What drivers said after Miami Cup race

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Here is what drivers said following Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

William Byron – Winner: “Yeah, it’s huge. In this format with winning being so important, it’s nice to chase points at times, but yeah, no doubt we were in a huge hole. The (Daytona) 500, we had a lot of success going down there for qualifying and was excited about the 500 and then we get crashed early and almost flip over and then we go to the road course and we had probably a top-10 run going, which was going to be good, and we had some issues. It was a tough start to the season, but we didn’t really think about that going into this week. We just thought about executing a good race. It’s always nice when the speed is there, but I feel like we put in the effort to make sure it was, and it was kind of a flawless weekend, really.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 2nd: “Well, there’s a lot of positives. I feel like the story of our – of my rookie season and the story of our team last year was start off really good, midway through the race, just go all the – it just blows up in our face and we just don’t get a good finish out of it. Today was the opposite, which was nice. It’s something that we’ve been needing to get, figure out how we can have nights like this and what we can do to continue to stay hungry and keep fighting. We definitely tried to work on our car a lot throughout the night, but then we just made some choices to just go for track position on the pit stops, and that definitely helped us, too. There is positives, but there isn’t a whole lot you can take away from here and apply at other racetracks as a driver and how you drive the track. But how you execute and all that, you can kind of apply going forward.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 3rd: “The track changed a lot. Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry was really fast at times; at times, a little bit off. On that last run, for whatever reason, I was just babying it. The 24 (William Byron) got the lead from me on that restart and then the 5 (Kyle Larson) got by us and I’m just biding my time waiting for them to start coming back to me and they just never did. They obviously were really fast at the end and we weren’t quite as good that last run. These things are so hard to win. These cars are so touchy and just needed one more adjustment to have a chance.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 4th: “It got pretty intense there at the end. I was just trying to take care of my tires and was just struggling on the long runs. We were loose for a majority of the race and in that last run, we actually got kind of tight. But I felt like being tight was better for my long runs than loose, just because I could be a little more confident. I would have liked to finish second, but those guys were better than me in the end and I just couldn’t hold them off. I hate that I gave up those spots. But it was a good day for the NationsGuard Chevy team. Congrats to William Byron. It’s really cool for William to get a win this early in the year. Hats off to their team and hopefully we can get it done soon.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 5th: “We actually had a good car the second half of the race. We were just way too loose in the first third of the race. The Busch Light Ford team did a great job of getting the car better and a great job on pit road keeping our track position and the things we had early in the race, so I’m just really proud of the way that everybody is battling right now. I would consider these three tracks that we’ve gone to so far kind of hit or miss for me as far as my likeability as far as driving and the things we have going on. To have the finishes that we’ve had in the first three races says a lot about our team.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 6th: “I think it says a whole lot for this whole Front Row Motorsports organization. We’re just making huge improvements and to come here to a very challenging mile-and-a-half and run in the top 10 and not luck our way in – we raced there all night long – is super impressive. Thank you to everybody back at the shop. I’ve got to thank Love’s Travel Stop, Speedy Cash, Freight Auctions, Speedco and especially Ford, and our Roush Yates engines are super strong right now. Everything is clicking. The momentum is going and it’s pretty awesome right now. It’s exciting to be a part of this organization and to have this momentum. Like I said, this is a win for us to come to Homestead and run in the top 10.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 8th: “I’m not going to second guess having to pit. We had a vibration and a loose wheel and we had to pit. We unlapped ourselves and drove all the way back to eighth. It just took our chance of winning away or being up front for a final restart. But what a really good long-run speed car, the Monster Energy Chevy was really fast with the sun out and on long runs, so that’s the good. We just need to find our short run speed and when the track picks up pace at night.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 9th: “Good, solid top-10 finish for our Ally Camaro. Bummed a little bit; we got some damage that hurt us there at the end. But really solid day, especially from starting in the back. Really proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, especially William Byron for picking up another win. That’s really cool for him. We’ll move onto one of our best race tracks next week. I know we’ll be really good in Vegas.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “We struggled a bit tonight with our M&M’S Fudge Brownie Camry. We finally got the handling back in the right direction there closer to the end, but we just didn’t quite have the longevity we were looking for. We’ll take what we learned today and hopefully get better for Las Vegas next weekend.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “All-in-all, not a bad night for the Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We really had a strong car early. We drove to the front and we were going to finish fifth in Stage 2 but the caution came out. We restarted on the bottom and just made the wrong move going into Turn 1 and lost a bunch of spots. We lost some Stage Points there, so that was disappointing. We were able to get a Stage Point at the end of Stage 1. I thought we were going to be pretty good. We just never got going again like we needed to. We kind of got jumbled on some restarts. Man, Homestead-Miami Speedway is such a fun track. I got a little too tight in and loose off at the end. We just missed it when it got darker outside. We were really good early. We were doing a good job of keeping up with the track, but it changed drastically. It was really cool to see Tyler Reddick drive up to second and show us what we’ve got. It’s on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for us.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 13th: “It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to get the job done in our No. 47 Kroger/Tide Chevrolet. We started off really good at the beginning of the race and I felt like we definitely had a car that we could run up front with and we were running up front, but on the restart right before the end of Stage 1 we got stuck in the middle lane and shuffled back. From there, we just couldn’t make up the track position as the track changed. We finally made some changes on the long run at the end that played into our advantage and we were able to salvage a decent day out of it. Homestead-Miami Speedway is unlike any intermediate track we go to, but we had a really strong day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year and I feel confident heading out west next week that we’ll be able to keep our momentum going and get stronger.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 15th: “It was good. It was positive. We came through some adversity very early. We had a little damage at the start of the race and all in all, I’m very proud of my team. They did a hell of a job. The pit crew did a very, very good job. They have a lot of potential and I’m very happy to see that. I haven’t had that in probably two years. And just overall, I’m very happy with the product that we are making. We are showing well there. We just have to clean up a few things to get closer to a top-10.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 16th: “We didn’t get the finish we wanted with our Dent Wizard Ford, but the guys had a solid day on pit road and I’m proud of them. We’ll rebound next week in Las Vegas.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 17th: “The first mile-and-half track for me with the No. 42 team, our Chevy Accessories Camaro was good. Starting in the back from last week’s bad finish did not help. We fought a tight handling car most of the night, but made some promising gains. My restarts, I need to get a little better on decisions, but we’ll be okay. A promising night, first down force race for the No. 42 car, man these things are different, but in a good way; fun to drive. Can’t wait for Vegas!”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 18th: “I felt like for all the things we went through to finish 18th was a good recovery for being two laps down to catch back up. I’m still just learning so much. I felt like it took me until halfway through the race to even understand what I needed to do and then I definitely got schooled on restarts at the beginning and that’s kind of everything in this deal. It’s gonna take time. It’s gonna take experience and learning the hard way, so we’ll continue to build on it. I felt like this was our first real race of the season in a sense, so we’ll go to Vegas and now we’ll finally be able to start a little bit towards the front and pit stall selection will be a little bit better, so hopefully it will pay dividends.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 19th: “It was a really good start for us, and I was really happy with the speed we had in the daylight in our Fastenal Ford Mustang. Really proud of this group. I think we knew this would be a pretty good test for what we were able to have made gains on during the off-season, and I think that showed that a lot of things we hit on and are headed in the right direction. With that, unfortunately the night did not do us a whole lot of favors, and dirty air was really rough on us there at the end. But we still learned a ton out of it. A little bit of fender damage that may have slowed us down. It’s an excuse basically. We’ve got to keep working at it hard, but I am really proud of everybody and everybody back at the shop. They did a really nice job on this race car. I think we made some awesome gains. We’ve just got to keep our heads down going to Vegas and see what we can apply and definitely work on what we can make better as the racing goes on.”

Cole Custer – Finished 23rd: “Well, that really stings. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) and the guys did everything they could to help fix our ability to turn through the center of the corner, and we knew that when the sun went down we would have the rear grip we were struggling with early in the race. It was looking like it might be a top-five day, but then we needed to make sure we had fuel enough to get to the end. At worst we had our first top-10 of the season, and then the tire started coming apart with three to go. It’s a shame for the HaasTooling.com team, but we are looking forward to heading out West to Vegas and Phoenix.”

Joey Logano – Finished 25th: “We just couldn’t find the handling during the race. The guys worked on it every stop and we made some incremental gains, but we were just too far off. Pit stops were solid. We’ve got the right pieces. We’ll go to Vegas next week and try to win another Pennzoil 400.”

Erik Jones – Finished 27th: “It was a frustrating day overall for our Richard Petty Motorsports team. Starting out, the No. 43 Armor All Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was really loose and we worked most of the day to get it better. We were fighting to stay on the lead lap and be in contention. It got better towards the end as the sun went down and the track cooled down. Our Chevrolet Camaro came to us. Unfortunately, I got in the fence, cut a tire down, lost some positions there and ended up not getting the finish that we really wanted. It was a tough day, but we will move on and keep working. It is still early in the season and we are still trying to figure each other out. We’ll continue to make stuff better.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 29th: “It was a tough day for our DEX Imaging Ford Mustang team. We struggled with the balance but felt like we were making progress. Unfortunately, I got squeezed into the wall and that basically ruined our day. We’ll put it behind us and move to Las Vegas next week.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 30th: “We fought hard all day to get our Smithfield Ford where we needed it. We found some speed there in the second stage and were headed in the right direction on the balance of the car. I got tight there and slid up the track into the 12. That put us back. On to Vegas.”

Corey LaJoie – Finished 36th: “Today was the first true test of the year for our Spire Motorsports Chevy team, after a tough week of being extremely short-handed due to COVID-19 protocols. I thought we did a good job of getting both cars to the race track with nothing falling off. Steve Letarte was in the process of making the balance of our car better, when we had an unfortunate mechanical failure, shortening our day. I’m excited to get to Vegas next week. We’ll have crew chief Ryan Sparks back & should also have a full crew, so we’ll show up better and stronger! Thanks to Letarte for pinch hitting & Marwin Sports for their partnership this week. Congratulations to fellow Team Chevy driver, William Byron, on the win.”

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC)

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).