What Drivers Said after Chicagoland

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Alex Bowman becomes the first first-time winner this season and one of only two drivers other than those from Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske to win this season.

Here’s what Bowman and other drivers had to say after Sunday’s Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway:

ALEX BOWMAN – winner: “It’s all I’ve wanted my whole life. I feel like this is a lot of validation for a lot of people that said we couldn’t do this. I’m so proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Axalta and the Hendrick Engine Shop. My guys have worked so hard and we struggled so bad last year and the beginning of this year. I had questions if Mr. Hendrick was going to let me keep doing this. All the rumor mills. But, to be here winning a race in the Cup Series means so much. I just couldn’t do it without these guys. My pit crew is the best pit crew on pit road. And, this is all I ever wanted. … I’m just tired of running second. I don’t want to do that anymore. So, I feel like this is the last box, aside from chasing the championship, I needed it personally for myself, to validate my career. I feel like obviously there’s a lot more left to accomplish but this is always what I hear is ‘you haven’t won a race’. So, I think even Chad (Knaus) said something about me not winning a race. So, Chad Knaus, there we went and did it. Everybody can stop giving me crap. We finally did it!”

Kyle Larson – finished second: “I could see him (Bowman) struggle when I was getting to him, and when I got by him, I’m like, all right, good, he’s going to be in my dirty air and get loose. He could get big runs on me down the straightaways, and I think that allowed him to get that run into (Turn) 1 and he got to the main side and I got tight, I don’t know if him getting air on my spoiler or something got him tight, but I had to kind of breathe it a little bit, and then we side drafted on the backstretch. I wish I would have maybe done some things different into (Turn) 3 instead of going all the way to wall, maybe chase him to bottom, just try to hang on his quarter, but he might have cleared me anyways down there. But yeah, I wish I could have got a win for McDonald’s and got them to Victory Lane.

“But still a great day for Chevy and Hendrick engines. That was really cool to see a lot of us Hendrick engine guys up front and kind of drafting and breaking away from the groups behind us on the short runs. I felt good about my car on the long runs. If I was out in clean air, I think we just had a lot of downforce and drag in our car, so I just felt slow in clean air, but when I could get behind people I was okay and could just wait until we got laps on tires, then I could start making ground. Was actually surprised I even got to him. I thought when he came out about the same distance off pit road in front of me, I thought he was just going to check out. But like I said, he was struggling, and we were able to get to him and get by him, but he did a good job. He did a good job regrouping and figuring out how to make his car drive better and got the win. Cool to see him get the win there. Would have liked for him to have to wait another week or so, but happy for him. He’s an open-wheel guy, so cool to see.”

Joey Logano – finished third: “It looked like after we had that last green flag cycle things were looking pretty good. We ran down (Larson) and I thought if we could get by him we were catching (Bowman) together, both of us were. I just couldn’t get to his inside or outside and get a run. I would get right to him but not enough of a run to make a move. I just got tight at the end and he drove away at the end. We were pushing really hard on the front tires and eventually they are going to give out. Congrats to Alex, that is his first win and there is nothing like that. That is cool for that team but I don’t really care a whole lot about that. It is all about our car and we come home with a third out of the day, so we will take it.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished fourth: “It was just a solid performance for our Ally team. I’m really proud of everyone. I just couldn’t clear the No. 4 car (Kevin Harvick) when he was so on-track and the car to beat and I think he was probably the strongest car tonight. The way some of those restarts unfolded, the No. 88 (Alex Bowman) had a great opportunity with the draft and working very well and got the lead. Once he had that control, there’s really no taking it from him. I’m extremely happy for Hendrick Motorsports. I can’t wait to see Alex and congratulate him and this No. 48 team is smiling. It was a good night.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fifth: “That was a struggle all day. We couldn’t get a handle on it. We got our best at the end which is certainly what matters. A decent day. We will take it and learn from it and move on. (What were you missing?) Somewhere in the balance of speed and handling 1+1 didn’t equal 3. I am a little frustrated. I was hoping to be a little better than we were today. … We dug really hard at the end. We had a good run at the end and made a lot of passes and made a lot of ground with some good strategy on pit road and good execution. It wasn’t quite enough speed to run with them. We had some real good glimpses of having what it takes but they were just glimpses, it wasn’t long enough.”

Ryan Blaney – finished sixth: “Myself and two other cars blew tires at the same time early in the race and that stunk. We were running second and put a splash of gas in it to end the first stage. There were five or six guys doing that and the right rear started peeling apart and that pretty much ruined our day. We went a lap down and had to play catch-up all day. I think we gained seven seconds on the leader there during the last run, so today, the fastest car didn’t win the race.”

Erik Jones – finished seventh: “We put it together pretty well. The DeWalt Camry was good, and it was good at the end. I really think we had a top-four car. We just gave up to much on the second-to-last run. We were loose and fell back to 15th and just had to work up from there. It made it kind of difficult to get the track position from there. It just was a little bit tough to pass all day and get up there. The car was good; it had good speed. But good day for us. … I think we have to keep improving our stuff. It looks like the Hendrick (Motorsports) cars were really fast this weekend. We’re going to have to keep working to keep up with them. It’s a different kind of race track; Chicago is kind of its own animal. We will keep improving our stuff; we will have to keep working to keep up with them.”

William Byron – finished eighth: “We were really good. We just had a couple of things not go our way; the one restart and we had one run that wasn’t the greatest. We got back to the top five and we just didn’t quite have enough that last run. Alex (Bowman) and those guys were really fast. Congrats to them. They did a great job. I just have to close in on those details a little bit more. We, as a team, are really close. It’s a little disappointing now that we have the speed that we do, but it’s good to take the lead at some point in the race. I think that’s six or seven in a row for that, so we just have to continue to do that. It’s good for Alex (Bowman) and hopefully we can piggy-back on that. I think we had another good points day, which doesn’t sound great, but we are making our way up the playoff grid.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished ninth: “Fought it hard. We knew at the end of practice that we were a little bit lost on what we needed to do to try to hit the balance today. We were kind of taking a big swing at it and it was not bad. At one point in the race, we were really good, and we were the fastest car and then the next restart, it wouldn’t go because it was on the track so hard. We lost that track position and then we got it back on that really long run. We got all the way to the front and then had a good restart and got to fifth or fourth or something. Then when we had the caution for the 4 (Kevin Harvick) scraping the wall in (Turns) 1 and 2, the next restart we got the bottom and it didn’t go so well. I got drug back and I got really tight on that run. We lost all our track position that we worked all day to get at the beginning of that third stage. At the end, just ran out of time. We were fast again.

“Our car was really sensitive and on edge all day. It would go from too loose to too tight without almost doing anything different from lap to lap. Little bit of a tough day, but we soldiered home to a fifth and a sixth in the stages and ninth at the end. When you have a tough weekend, that’s a good day to get a top 10. … (Is this just one race or a new trend with this package?) I think it’s just one race. You look at these things and you come to these tracks now with this package and every track is just so different. I can’t stress it enough how different it is. You only get two 50-minute practices and we came here, and we were totally lost for the first whole practice and then two-thirds of the second practice and it’s like, if we had another 30 minutes, we could have been so much better. It’s one of those things where all these tracks are so different, and they want just a different package all together that the first time here is hard to hit it. Clearly, they (Hendrick Motorsports) hit it out of the park because they were fast right off the truck.”

Austin Dillon – finished 10th: “The outside on restarts was awful. It was a freight train on the bottom and it was just wild. I need to go back and watch the restarts; it was crazy trying to see how to gain momentum. It was fun. We had a really good car on the long runs and got some track position there at the end. We’ll build off of this. Our cars are fast; we got a pole and a top ten so that’s a good start to where we need to head. We got behind in track position and it’s just so hard. We were fast enough to run in the top five and that gives you a better position. But we need a little bit more. It’s good to see a Chevrolet win. Alex (Bowman) and team have gotten their stuff better progressively the last couple of weeks with all of the second-place finishes. Hopefully we can learn off of they’ve done somehow.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 24th: “Our Ruckus Ford was too free all day, and we had a hard time making the right adjustments to get the handling to where we needed it. It was hard to get any laps back with the green-flag pit stops, but the No. 41 guys worked hard all day, and we’ll keep learning and getting better.”

Ty Dillon – finished 35th: “Our result doesn’t show how much speed and grip we had in our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. I feel very confident that today was going to be our best mile and a half race of the season so far. My Germain Racing team continues to work hard to improve our cars and this weekend was a step in the right direction. It’s a shame we had a loose wheel and broke a stud during the first stage, because even when I went back out after repairs, the car was still very good. We made the most of our situation though and learned as much as possible to carry over into future intermediate races.”

We will add more driver quotes as they become available. Please check back.

Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth to start at rear at Kentucky

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth each will start at the rear in Sunday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway after their cars failed pre-race inspection twice.

Truex was to have started ninth. Kenseth was to have started 17th in the 38-car field.

Truex has won two of the last three races at Kentucky. Kenseth is coming off a runner-up finish last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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

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The final 10-race stretch of the regular season begins for the Cup Series Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

After years of mostly only racing under the lights there, the series will race in the daytime.

Can Kyle Busch, who starts from the pole, earn his first Cup win of 2020?

Here’s all the info you need for Sunday’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START:  The command to start engines is at 2:43 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:54 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 7:30 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments at 12:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 2:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:35 p.m by Darrell and Stevie Waltrip. The national anthem will be performed at 2:36 p.m. by Robert Randolph.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 79 degrees and a 58% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Matt Kenseth to win the Brickyard 400.

LAST RACE AT KENTUCKY: Kurt Busch defeated younger brother Kyle Busch for the win.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Catch up on NBC Sports’ coverage:

Front Row Motorsports reaching new heights without practice

NASCAR to team: Address “complacency” toward COVID-19 protocols

Jimmie Johnson: ‘I’m smarter, stronger’ after COVID-19 episode

Stage is set for Cup teams in race for points

Glow in the dark: Cup cars get new look for All-Star Race

Here is what upcoming NASCAR Cup races fans can attend

NASCAR reveals schedule through end of Cup regular season

Harvick takes hot streak to Kentucky, one of his last winless tracks

Power Rankings after Indianapolis: Kevin Harvick back to No. 1

Zach Price, Ryan Blaney’s injured tire changer, to miss Kentucky

 

Racing community mourns driver killed after crash at Langley Speedway

Photo: Mark Wertz
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Shawn Balluzzo, an 11-time track champion at Langley Speedway, died after a crash in a modified race Saturday night, the track confirmed. Balluzzo was 64.

Balluzzo, who won 16 of the Hampton, Virginia track’s 17 modified races in 2019, died after his car went over the hood of another and hit the Turn 2 wall at about 70 mph, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The newspaper reported that safety personnel cut the roof of Balluzzo’s car off to extricate him.

Saturday’s twin modified races were the first of the season for that series at the track. Belluzzo finished second in the opening race.

Balluzzo and his daughter Bryce were featured last year by WAVY TV 10, which chronicled Bryce’s battle with leukemia.

 

Tributes to Shawn Balluzzo were abundant Sunday morning and came from throughout the racing community.

 

Cole Custer ready for encore of first career Cup top-5 finish

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Sunday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway will be a night and day difference.

In recent years, the Cup race at the 1.5-mile Sparta, Kentucky track has primarily been a nighttime affair. Teams have compiled big notebooks of data from racing under the lights.

That won’t be the case Sunday, as the green flag is slated to drop at 2:54 p.m. ET.

While this will be his first career Cup start at Kentucky, rookie Cole Custer is no stranger to the track, having won last summer’s Xfinity race there – and scored consecutive fifth-place finishes in the two preceding races in 2017 and 2018.

“It’s something that you definitely see a difference in the track, I feel like, when it’s day and when it goes to night,” Custer said in a media teleconference. “So trying to figure out how you want to adjust your car to kind of a slicker track is gonna be pretty important.

“And also the biggest difference is we don’t have all the practice sessions before the race to work in the track. You saw that Thursday night with the Xfinity race, there was dust all over. The bottom lane was not worked in very well, so it’s gonna take a little while for that bottom lane to work in. We’re gonna see how worked in it is by the time we get to our race.

“There’s a lot of differences, honestly, but, at the same time it’s still the same track. It’s a really edgy racetrack because it’s new pavement, it’s a repave, so the tires are a little bit harder. The track takes a little bit of time to get worked in and you have that PJ1 (traction compound), so you’re able to take things from the Xfinity car – what lines kind of worked there and how it changed throughout the weekend – so basic characteristics with the track you’re able to kind of carry over. But at the same time, the feel in the car is completely different and how you work traffic and things like that.”

Custer enters Sunday’s race ranked 25th in the Cup standings, the lowest position of the four major drivers in this year’s Cup rookie class (Tyler Reddick is 18th, John Hunter Nemechek is 22nd and Christopher Bell is 24th).

“There’s definitely been a lot of learning, for sure,” Custer said. “Obviously, these cars are a lot different than what the Xfinity cars were, so trying to wrap your head around that and figure out how to effect every little thing, whether it’s passing or restarts or how to work traffic or pit road, just anything about it, you’re trying to make sure you’re getting 100 percent out of it.

“It’s always going to be challenging being a rookie, but at the same time it’s probably been a little bit more challenging this year because you don’t have practice, we didn’t have rookie testing, and these cars are a big difference from the Xfinity Series. It’s hard to do that without the practice time.

“I think it pushes all of us to be better because we all want to compete against each other and make sure we’re not falling behind too much. I think it’s just a matter of you still have to focus on yourself most of the time. If you’re focused on other people, you’re not gonna be making yourself better and working on your own problems. But at the same time it does push you to make sure you’re pushing yourself as much as you can.”

Custer is coming off his first top-five finish of the season at Indianapolis last weekend. He  has just one other top 10 in the first 16 races.

Still, Custer’s finish at Indy, which included pushing Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick to the win, leaves Custer optimistic heading into this weekend.

“At that point, my best shot was to push Kevin and that might have got me in a better position to try and maybe make a move to try to win the race also,” Custer said. “It’s definitely nerve-wracking. I mean, you’re coming to that line and you’re like, ‘I’ve got to do this right. This is important right here. We need this.’

“So I’ve been in those situations before where you’ve got to push people if you’re running up front in the Xfinity cars or the Truck Series or whatever it is, so you have experience doing that kind of stuff, but doing it at this level puts that much more pressure on it and you’re at the Brickyard 400 so you want to make it happen. It was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was something that we were able to kind of control those nerves and make sure that we do our jobs right.

“Now I feel like we’re at a good point where we’re putting it all together and get close to affect all those little things. But you have to do it on a consistent basis and I think we’re gaining on that.”

The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang has his work cut out for himself Sunday, starting 29th.

“I feel like I’ve already spent hours trying to figure that out,” Custer quipped. “It’s definitely gonna be a tough race.

“It looks like it’s gonna be a really dominant top lane kind of race, so that makes it a little bit tough to pass. But at the same time, the track is gonna be changing throughout the whole weekend, so it’s hard to tell exactly what our race is gonna be like yet.

“You’re trying to work through all the different possibilities in your mind of what our race might look like. But overall I feel like it’s gonna be a track position race. You’re gonna want to try to get towards the front on restarts and on pit road, and from there you’re just trying to run a solid race without having mistakes.”

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