What Drivers Said after Kentucky

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In a race that wound up in a battle of brothers, older sibling Kurt Busch beat younger brother Kyle to the finish in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here’s what the Busch brothers and other drivers had to say afterward:

Kurt Busch – Winner: “Hell yeah, hell yeah! You know, racing your little brother every week and watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him, but I’m proud of him he gave me a little bit of room on that outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and third place probably would have got it. What an awesome run. Well, we got a yellow at the end that put us back in position. Whatever last week was, it’s this week right now, and we’ve got the trophy.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: I’m glad it was a thriller. Unfortunately we were on the wrong end of the deal … Obviously great to put on great races and great finishes. Been part of a lot of them, but none with my brother like that. So that was a first. No hard feelings.”

Erik Jones – finished third: (How much did you have to overcome?) “A lot early. We just didn’t have the track position. We qualified not where we wanted to and had to work back from that. Right from the start I knew that the Craftsman Camry was pretty good. I felt comfortable in practice in race trim. Just had to work back from it and it took until the second stage to get up there and we were finally in position and got some good restarts and some good pit stops and got up in contention on the last restart. You can’t ask for much more. You want to be there and want to have a shot. We did that. We just didn’t have quite enough car and didn’t have quite the right circumstances, but good day overall.”

Kyle Larson – finished fourth:I thought the race for the lead there was really good from what I could see. It was good, maybe a little better than your normal Kentucky. … (On the final restart) I was satisfied with the launch I got. I was going to be committed to Kurt (Busch)’s back bumper no matter how much of a run I had because I knew I couldn’t get to the lead from the third row so if I could help a teammate out, I was happy with that. I’m happy for Kurt (Busch), Matt McCall and everybody on the 1 team. They have been really strong all year long. They should have won last week, so it’s nice for them to get some redemption today. … (What was it like at the end of the race?) I couldn’t believe we didn’t crash. Kyle (Busch) was loose a couple of times below him and they made contact I think a couple of times. There was some really good car control and it was fun to watch from my seat.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: We definitely had a fast car – a car that was fast enough to run up there with those guys, but obviously going to the back of the pack there with 80 (laps) to go was detrimental to try to win the race. We had to make a call with no tires there and we didn’t gain track position. We had worse tires than everyone around us and still was able to come up to fifth, so pretty happy with that effort. We have fast cars every week. As long as we have a clean race, we have chances to win and we just can’t have the penalties that we have and wrecks that we’ve had. It’s just a combination of things where we’re really, really close.”

Clint Bowyer – finished sixth: It was a positive night for us. We finally got some stage points the last two races. It didn’t start out good but we did a good job of working together, staying in it and not giving up. We got some track position and right there at the end, I don’t know. Our SHR cars are extremely fast, we show that in qualifying, but they aren’t the best in race trim and traffic yet. We have work to do there and we know that. We are going to the magic mile next weekend but given the month of June that we had, we had to get that monkey shook off our back. Right there at the end, you hate to give up fifth right there at the line but we could have just as easily wrecked in turn one on the restart and had another finish like we had in June. We needed a good solid finish and we got that and got some good positive mojo back with our team and we will build on it.”

Joey Logano – finished seventh: The caution came out at the wrong time. It happens. You try to think through your notebook on how to have a good restart. I thought I was going to have a decent one but I got stopped on the left rear there when Kyle (Busch) got into me. That is what it is. That stopped all my momentum. (Kurt Busch) had a huge run and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t block them all. I tried to stop (Kyle Busch) on his right rear by side-drafting. I saw (Kurt Busch) coming and felt like if I could get in front of him that we were so low at the time if I blocked (Kurt Busch) he would just go to the middle and pass me. I felt like I couldn’t stop (Kurt Busch). I was in a bad spot. Once I got stopped on the left rear on the restart I was a sitting duck and they just went by me on both sides. … (How frustrating is it?) “It is frustrating when you are fast enough to win and you don’t win, yes it is frustrating. … (Was the racing good?) “Yeah, it was a great race. It was a lot of fun. You had strategy and cautions and it was probably the best Kentucky race we have ever had. If I was a race fan I would say that was a cool finish. I am a little too close to the fire to say it was a cool finish right now. … (On the final restart) “We were in a perfect position when the caution came out. I did what I could to clear (Kyle Busch) before Turn 1. I got a decent launch but he stopped my momentum. … I just didn’t do a good enough job. We had the fastest car and we didn’t win. That’s the takeaway.”

Daniel Suarez – finished eighth:t was an eventful night for sure. We just had a fast race car but we got a bit tight. I feel like we made the car better but we never got the track position back. We had a tire going down and then I was speeding coming to pit road because I was wheel hopping because of the tire. It was one problem after another. We were fast enough to overcome that but not enough to get a better finish. I feel like the good thing is that we have the speed we just have to keep working to have a cleaner day and keep working to try to keep that speed the whole race. … (Is it an empty feeling to be on the pole and not come away with any stage points?) “It is. I feel like the first stage the call that we made on four tires instead of two tires kind of messed us up a little bit. That is part of it. We made our bed on that. There was one caution after another and we couldn’t recover. After that we had the flat tire. It was just bad decisions and a little bad luck but we were able to overcome with a decent finish.”

Ryan Newman – finished ninth: “It was a good run. To start where we did and get back up into the top 10, that was good. We had a crazy last restart, lost a few spots but got it back in (Turns) 3 and 4. I’m proud of the guys. … (Restarts like the final one) are crazy, but this aero package makes it that way. … I think we got five or six cars there coming to the white. It was a good run for our Acorns Ford. We still have to get our performance better. The guys did a good job on pit lane but we just have to have faster race cars. We didn’t have the balance quite right but you can’t come to the race track and qualify damn near wide open six-tenths of a second off the pole. We have some work to do and we know what to do.”

Chris Buescher – finished 10th: “Our Planter’s Camaro was pretty good tonight at certain times, but we definitely fought it. We worked hard to keep it where we needed to be all day long. That was good strategy on top of the pit box; hats off to our group. We’ve got some work to do yet, but that was a great finish. … (Are you encouraged by the speed you’ve shown?) “Yeah, absolutely. It’s encouraging to see it. To be 100 percent honest, tonight was not one of our better 1.5-mile tracks compared to where we have been in the last couple of months. With that being said, we definitely got a finish out of it. We ran good; we ran on the lead lap all night long. We are trying to find some more speed. We hadn’t qualified really well and I think tonight was about trying to figure out a way to get some more raw speed out of it. At the end there, it was a wild restart and we were able to come out with a good top ten finish.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 12th: “Our Fifth Third Bank Ford showed speed all night. It was good to be able to lead laps and get some stage points in the backyard of Fifth Third Bank. All in all it was a good day for our No. 17 team.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 13th: “You come into every weekend expecting to run well, no matter if it is your best track or worst track. I don’t really go into any weekend expecting to run a certain way. You just try to do your best. My team did a great job overcoming adversity early in the race to get us back on the lead lap. Our DEX Imaging Ford Mustang was just so tight. The last restart was crazy and almost got into the wall. We will move on to New Hampshire.”

Aric Almirola — finished 14th: “We had a really fast Valley Tech Ford. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) and the team did a great job adjusting on it all night after we started off tight and eventually got our Mustang freed up. We were in a great position to come out of Kentucky with a good finish, but we ended up going the wrong direction on the final restart. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but we had a strong weekend, and we’ve got a chance to do it all again in New Hampshire.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 20th: “I don’t know, we’ll need to get back to the shop and figure out what happened tonight. We just didn’t have the speed with the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. I thought we had a good shot to compete for the win but that just wasn’t the case.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 24th: “Our No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was faster than our 24th-place finish indicates tonight at Kentucky Speedway. Starting in the top 10 was a positive step for this team, and it was great to earn Stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1. Throughout Stage 2, we chipped away at the lead and gained solid ground until we were assessed a stop and go penalty during our pit stop on lap 150. The penalty put us two laps down, but we kept fighting and grinding it out because there’s no quit in this team. It wasn’t the finish we hoped for, but I know we have a resilient group that will be ready to rebound next weekend in New Hampshire.”

Ty Dillon – finished 26th: Kentucky is a tricky track. I really enjoy racing here, but it always has its challenges. Tonight wasn’t the night that we had hoped for, but we learned a lot. Our GEICO Military team has seen strong improvements in our superspeedway and short-track packages, and these intermediate tracks are next on the list. We may not be getting the finishes that we deserve because of one thing or another, but we’re taking valuable notes that we’re able to apply as we keep growing and building.”

Austin Dillon — finished 35th: “The AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was really fast to start the race today at Kentucky Speedway. We were able to run within the top-five for much of the first two Stages and earn Stage points, which is definitely an improvement over last year. We have speed, and that’s a testament to all of the hard work RCR and ECR is doing. Unfortunately we had transmission and alternator issues today and spent time in the garage making repairs. I hate breaking stuff, but when you do, this No. 3 team just keeps working and never gives up. We’re going to get this monkey off our back and we’ll be just fine.”

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Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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