What drivers said after Sonoma

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Martin Truex Jr. – winner: “Through the years you’ve seen guys figure things out, it lasts a while. I wasn’t sure this weekend how it was going to hold up, what we’ve been doing. With the Carousel, the big left‑hand corner, it really changed things up. Took a while to figure that out in practice.

“But luckily, we were able to just make the right tweaks. I had confidence that when the track got hot and slick on the long runs, we’ve had what we needed. Just a matter if we had enough speed to get there, and we did today.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: “Any time I had to lean on the left rear (tire), I just didn’t have the drive that I needed. Actually, tried to hold on to it, trying to save it. I knew that was going to be our problem. That had been our problem all day long. You get closer, you’re like, Okay, I can get him (Truex), I better go, pounce on him fast, so then he doesn’t have the time to pick up the pace.

“But it didn’t work. He was obviously saving a lot. I knew he was going to be saving a lot, have enough to be able to most likely hold us off. I was right.”

Ryan Blaney – finished third: “I had no shot if there wasn’t a yellow. They were really good on long runs. You just give yourself a hope of restarting close to them and trying to make a move. We almost got the lead one time on a restart. I was hoping to get that shot again but it never came.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished fourth: “I cannot explain how thankful and glad I am that we got a good run that we deserve. It has been a tough year; we just haven’t had the results that we deserve. We have had fast cars. I cannot explain how thankful I am to have this opportunity and how desperate I was to get a run like this for my team and how many people took a chance on me. I can’t explain how many people had to say yes including all of the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) teammates, Toyota, TRD, the sponsors, Procore and Dumont Jets, team owner, everyone on the team, it took every one of those people to say yes because my path to get here is unorthodox. I didn’t have the funding to get there; we did it the old school way.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “I just drove as hard as I could drive. We restarted 26th and drove back up to fifth with no cautions. We had a very, very fast car. It was a strategy we decided to play out there to optimize stage points and get a stage win, and take the guaranteed points. It may have cost us a shot at victory, but we still had a good day. I think at the time we decided to do that strategy the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) was better than us, but I am not so sure at the end.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “We did grind one out. We didn’t have a great car this weekend. We aborted everything that we were doing and put (Clint Bowyer‘s setup) in and we still weren’t very good. We wound up grinding the right front tire off at the end and was just hanging on for dear life. That is a gritty performance. That is what we have done all year. We need to figure out how to be closer at the beginning of the weekend. We will. We have been scrapping pretty hard for 16 weeks.”

Ryan Newman – finished seventh: “I just got really light-headed when I got out. Other than that I feel alright. We had good strategy and good pit road, good everything. We just didn’t quite have the speed today to be able to get up there and pass those guys that were in the front today.”

Erik Jones – finished eighth: “It was good. We passed a lot of cars. I am just happy we were able to come out of here with a solid day. Wish we could have gotten some more stage points, but it was nice to get a good finish. The Craftsman Camry was good; we just needed track position. I think we were probably a few spots better than that, but it’s still good. It’s nice to get back on track. Hopefully this is good momentum for next week in Chicago.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “I made a mistake there at the top of Turn 3A and spun out and basically we fell to the rear. We went back all the way to last. After that, I just had to work my butt off to recover. We passed a lot of cars today. My Mustang was good. I just put us behind.”

Kyle Larson – finished 10th: “It was better than normal for us. I fell back early but I was just taking care of my stuff. I seem to be a lot better on long runs than normal, so I’m happy about that. And we came away with a top 10. So it was good.

“I finished better than I ever have here, so it was an improvement.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 11th: “That was disappointing, for sure. We had a bad break with the air gun and that put us on a strategy that kind of killed our chances at getting stage points. It looked like we were going to have a shot at the top five, but we just couldn’t get our car to turn there at the end and gave up a lot of positions. We had a good Rush Truck Centers Mustang all weekend and expected a lot better finish.”

Alex Bowman – finished 14th: “We lost some front turn from where we were at in practice. Track position was really key. Obviously, we didn’t qualify very well, so that hurt us. We had great pit stops. We were sitting pretty good there towards the end and then we lost power steering. I hate losing spots like that at the end, but I’m glad we still brought home a top-15 finish. I’m glad I’ve been working on being more fit because I’m worn out and that would have been way worse.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 15th: “I thought we did a great job of making the most of our day here at Sonoma Raceway. We didn’t have track position to start the race, but (crew chief) Luke Lambert did a great job of not worrying about points and trying to get us track position instead. Every time we did it we gained four or five spots. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 8 team and this Poppy Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for sticking with me all weekend. We got better every lap and that’s what our first road race as a group is all about.

Daniel Suarez – finished 17th: “We had a good Ruckus Mustang today even though we had to start in the back. My crew did great with the calls, and we were able to get track position and show that we had a good car. Unfortunately, mistakes on the last pit stop bit us and we couldn’t recover from it so late in the race.”

Austin Dillon – finished 24th: “It’s been a long weekend in the Dow Coatings Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, but the good news is we learned a lot that we can take back to Welcome, (North Carolin) and use in preparation for future trips to Sonoma Raceway. We fell behind in practice and just never recovered. During the race, I was just hanging on the best I could but it was difficult because the Dow Coatings Chevrolet was plowing tight. Who knows, maybe if we would have utilized a different strategy we could have gained a few positions at the finish, but the main issue is definitely working on our cars and on my skills as a road course racer.

Ty Dillon – finished 27th: “Sonoma is a tough racetrack. Only coming here once a year definitely makes it more challenging to learn how to get around the course, and this was only my third time racing here. The addition of the Carousel added an extra layer of difficulty. Our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 started out pretty tight going both right and left, but my team made great changes to get our balance back to where we needed it. My rear grip just started to fade at the end. But, I have a lot of notes from this weekend to study for next year. We will keep building and getting better each time we come to Sonoma.”

Chase Elliott – finished 37th: “We lost oil pressure so we think a belt broke. We’re not exactly sure why. Our NAPA Chevy was good. I hated I gave Martin (Truex Jr.) the lead there. It was just a mistake on my part. I needed to keep control of the reins. That was an important point. It’s going to be hard to go up and pass a guy for the lead. So, that was big. I hated that happened.”

 

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.