Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix Raceway:
Joey Logano – winner: “Everybody learned something out there today just whether it’s racing, the way this traction compound is, the awesome sauce up there, how that worked out, played throughout the race. There’s a lot learned, for sure. We learned that this No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford team is just stout and is not going to get beat if we have the opportunity. We tried everything we could to regain our track position and get control back of the race. I knew that last restart was going to be crazy. It was cool to see two Fords on the front row at the end of a race like that. This is a motor racetrack as much as we don’t think it is. Proud of the team effort today to make this one come.”
Kevin Harvick – finished 2nd: ”(Logano) just had control of the race. After we pitted there, I got stuck behind a couple of cars there, lost five or six spots. He got by and got control of the race. He got to restart where he wanted to. Our Jimmy John’s Ford was better, especially when we could put it in front of his. We just didn’t get the control of the race back there, and he was able to get by us on that restart where I got hung up.”
Kyle Busch – finished 3rd: “We unloaded and we weren’t very good, I didn’t think. I wasn’t too optimistic for the race and rightfully so. I think we probably had a sixth or seventh place car, but we had a lot of strategy there at the end with tires and all that sort of stuff – good restarts and being able to make time up on the bottom. Once you get that close to the front, you can’t make up that time anymore so that’s kind of where we lost our ground there. It’s good to come home third.
“(What did you think of the package for this track overall?) It was okay, just different. There at the end obviously, making up some good spots on the bottom when everybody would get bottled up there mid-pack, but once you get closer to the front, it’s hard to make up those spots anymore on the bottom anymore like we were. Just want to thank everybody on this Sport Clips Camry. The guys did a great job. We weren’t very good when we unloaded, we made a lot of ground, but still not enough ground as I would have wanted to race with some of the top guys. I felt like we were a fifth or sixth place car probably and we were able to come out with a third. Good for us with that effort. We need some points right now. We have to climb the ladder back and get back where we need to be.
“(Did you think you had a shot for the win late in the race?) I wouldn’t say we had a shot, we never had fire-off speed today. We were really slow to fire-off and later in the going we were getting better with longevity, but still we were a ways off. Felt like that when we unloaded and we made some ground on it and got it a heck of a lot better, but just couldn’t get it where we needed it there throughout the race. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) was probably the fastest car. The 22 (Joey Logano) was pretty quick and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was pretty quick.”
Kyle Larson – finished 4th: “(Did you think you had a chance at the win?) I was just hoping that I could do something and maybe they’d mess up. The 18 (Kyle Busch) went really low and I was just trying to run the bottom, and didn’t make up much ground. If they were to get bottled up at the top, I would have enough momentum I could drive in front of them. But it didn’t work out that way, obviously. We still got a top five, so it was a nice day for us. We fought back from a really bad car from the first run and tuned on it to come away with a top five, so that was good.
“(Did you like the way the cars raced with the new aero package?) Yeah, I thought it was better racing than we had last year. Maybe they can work on it some more and get the racing even a little better, and have a great championship race to end our season.
“(How important was this run for the team?) It was good. The first handful of laps, I thought we weren’t as bad as I thought we would be. I just continued to get tight. I was thankful the cautions came out to allow us to work on it. We got it closer, but it still wasn’t where we needed to be. But we were close enough that we could race.”
Clint Bowyer – finished 5th: “As you go through this West Coast swing, you are lying in the bed you made. We saw that all the time and it really is true. You come out here and these cars are prepared before we get out here. Certainly we are looking forward to getting back home and reevaluating some things. I can’t seem to figure out how to get the front end to turn. There is a new mentality with (crew chief) John (Klausmeier) all his engineers. All in all to grind it out on Sunday when the money is on the line, it was a good effort and some momentum going into Atlanta, a fun race track for me that I really enjoy. The Mobil 1 Ford is beat up a little bit as I look over your shoulder there. Hell, that is what this track is all about.”
Kurt Busch – finished 6th: “I feel like we battled the best that we could have. We didn’t have much for any kind of spectacular stat, other than perseverance. We didn’t have good short-run speed or long-run speed. Sixth is better than we ran all day, so we’ll take that. We really have to look hard at what we believe led to all of this. But at one point we were running 17th without a scratch on the car.
“With Larson fourth and us sixth, that’s better than what we ran all day. I feel like we struggled quite a bit, so we’ll take that. Any time you can finish better than where you run, you have to cash those points. We survived all those last restarts, we just weren’t on offense. We just couldn’t attack. I was just kind of slip-sliding around a bit too much today.
“(Did you like the car’s handling compared to last year’s package, and now with two top-10s in a row, how do you feel the team is progressing?) Yeah, for sure. You just still have to find that right balance and I think we at Ganassi had some things that weren’t quite set right for anything. I didn’t have short run speed, I didn’t have long run speed, but we finished sixth. So, I can’t complain. We have to put that in the bank, learn from it and then head to the short tracks later on at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond coming up. We were just inches away from another top five. There are things that we have to face ourselves with on what led to the lack of speed today. Even though we finished sixth, we’ll cash that in. But we have to learn from. Chip (Ganassi) has two really good drivers getting everything out of those two cars that we can. It’s fun. Larson and I have a really good read on each other on-track and we just have to get a better read communicated to the engineer staff to help our handling.”
Chase Elliott – finished 7th: “We will build off of it for sure. Kevin (Harvick) was probably a tick- better than us I thought. But we’ll go to work. (You have the most stage points four races into the season. How important is that?) Stage wins are really important this time of year, so those are what you want. … It’s just something to build off of. Hopefully we can come back and we’ll be better.”
Aric Almirola – finished 8th: “That was a decent day for us. We scored stage points in both stages and ran competitively. I thought after practice we were a fourth to eighth-place car and quite honestly that is about where we ran all day. The pit crew did a good job there the second half of the race keeping us in the game. I am proud of that. We just continue to build. We just keep knocking off these top-10’s in a row after last weekend and this weekend. Then you slowly progress to trying to run in the top five and that is where you find yourself in position to win races. We need to continue to build on this.
“(What happened in the contact with Martin Truex Jr.?) Honestly it was just a mistake. We got down into Turn 1 there and he checked up slightly sooner than I expected him to and I was literally an inch or two off his bumper through the dogleg getting down into (Turn) 1. Just the slight delay from the time that he got on the brakes to when I got on the brakes, I got into the back of him and crashed him. We race around each other a lot, all day. We raced around each other and raced each other clean and I had fun racing with him. We swapped positions back and forth and never touched each other and then had that mistake right there. Certainly not intentional but that doesn’t help him.”
Cole Custer – finished 9th: “This was huge. It is a huge boost in our step to have a really solid day and fast Mustang. We overcame obstacles all weekend and hopefully we can continue to carry that all through the year. I think we get better every single race, so it is just a matter of continuing that and doing that every single weekend.”
William Byron – finished 10th: “I’m really proud of the effort by the team. We didn’t have the best execution, but we had pretty decent execution throughout the day. I hate that we got into the 6 (Ross Chastain) there. We had a little bit of damage, but overall, not bad. We fought really hard. A top 10 is good for how the day was overall. We’ll move on from it and go to Atlanta.
“We just have to work on our car turning. We just couldn’t really ever get the car to turn, especially on a short run. We just have to work on that. But it seemed like it was OK after that. There was a lot of tire fall off. For us, it really just created vibrations because we were wearing the right-front (tire) out so hard. I think, overall, it was getting better and closer to 2018. A top 10 is good from where we ran. I think we ran 12th to 17th all day and to finish 10th is a good result for us. I’m proud of that, for sure.”
Jimmie Johnson – finished 12th: “Definitely not the day we wanted but we fought like hell all day long. The guys had a great pitstops … we have a lot to build on. I am so proud of this team.”
Daniel Suarez – finished 21st: “The result looked really good, on paper. We just need to keep working to get more speed. The balance of the car wasn’t even close to what we wanted, so we have a lot of work to do. It was a crazy race, but that’s short-track racing. We did the best with what we had. We just need to keep working and find some more speed.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR. – finished 32nd: “(What happened with that incident?) I just got ran over. He ran into the back of me earlier getting into (turn) one. I hung on to it. These restarts are crazy, it’s fanned out. The 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was in front of me. I wasn’t sure if he was going to come up in front of me on the short chute or not. Then the 10 (Aric Almirola) ran into us. Can’t finish a race, it sucks.”
Tyler Reddick – finished 33rd: “We lost a tire there in (Turns) 1 and 2. I really don’t know what led to that. I don’t know if I just caught something on the race track or it just wasn’t meant to be. Our I Am Second Chevrolet was really, really good today. I just made a couple of mistakes there that cost us track position. I don’t know if that’s what ultimately would have kept us from cutting a tire, but we were in really good shape there and I just made a rookie mistake and fell back to the back half of the top 10 and from there we had our flat tire, and that was the end of our day unfortunately.”
Austin Dillon — finished 36th: “We started pretty far back in the field today at Phoenix Raceway but Justin Alexander and everyone on the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet ZL1 1LE team did a great job of putting a solid plan together to get us up front. We started off the race with a loose-handling Chevrolet but adjustments on pit road definitely helped and combined with strategy, we raced our way into the top 10. We had to make an unscheduled pit stop for tires after leaving a lug nut loose, which put us a lap down but we were running really fast and I knew that we would be able to get back on the lead lap. Unfortunately, we cut a tire and ended up in the wall, ending our day well before we wanted it to end. It’s a disappointing finish, but I’m really proud of the speed that Richard Childress Racing has had so far this year and I know we will rebound.”
Ryan Blaney – finished 37th: “From the car I couldn’t really see (what led to the wreck with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski). A couple of us were three-wide. I was happy to be on the top. I thought we were going to roll the top pretty good through three and four there. It looks like (Hamlin) tried to send it in there below (Keselowski) and got loose and hit him and then overcorrected and got us. We got up in the dirt and we just ran right into the fence. Just an innocent bystander there. It sucks to have it end so early like that and have that happen so early in the race. I do really hate it for Menards and Tarkett and Ford. We didn’t even have a chance to work on our car. We weren’t great the first run but we made a big swing at it and we don’t know how that change was. It stinks when you are taken out like that. We will just go on to Atlanta and see what we can do.”