What Drivers Said after Daytona

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Justin Haley, winner: “It’s absolutely a blessing.  It’s pretty incredible that I have so many great people around me that have given me this opportunity to come to this level and the stage that we’re performing on. …

“I never even saw myself running a Cup race until I got a call a few months ago to do Talladega, and it’s just unreal.  I don’t know how to feel.”

William Byron, finished second: “If a few things went our way under that last caution we might have won. You don’t want to win that way as your first win I guess … It’s not the prettiest way to do it, but I’d still take it. … Unfortunately, that’s wasn’t what the cards played for us today. To finished second with a backup car from the back starting 40th is really good.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished third: “If it did go back to green, I think there’s only a handful of cars that are still in good shape. Certainly William and I were going to do everything we could to get a Hendrick car to victory lane. But it is what is its, the race has been called and we’ll take the third-place points and go home.”

Ty Dillon, finished fourth: “We didn’t have a chance to race for the win but this was a first top five and best finish ever and I’m pretty pleased with that. I’m thrilled for our Germain Racing Team. It’s a nice little shot in the arm for our team to get the second half of the season going. There has been a little bit of disappointment the last couple of weeks. So, to be able to have a good finish is going to catapult us in the second half of the season. And hopefully we continue to build off that momentum. I’m proud of our effort today. Sometimes it just seems to work out.”

Corey LaJoie, finished sixth: “Sixth for us, no matter what the circumstance, is a good day.  If you told me I could take a sixth-place finish before we even started I would have taken it to the bank and ran with it.  That’s cool for Justin (Haley).  That’s obviously not how he wanted to win his first race, but at the end of the day there’s no asterisk in the record book and there’s no asterisk in the record book for finishing sixth, either.  We had a good Shine Armor car.  Our tactic was just to ride and try to miss those big ones and that’s what we did.  In hindsight, we shouldn’t have pitted and we probably could have ended up second, but coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

Aric Almirola, finished seventh: “It was a crazy day.  I think every time you come down here to Daytona you hope that you’ve got a shot to win and at certain points throughout the race I thought we would, and then at certain points throughout the race I thought we were in big trouble.  To get out of here with a top 10 is a good day and I think points-wise we stayed steady. I think we maybe moved up a spot to 10th in points and we built a little bit more of a gap back to 16th, so that’s important leaving here.”

Matt DiBenedetto, finished eighth: “I couldn’t see anything in the crash other than crap everywhere, so I listened to Doug (Campbell, spotter) 100%. I went wherever he told me. He said go low and I just slammed it down on the apron and hoped no one was underneath me. There wasn’t and we avoided it somehow, so Doug gets credit for that one.”

Kurt Busch, finished 10th: “I feel like we were in a really good position to win the race and it’s just a matter of when the one random lightning bolt comes down to decide when you make the call. It was a judgment call on their part.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 24th: “We were trying to work our way back to the lead and was in the top 10, so we were in decent position, but obviously when the wreck starts on the front row it’s all about luck after that and we weren’t able to get our Fifth Third Ford through that wreck as good as we wanted.  I just spent a lot of time on pit road, go a couple laps down trying to fix it, so, all in all, it was a good first two stages when we were strong and felt good, but it just didn’t work out.”

Joey Logano, finished, 25th – “I thought things were gonna go a little better today than they ended up.  We were able to get a stage win, which was great for our Mustang, but everything was going good until it didn’t.”

Austin Dillon, finished 33rd:  “I got turned a little bit left when (Clint Bowyer) went left and it kind of shot me down there and I just kept coming left. I mean, its part of this kind of racing. I was being aggressive and trying to keep the lead, and that is what you get, its part of it.  I just thought I would try and keep it up front.  We had a fast car and I am really proud of the guys. Hate it went that way and wished we could have worked with the Chevys to finish off what we started.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 34th: “I guess (Austin Dillon) didn’t want me to pass him.  I don’t know.  I got under him and he blocked, and we got together, I got off of him – moved down and got off of him – and here he comes back down even more and just finally wrecked us all.  That’s just part of racing like this.”

Chase Elliott, finished 35th: “I was just kind of on the bottom pushing along there and I saw Austin (Dillon) get turned around. You just hope you can get left enough, and slowed down enough, to miss it.  It’s unfortunate because I thought our NAPA Camaro ZL1 was one of the best ones we have had down here. It’s unfortunate and I hate that happened because I felt like we were doing a pretty good job as a group. Just needed to keep it going.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 36th: “I haven’t seen a replay, but apparently it was a case of someone not being cleared at all, so that part is frustrating.  It’s one thing if you’re kind of pushing each other and someone gets turned, something like that, but when you just chop somebody like that, from what I hear, it’s frustrating, especially since we were rows back.  In both Daytona races this year we’ve been four rows back in the deal and just get absolutely destroyed.  There was nowhere to go and none of our doing, so that’s the way it goes.”

David Ragan, finished 38th:  “I couldn’t tell what happened.  I knew we were in the middle and it was a really big accordion effect.  I would get a really big run.  (Kyle Busch) would push me, I would push (Brad Keselowski), we would surge for half a lap or a lap and then the bottom and the top would surge and we would fall back a little bit back and forth, so I was hoping we could get back in that top lane with a few of the other Fords, where I felt like we could get rolling, but never saw that hole and the next thing I know (Keselowski) is in the wall and (Kevin Harvick) came down and clipped us a little bit.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 39th: “I know I was going straight one moment and the next moment I wasn’t.  It’s unfortunate.  We were all two and three-wide racing and just got tagged from the back.  I’m not sure exactly.  I know we got to three-wide at the top of (Turn) 3 and it looks like Kevin (Harvick) gave me a real straight push.  I don’t know.  It just took off on me.  The Fords were working really hard to run together and Kevin and Joey (Logano) and (Ryan) Blaney and myself, I thought we were doing really good at it, but for whatever reason the car just instantly turned there.  It’s a bummer for everybody, but we’ll move on and hopefully go to the next one and be alright.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 40th : “I haven’t seen the replay. I don’t really know what happened, I just know a few cars wrecked ahead of me.  I was trying to slow down and I bumped (Logano) and someone bumped me from behind and we were starting to get it back straight and somebody spun me out and the track bar broke.  My car was actually fine.  I thought we were going to continue, but unfortunately the track bar broke and it’s something we can’t fix.”

NASCAR America Presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Kyle Busch

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver joins Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to discuss this week’s news as well as take fan phone calls.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1, Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).