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 displays counterfeit part from Chase Briscoe car

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NASCAR displayed the counterfeit part from Chase Briscoe‘s car on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway, showing how the part did not correspond to what should have been in the car.

NASCAR found the issue at its R&D Center after last month’s Coca-Cola 600. The sanctioning body fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him for six races. NASCAR also docked Briscoe and the team 120 points and 25 playoff points for the L3 infraction.

“We want to be transparent on the penalties,” said Brad Moran, managing director of the Cup Series as he displayed the counterfeit part to media.

Moran displayed a a portion of the engine panel from Briscoe’s car. He noted the engine duct was counterfeit. He said the proper pieces are 3D printed at the R&D Center and Fiberworks Composites sells them and installs them for teams. Moran said the duct is “in the bottom of the car under the engine panel. It’s to help cool the driver. It was added prior to the first race. During testing … we realized we wanted to get heat out of the engine compartment, and that’s what this piece does.”

Moran noted that with the counterfeit part, “we can clearly see the textures are different (from the proper part).”

He displayed what officials call a gauge that determines if the duct fits the proper parameters. He showed it fitting a proper duct and not properly fitting in the counterfeit part.

“It was a part that was made, and it was made for whatever reason,” Moran said. “It was, I guess, put on by error, but it was on the vehicle. It is a piece that should not have been made in the first place, and it was spotted at our teardown at the R&D Center.”

Moran said the issue was found in a visual inspection of the part. NASCAR inspected it further and Moran said “there are certain little characteristics that are in (a proper piece)” that officials did not see in the one on Briscoe’s car. “The more we examined it, the more we realized that’s not a part they bought.”

Moran noted that while the penalties were severe, they could have been worse based on the rulebook.

“It was the low end of the L3,” Moran said. “It’s a real big hit for any team. If it continues, and we feel we are not where we need to be, unfortunately, it’s going to ramp up. We’re not going to stop.

“The deal with this car is it needs to be run without modifying. It costs teams a lot of money in development. All the owners agreed. We all agreed where we need to be to make this a successful program, and we’re not going to give up.”

 

 

Sunday Cup race at Sonoma Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather

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The Cup Series heads to wine country to compete on the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway. This race leads into the final off weekend of the season. After the break, the series races 20 consecutive weekends. NBC and USA will broadcast those races.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Adam Devine will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:50 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:45 p.m. … Driver intros are at 3 p.m. … Earl Smith, pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, will give the invocation at 3:30 p.m. … Tiffany Woys will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 110 laps (218.9 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 55.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and switches to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: Fox Sports

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Daniel Suarez won his first career Cup race last year at Sonoma. Chris Buescher finished second. Michael McDowell placed third.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

Friday 5: Kyle Busch, Randall Burnett forming potent combination

Rick Hendrick hopes rough driving settles down after Chase Elliott suspension

Concussion-like symptoms sideline Noah Gragson

NASCAR implements safety changes after Talladega crash

Dr. Diandra: Brad Keselowski driving RFK Racing revival 

NASCAR penalizes Erik Jones, Legacy MC for L1 violation

Drivers to watch at Sonoma Raceway 

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Sonoma Raceway

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Cup and Xfinity teams will be on track Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

Cup teams will practice and qualify for Sunday’s race. Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday on the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California.

Sonoma Raceway

Weather

Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 75 degrees. Forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a high of 71 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race.

Saturday, June 10

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 3 – 4 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Cup practice  (FS2)
  • 6 – 7 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS2)
  • 8 p.m. — Xfinity race (79 laps, 156.95 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing

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SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.