What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race

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Here is what drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix Raceway:

Martin Truex Jr. — WINNER: “Just to have the speed that we had and to be good on the long run at the end, and to be able to take the lead on the restart against a couple guys who are good here each and every time. Look at the 22 (Joey Logano), the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 11 (Denny Hamlin), those guys are always good, and we’ve been searching. I’m really proud of James (Small, crew chief) and ‘Jazzy’ (Jeff Curtis, engineer) who came up with the setup here. Like I said, we will go home and figure out to be better, and tweak on it. This is just unbelievable. Unbelievable day for Bass Pro Shops, Toyota, TRD, this Camry was smoking fast. I just want to thank all of the men and women at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) that make it possible to let us drive these things. Man, all of our sponsors. It’s a dream come true to drive these cars and be out here in front of these awesome fans. Hopefully we can put together a good season and win some races. One win last year was disappointing for us. We were close a lot of times, but we want to win bunches and we want to go for another championship, so hopefully this will be good momentum for us right here.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 2nd: “We did a good job maximizing our day with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We were a second-place car and finished second, won a stage and second in the other stage, so a lot of points. I hate finishing second, though. It really stinks, but, overall, this has been a good racetrack for us. The last few times we’ve been here is first, third and second, so we’re all over it, just needed that last run not to have a caution. I think we were in a pretty good spot to maybe run that thing out, but, overall, that was where we had it.”

DENNY HAMLIN — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, I think we are happy with that. Obviously, we want to win with our Offerpad Toyota but certainly the short tracks is something we want to put a lot of emphasis on this year. We just didn’t have the results on the short tracks that we wanted last year, but getting the first short track win here for JGR – 1, 3 is a good sign that we worked on the right things and we are headed in the right direction.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Finished 4th: “Yeah, we just never could get the car quite as good as we were last year. We tried a few things I think could be better for the championship race here this fall, and I’m not sure it went the way we thought it would, so learned a lot. We were really solid, so really proud of everybody on the Wurth Ford Mustang team. We’ll build off it. We’re clicking off really good runs here and that will transfer into wins.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 5th: “We struggled really bad all the way up to that very last run, to be honest. We got better and had a good pit stop there at the end. Proud of the effort that the Unifirst team put in to pull out a top five.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 6th: “We struggled on the restarts and we just could never get the track position. After seven or eight laps, it felt like our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang was good enough to run in the top three, but we could never get going on the restarts to be able to get that track position.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I hadn’t felt loose in all day and that last run, I got loose in and just couldn’t get in the corners as aggressive as I needed to. I ended up guarding my entry zones; my angles for exit aren’t great. It just kind of made everything harder. The No. 9 (Chase Elliott) and No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) got behind me and finished seventh. It was weird that I hadn’t had it all day, but all-in-all, I had a really fast car again. That’s very promising and just have to clean up mistakes on my end and have a smoother race.”

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Decent day here at Phoenix Raceway. We had a good car; ran in the top 10 all day and it just kind of ended there in eighth. We’ve got some things we need to work on when we come back, but we definitely know the areas to work on and improve. So, we just have to go to work on those things. Looking forward to it and looking forward to the challenge. We’re looking forward to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 9th: “I was really happy with our Rheem Camry. It was pretty fast. Right off the bat, we were pretty good, we just had to tweak on the balance just a little bit to get it going. I felt like we were in really good shape had it stayed green. Our long run speed was pretty good. I felt like we were going to be looking at another top five, but I made a lot of mistakes throughout the course of the race that cost us a better finish. I’m happy to keep the momentum rolling, get another top 10. Hopefully we can keep rolling, but definitely have to clean up the mistakes on my part.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 10th: “Towards the end of the day I think the track kind of changed on us and we lost some speed.  We were fighting stuff that we weren’t fighting at the beginning and other guys’ cars came to life and we were kind of chasing ours a little bit. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. We tried a bunch of stuff and tried to get ahead of the track and just couldn’t quite get there, so, for how much speed we lost throughout the day just track changing, running 10th I’m proud of that. I’m proud of Todd and everybody for sticking with it all day and good stage points for sure and not a bad finish, either.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 11th: “Finally a solid day. I’m proud of my team. We ran in the top 10 most of the day, had a really good car on the longer runs and there at the end it panned out to be a few short runs, so, all in all, a great day. Finally turned all the bad races around and got us almost a top 10. … That was fun to run up front and be competitive and get out of here with a solid finish. Hopefully, we made some hay and made some ground on the points situation. We’re gonna have a lot better starting spot and pit selection going to Atlanta, so we’ll keep this momentum going into next week.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “I’m really proud of the effort that everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing put in to get this No. 47 Kroger/Energizer Chevrolet to a third consecutive top-15 finish. It would take a few laps for our car to come in, and with the couple of cautions we had in the middle of the race it made it tough to get that longer run where we had really strong speed. Once that came in, we were able to keep pushing forward to gain and keep our track position. Being consistent has been really key early in the season as we have a variety of racetracks and that was definitely the best run at Phoenix Raceway than I’ve had in several years. I’m looking forward to keeping the momentum going next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 13th: “Ended up 13th but had a crashed car for 300 laps. Definitely solid, all things considered with the whole left side wiped out. We had to overcome damage. We had a fast car, but the left side damage didn’t help the pit crew on stops. Greg (Ives) made great changes on pit road to help the handling changes. Wish we could have gotten Ally/Best Friends a better finish, but we will come back strong next week.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 14th: “We just couldn’t get our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang to where we needed it. It wasn’t quite as good as it was here last fall. We weren’t bad, but we weren’t great. We had one run at the start of the last stage that kind of set us back, and we couldn’t quite recover from it. Earlier we’d run between eighth and 11th, so if we’d had better track position at the end we probably could have finished a few spots better than 14th. We’ll take what we got and move on to the next one.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 15th: “We battled, but we don’t have much to show for it. We were really loose from the right rear corner. Man, it was like a mystery slide with the rear. Something weird happened with the rear gear late in the day. We were terrible loose. Last week was horrible tight. We have to find better balances with track conditions and these tires. The code sometimes says they’re the same, but it sometimes drives completely different. We just have to hunker down and find the rhythm of each of the runs. If there’s seven sets of tires, we’ve got a game plan for each set. We’ll get them next week.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 17th: “We fought all day in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We struggled with a loose handling condition in Stage 1, but Justin Alexander and the entire No. 3 team worked hard to adjust and got the car running much better by the end of the race. Early in the race, we knocked a hole in the right front nose and that set us back a bit. It was just one of those deals where I had nowhere to go. The team did a good job with the car and making the repair, but we had to recover from a speeding penalty on pit road. It felt like we were just trying to get back track position all race and trying to get the car handling better. We’ve got some stuff to clean up for sure, but we’ll figure it out and move onto Atlanta Motor Speedway. We’ll be just fine.” 

Ross Chastain — Finished 19th: “I’m not going to say that we are overly excited, but it was progress. Just the philosophy and feedback from the car for me was the best we’ve been this year. So, we’re trying to get this car to where I can drive it and hustle it; and as a race car driver, it’s pretty humbling whenever you can’t do the things you normally can do behind the wheel and this weekend, today, was a step in the right direction. We still have a long staircase to get up. But the Chevy Accessories car was okay. I didn’t do the best job behind the wheel, but I’m learning. And, pit stops were money. A lot of spots gained on pit road and onto Atlanta.”

Erik Jones — Finished 20th: “It was not exactly the day our team was hoping for with the No. 43 Medallion Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, but there are some good things we can take from it. I thought our early and mid-run speed, especially earlier in the race, was pretty good. We were a top-15 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Then we lost the balance towards the end and ended up slipping back and finishing in the 20th place. So, it was not 100 percent what we wanted, but for a short track, it was a good day to build, learn and try to get better for the next one. We had good pit stops all day. We were pretty quick on pit road picking-up spots, so there are a lot of positives to take and move forward.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 21st: “I felt like the car was decent the majority of the race. The car was driving pretty good. I was pretty happy with the balance of the car on the long run; the short run wasn’t that great. We made some adjustments in the last 80 laps and I wasn’t very happy with it. But, all-in-all, really proud of my guys and we have to keep getting better. We had a few mistakes on pit road; lug nuts and stuff like that. Decent day, but we just have to keep getting better.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 22nd: “The results don’t show how strong our HighPoint.com Ford Mustang was today. We have a lot we need to work on, but to run up front for a while in the final stage was really encouraging. We drove from the back to the top 10 twice, but problems with the pit guns and jack on our stops really held us back from the finish we deserved. We’ve just got to stay patient and focused, and we’ll have a race where it all comes together soon enough.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 25th: “It was a long day with our STANLEY Camry. Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys made a lot of changes the first half of the race, but having the pit road penalty there put us back in traffic and we just couldn’t quite dig out of the hole all day. We were in the lucky dog position a few times, but the cautions didn’t fall at the right time. We’ll get back to work and hope to have a better finish at Atlanta.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 29th: “Today was a tough day for our No. 8 Nate Barnes / Quartz Hill Records Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE at Phoenix, but we’ll study and learn from our race. We had decent long run speed throughout the day that allowed me to climb up through the field during the longer green flag runs of the race. I was just too tight in the center of both turns to get through them as good as I would have liked and I needed more to fire off with on the restarts, but we were making some small gains during the end of Stage 3. Unfortunately, I had a miscue on our final stop of the day and that led to speeding on pit road, and then a valve stem broke and I got into the wall. We were able to finish the race though and fought for every spot that we could in the final handful of laps. A frustrating day for our team, but we’ll learn from it and move on to Atlanta.”

Cole Custer — Finished 31st: “We didn’t unload how we wanted and it’s a shame to have something like that happen after we worked so hard to get our HaasTooling.com Mustang running to where we were in the mix and could compete for top 10. I hate it for the guys. It wasn’t the finish we deserved, that’s for sure, but we’ve got some ideas for how to get things turned around.”