What Drivers Said after Pocono

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Denny Hamlin – winner: “(Crew chief Chris Gabehart said Hamlin was good on fuel) to the checkered, but not the green-white checkered, so he said we were going to have to have a different conversation if it went into overtime. But I knew with all those caution laps with about six or seven to go, it helped us out. I knew that I did everything I could to save fuel there once I got out front. If it was going to be not enough, it was going to be not enough. I’m so proud of the whole team for putting me on a great strategy there, pit stops, everything. This was a perfect team effort this weekend. We really identified our weaknesses from the first race and we went to work as a driver and a team and I think we’re better for it. … (Talk about the last restart) “It was nerve wracking. I had Kyle (Larson) pushing me. Kyle is great friend, so I put a lot of faith in him that he was going to push me there into Turn 1, but I knew he was in a backup car there wanting to win really, really bad. Luckily I was just able to clear those guys and coming off of Turn 1, they were side by side and I was able to stretch it out.”

Erik Jones – finished second: It was fun. It was hard racing there in the end. The right restarts make for exciting finishes. Today was no exception. Wish we could have gotten up there and challenged Denny (Hamlin). Martin (Truex Jr.) gave us a great push on the final restart. The bottom just doesn’t have what the top does here on restarts, so we did all we could. The Reser’s Camry overcame a lot. We were pretty far off at the start of the race. We got it way better and had a chance to win had things worked out a little differently. We are close every week. So, it’s going to turn our way one of these times. It’s always a challenge. Probably my least favorite part of racing at times is just having to save fuel. Our opportunity to win when we were going green was to make it to the end. It would have been really tight. Those guys kind of gave up saving there. We were hoping it was going to stay green. Had a couple good opportunities on the restarts. The Reser’s Camry was there all day, second half of the day, we had problems at the start. Man, it’s a bummer. We’re close every week. Third, third, second (in the last three races). We’re right there. We’re doing great building points, but it would be great to knock a win out. We’re just so close, it stings a little bit more when you get close to it. Honestly, we started the race so far off today, I wasn’t sure how we were going to run. We were able to turn it around halfway, get back in contention. There at the end I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out. It was nice to get some good restarts. Martin (Truex Jr.) gave me a great push at the end. We were there for second, then the top got rolling. I couldn’t really do anything. Good to get another top-three run. We just got to break through. Once we get that first one, I think we can click a few off here.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished third: It was a good day overall for our Bass Pro Shops/Tracker ATVs Boats Camry. I was trying to save fuel there in that long run. We were running second to the 20 (Erik Jones), and we thought we were in better shape than him on fuel. He started saving more, and I started saving more. I thought, ‘Man, I probably ought to try to pass him here. Then we got in lap traffic and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) got around me. Then I got by the 20, and then the 11 had the control of the race after that. When the caution came out, he got to lead the restart. I was on the bottom. You can’t do anything from the front row on the bottom. We were kind of in a sucker hole there, and a little bit lucky to come back to third. … (Between restarts and strategy, how tough was it today?) It’s probably easier dealing with that kind of stuff when your crew chief is calling race strategy, has you on the right side of everything, than it is just to have to try to pass guys, maybe your car not be as good as you want. It wasn’t a tough day. Our car was pretty good. Thanks to Bass Pro, Tracker, everybody back at TRD. Thanks, guys. We’ll get after them in Michigan.”

William Byron — finished fourth: “It was a struggle. I felt like the guys did a good job with strategy, and being able to maximize on restarts. We got fortunate on a couple of things. We go on from it and move onto Watkins Glen. … It was a tough day. We didn’t really have a lot going our way. In the first stage and even the second stage, we were just kind of hanging on. We just found a way to kind of make it work. We had good strategy and just found a way to kind of settle in there in a decent spot, and save the right amount of fuel. We ran out of fuel coming across the line, so that was great. We saved the right amount of fuel and that was about it.”

Kyle Larson — finished fifth: “(Did you hit the wall near the end of the race?) I didn’t hit the wall, but I got close. I knew I was going to be close to the wall, so I bailed out of the throttle to keep myself from hitting the wall and lost momentum. I felt bad, but it was better than ending up torn up like the last time I was aggressive on a restart. It was a good day. It was a lot better car than I thought I was going to have, so it just goes to show how good our team is right now and how good our cars are. Last week, I felt like we had one of the fastest cars and we didn’t get to show it. Today, I felt like we were one of the fastest cars. If I could just race a primary car, who knows what we could do. I just have to clean up a little bit of what I’m doing in practice and the races, and hopefully we can get a win. This just goes to show how good our cars are right now. Any time you have a good run in a backup car, it’s satisfying. The past two weeks in a row I feel like we’ve had good speed in our backup cars, so I’ve been really happy with that. I don’t want to race backup cars, so I just have to stop crashing.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “It was a good day. They had the right strategy and I just didn’t time those last two restarts right and our car struggled a little bit on the first lap or two to get the front to turn, but they had everything right where it needed to be. If the caution doesn’t come out, I think we were in good shape, but that’s the way it goes, especially at this place. You have to have the cautions fall your way and you have to have everything go right. We just had a few little things here and there that didn’t go our way and wound up sixth.”

Daniel Hemric — finished seventh: “Hard work pays off, and the seventh-place finish we had today at Pocono Raceway is proof of that. The No. 8 Caterpillar Chevy started off with great balance in the beginning of Stage 1, but as the laps went by, it started to tighten up a lot. Even though I had a tight Chevy, it was fast enough to gain valuable track position. The scheduled pit stop on lap 36 gave me fresh right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to free me up a bit. This proved to be helpful and we finished the stage 11th. During the stage break, we took left-side tires and took a round out of the left rear. Unfortunately, this freed me up way too much and I had to battle a loose Caterpillar Chevy for a majority of Stage 2. The pit stop before the stage break solved some of those issues, and we finished the second stage 13th. In the final stage, we started 20th but quickly made up ground. Crew chief Luke Lambert dialed in our Caterpillar Chevy for the latter part of the stage and we ran a good chunk of that time in the top 10. With about 40 laps remaining, it became clear that we needed to save fuel; so that’s what we did for the remainder of the race. A caution with eight laps to go allowed us to go full-tilt until the end. I’m extremely proud of the grit and fight this No. 8 team showed today to power us to a top-10 finish. I can’t wait to take this momentum into Watkins Glen next week.

Brad Keselowski – finished eighth: “There were some really rough parts. I made a huge mistake the first two or three laps there. I was running hard behind the 41 and I slid up and tagged the wall, but I was able to get it onto pit road and get it fixed and claw our way out and get into a position at the end where I thought we were gonna win the race. Then whoever that car was just stopped on the race track and cost us a shot at the race. We weren’t gonna win it honest, but we put ourselves in position at the end, so I’m really disappointed on that. All in all, we came away with eighth and recovered from our struggles, but gave up a win because of somebody else. That’s just part of the deal. … We had a shot at winning there at the end if one of those cars five laps down didn’t decide to stop on the race track, which is really frustrating but part of it.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 10th: “It was looking real bad for awhile just from not being fast at all.  I’m kind of disappointed.  I thought in practice we were pretty good.  I had to start at the back and we just didn’t go anywhere.  We went nowhere and we weren’t really handling good.  I thought at first it was dirty air, but a couple cars drove up through there and even when we got a little bit of clean air I still wasn’t very good, so that was frustrating.  And then I thought we were gonna get some track position on equal tires on that restart and the 41 ran into us in the tunnel.  They did a good job of fixing what they could and just got a good last restart.  I think we started eighth and ran 10th, so we salvaged something there.  It was kind of a long day, a frustrating day, and we just need to be better. … (Was the incident with Suarez just racing?) Yeah, it’s just racing.  I was the top of three, he was the bottom of three and the middle guy backed out and he didn’t have any angle into the corner.  He drove off in there probably the hardest out of all of us and when you get no angle into the corner your car goes straight, so that’s what he did.  He had plenty of room.  As soon as he dove off in there you know what’s coming, but at that point there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s just racing.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 11th: “That was a long hard day. We were up and down. It was so tough to pass, so everything boiled down to fuel and tire strategy. I’m glad we got the No. 14 Toco Warranty/Haas Automation Ford up there for an 11th-place finish at the end.”

Austin Dillon — finished 19th: “I’m so proud of this team. We had a major setback today after having to start at the rear of the field.  However, these guys didn’t let that dampen our spirits or prevent us from working on a plan to get the No. 3 Freightliner Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up front. For a little while, it looked like fuel mileage was going to work in our favor, until the caution came out and leveled the playing field. There were a couple of restarts at the end of the race that simply shuffled us out of the top 10. The outside line was definitely preferred, but we just couldn’t catch a break to be positioned up there for those last restarts. This is still a huge improvement over some of the misfortune we’ve had the last several weeks. We have a few opportunities to earn a win and punch our ticket to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, and we’re going to do all we can to get us to that point.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 21st: “I think if it would have stayed green there, we would have gotten lucky and probably got a top-10 finish due to having more fuel than the leaders,” Stenhouse said. “It was disappointing to get caught up in an accident with less than five laps but everyone is racing really hard trying to get all they can get.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 24th: “We worked on the Haas Automation Ford Mustang all day and ended up in a really good position in the top-10 for the last restart. We were told we had a penalty and had to restart in the back, which really hurt us because it was just so hard to pass today. It was disappointing to not get a good finish, but we’re usually pretty good at Watkins Glen, so we’ll try to make up for it there.”

Ty Dillon — finished 29th: “Today was not the day that we had hoped for in Pocono. We were excited to get here and put all of our notes from June to good use, but I just couldn’t get comfortable with the handling of our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. We took some big swings at it on pit road with adding bar load on a couple of stops, and that made it a little better. But, sometimes weekends just don’t go your way in racing, and this was one of those times.”

David Ragan — finished 36th: “The 21 just slipped up and spun me out in my left-rear quarter panel.  I’m sure Paul just slipped out of the groove and lost control for a second and we happened to be there.  That’s very unfortunate.  I felt like we had a top 20 car today.  We raced around the top 20 most of the day.  Mike Kelley and our new group of guys called a good race and we had a pretty good weekend.  When you’re racing hard like that sometimes things happen and things have seemed to happen to us a lot lately.  We’ve been in a slump and had some bad luck and it takes a couple of races and we’ll get out of it, but it certainly is a tough ending to what could have been a good day.”

Ryan Preece — finished 37th: “I blew a tire going into Turn 1. It was a pretty hard hit, but I’m good.”

Chase Elliott — finished 38th: “(Did you run over anything?) I don’t think so. It just popped, so I guess it wasn’t happy with something. It’s just unfortunate. It’s been a rough month, little over a month now. It’s just an unfortunate rough patch. Hopefully we can get past it. The good news is that we are still in the summer months, so the stuff that really matters is still ahead. I just hate to come to these places and not be able to learn something from it. I felt like our day was finally turning around for our NAPA team. We were finally moving forward. I think we were running in the top-10 there when we crashed. I feel like we were finally getting our car going. Obviously, we crashed yesterday so this car was taking some time to get adjusted. I thought we were doing a good job of it. I don’t really know what to do about that, but just move on.”

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NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

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Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).