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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Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.