What Drivers Said after Talladega Cup race

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Ryan Blaney – winner: “I just kind of blocked, just trying to block the best we could. Ride the top, ride the bottom. (Erik Jones) got to my outside and I tried to go up there to slow him down and I’m not sure, I don’t know three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that. We just edged it out, but I’m really proud of this whole Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang team. It’s been a cool year so far and I’m really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody for coming. I appreciate it you sticking around. That was a lot of fun.”

What was it like saving fuel:  “We were riding there. We came back in and topped off and we were just riding around until maybe 12 (laps) to go. I was waiting for Kevin (Harvick) to kind of go, but he had to save more than I did, so we just kind of had to get going. You’re just biding your time and hoping you saved enough.  There’s enough information in there nowadays where you do save enough, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you everybody for coming out. I appreciate it.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished second: “We were so close there at the end. It was hard all day trying to break up the Penske cars and then there at the end, all the blue ovals were together. But, our No. 47 NOS Energy Drink Camaro ZL1 1LE was really fast all day. The boys brought a good one. I thought we had a shot there at the end, it just didn’t work out. But, all-in-all, a solid day. Really cool to see all the support of the fans that are here for Bubba (Wallace). That was a really special moment at the beginning of the race. We came up one spot short – we’ll go get them next week!”

Aric Almirola – finished third: “I thought we had a shot to get our Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane. We had a really good car and our strategy was to stay out of trouble all day and be there at the end, and we were there at the end. It was close, but we just couldn’t get it done. I’m proud of all my guys on this team. We had a great week last week at Miami with a top five and leave here at Talladega with another top five, so we’ll keep building on that and it looks like the ball is going in the right direction for us.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fourth: “We had a good Camry, we just ran out of fuel there at the end and had to pit with just a few laps to go. But luckily, the caution came out and some other guys in front of us ran out of gas so we were able to get a few more positions and race to the finish. Overall, it was a good day and our car had good speed. Got into the wall there early in the race and we were able to rebound from that. The Talladega spring race hasn’t always been the best one for us so we’ll take this fourth-place finish and get outta here.”

Erik Jones – finished fifth: “Yeah it was good. We kind of rode around today and just tried to stay clean – stay out of trouble – and give ourselves a chance there at the end, and that’s what we did. We got a fortunate yellow there after we had to pit for fuel. We got relined up and gave ourselves an opportunity. We had the momentum. We had the run in the end. The 12 (Ryan Blaney) kind of came up on us there. He moved us up the track, which in turn, kind of got us turned into the fence. It’s superspeedway racing. He’s doing what he has to win; I’m doing what I have to win, and it didn’t play out in our favor, so at least we were there and had a shot to win one of these things. They aren’t easy to win by any means, so it was nice to be up there.”

Chris Buescher – finished sixth: “Not a bad run for our Fastenal Ford Mustang and our team. Lots of excitement throughout the race at different areas and I obviously wanted to replay the end to do a little bit better. At the end of the day it was a good run for us.” 

Alex Bowman – finished seventh: “Figuring out you are a couple laps short on fuel while leading a speedway inside 15 to go is not very much fun. We took the lead there and our fuel mileage number plummeted farther than we thought it would be. We thought we were good and then all of a sudden, we weren’t good. Led a bunch and had to give up the lead to try to make it there at the end. I saved enough once I gave up the lead, but so bummed. We had such a good car and definitely had a shot at winning. It is just one of those deals. Really appreciative of everyone at Valvoline and Hendrick Motorsports. P7 isn’t the end of the world, but man giving up the lead like that is a bummer.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished eighth: “We had a really great run in our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang today. I really thought we had a shot at it at the end there, but I’m still proud of our entire team’s efforts. When we fired off, we were kind of tight, and then we had that tire go down in the second stage, but we managed to come back from it and battled into the top 10 by the end. I wish we would have won that thing, but a P8 finish at Talladega is still good for us and I want to thank everyone on the team for their support.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “Proud of our effort today for everyone who works on this Monster Energy Chevy. We chipped away at adjustments all day, having to overcome a really loose handling race car. Top-10 is a solid effort! Gotta zig instead of zag next time!”

William Byron – finished 11th: “We had a shot there at the win with about 29 laps to go and just got a push from (Joey) Logano in the corner. I don’t know why it got loose there but it did. We lost our track position and then really just fought to get back from there and tried to save fuel at the same time. We pitted with two to go to get some extra fuel and we made a pretty good charge to the front there in the third lane. We had a good number of cars to the inside but ultimately finished 11th. It would have been nice to finish top 10 but we did finish a superspeedway race in one piece which is nice. I thought we had some great speed at times and great opportunities to lead the race. We just have to build on that and continue to get better. I feel like these races are always unpredictable but at the same time there is skill involved. We did a decent job of controlling the skill part we just have to keep working.”

Ty Dillon – finished 12th: “Our GEICO Camaro was solid today. We had a strategy there at the end to save fuel to make sure we were good to the checkered. I stumbled a little bit on the final restart, but we had just enough fuel to make it. You just have to be in the right line at the right time at the end of these things. We got filed out on the bottom, but still brought home a 12th-place finish. I’m really proud of our result. We needed that and we will keep truckin’ along.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 13th: “I’m obviously very proud of our sport, the drivers and crew members that wanted to stand up today and stand next to Bubba Wallace. That’s really the moral of this story. A lot of people reached out to me in the morning with ideas, wanting to do something like the video we made a few weeks ago. I certainly have been involved in playing a role in trying to help organize, get things executed and done. This is really a driver initiative. Many drivers chipped in. Kevin Harvick had the idea of pushing Bubba’s car down the front stretch to the front of the field, have the teams follow. I’m happy to play a role in it. I want to. I know I need to. I feel like to see the garage area stand up as they have, as well, in the last few weeks, then again today, is just sending a very strong message. I’m very proud of our sport.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 14th: “This is probably the most badass moment right here. It’s been tough. It’s been hell. Well, I wouldn’t say hell; it’s just been hectic you know, carrying this weight, this burden. I wouldn’t really say burden, either. I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face. Look at this (turns around to face crowd to ask) is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? (cheers from fans) That is so cool! The sport is changing.

“The deal that happened yesterday, sorry I’m not wearing my mask, but I wanted to show whoever it was that you’re not going to take away my smile and I’m going to keep on going. I’ve been a part of this sport for a really long time. I’m still kind of a rookie. I’m starting to figure this stuff out. We had a good race going today in our Victory Junction Chevrolet. But man, I know I should have won that damn race. We ran out of gas. The stars didn’t align for us completely, but all in all, we won today. The pre-race deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters. From drivers and crew members. Everybody here. The badass fan base; thank you guys for coming out here.

“This is truly incredible and I’m proud to be a part of this sport. Like I said earlier, I’ve got a long way to go. And we’ll keep on trucking. Another top 15 for us. We’ll take it. And, we’ll just go on to Pocono, right? I’m still smiling. I’ve got a long week ahead of me; probably a couple of weeks. Probably a couple of months, but I’ll be ready for Pocono, though.”

Ryan Preece – finished 15th: “That was definitely a crazy day at Talladega Superspeedway in our No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet. We had nose damage early on in the race, and that caused us to use a little bit more fuel than the rest of the field during the long green flag run at the end. We got put in a position where we needed to pit early, then the caution came out after we pit. However, we had a really fast Kroger Chevrolet and were able to run in the front for most of the race and even lead a few laps, and to be able to finish P15 after the issues at the end is something, we can still be proud of. We need some positive momentum to continue turning the season around from our bad luck at the start and this is really going to help.”

Joey Logano – finished 17th: “We had a really fast MoneyLion Ford Mustang. Spent all day at the front and in the end it just didn’t work out for us with the caution coming out late. Happy for (Ryan) Blaney and that whole 12 team. They’ve been fast all year and good to see them get the win and lock into the playoffs. I spent a lot of years with that group.”

Michael McDowell – finished 18th: “That final lap was insane. I felt like the first two stages were a lot less crazy than normal Talladega racing, but the final stage was exactly like what we all had anticipated. Everyone at Front Row Motorsports did a great job of building me a fast No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. Our car had a lot of speed and was able to suck-up really well in the draft. Our plan all race long was to play it safe and stay towards the rear of the field in hopes of avoiding any potential wrecks that might occur. Our strategy worked out great and we were in contention on the last lap, until the wrecks started.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 19: “I blocked the wrong lane at the end of the race, which was unfortunate because I thought I had shown all race that we had a Dent Wizard Ford that could have raced for the win. I’ll have to go back and look at the tape. I think it’s awesome that Ryan Blaney won and I’m really happy for him.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 20th: “We’re getting closer and closer to winning one of these races. We had a really fast No. 8 Realtree Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today, really just needed a bigger fuel cell to make it through those closing laps without having to come to pit road. We were a little bit loose today, but the car was able to suck up to others really well, which made it easier for me to work with people and show them that they can trust and work with me in return. It was awesome to get my first Cup career stage win, even if we had to wait out a brief rain shower for it. I think that showed a lot of people that we really strong speed today. From there, we just played it smart and stayed out of trouble to be there in the closing laps. We managed to grab the lead with about 16 laps to go. It was tough to maintain the lead and save fuel since we knew we were right on the edge of making it. I thought maybe we would make it before that final caution came out, but then the No. 11 ran out of gas or had a bobble or something. Once he ran out, my main help was gone and the No. 12 was able to slide by as we slid back. But that is how it goes at plate racing. Timing is everything. It was just chaos on that final restart, but we gave it everything we had.”

Brendan Gaughan – finished 21st: “That’s not the finish we wanted – 21st place. I will take the heat. I did not do a good job on the last couple of restarts. Darren Shaw (crew chief) and the rest of the boys worked real hard on the No. 62 Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. It was trouble at the start but in the end, they got it right. I will take the blame – 21st place and not a scratch on it. The good news is it is going to be a heck of a Chevrolet for Daytona.”

Cole Custer – finished 22nd: “That really stinks to run out of fuel toward the end of the race. My guys are doing a great job and we’ll get it turned around here soon. There’s not much you can do about running out of fuel when it’s a fuel mileage race. We really didn’t need that last caution.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 25th: “It was like a traffic jam today. I could push like heck, but when I was in front I would stack everyone up. It was frustrating running in the back like that in the first two stages, but that’s what you have to do to guarantee you will be there when the money is on the line. We were going for it at the end.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 26th: “We pitted for fuel and were driving up through the middle and got blindsided by somebody crashing. It was a hard hit. But I should be fine.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 28th: “We stayed out of trouble and that’s always a good thing at Talladega. Our CommScope Toyota didn’t feel too good at the start of the race, mostly in the rear. But, by the middle of the race, we made it better and I was able to drive it. We had some good moments on pit stops and we had great track position at one point. We just need to keep working hard to find the speed we need, especially on the superspeedways. We’ll go back home and keep trying to make it better for next weekend. Baby steps.”

Chase Elliott – finished 38th: “The splitter was in the ground a long ways and it was just dragging too much. It wasn’t getting any air to the engine, so it was getting really hot. So, it just wasn’t worth continuing. I hate it. We really started the day struggling pretty bad and finally got it going pretty good, I thought, later on. Ultimately, just got in a bad spot there and went around.”

Austin Dillon – finished 39th: “Unfortunate day for the No. 3 team. The Bass Pro Shops Camaro was pretty solid – we had to work on it a little bit. You try and race at these places and keep yourself upfront in a good position, and that’s what I was doing. Just missed our stage points twice – 11th and 12th at the end of both stages. Tried to work the middle groove there and when Chase (Elliott) got turned, I was just kind of the last guy standing when he came up the track. Unfortunately, it’s a part of these things.”