What drivers said after Cup race at Miami

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Denny Hamlin  – winner: “Our car was really good. This is a setup based off of what we had in the fall here last year going for the championship. Had a strong car all day. Obviously with the laps led and was able to get around Chase (Elliott) there at the end. This whole FedEx team has just done a phenomenal job. This Camry is real special. Have to thank Coca-Cola, Jordan Brand, FedEx and all of our partners. Everyone at JGR for putting together great race cars and keep digging to make ourselves a little bit better.”

(Did you feel patience would pay off and Chase Elliott would come back to you after the last pit stop?) “I didn’t know. It seems like the end of these races are Chase’s best suit. I knew that if I was just patient and ran the pace that I wanted and the pace I was comfortable with, we were going to be hard to beat in the long run.”

Chase Elliott – finished second: ” I just need to get through lap traffic better.”

Ryan Blaney – finished third: “When we came off pit road after that last green flag stop we were a ways behind those two guys and we made up a lot of ground, tons of ground on them, and just got to them and everyone is running the wall.  You just get tight, especially in (Turns) 3 and 4.  (Turns) 1 and 2 there are multiple lanes, but three and four if you weren’t on the fence when you got 15 laps on your stuff, you were just tight and gonna hit the fence, so that made it hard for us to kind of go once we got there.  (Tyler Reddick) was the same way with me.  He kind of got there and stalled too, but I’m proud of the group.  We had really good short run speed early in the race and I thought by the end we had really good long run speed, so we crossed over which is a good effort by the Jack Links team.”

Tyler Reddick – finished fourth: “I’m really proud of my Chevy Cares Chevrolet team and the effort we showed today. We had really good speed and were able to run up front pretty much all night long. The men and women of RCR and ECR did a great job preparing us with a fast race car to bring down to my favorite track on the circuit. We were able to use that speed to our advantage and race into the top 10 within the first 30 laps, and we were able maintain that track position. We fined tuned our car from then on out for the rest of the race and tried to make it better to run the fence. It was tough, though, because sometimes the top seam worked better instead of the fence, so figuring out which lane was the best to use at what time was tricky. We got a little too tight by the end of the night to really make the fence work like I wanted, but all in all, it was a solid effort. I’ve won the past two times I’ve come here, granted in the Xfinity Series, but it was so fun to be ripping the fence with three of the best tonight in the NASCAR Cup Series. It was a hard-fought battle and one we can build momentum off of.”

Aric Almirola – finished fifth: “Man, we finally had a nice clean day today. We really needed that as a team. We haven’t raced a full race yet without having something go wrong. This proves we have the speed we need to compete this season if we continue to run clean with no mistakes. Homestead is not an easy track to earn a top five at either. To get our first of the season here shows we have a lot of potential.”

Austin Dillon – finished seventh: “It feels great to be able to capture a top-10 finish for my first race as a new dad, and to bring home a solid result for everyone on the Dow Coatings and Behr teams. The No. 3 Dow Coatings Chevrolet was much stronger at the end of the race than it was at the beginning of the race, so I am proud of everyone for sticking in there until the end. We started off way too loose, but adjustments on pit road helped us improve handling. By the end of Stage 2, the handling transitioned to tight, but we were really fast, especially in clean air. We worked our way up to seventh when we were issued a penalty for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop and had to battle through the field to earn our seventh-place finish. We had a fast Chevy at the end of the race, and I’m proud of everyone at Richard Childress Racing. It was a solid effort all around for our organization this weekend.”

Christopher Bell – finished eighth: “Our Rheem Camry was really, really loose to start the night and then Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) did a great job adjusting on it got it pretty close to where I was happy and then we were able to pick our way though there. The races are so long – there are so many yellows – that I really wasn’t worried about our starting position. I knew that if we had a car that was good; we were going to get up front.”  

Brad Keselowski – finished 10th: “It was a good comeback for our MoneyLion Ford team tonight. We were really tight for most of the race but (crew chief) Jeremy (Bullins) and the guys kept working hard and we came away with a top 10.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 11th: “That was frustrating. Our BlueDEF Ford had the speed tonight, but we just couldn’t get it to turn like we needed. We were tight and really struggled for grip.

Michael McDowell – finished 15th: “That was great. Another top 15 run; that’s two in a row for us. Everyone at Front Row Motorsports has worked really hard. Our No. 34 program has been a lot better this year and we’re starting to see some of the fruit of that, so thanks to all of the guys back at the shop who have been working really hard to get everything that they can out of our race cars. Our Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang was fast on the long runs; we just needed a couple more laps at the end to grab a couple more positions, but I’m really excited about our performance today. Drew and the boys did a good job tonight and I’m ready to keep the momentum rolling with Love’s Travel Stops next weekend at Talladega.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 19th: “We had a solid night in our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang. We fired off pretty tight and battled with that for probably two-thirds of the race. The crew was lightning fast on pit road all night long and we managed to get the car a little bit freer towards the third stage. We would have finished a few spots higher but I had a right front tire go down on the last lap. We still were able to get a top 20, which is another solid result for us.”

Cole Custer – finished 22nd: “The guys did a great job staying with me all day. We fought a tight car for most of the day, and we’re working hard to figure these cars out, but I can’t thank the guys enough for hanging with me all day.”

Joey Logano – finished 27th: “We just really struggled tonight, even when we were leading early in the race. The team made a lot of adjustments the first two stages and we just couldn’t ever get the front tires to work and turn the center. We’ll regroup and head to Talladega next Sunday.”

Corey LaJoie – finished 29th:

Daniel Suarez – finished 31st: “It was a good job by the pit crew. It was a good job by Dave (Winston, crew chief) and everyone. The balance of the car was good for most of the night. Now we just need to find more speed.”

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.