What drivers said after Las Vegas playoff opener

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Martin Truex – winner: “We took a gamble and qualified 24th and for a while there, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Kevin Harvick) out there in front. But we got the right adjustments at the end, had a great car all day long. It’s a hell of a way to make a championship run. We got some good bonus points and move on to the next round and see what we can do. That was a lot of fun. … (The win) takes some pressure off us and the biggest thing is it gives us more playoff points. The next two weeks we can try to get even more of those and that’s huge. Any playoff points you can get are going to help you get to Homestead.”

Kevin Harvick – finished second: “We always want to win, but these guys just did a great job. We were way off when we got here this weekend and they just kept working. We qualified well, weren’t where we wanted to be when we started the race, got stage points and led there late and gave us an opportunity. I knew the Gibbs cars would be tough and Martin (Truex Jr.) was just so tough in the second half of the run. He had made up that ground and was able to stay close to us. Just a great job by our team. … I think we can do a little better going forward.”

Brad Keselowski – finished third: “Bad start tonight but good finish. We weren’t driving very good at the start. Nothing I was doing was working. We were kind of bleeding positions and losing laps. The team worked on it really hard and got us back to a spot where we could almost steal a win – and I thought for a minute that we might be able to. Not the win we were looking for, but a lot of perseverance and proud of that, that we didn’t freak out.”

Chase Elliott – finished fourth: It was a solid top five. I feel like we finally got our car going pretty good the last two or three runs, which was good, and a good time to do it. We just got some damage on the restart and he had to come down to pit road and fix it. We just couldn’t take a chance on cutting a tire. I felt like we were closer today than we have been the past few weeks, so that was nice. Hopefully, we can have cars like that for the next nine weeks. … We finally got it going pretty good there at the end, I felt like.”

(The restarts seemed crazy. Are we going to see more of that the rest of the playoffs?) Yeah, I would assume so. It’s unfortunate that you can just barely touch somebody and you have a flat tire. But, that’s kind of the box that we’re in. That really needs to be addressed because it’s really hard to be aggressive and not make a little mistake here and there. But that’s what we have to work with right now and it is what it is. So, onward.”

Ryan Blaney – finished fifth: It was a long night for sure. We didn’t start very good. We started really tight and didn’t go anywhere and I was really worried. We took really big swings at it. We were on the really tight side and really loose side and a little bit of both. We couldn’t take off very fast. Other guys would take off really fast. At the end of a run we were really fast up by the wall but we just lost too much ground and then I just got tight there at the end. I might have been able to run third but the top two cars were in a league of their own, especially the 19 (Truex).”

Alex Bowman – finished sixth: We just didn’t fire off very good. As the race ran, we got our car much better. I think kind of the in between from day to night was the best we were. When it grouped up there at the end, it helped out some of the other cars. But, proud of my guys. I wish we would have gotten some more stage points, but we’ll take sixth. I think we ran about where we should have run. Avoiding some of the mess was definitely a good thing. I’m just proud of our guys and we didn’t have any issues. … (What are you most frustrated about today?) Just not getting stage points, really. That’s frustrating. The racing is tough. You just get blocked, guys changing lanes. It’s just super frustrating, but everybody has to do it. That’s just part of it. Overall, it wasn’t too bad of a day.”

William Byron – finished seventh: “Getting back to seventh was great (after spinning earlier). It’s really good. We got a chance to get up front, restarted fourth and had a good restart. Felt we had a lot of good starts and restarts. … Overall, not bad and we’ll move on to Richmond and move on from there.”

Kyle Larson – finished eighth: “Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be. We felt like we probably could potentially win but got a pit stop penalty there and the restarts were wild. We still were able to avoid some trouble and get a top 10, so not bad. Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point. … We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

Joey Logano – finished ninth: “Our car was really fast in the head of the day. It was a rocket ship the first run, I won the first stage and felt like I should have won the second stage. … Frustrating because we had a fast car. I guess we scored a lot of points, so hopefully that kind of helps us in the next round. The ultimate goal is to win the championship so just frustrating when you have a very fast Mustang that was capable of winning. I definitely felt like we could run with those guys, but just too much damage and couldn’t get the speed back. … We’re in the hunt, I wouldn’t say we’re far out.”

Ryan Newman — finished 10th: “It was a decent run for us, one of our better 1.5-mile tracks, just way too loose in the race, tightened it up the whole race and couldn’t get it tight enough. Was a decent run for us, so we’ll just keep digging. … A 10th-place position isn’t anything to hang your hat on but it was probably better than we’ve been at most intermediate tracks we’ve been at this year, so it’s a product of the progress. … It’s a good finish. The progress we’ve made, we’re capable of more. If we can get the car balanced right and get a little more speed in it, and we’ll be even better.”

Austin Dillon — finished 12th: “Man, I wish this race was during the day. Our Bass Pro Shops Chevy was so good while the sun was out. I was a little tight off turn 4 when Stage 1 ended, but didn’t really need any adjustments. As the sun set, I lost stability and struggled in traffic. We used the stage break to make additional changes trying to free up my Camaro ZL1 as it still lacked forward drive. When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy. Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots. I’m proud of this No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team for the work this weekend. We unloaded fast, qualified in the top 10, and were good at the start of the race. We will continue to work on this set up to get it right, but now, it’s on to Richmond.”

Aric Almirola – finished 13th: I am leaving content. We dug deep and I feel like we maximized our day. We had a few miscues and weren’t 100% perfect on our execution. The car wasn’t 100% perfect and we still managed to go up there and lead the race and score stage points. I think we finished third in Stage 1 and scored a fair amount of stage points. After Stage 1 we kind of lost the handle on the car and lost some track position and it because even more of a handful. We dug deep and fought hard and got out of here with a decent finish. I think they just told me we are plus-six to the good on 12th so I feel good about that. It is better than leaving minus-six or minus-16 or minus-60. I am happy with that. We will keep our heads up and keep digging. Our Smithfield Ford Mustang showed some signs of strength tonight and we just lost a little bit of the handle on it.

Denny Hamlin — finished 15th: “(The car seemed like it was evil) Yeah, very much so. … It seemed like we were gaining on it a little bit as the sun was out, and as soon as the sun went down, we were battling with the 12 (Blaney) and got a little damage to the nose. We took two (tires), were a little tight anyway and the car just took off. It was like the front had a big hole, but I don’t see anything. Definitely not as good there at the end as we were expecting. Something was out of whack for sure because all of a sudden the car went dead backwards. We’ll go to Richmond and hopefully pack our way there.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 17th: “We made big strides from practice with this No. 8 Cessna Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. After qualifying, I had high expectations headed into the race. When the sun was out the car was just way too tight throughout the first run. Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose. We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run. All-in-all, proud of these guys for never giving up throughout the weekend. We have nine more chances to go out and do something special as a group and that’s the goal moving forward.”

Kyle Buschfinished 19th: “I don’t know. I was told (Garrett Smithley) was going to go high, I thought he was going to go high, he went middle because I thought he was going to high and killed our day. We should have run fourth probably, instead 19th. We’re the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys that have never won late-model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic, they don’t know where to go. What else do you do? … It’s pathetic to have to lean on insurance (playoff points). My premiums are going to go up.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 20th: “We had a tough day with Haas Automation Mustang, especially when we got damage to both sides of the car after that one restart. The good news is we led laps, but the car was difficult to handle after all of the damage. We did the best we could with what we had until the end, and we’ll move on to next week at Richmond.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 25th: We just weren’t very good tonight. We were just off. Off in all areas. … (Do you need to talk with Daniel Suarez after what happened on the first lap?) No, no. I mean, it is a product of it. I had a run on the (Chris) Buescher kid and he ran me in the wall so I tried to go inside of him and someone hit me in the left rear and knocked it down. It just wasn’t our night. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. I had a run on Buescher on the outside and he ran me in the wall. I went low and tried to fill the hole and I got nailed in the left rear. We shouldn’t have been back there though.”

Erik Jones – finished 36th: “It’s a bummer. I definitely thought we could have run top three. We broke just before the second stage even got going. We’re 25 points out and we just have to focus on and win well in the next two. I think we can still get in on points. The gap is not too big to climb out of. We need to run well. There’s no worse than top fives in the next two weeks if we don’t win. I think Richmond is our shot to win, the roval is a wildcard, tougher one to win. We have to push hard and not beat ourselves.”

Kurt Busch — finished 39th: “We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done. It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

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Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.