano – finished second: “We had a car that was capable of winning for the third week straight and we didn’t win. That part is frustrating. We need to clean up some mistakes on our end. We lost the lead there on a pit stop. We gotta get faster there. That is when we lost control of the race at that point and fell back to third and had a decent green-flag cycle that got us up and then we reeled in (Truex) and (Clint Bowyer) from pretty far back. I was watching them race and thought that if I was just patient and saved my tires, I saw them coming off the corner sideways every time. They were a little faster than me but I knew they were going to kill their stuff and they did. I got there, I was just a couple laps late getting there. I was able to get to (Truex) but it just wasn’t enough. It is kind of a double-edged sword. You go to the bottom and you can’t get the drive to clear ‘em and getting to the outside is pretty tough. Just couldn’t get there. Ran out of time. Needed a few more laps.”

MORE: Results, standings from Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

CLINT BOWYER – finished third: “This place is a challenging race track. I got to him and couldn’t keep the nose with the air on it and it got really tight. As I continued running in his wake, I got tighter and tighter, and all of a sudden Joey ran us down. Next thing you know, he’s on the outside of you and the rest is history. I don’t know what I could have done any different. All-in-all, it was a good day for us. But man, you hate to get that close. I want to get to victory lane and thought this was our night but I guess we’ll have to wait ’till next time.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: “I like nights like this when we can take a car that is a seventh to ninth place car and adjust on it and make it so it is capable of contending at the end. We ran those guys down but we just ran out of time. I am proud of everyone on our Mobil 1 Ford for hanging in there and fighting and we had another good night on pit road. It was a solid night.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: We really closed on the leaders there at the end. We were fast, really fast the last 20 laps. We just didn’t have enough time. We battled from the back and really couldn’t gain a whole lot on restarts, but just really grinded our way two or three positions each run and found our way up in the top five there at the end. I could at least see the leaders. Certainly a great day for our FedEx Camry. We wanted to win but we just didn’t have the winning car. We would have liked to have tuned it during happy hour, we just didn’t have enough time. I think we maximized what we had out of our car. We just didn’t quite have the car to battle with those guys until late in the day and by then they had just built too big of a lead.”

Austin Dillon – finished sixth: “We had a meeting on Monday and talked about what we needed to do here at Richmond Raceway as a team and then we came here and we did it, so I am really proud of everyone on this Richard Childress Racing team. We had a really fast AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 tonight, especially during the last run. I think we actually had a little something for at least the top three spots. We had a little bit of a mess-up on our last pit stop and lost some track position, but we passed some good cars there at the end, including Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. I’m really proud of the AAA team. I just wish we could have been a little further forward to see what we had. I saved a lot of my stuff for the end and was ready for that last run. But, we didn’t have enough. I’m definitely excited about the direction our team is going. It’s always good to go into the off weekend with a solid, top-10 finish.” 

BRAD KESELOWSKI – finished seventh: “We had a lot of short run speed and unfortunately it came down to long runs at the end. Overall, it wasn’t a bad day. It was good. We needed the race to come to us with short runs at the end and it didn’t. I like short tracks, I think they are a lot of fun. It is hard to pass, but that is racing, that is how it is going to be. I can’t see the whole picture, I am only in the car. I know we cycled back, but I couldn’t tell you why.”

Ryan Newman – finished ninth: “Our Roush Performance Ford Mustang was good. We needed some track position to start and I think we could have done something with it. We had good lap times at points but just battled track positioning. We got blocked in on the first pit stop and set us back even farther than when we started. I am proud of the guys. They did a good job in the pits and we had a good car.”

Paul Menard – finished 10th: “It was kind of an uneventful night really, for Richmond. We started ninth and just kind of stayed in the back half of the top 10 all night long. The guys really stepped up their game on pit road and we gained some spots or we maintained and that is what you need when you start running up front. It was a really solid day for us.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 16th: “We tried all kinds of adjustments but unfortunately they didn’t help my Fifth Third Ford,” Stenhouse said. “Our teammate had a strong run so we will look at his notes and see what we can improve on. We have an off weekend coming up so we can regroup and get ready for Talladega.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 18th: “We had a difficult race tonight, especially after my mistake on pit road. Our Haas Automation Ford Mustang was very good early in the race during the long green-flag run, but we couldn’t make the adjustments to stay that way until the end. It was tough to get through traffic and get spots back after we went down a lap. We learned a lot and we have a good team, so we will come back later this year and be better.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 19th: “Coming out of Richmond with a top-20 finish? We’ll take it. This No. 8 team is focused on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s great to have a group of guys that haven’t given up on me. We didn’t finish exactly where we wanted, but we definitely out-kicked our coverage from the positions we’ve put ourselves in over the last few weeks. We’ll take it and hopefully it’s a building moment for everyone on this No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team. I still love racing at Richmond and I feel like I know what I need when we come here in the Fall to contend and run where our teammate Austin Dillon was tonight. Those guys had good speed all weekend, so hopefully we can trend a little bit in that direction and build on it.”

Kyle Larson – finished 37th: “It’s been a pretty crappy start to the year. We’ve had decent speed. We didn’t have great speed tonight, but on the weeks that we have speed, we still run into issues. I hate the start to the season I’ve had. On that restart, I got stuck in the middle. I probably squeezed whoever was underneath me and caused some tire damage and we had to pit to fix that. But they didn’t do a good job of pulling the fenders out and then I got a flat and was back in the wall. But, hopefully this break is a good time and we can re-group. I hate it for McDonald’s and Chevrolet and everybody on our team.”

By Jerry Bonkowski

Rain postpones Cup race at Talladega until Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been postponed due to rain. The race will resume Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The race was put under a rain delay after the completion of Stage 1.

57 of 188 laps have been completed. The race is not official until the end of Stage 2 (Lap 110).

William Byron won the first stage.

The top 10 is Byron, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, lineup and more

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One of the first things Kyle Larson said after winning last weekend at Dover was that “everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressing at Talladega … except me.”

Talladega is here and it’s time for many drivers to stress. Except Larson, of course.

The playoff standings could be jumbled by the time the 500-mile journey at Talladega Superspeedway ends. Who will be collected in a crash? Who will get through the carnage and contend for the win?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Edward Graham, assistant VP of Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan’s Purse, will give the command to start engines at 1:48 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:03 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1:41 p.m. by Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. The National Anthem will be performed at 1:42 p.m. by the 313th United States Army Band out of Birmingham, Alabama.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500.08 miles) around the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 110.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins with NASCAR America at 1 p.m. on NBC. Countdown to Green follows at 1:30 p.m. on NBC, leading into race coverage. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBC’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly cloudy conditions with a temperature of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott led a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep in late April, finishing ahead of Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece. Aric Almirola won this playoff race a year ago, giving Ford a 1-2-3 sweep with Clint Bowyer second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Jagger Jones, grandson of Parnelli Jones, scores first NASCAR win

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Jagger Jones, the 17-year-old grandson of famed racer Parnelli Jones, scored his first NASCAR victory, taking the checkered flag in Saturday night’s K&N Pro Series West race at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.

In a statement to NBC Sports, the 86-year-old Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, said of his grandson’s achievement: “I just knew it was a matter of time until Jagger rose to the top and won at this level. I’m very proud of him. Jagger has worked hard on his racing skills this year and continues to improve and learn.

“Not only is Jagger a good driver but he’s a very good student. I’ve been impressed by both Jagger and Jace (his younger brother) – they continue to work hard and balance their driving with their work in the classroom. They’re outstanding young men on and off the track and I’m truly a very proud grandfather. Jagger and his team earned this win after a successful season and hopefully it’s a building block for the future.”

Hailie Deegan, who started on the pole, overcame an early spin and finished second.

This is Jones’ first season in the series. He had finished runner-up twice, scoring those finishes in his first career series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track in March and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in June.

Trevor Huddleston placed third Saturday night, points leader Derek Kraus was fourth and Todd Souza was fifth.

Race results