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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