What drivers said after Dover

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Kyle Larson – winner: Everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressed next week at Talladega except for me. So, that’s good. The last time I was at Talladega, I was on my lid and I could still end up on my lid next week, but it doesn’t matter after this win. What a day! This Clover Chevy was really good. After the first stage, I kind of changed my driving style up and I felt like we made the car better at the same time. And, they really benefitted our long runs. That’s as good as I’ve ever been around, cutting the bottom, here. So, it was just a great combination here. To be fast in practice and then be good in the race and you get the win.

“I can’t thank all you fans enough for coming out. This cool weather was nice for a change. This is unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to win a Cup race here. I’ve been close a number of times, so to get a ‘Golden Monster’ (trophy) is pretty sweet. … A million dollars earlier this year (at the All-Star) was pretty nice but no, to win a playoff race, my first playoff victory, is special. I hope there’s another one in our future, especially in the next round. So, we’ll see what we can do. I kept saying that I felt really close to winning here, or anywhere, right now. Our pit crew has been doing a better job and the team is doing a better job and I’ve been doing a better job. We’s just got to keep it going now.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished second: (How big of a factor was traffic today?) It was about everything to be honest with you. We got the lead there at the end of Stage 2. Got that stage win. On the pit stop, we had the issue and lost track position and then the whole third stage we were behind. We were catching (Larson) at the end – we got close – but just unfortunate. We win and lose as a team. The guys will clean it up; I’m sure. It’s cool to come home second after that with how hard it was to pass. … (You earned 54 points today. How does that ease your mind heading to Talladega?) Yeah, it’s good. Every week is just about doing the best you can and getting all the points that you can. Positive day for us today. Had a shot at the win today and came up short. Been nice to have that win and the free pass, but second is the next best. Good job to all of the guys. Just a good solid day here at Dover. Wish we could have won again, but that’s how it goes.”

Alex Bowman – finished third: (It seemed like you got better as the race went on) Yeah, I mean I think we had a good car there to start. It’s just really hard to pass and it took a while for the track to widen out. I made up some track position and then I had an issue on a pit stop that kind of put us back behind some of the guys we just passed. We just have to keep working at it. Obviously, (Larson) and (Truex) were way out there, but we had a really good race car and I’m proud of my guys. I’m really proud of my race team and everyone for keeping their heads on straight. I’ll take it after last week. We got together with (Ryan Blaney) there off of Turn 2 really early and I was like ‘No, not again’. I’m glad he saved it. Just two cars going for one spot on the race track, nothing happened from there. We had a clean day. The only real issue we had was that one pit stop. But, aside from that pit stop, my guys were probably the fastest on pit road. I’ll take it for how good they are.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: For us, we had a tight condition and just right off the bat we struggled with getting the front of our car to turn and we really just lacked overall grip for us. It was much different in the race today than it was in practice. … I would say that luckily this is a good race track for us and we were able to grind out a good solid finish and get some stage points on a day when a lot of people had trouble.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “(Talk about losing the lead late in Stage 2) I thought the 22 (Joey Logano) was trying to stay on the lead lap, but they said he was 24 laps down and so he was kind of air blocking us and we lost the lead, and we lost that stage. Then after that we lost control of the race and the track got tighter. There were no cautions to pick up the rubber. We just got tight. Once we lost control – lost the clean air – it was so difficult to pass. I needed to be up front with as tight as my car was, so I just lost the lead and backpedaled from there. Top five, this track, I’ll take it every week. … (You radioed in that you may be having engine issues, but you were able to finish the race. What happened?) I missed a shift on the last restart. The car changed tones and lost a little power, but it’s next year’s motor which is not concerning any more this year. Certainly, I was concerned that we weren’t going to make it.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: (How was your race?) I don’t know, speeding on pit road never helps. We probably finished about where we should’ve I guess, maybe one spot better, but that’s it. … (Where do you go from here heading to Talladega?) It’s a completely different thing. You try to go to Talladega and race and survive. I don’t even know, we haven’t talked about that. That’s Tuesday. We’ll figure it out.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished seventh: (How did you grind it out?) All day, inching forward. Very little by little. That was the team, just so you know. Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief) and my whole group, pit crew, everybody, making really good adjustments. This was the first time we’ve had Dumont Jets on the car in quite a while and I was like ‘this Dumont Jets car is flying’. But no, it took a lot of discipline today. The car was really fast. Even faster than seventh-place, but you get in situations with the dirty air and with the high downforce it was a lot harder to pass. The fastest drivers had to be a lot more disciplined. You had to stay behind them and not abuse your stuff and wait for traffic or situations to pounce.

(You’re not in the playoffs but there’s still a lot to race for. What do days like this mean?) It’s been big. It’s really neat. I love working with this team. They are such good people. I’m so appreciative to work with them. I’m so glad this whole second half of the season has really turned around where we have been knocking off a bunch of top 10’s, so it’s really important to us. We’re trying to get in the top 20 in points. We’ve been climbing up big time the second half of the year running where we probably deserved to run. I hate that we aren’t in the playoffs, because we have been contending like a Playoff car. But it is what it is. I’m just thankful we’ve had some good solid runs. This Toyota has been running fast.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished eighth: “I felt like we had a shot. When we were in clean air, our lap times were great. Just as everyone experienced, it was really tough to pass. We had a few things that set us back and lost track position throughout the day. But we had a really fast race car. We were able to pass some, which I don’t think many could pass at all. All in all, it was a good day. We ran better than eighth for most of it, but we just couldn’t finish higher. … (What are your thoughts about Talladega and Kansas?) Talladega is kind of its own animal. I think Kansas we’re really excited for and feel like we can control our own destiny. The high downforce tracks, the Hendrick cars have been more competitive. I know we are all excited to get back to Kansas and build off of what we’ve had the last month or two.

(Were you satisfied with the run today?) No, I mean we’re here to win the race and that’s where my heart and mind is. Throughout the day, I felt like we did have pace at times to run for the lead if we could just cycle through all the pit stops to get there. Unfortunately, we had some things happen on pit road. I had to avoid cars coming out of stalls and it just set me back. Coming in fourth and coming out ninth, I think the way it all worked out with the pit box location, I lost positions during each pit stop. So, just really tough to recover from that. I’m disappointed there, but in my heart, I know we’re going the right way.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “Today, we started ninth, ran ninth, and finished ninth. It was about all we had. I was on the tight side and Kyle (Larson) was a little bit on the loose side, but we made it work. I’m happy for my teammate to win and advance. It was a good step for us to just have a nice, smooth day. We just never really found anything to help the car steer.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 10th: We started 17th and finished 10th, I don’t know. It was hard to pass. Extremely hard to pass. Almost impossible. You had to have a really, really good car. It was just kind of a struggle out there all day long for us. Our ITsavvy Ford was about where we came out about where we ran. I am looking forward to Talladega though because you can certainly pass there.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 11th: We had an okay day. We held serve. We came into the weekend 19 points up and we leave 20 points up with two big races in front of us. If we can have a great day at Talladega it would be huge. We are due for another great run there. … (Two of your teammates had issues. Were you nervous?) Oh yeah. There was something going on. I don’t know what it was, that is for the smart guys that build and engineer the cars but it is certainly not good when you see your teammates breaking down.”

William Byron – finished 13th: “(Talk about the costly pit road penalty) Yeah, we couldn’t recover from that after. We just had a miscalculation of when we could accelerate out of our pit box. I thought we were fine on pit road speed to leave the box hard. That was a bummer for sure. We had a pretty good car. We couldn’t really make many passes, but we were able to get from the back after having to start pretty close to the tail end. It just really hurt our day. But overall, the guys did a good job and got out of here with a decent points day, I guess. We’ll just have to go on strong next week. The team and I all were convinced that I could go straight out and have not issues. I got a really good launch off the pit box, probably a little too good. I was kind of worried about it because I beat (Johnson) pretty good off pit road and it nipped us for sure. It was just a miscalculation. We probably won’t pick that pit box again for that reason. It really kind of ruined our day, but at least we got some decent stuff out of it.

(What’s your mindset heading to Talladega?) Our cars are always fast at Talladega, so we’ll just have to go there, lay it out there and see what happens.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 14th: “It was very hard to pass today at Dover. We obviously didn’t get the result we were looking for in the ARRIS Mustang, but we’ll move on to next week at Talladega. My guys are working really hard, and we still have races left to go and win.”

Austin Dillon — finished 18th: “Our team showed a lot of improvement during the race today even though an 18th-place finish isn’t what we wanted. The No. 3 AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 started off super tight in the first stage. I had a difficult time passing cars, especially in traffic. During the first pit stop, our team made some chassis adjustments to free up my Chevy for the rest of the stage. This proved to be successful because I ran top-five lap times at the conclusion of Stage 1. The beginning of Stage 2 was excellent. My car felt great and we were fast out there. We made a  trackbar adjustment during green-flag pit stops thinking it might help, but it didn’t seem to affect the car much at all. For the final stage, I started near the rear because of a speeding penalty on pit road. Fortunately, the team made solid adjustments to the AAA Chevy between stages and I quickly made my way up through the field. I had one of the fastest cars on the racetrack and made big gains in track position, but even with that speed, I couldn’t manage to get back on the lead lap. Our final position wasn’t representative of how hard our team fought all day. We’ll learn from this weekend and be ready for a wild race at Talladega.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 21st: “Nobody on this No. 8 team gave up throughout the weekend and we were able to make gains from where we started with this Lucas Oil Chevrolet. The car bobbled on my first qualifying lap Saturday, so we had to start deep in the field today. We kept moving forward and fighting all race long. The shifter lever broke during the second stage but luckily it didn’t hurt us too bad on the final few stops of the day. With so few cautions, we were stuck multiple laps down but kept fighting for every position we could and focusing on racing whoever was on our lap. Hopefully we can go to Talladega next week, stay out of trouble and have a shot at contending for the win.”

Joey Logano – finished 34th: (What was wrong with the car?) Something back there wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, so we had to fix that and we were 20-something laps down from there. You can’t make up 20 laps, that is for sure. Maybe you can get one or two back if things go right. It was a bummer. Things happen. … We definitely used our mulligan. We used the playoff points we accumulated, we just have to be perfect now. We have two really good race tracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best race tracks and I would say Kansas is as well. We just have to be perfect from here. … (It sounds like Denny Hamlin is upset with the way you were racing him near the end of the second stage) Well, the situation was that I had about four or five cars that it was possible for me to catch, which is five points. You tell me if it is worth it. I would say it is worth it and I have to go. I have to try to get those spots if I can get them. If some of those cars that were that slow out there and were going to be 20-something laps down, the pace we were running we were going to be within a lap or two of them. I had to race hard. I had to keep going.”

Chase Elliott – finished 38th: I just had an engine failure of some sort. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what it was just yet. It just quit running. It didn’t really seem like anything was off. We were just kind of making laps and then obviously had a failure. It’s an unfortunate way to start this round for sure. … I don’t know where we’ll stack up (after today’s race). I assume we’ll have to win one of these next few weeks. If you ever make it to Homestead, you’re going to have to win down there. I guess it’s a good opportunity to practice here these next few weeks.”

Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson to pursue $100K bounty in Truck Series

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The $100,000 bounty on Kyle Busch has its first contenders.

Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson each confirmed Thursday evening on Twitter that they’ll take a shot at the bounty placed by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis last week.

Elliott will compete in the March 14 Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the May 30 race at Kansas Speedway with GMS Racing. Larson will compete with GMS Racing in the March 20 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott will be sponsored by Hooters for the Atlanta race.

The declarations by the two drivers came the same day that Busch said he didn’t believe any full-time Cup Series drivers would go after the bounty.

Elliott has 12 career Truck Series starts. His last two, at Atlanta and Martinsville in 2017, came with GMS Racing. Elliott won the Martinsville race. Busch was not in that race.

“Once the word got out about the challenge, we were able to put this together with Mike Beam at GMS in just a couple of days,” Elliott said in a press release. “Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m really looking forward to getting back into a GMS truck there with Hooters on the truck and make a run for a win.”

Larson has 13 career starts and his last three, including a win at Eldora and top five at Homestead in 2016, came with GMS Racing.

“When I heard about the $100,000 bounty I wanted in!” Larson said in a press release. “I’m thankful for GMS and Chevy giving me this opportunity, Homestead is one of my favorite tracks so looking for to the challenge!”

There’s a potential third bounty hunter waiting in the wings.

Not long after Larson’s announcement, Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, tweeted that he’s acquired the funding to field a ride. There’s just one hangup, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports:

The $100,000 bounty against Busch was proposed by Harvick and Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV & Outdoors, last week. It will go to any full-time Cup Series driver who beats Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year. Busch has won the last seven Truck Series races he’s entered.

If Elliott or no other Cup driver beats Busch in those four races, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

“We are blessed with this opportunity. To have an owner that is up for the challenge and a manufacturer that will support the extra effort necessary is really special,” said Mike Beam, President of GMS Racing, in a press release. “It’s great to have these two talented young men back behind the wheel for us and to have the extra attention on the Truck series is great.”

Kyle Busch: $100K Truck Series bounty is a losing proposition

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Kyle Busch doesn’t believe any full-time Cup Series driver will attempt to claim the $100,000 bounty placed on him last week by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis.

Harvick and Lemonis, the CEO of Truck Series sponsor Gander RV & Outdoors, said they’d award that bounty to any full-time Cup Series driver who is able to beat Busch in any of his four remaining Truck Series starts this year.

Busch, who has won the last seven Truck races he’s entered, sees the challenge as a losing investment, especially if someone attempted it in one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyotas.

Thursday on the Barstool Sports’ “Rubbin’ is Racing” podcast, Busch said it costs $140,000 to rent one of his Trucks for a race.

“Right off the bat (it’s a losing proposition),” Busch said. “It’s not going to happen. Nobody is going to pay the 140 grand to rent a truck, whether it’s from me or from somebody else. (Show co-host Clint) Bowyer didn’t tell you the fact he can’t even rent a truck from me because I’m a Toyota team and he drives for a Ford team. So he has to go find a Ford truck in order to drive. So there’s those complications that fit into all of this, too.”

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, expressed his interest in the bounty, as well Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who said he was “working on” a deal.

After his win last Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch’s four remaining Truck Series starts are:

March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway

May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

If no one beats Busch, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

James Hinchliffe will call into the show to discuss his new role as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of IndyCar, Indy Lights, IMSA and NASCAR.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Auto Club Speedway’s old surface provides ‘moving target’ for drivers

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Auto Club Speedway has a lot of character.

It’s a character that comes from the 2-mile track’s racing surface being among the oldest on the NASCAR circuit.

The surface hasn’t been repaved since the track first opened in 1997. That’s the same year that the surface for Atlanta Motor Speedway was last resurfaced (a planned repave was put on hold indefinitely in 2017 after outcry from drivers).

In the 23 years since, races at the track in Fontana, California, have turned into producers of multi-groove spectacles (especially on restarts) that come at the cost of high levels of tire wear.

The aged surface provides a “moving target” to drivers throughout the race weekend, according to Tyler Reddick.

“During the start of the weekend, you have to watch for the seams since it’s so slick out there,” the rookie Cup driver said in a media release. “Normally, the Xfinity cars are the first ones on the track, so I’m normally very careful. Now that I’m in the Cup Series, it may be a little different. I think this weekend will be fairly similar to Las Vegas where we started out running wide open, and I’ll have to run like that until the handling starts to go away in our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet (and) you have to start lifting. Then it’ll be important to assess why the handling is changing and how to adjust our car correctly to battle that.”

Cup and Xfinity teams only visit Auto Club Speedway once a year and this will be the second year they’ll do so with the high downforce aero package.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones believes Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox) will be a “different race” from the one seen last year.

“Going into Fontana last year, no one really knew what we needed car-wise, balance-wise and this year we have a whole notebook to look back on to try to get better,” Jones, who finished 19th in last year’s race, said in a media release.

“I think there will be a lot more lifting, the cars will be faster. Everybody has just gotten their cars better and more efficient and faster on the straightaways and that makes for more lifting in the corners. It will probably be a little different race, but Fontana is always a good show.”

But that show depends on where a driver chooses to run around the track.

Racing along the top of the track compared to running in the bottom lane proves for “two completely different types of racing” according to defending race winner Kyle Busch.

“You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack,” Busch said in a media release. “You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

When it comes to how rough the track is, Matt DiBenedetto cites how bumpy Turns 3 and 4 are, but said in a media release that traversing the “back straightaway is like going over jumps.”

But just like with the old surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there are those who never want to see Auto Club’s surface actually improve.

“I did an appearance at Auto Club Speedway not too long ago and I told the track officials, ‘Whatever you do, don’t repave it!'” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “Or, wait to repave it until you can figure out how to make an asphalt that is very similar to what is on the track now.”

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