What Drivers Said after Coca-Cola 600

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On what began as one of the hottest days of the season, Martin Truex Jr. continued his hot ways behind the wheel, earning his third win in the last five races with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 triumph.

Here’s What Drivers Said afterward:

Martin Truex Jr. – winner: I don’t know how we did it honestly. I blew that right-front tire earlier and hit the fence off (Turn) 4. I thought man, that’s not good. I know this car is pretty banged up. We just fought back from it. We kept working on the car and kept adjusting on the car. What a rocket ship this Bass Pro Toyota was this weekend. I felt good about it in practice, but you just don’t know and these mile-and-a-halfs have been tough on us this year – kind of scratching and clawing trying to find something. Kansas a few weeks ago was really a reality check for us. It’s one of our best tracks and we really struggled there and knew we had to get to work. Just hats off to the guys for listening to my input and what I had to say. We had a pretty good car at the All-Star race last weekend, but we knew it wasn’t good enough. They went to work this week and made it better.”

Joey Logano – finished 2nd: “Well, I needed (Truex) to go slower (laughing), but that’s not his job. We had a rough start to this thing. The guys did a good job fixing it up to where we were competitive at the end and had a shot to win, so that’s all you can ask for. I don’t know how we got from where we thought we were gonna be good in practice and then started the race really bad. I’m glad we made some good adjustments to get somewhat close. The Coke 600 is such a big deal to win, especially as a Coke driver you want to make it happen and we were close, but we’ll just have to wait again to next year and go at it. Like I said, if you told me we were gonna finish second early in the race, I would have taken it, but when you actually finish second and you see the lead that close you don’t want to take it. … I thought we had a good shot when that caution came back out. That was another chance and just didn’t quite get it, but overall, like I said, very proud of it. As far as Memorial Day Weekend and getting to race is a privilege, so for me to complain about second sounds pretty dumb. I’m proud to live in this country and I’m happy that I just get to race. … (When it came down to you and Truex, were you like, ‘Here we go again’?) Yeah, of course. Haven’t we every time?”

MORE: Results, standings after Coca-Cola 600

Kyle Busch — finished 3rd: “I don’t really know what all went down (in the final 5 laps). Just trying to find holes and trying to make room and trying to make ground on guys that we were around. I thought we had a second-place car tonight. If we would have gotten in behind the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.), I never would have passed him. I thought I could get the 22 (Joey Logano), but the 22 was fast at the end. I don’t know. Frustrating for how challenging it is. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about that, but overall our M&M’s Camry was fast. It had good speed, just not the 19-car speed. I don’t know what the 19 had different than us, but they were way faster. … (What did you feel like you were missing tonight?) I don’t know. I thought that through much of the race we had a fast car. We were there. We led some laps. We ran around – the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was fast, 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) was fast. The 19 was the fastest car. I’m not sure what they had different than us. Obviously we were just off a little bit. Otherwise, I felt like we had a race-winning car capable of at least running second. Overall, the red white and blue M&M’s Camry was fast. We brought it home where we should have – close anyways I think. If you want to support the USO go get some red, white and blue M&M’s bags made through August. We’re going to be donating money and the proceeds go to the USO.”

Chase Elliott – finished 4th: We had a really solid car. It was a solid race all around. We just needed a little bit more there at the end and needed to not give up control to get to Martin (Truex Jr.) in those last 40 to 50 laps. We just needed to finish a little stronger. I think I have some work to do on my end to make sure I’m keeping up with the track, giving the right information and not getting behind. I feel like I’ve made some mistakes the last couple of weeks and have just gotten a little off. … The track just gains a lot of grip when the sun goes down. Yesterday in practice it was kind of weird that it didn’t really lose any grip during the day, but when the race started today, I felt like it was the normal Charlotte. I had to adjust to that a little bit and luckily we were able to hit it pretty close. We just needed a little bit more there at the end.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 5th: “I wasn’t real happy about that final caution. I was hoping it was just gonna run out. We were running down the 18 and that was good for us. It’s been a while since we’ve been up there contending like that with caliber of a car. We did it at Kansas and came back here and struggled at the All-Star Race, but we made really good changes to our Fastenal Mustang to get ready for the 600 and felt really, really good with it. That’s something to build on. We still have to get more consistent throughout the race. Having a car like that at the end, we need to be able to have stage points throughout the whole race. All in all, a great night for us, a good points night, and we just have to keep this momentum going that we started at Kansas. … (When did the car come to life?) Once the sun went down. I’ve always told people I don’t really ever feel the track change a whole lot. I feel like we always stay the same, but we were making a lot of adjustments, but once the sun went down I felt like the track stayed more consistent and we were able to catch up with where our car needed to be. I felt like we had a really strong car the last 200 laps and proud to finally get a top five with it.”

Chris Buescher – finished 6th: “What a great night for us. Our Kroger Thrill of the Grill Camaro ZL1 had great speed from the drop of the green. The second stage we just tried to get it up a little too high and I got up in the fence. I cut a tire down later and lost a lap. We knew we had speed still, but this group did a terrific job of repairing it. We worked really hard after practice making a lot of changes. It was just a great effort all around; the pit crew did a terrific job. We were able to come out there at the end and get an awesome finish. We have to keep improving a little bit, but it was a pretty awesome night.”

Alex Bowman – finished 7th: “I fired off pretty poorly; it was just really tight to start. The guys did a really good job of getting our car better. We got up towards the front and then late there I decided to get up in the fence and tear the right side off of it. I’m really glad we were able to fix it, overcome a flat right rear, and still end up 7th. I just need to not make that mistake and we definitely had a top five car. It was my fault that I drove it into the fence, so that makes me frustrated with myself. People make mistakes and that was just one that I made. I’ll just learn from it and move on. Stuff happens.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 8th: “This has always suited my style well. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being competitive in this race (both) physically and mentally. We did that tonight and had a strong performance. I had some handling issues. We got ourselves through most of that and got into a good position and I hit the wall with about 10 (laps) to go and took us out of like a fourth or fifth place spot back to eighth. But, all in all, it was a solid performance. We had respectable speed and I was in the mix most of the night. … Clean air was a lot. So, I don’t know. I never really got a look at the lead. The No. 9 (Chase Elliott) led a lot and then was just right there in front of me in the end and I was trying to pass him when I hit the wall. So, I feel like we were probably fourth or fifth, if fifth, they way things kind of unfolded. And then I hit the wall and the car got super loose after that. … To have that trouble late and slip to eighth is good. We stayed in the mix for most of the night, so that was encouraging. We’re going the right way.”

William Byron – finished 9th: “It was okay. I expected the track to kind of come to us when night time came but it just didn’t really. We didn’t have the best restarts on the bottom. And, we had a couple of restarts on the top at the end and were able to finish 9th. So, that was good. We’ll just keep working and figure out what we need to do next time. We were pretty good during the day. I had pretty good speed. Top five. And I knew we were pretty tight-off but then it just kept escalating as the runs got longer. When night time fell we were just too tight. So, it is what it is. But ultimately it was a good solid two weeks in a row. And a ninth place finish is not bad. It seems like we’re getting better, for sure. With all four of us (Hendrick Motorsports teammates) in the top 10 is pretty good. And we’ll just work from there.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 10th: “It was different for sure. For us, we lost the handle on the car. We had some different shift codes in the tires that we had to run because that’s what we had. As soon as we put all those shift codes on, the car just went to absolute junk. … (What was it like with all the pushing and shoving to get around tonight?) I don’t even know.”

Aric Almirola – finished 11th: “It was a struggle most of the night. I don’t know. We can’t make it handle the way we need it to. It won’t go on restarts. I don’t know. We have to just keep working and get better.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 13th: “We had a pretty good DEX Imaging Ford tonight. I felt like we had a shot at Martin (Truex Jr.) and Joey (Logano) late. Unfortunately a late race issue with a loose wheel ruined our night.”

David Ragan – finished 15th: “Our Select Blinds Ford Mustang was a top 10 or 12 car a lot of the night. We had some trouble on pit road and felt like I had to pass a lot of cars often throughout the night, but our team did a great job preparing a good car. That was the best mile-and-a-half car we’ve had in a long time and we just ran out of tires. I had some damage from that Kyle Larson wreck with about 30 or 40 to go. We used an extra set of tires and we didn’t have any. We had some with about 20 laps on it, but I felt like if I could have got a good restart I would be able to hold them off. If it would have been two or three laps, we could have got a top five or top 10, but once all the dirty air got around we just didn’t have the grip to hang on there at the end. But that was fun. It was a fun 600-mile race and we learned a few things that will hopefully help us for down the road. … (And you weren’t going to pull over for the 19 on that restart with 5 to go?) No, absolutely not. We were doing all we could. You never know. I mean, those guys could get back there body slamming and I could have gotten a five or 10 car length lead. You just never, never know what may happen on a deal like that. I felt like I hit my marks on the restart good. I got through turns one and two and was leading down the back straightaway and that’s all you can ask for. It helped that Newman was on two tires underneath me and he kind of held them up a little bit, but five laps was just too much.”

Ryan Newman – finished 16th: “We didn’t have the best of cars, but we got ourselves in position and tried. Two tires was kind of my idea, but I just didn’t have enough to hold on. We were off a little bit in speed all day and that’s what we needed there at the end.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 18th: “Our Coca-Cola Ford Mustang was tight most of the night, but my guys kept working on it. We came back from being two laps down, and they just never gave up on adjusting the car. Unfortunately, on the last pit stop we had a penalty and that put us one lap down to end the night 18th.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 19th: “We had power steering issues and I got into the wall late in the race. A few laps later I cut the right-rear tire and spun. That pretty much ended our night.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 21st: “I really hate this night did not turn out better than it did for everyone on this Cessna Chevrolet Team. Luke Lambert and everyone on this team gave me a really fast No. 8 Cessna Chevy. We showed that in practice throughout the weekend and in qualifying on Thursday night. The car took off really well to start the race but we got so many cautions in Stage 1 that we made a strategy call to stay out and were able to grab the lead by doing that. Being able to lead in my first Coca-Cola 600 was a cool experience for sure, but the cars with fresher tires were much quicker on the restart. One of them made contact with the right rear and sent me into the outside wall off Turn 4. I’m really proud of everyone on this team, because they never gave up. We hit pit road as much as possible the rest of the night and they made repairs as best they could. We kept adjusting on it and just tried to do all we could to get to the end. When the caution came out with about 35 laps to go, we took the wave around to get one lap back and hoped for a quick caution, but we never got that when we needed and had to hit pit road under green with 20 laps to go. We will head to Pocono and try to change our luck there.”

Ty Dillon – finished 23rd: “We had a great night going in our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. I was really happy with it while the sun was out. I could run any lane around the track, and my front end cut great through the corner. As it got darker, I started to lose my front end and kept building tight on each run. But, we were still having a good night. We were running in the top 20 and had stayed on the lead lap all night, really showing the strides that we have made with our intermediate track program. It’s unfortunate that a flat tire in Stage 3 ultimately ruined what was going to be a solid night for our team. Our strategy to make up those laps we lost almost worked out, but we got caught up in that final stage wreck while we were sitting in the free-pass spot to get back on the lead lap. We’re going to be proud of all the positive improvements from this night, though, and keep building on them for our next mile-and-a-half track because that’s what we do. We will keep grinding.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 24th: “That was a long night. We struggled with everything at some point. But you know, close at the end we were seventh, and it was looking like it was going to turn out OK. I think we were going to get a top-10. Two times tonight we were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got wrecked.”

Kyle Larson – finished 32nd: “I just got in there and lost grip and slid up into Clint (Bowyer). I got stuck in the middle and then just put myself in a bad spot and got sideways. So, it was an up and down day for us. I finally put myself in a good spot for about a lap and then screwed that up. So, that was all me. So, we’ll go wherever we race next week and try to do better.”

Austin Dillon – finished 34th: I saw the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) spinning. I don’t know if I should have just slowed down and try to get stopped but I thought I had a gap there and maybe squeeze and get by as best as I could and it didn’t work. We shouldn’t have been back there. We just really didn’t have the car I thought we were going to have. I’m disappointed because I felt like in practice we were pretty decent and it just looks like the No 18 (Kyle Busch) made it through and I was the one that got wrecked. It’s just part of it. But, we’ll try better next time and get our cars a little better and hope it’s better for us.”

Erik Jones – finished 40th: We just blew a right-front. There was no real warning. It’s unfortunate. We had a pretty good car. The Reser’s Camry was moving forward and driving really well. I was trying to get some track position and work my way to the front. It sucks. It’s a long race and we are obviously out of it early. We had a really good Reser’s Camry. I think we were in a really good position to work our way forward and just lost a tire. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time so it’s just unfortunate. I don’t know if we ran something over. It’s a bummer, you don’t want to be out of the 600 this early and we had a car that could have contended today. Just have to go back to work and go get them next week.”

We’ll continue to add driver quotes as they become available. Please check back.

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NASCAR will have choose rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.

NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.

In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:

  • Stage 1 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.

In the All-Star Race, the format will be:

  • Stage 1 will be 55 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 3 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

NASCAR also stated that the car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give more exposure to the teams’ sponsors

The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.

“I see nothing bad that it can bring,” Joey Logano said of the chose rule concept in May. “It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. …

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”

Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

The All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina restrictions on mass gatherings. Bristol will be allowed to have up to 30,000 fans.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

Can anybody catch Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

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Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Or is it Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

They’ve won four of the last six Cup races, including the past two, and came within a late caution flag of being the last two Brickyard 400 winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBC).

MORE: Indianapolis weekend schedule

MORE: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick 1-2 in Power Rankings

“For the most part, when we have had chances to win races, we have won them,” Harvick said. “I think Sunday (at Pocono) was probably the only one that I could point to and say that we had the car to win the race and didn’t win the race. I think for the majority of the races that we have had chances to win we have capitalized on those situations.”

That Pocono race Sunday? Harvick finished second to Hamlin, who has won two of the last four races.

“I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 (races) we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had,” Hamlin said. “I thought we’ve been really good.

“My team is really strong. They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

“Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points. I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some. The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race‑winning cars. I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that a race win counts for five (playoff points).”

Harvick enters Sunday’s race at Indy as the defending winner. He led 118 of 160 laps in last year’s race, winning by more than six seconds.

In 2018, Hamlin led at Indy when a caution with six laps to go took away his advantage. Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin coming to the white flag and won.

If not Harvick or Hamlin this weekend, Keselowski could be one to watch.

“My confidence level right now is very, very high that we can be a contender for the entire season and continue to build and get stronger,” said Keselowski, who has two wins and eight top-10 finishes since the season resumed in May. “Very, very pleased to see how the team has come together. … Now we’re starting to show a lot of speed. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential.”

Even with Keselowski’s success, Harvick and Hamlin have been stout. This is how dominant Harvick and Hamlin have been all season and since May:

Most wins this year (15 races)

Most wins since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (3 wins)
  •  Kevin Harvick (3 wins)
  • Brad Keselowski (2 wins)

Most top-five finishes this year (15 races)

Most top-five finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 5s)
  • Kevin Harvick (7 top 5s)
  • Chase Elliott (6 top 5s)
  • Ryan Blaney (6 top 5s)

Most top 10 finishes this season (15 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (12 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (10 top 10s)

Most top 10 finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (8 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (8 top 10s)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (8 top 10s)

Patriots of America PAC to be primary sponsor for Go Fas Racing in nine races

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Patriots of America, a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, will be the primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Go Fas Racing announced Wednesday.

Patriots of America PAC will be the primary sponsor on the car for eight additional races.  

“Our mission is to get voters registered and to the polls in November,” said Jeff Whaley on behalf of Patriots of America PAC. “We are excited about our sponsorship with Go Fas Racing No. 32 and Corey LaJoie. We feel this partnership is the best way to help us communicate this message to the NASCAR community and encourage all Americans to do their part by heading to the polls.”

Team owner Archie St. Hilaire said in a statement: “I am honored to be part of the President’s re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC. As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term. Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great!”

According to public documents, Patriots of America has paid Go Fas Racing $350,000 to this point for the sponsorship.

Sunday’s Cup race airs at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

NASCAR, Coca-Cola to honor military, frontline healthcare workers

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NASCAR will honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces and frontline healthcare workers throughout the month of July as part of this year’s expanded “NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola” initiative.

Per a media release, NASCAR said the program will be “an industry-wide opportunity to recognize and thank those who have gone above and beyond to keep society safe and healthy.”

The kickoff event for the program begins with Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard (4 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), shifting to a mid-summer window due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We take pride in honoring all who work tirelessly to keep our nation safe, whether a frontline worker in the fight against COVID-19 or part of our U.S. Armed Forces protecting us around the world,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer, NASCAR. “The NASCAR industry has always been passionate about saluting our nation’s heroes both past and present, and we once again look forward to recognizing those who serve.”

Per a statement in the media release, NASCAR and Coca-Cola will create content to honor the “heroic work from our military and first responder community during the COVID-19 pandemic. … Through NASCAR digital and social channels, the industry will spotlight even more stories with a new ‘NASCAR Salutes Refreshing Moments’ feature that will also be hosted on NASCAR.com/Salutes.”

“While this crisis has impacted everyone’s daily lives, we are able to race because of the selfless acts by our military community and frontline workers,” said John Mount, vice president, sports marketing and region assets, Coca-Cola North America. “NASCAR Salutes offers an impactful opportunity to showcase our pride and appreciation for these heroes and their families.”

In addition to premier partner Coca-Cola, several other NASCAR Official Partners will also take part in the program:

  • Mack Trucks will wrap its NASCAR Mack Anthem haulers with NASCAR Salutes-themed graphics voted on by fans at com/NASCARSalutes. The paint schemes honor both military and frontline heroes and the winning designs will be unveiled July 4 and debut during the NASCAR Salutes window.
  • AMR, the “Official Emergency Medical Services Partner of NASCAR,” will feature the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola branding on its NASCAR safety trucks and safety team helmets throughout the program.
  • Goodyear continued its tradition of replacing the iconic “Eagle” sidewall for 600 Miles of Remembrance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year’s recognition was the Honor and Remember organization, which works closely with the industry to honor gold star families who have lost family members while serving.
  • Mack Trucks and Blue-Emu also collaborated on a day-long effort to thank truckers and critical workers for their hard work during COVID-19. After a kickoff at Mack Trucks’ headquarters, NASCAR’s Mack Anthem haulers visited Virginia-based Sovah Health to thank the frontline workers at the hospital en route to the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Fans can learn more about the heroes honored throughout the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Colaprogram by visiting NASCAR.com/Salutes.