What drivers said after Martinsville playoff race

Leave a comment

Martin Truex Jr., winner: “I don’t think anyone expected that (performance).  This racetrack in general, you don’t see that. Hats off to my guys. Pit crew was stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments.  We adjusted on it early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.  I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows.  But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year, and I’m like, we’ve got work to do.  I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together today when it counted.”

William Byron, finished second: “(Truex) was really strong. I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit, and then I’d get to him and I’d heat him up a lot and then kind of fall back.  I don’t really know.  He was super strong.  Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around.  But overall it was a really good day.

“This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend, the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race.  Super excited, but second is not super fun, either.  We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”

Brad Keselowski, finished third: “I think that’s about all we had or maybe a little more than what we had.  We just kind of kept our head on our shoulders all day and made the most of what we had.  I was really proud of our team for that effort … Long green flag runs, a lot of aggressiveness, a lot of contact.  It was really tough to pass.  When you get behind somebody you’re way faster than that big spoiler would just kill you, but, all in all, a good day for us.”

Denny Hamlin, finished fourth: (What happened between you and Joey Logano?) “We were having a discussion, everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away.  So that’s Joey.  Scared ‑‑ he said, ‘Do you want to go?’  I said, ‘Yes, I’m here.’  But then he runs away.

(What was the altercation on track that led to it?) “I got close off of Turn 4. It looks like we got together, and it looks like collateral damage. He blew a tire.  I mean, he would probably say, ‘Oh, short-track racing.'”

Ryan Blaney, finished fifth: “We were in the top five all day and I thought we had a good shot at second.  We weren’t good on short runs.  We were terrible for probably 30-40 laps and then we’d come alive and be great, but just didn’t have the speed.”

Kurt Busch, finished sixth: “We finished (sixth) which was the highest we ran all day. Wow, what perseverance and an ability to make adjustments during the race. … We were lucky with the right lane on the restarts. Thanks to Global Poker, Chevrolet, Monster Energy. We got a sixth. Really good day at Martinsville for us. Our teammate Kyle Larson got a top 10 as well.”

Kevin Harvick, finished seventh: “We got our car a lot better in the second half.  We made some major adjustments when we got to the end of the second stage and made our car a lot better.  We just didn’t quite get back up there.”

Joey Logano, finished eighth: (On his altercation with Denny Hamlin) “I just wanted to talk to him about it and was pretty frustrated.  He just kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day.  A shot at the win for sure.  We probably weren’t going to beat (Truex), but we had a top five for sure coming our way, but we just were able to survive there.

“I don’t really know what happened because once he started hitting me he didn’t lift, he just kept finishing me off.  We ran each other fine all day, so I don’t know.  I don’t really know what happened.  He just kind of sends me up there and keeps on going with it.  Cut down my tires and fender rubs everywhere.

Kyle Larson, finished ninth: “This is my second best finish at Martinsville, so I’m really happy with that. We were able to steal some stage points as well, so we probably over achieved for how we usually run at Martinsville. I haven’t seen the points spread yet, but I would say we maintained from where we came in, so I’m happy about that.”

Ryan Newman, finished 10th: “We just out-tired there at the end.  Those other guys had tires and we didn’t and it didn’t work out the best for us.  It was a challenge.  They did a good job.  Our pit stops were awesome today.  That made a big difference and just came up short.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 17th: “It was a solid day for us here at Martinsville Speedway. We were just too loose and didn’t have the rear lateral grip we needed early in the race. We kept adjusting and kept trying to put ourselves in position to get the free pass or take the wave around, and finally late in the race we had something go our way that got us back on the lead lap. (Erik Jones) and (Michael McDowell) got together behind us once we were back on the lead lap and turned this Chevrolet Accessories Camaro ZL1 around. I hate that because I thought we were going to drive up into the top 15 pretty easily. It just wasn’t meant to be. We got a little too much damage to move forward at the end. All in all, just proud of these guys, proud of the effort and proud of the fight. We’ll roll on to Texas.”

Austin Dillon, finished 22nd: “I’m really proud of everyone on this No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team for working hard all weekend and giving us a really solid car at Martinsville Speedway. We put up a fight all race long, which really helped us to stay on the lead lap and battle competitively in the top 12 throughout Stages 1 and 2. Early in Stage 3, we were racing hard with another car when we cut a tire and made contact with the outside wall. Our Chevy was just too loose after that, making it really hard to earn back the lap we lost while making repairs. We had a good fight, but this is not the finish we wanted today.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 31st: “We had a good car in the first stage, and we ran solidly in the top-10. The car got tight in the second stage. Not the day we were hoping for, but we still have three races to go.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 35th: “That was so disappointing. Our BlueDEF Mustang was fast, and we were just cruising a lot today. We made contact with a lapped car, and I think that’s how we got the flat but I don’t know. The track bar broke at the end and ended our race. We had a great car all weekend, and we deserved better today.”

Aric Almirola, finished 37th: “We just got together.  I got inside of him (Kyle Busch) getting down in turn three and he chopped me, and I got in his left-rear and moved him up a little bit and got inside of him, and then we hooked and got tangled up off of turn four.  It’s disappointing.  I had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang and felt like we were maybe one adjustment away from being maybe a second or third-place car, so I’m proud of my guys, proud of the effort and we’ve got three more weeks.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th: “I’m not sure what started those two cars spinning (No. 10 Aric Almirola and No. 18 Kyle Busch). While they were spinning, I made an early decision to go where I thought the road would be open but by the time I got there it was closed up. Wrong place, wrong time.

Kyle Busch dominates to Truck win at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch extended his NASCAR Truck Series victory record to 57 in his hometown Friday night, leading 108 of 134 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion swept both stages and finished 5.958 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter. Busch has won seven straight races in the series, including all five he entered last season.

Austin Hill was third, followed by defending series champion Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes. Grrant Enfinger, who opened the season with an overtime victory at Daytona, did not finish after an accident with 43 laps to go.

Christian Eckes was right behind Busch in the opening two stages, but he finished 23rd after an early final-stage wreck.

Results

Driver standings

Jimmie Johnson tops final Cup practice at Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jimmie Johnson was the fastest driver in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Cup practice of the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The seven-time Cup champion hasn’t won a race since 2017, but showed plenty of speed, pacing the 38 cars that took to the 1.5-mile track, clocking a best speed of 179.432 mph.

Johnson and his Chevrolet were followed by five Fords.

Clint Bowyer, who was second-fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, was once again second-fast in the final session at 179.271 mph.

Aric Almirola, who was fastest in the first practice, was third-fastest in the final session at 179.170 mph.

Rounding out the top-5 were Kevin Harvick (179.015 mph) and Matt DiBenedetto (178.814 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (178.660 mph), who will be filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, followed by Kyle Larson (178.424), Ryan Blaney (178.359), John Hunter Nemechek (178.259) and Alex Bowman (178.089).

Final Cup practice results

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Next goals for Daytona winner Denny Hamlin: double-digit wins, Cup crown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was a time when Denny Hamlin’s best memories of the Daytona 500 were to just go home relatively unscathed.

Consider this: In Hamlin’s first six appearances in the Great American Race, his highest finish was 17th.

But after a breakthrough 4th-place finish in 2012, he has become the best overall performer in the 500 among active drivers.

“I don’t know what it is, but I think I started studying more about superspeedway racing around that time because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time,” Hamlin said Friday during a media session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We went a long time and I’ve won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but not many like Talladega – I think I have one win there – but it just seems like it’s that seven or eight years ago that the car came around and whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car have seemed to work.”

In the last seven editions of the 500, Hamlin has finished 2nd (2014), 4th (2015), 1st (2016), 17th (2017), 3rd (2018), 1st (2019) and 1st again this past Monday.

Do the math and that’s three wins – making him only the sixth driver in NASCAR history to win the 500 three or more times – and seven overall top-5 finishes in the last nine season openers.

Hamlin knew that getting his second 500 win in a row – both outcomes being the closest finishes in the race’s 62-year history – and third in the last five years was basically going to come down to a battle between him, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

With emphasis on Newman, that is, before he was involved in that horrific last lap crash on the front stretch heading toward the checkered flag.

“I pulled the block on (Newman) coming to the white (flag) and I stayed in front and I knew he was going to back up to (Blaney),” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up myself, but once (Newman) was attached (to Blaney), I knew they were going to come with a run I could not stop.

“I just held my line because if I started going sideways, the next thing you know (Newman) starts moving sideways and (Blaney) is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me.

“I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know hey, pass this way, and when I did I was able to back to (Blaney) and was able to unattach him from (Newman). When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really tuck in right behind him. I don’t know if he checked up to keep us attached but once we got attached, I knew we were going to have a run back on (Newman).

“I knew he was going to get there, I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around (Blaney) at the (finish) line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to (Newman). I knew those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to be in the right place when it happened and I was.”

Not having any 500 wins of his own, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is envious of Hamlin’s three triumphs.

“Denny has really gotten way better ever since this car,” Busch said of Hamlin and how he’s adapted to the Gen 6 car in recent years. “He was always an aggressive plate racer, one that would make moves that you’re kind of, ‘Man, if he would just stay in line, I think this would turn out better.’

“He still does that today, but he’s making it work for himself, that not staying in line is better for Denny. I think since this car came though, he’s been a real good plate racer.

“He’s been fantastic at the game, he’s understood it, he’s made moves that I sometimes wouldn’t make that have worked, he’s able to pass a guy to get in line. … He’s very knowledgeable and skillful In making his moves and passes.”

Going forward from Daytona, Hamlin said his next goal is double-digit wins this season. If so, he’d become the first driver to earn 10 or more wins in a season since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007 when the seven-time champ won 10 races.

“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice,” Hamlin said. “I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race.

“If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year (Hamlin has reached the final four just twice since the format was introduced in 2014 — third that year and fourth last season). I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is.

“Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Johnny Sauter on pole for tonight’s Truck race in Las Vegas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Johnny Sauter will start from the pole in tonight’s Strat 200 Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sauter earned the eighth career pole of his Truck Series career – and first since 2018 – by topping the other 34 drivers that made qualifying attempts with a speed of 177.836 mph.

Sheldon Creed (177.643 mph) will start alongside Sauter on the front row for tonight’s race.

The rest of the top 10 qualifiers were Kyle Busch (177.282 mph), making his first Truck Series start of the season, followed by Christian Eckes (177.189 mph), Ty Majeski (177.189), Austin Hill (176.788 mph), Tyler Ankrum (176.275), Raphael Lessard (176.056), Grant Enfinger (176.010) and Brett Moffitt (175.890).

Tonight’s race starts shortly after 9 p.m. ET (FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Trucks qualifying results

Follow @JerryBonkowski