What drivers said after Atlanta Cup race

0 Comments

Here is what drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

Ryan Blaney – Winner: “The 5 (Kyle Larson) was crazy fast there the whole race and then we started closing in. Our car got a lot better there. I think towards the end of stage two, it was starting to get there and then before that last green flag stop, it really came to life and he was starting to struggle getting really free. I don’t know if the track changed or what, but we were just tightening it up all day. I’m happy there were a couple long runs at the end. That’s where our strong suit was and we capitalized on it. I can’t thank BodyArmor, Menards, DEX, Advance Auto Parts enough for what they do and Ford. It’s cool to get a win at Atlanta. I love this place. It’s nice to have a good run here and win.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “I was pushing the whole time (on the final run), every lap really from when I left pit road. I was trying to get out to a big gap. But I never really did. I think I extended it a little bit, but not nearly enough. Before the other green flag stops, I could exit pit road, I feel like I’d gain a few seconds over the course of like 20 laps. I was hoping it was going to be like that. I thought me having to race (Ryan Blaney) and pass him was what used my tires up the little run before, but after the green flag stop, he was just really good. I couldn’t get out to that gap that I could earlier in the race. Ultimately just had to run my tires too hard to try to get that gap, and I didn’t have anything there at the end.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 3rd: “We’ve struggled in some areas this year that have been pretty frustrating. I feel like we really struggled in dirty air, maneuverability in traffic, restarts and stuff. Worked really hard at bringing something to the racetrack that I could be aggressive with, could drive hard. Felt good to have that, to be able to pass cars. My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front, as well. Yeah, I mean, it definitely feels good to be closer to the front. We want to be a couple spots better. After the last couple weeks, this definitely feels pretty good.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 4th: “Just not fast enough. It’s kind of the story so far. We’re getting our balance decently close, but just not enough speed, not enough balance, handling – not enough grip. Just need more speed. We’ll go to work on it. Just trying to gather a notebook. I just hate that we’re having these clean races and everything, but there’s always just one or two cars that are a little bit faster.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 5th: “I thought we were good all day. The M&M’s Messages Camry was fast. Every time I would … claw my way up to the front, we would have a problem. I had a restart issue that sent us back seven spots. Got back up to third and then we sped on pit road. Got back up to fifth. That’s all it is, all day long is just a claw and that’s all you can do. There’s not enough separation in speed between cars and fall-off and all that sort of stuff. Great job by the guys. We definitely improved our car. It was good in the early stages and even better in the late stages, but everybody else was better too. That’s all we had.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 6th: “Today was a good little step in the right direction from where we’ve been the last few weeks. Everyone on the Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet team did a great job with adjustments throughout the race. During portions of the race, I couldn’t turn the wheel on entry, so I would just go in there straight. I made up time running some very weird lines. Justin Alexander and the team kept working on it and got it pretty good in Stage 3. I found some grip in the middle of track late in the race. If I would have found that earlier, we might have been better. We’ll keep working on it.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 7th: “It was a good day. I’m pretty happy with that from start to finish. We were able to fire off and make some progress and head forward and stay with it all day. We didn’t really have to work on much. This car has a lot of similar characteristics to our Homestead car and definitely feel pretty good about these low grip racetracks. We’ll keep working on it and try to tweak on that a little bit and get it to a top five and ultimately winning a race.”

William Byron – Finished 8th: “Decent day for the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet team. We were up around the top-five for most of the day and just had a bad final run; a bad restart got us back there and we just never could really recover. We managed an eighth-place, which is decent, but definitely want a lot more than that. We’ll go to work and figure out where we can improve so we can get better for the next one.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 9th: “For us, we struggled a bit all day honestly with the Bass Pro Camry. Never could get it to do what I wanted and needed it to do. Really fought not having good front grip and then really losing the front tires on the long runs. We couldn’t really loosen the car up because I was sliding the backend all over the place at the same time. Just not a good setup, not a good day. Battled all day and came home with a top-10, which is okay, but nothing like we would normally run here. Have to go back and figure out where we messed up and what we changed that made it so much worse than what we’ve had here the last two trips.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 12th: “It was a really solid day for our No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet team at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Our biggest thing this season is to be consistent, and bringing home a fourth top-15 finish accomplishes that goal and it’s great to see us achieving that so early in the season. I had the speeding penalty early in the race, but our car had enough speed that we were able to keep working on it throughout the long runs and get back inside the top 10 and top 15. Something we’ve been working on is to keep hammering each week and not get stagnant in what we’re doing, and having this momentum heading into the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race is a huge advantage and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 14th: “Fourteenth – it’s progress. This No. 42 Tubi TV Camaro was good. We got it freed up, finally, part-way through the race. We got our lap back and just ran fast lap times there at the end. We passed some really good cars and made some really good progress. We’ve made progress in the last two stops with Phoenix (Raceway). As crazy as it sounds, for me, it’s translated in the direction we’re going. It seems to be better for me. I can’t thank all the boys and girls at Chip Ganassi Racing enough. They’re believing in me, even when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. We were the last car on the lead lap. Fourteenth – good, long 500-miles at Atlanta. Proud of the effort; a lot of pit stops. Onto Bristol.”

Joey Logano – Finished 15th: “Not the day we were looking for with our Shell-Pennzoil Mustang. We fought the handling most of the race and kept adjusting on it. We’ll keep working on the 550 (horsepower) tracks and we’ll get stronger. Congrats to Blaney and the 12 team, that’s a great win.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 17th: “Yeah, it was good. I’m very proud of everyone in this group. They work very, very hard. They build a very fast car. It was a car capable of finishing in the Top 10, that’s for sure. I made a mistake on my part (pit road speeding penalty, Lap 267) that kind of got us out of contention. But it’s something very good to build on.”

Cole Custer– Finished 18th: “Well, that was definitely not the result we wanted, but I would call it a solid day in a lot of respects. We made improvements on our HaasTooling.com Mustang all day but just couldn’t get going on the restarts for the life of me. Still, proud of all the hard work by Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) and everyone on this HaasTooling team. This is a tough track to get your car right. We’ll go get ’em on the dirt at Bristol next week.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 20th: “We battled handing issues all day. Our Pit Boss Ford Mustang just didn’t have the handling on the restarts and couldn’t hold up on the long run. If we helped the restarts, we hurt the long run. We tried a few different adjustments, and nothing really helped us. It was another character building race that we’ll learn and grow from. We’re not running to our potential yet, and we have a long season ahead with a lot of hard-working people. On to Bristol on dirt.”

Austin Cindric – Finished 22nd: “I would say that having all the fenders on here and getting as much green flag running as I did today definitely taught me a lot and learned a lot. That was my goal, picking this race, getting long green and learning all I can about these cars in tough situations. I feel like our strength was definitely on the long run and we just lacked track position and went too many laps down too early. We had to fight that a lot of the day and just little things here and there and that’s where it counts in this series. I’m looking forward to the next one. Hopefully, we’ll find some track position and try and get closer to the top 10.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 23rd: “Our balance was kind of off all day, but our HighPoint.com/CO-OP Financial Services Ford Mustang was pretty good that last run. We were just too far behind to do much with it by then. Other than that, we had a nice clean race and we’ve learned a lot that we’ll be able to bring back in July. I’m pretty excited to get to Bristol and do some dirt racing next week. Maybe that’s what we need to turn things around.”

Erik Jones – Finished 24th: “Just not a great day for the Petty’s Garage Chevrolet. Struggled with the speed for the most part and never got it much better. Learn from it and we’ll focus on Bristol (Motor Speedway) for next week.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 26th: “It has been a tough start to our season, but my No. 8 Alsco Uniforms Chevrolet team stuck with it today at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I got into the wall early in the race, but my team did a great job making all the necessary repairs to keep us going. I had a lot of speed after that and ran some great lap times all race long, but we were just trapped a couple laps down for the majority of the day. We made some gains on handling today, which will be important to take note of when we come back to Atlanta later this summer. I struggled with a lack of rear lateral grip early on, but the adjustments made throughout the race really helped on that issue. I still wanted to be tighter at the end of the race, but this at least gives us some good notes to build off of for July.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 38th: “Obviously, we broke a motor there later on. We got some damage there on that (Lap 113) restart. Kyle (Busch) kind of spun his tires and then I was pushing him and Kurt (Busch) was pushing me. We all just really jammed together hard and ended up hurting the nose some. So, I don’t know if that had something to do with breaking the engine or not.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 39th: “I think the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was the outside-lead car (on the Lap 113 restart). The No. 9 (Chase Elliott) kind of checked-up, too. I checked up; the No. 17 (Chris Buescher) hit us from behind. It was just the accordion effect and then I jumped to the middle. I’m like ‘I’m here’; I positioned myself. It wasn’t like I re-arranged my lanes and made another block. (Denny Hamlin) didn’t do anything vicious or malicious there. It’s a 500-miler and these are the days that it hurts the worst. This absolutely hurts the worst because we had a top-five, winning, Monster Energy Chevy.”

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

————————————————————————————————————————————————

NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.

Talladega jumbles Cup playoff grid heading to elimination race

0 Comments

In an unpredictable season and topsy-turvy playoffs, it only made sense that Talladega would deliver a wildcard result.

A playoff driver won a playoff race for the first time this season. How about that?

Chase Elliott’s victory moves him to the next round, the only driver guaranteed to advance heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are tied for the last transfer spot, but Briscoe owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. At least for now.

Hendrick Motorsports will have its appeal this week on the 25-point penalty to William Byron from the Texas race. Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega, but if the team wins the appeal and he gets all 25 points back, Byron would be back in a transfer spot and drop Briscoe below the cutline.

 

XFINITY SERIES

AJ Allmendinger became the second driver to advance to the next round, winning at Talladega.

Ryan Sieg finished fourth and holds the final transfer spot heading into the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Reigning series champion Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sieg. Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones are each 10 points behind Sieg. Jeremy Clements is 47 points behind.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Matt DiBenedetto’s first career Camping World Truck Series victory didn’t impact the playoff standings after Talladega since DiBenedetto is not a playoff driver.

Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot. He leads Christian Eckes and Stewart Friesen by three points each. John Hunter Nemechek is five points behind Rhodes, while Grant Enfinger is 29 points behind Rhodes. Ty Majeski is the only driver guaranteed a spot in next month’s championship race.

The Truck Series is off this weekend. The next Truck race is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Winners and losers at Talladega Superspeedway

0 Comments

A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

WINNERS

Chase Elliott — After a rough race at Texas, Elliott returned to the role of championship favorite Sunday with a victory. He takes the point lead to Charlotte and, with Sunday’s win, is locked into the Round of 8.

MORE: Talladega Cup results

MORE: Talladega Cup driver points

Ryan Blaney — Despite another tough race day and a second-place finish in a race he could have won, Blaney remains in good shape in the playoffs, even without a points win. He is second in points to Elliott, only two behind.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin took some time off from leading the charge for changes in the Next Gen car to run an excellent race. He led 20 laps, finished fifth and is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five playoff races. He gained a spot in points to fourth.

LOSERS

Christopher Bell — Bell zipped onto pit road with too much speed during a round of pit stops and slid to a stop, earning a speeding penalty. He is 11th in points.

Kyle Larson — Larson led eight laps Sunday but was not a part of the drafting mix at the front at the finish. He was 18th and fell three spots in points to sixth.

Joey Logano — Logano held the point lead entering Sunday’s race. At day’s end, he had a 27th-place finish and had fallen four spots to fifth.

 

 

End of stages at Talladega could have lasting impact in playoffs

0 Comments

A spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs could have been determined in just a few laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

They weren’t the final laps of the race, but the final laps of Stage 1 and Stage 2. 

The end of the first stage saw a big swing for a couple of drivers that could impact on who advances and who doesn’t after next weekend’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval.

MORE: Chase Elliott wins at Talladega 

With six laps left in the opening stage, William Byron was second to Denny Hamlin.

Byron was in need of stage points because of the uncertainty of his place in the standings. NASCAR docked him 25 points for spinning Hamlin under caution last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the decision and will have the hearing this week. While car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday that he felt the penalty was too severe in a three-race round, there’s no guarantee the appeal board will change the penalty or reduce it. 

With such unknowns, Byron’s focus was scoring as many points as possible since he entered the race eight points below the cutline. Sitting second in that opening stage put him in position to score the points he needed.

But when the the stage ended, Byron came across the line 11th — 0.036 seconds behind Erik Jones in 10th — and scored no stage points.

“I was working well with (Hamlin),” Byron said. “I tried to work to the bottom and he stayed at the top and the top seemed to have momentum.

“I just made a wrong decision there that kind of got me in a bad position further. I was still leading the inside lane, but the inside lane wouldn’t go forward. That was just kind of weird. That was kind of the moral of our day — was just not being able to advance forward.”

Byron wasn’t in position to score points in the second stage, finishing 13th. That left him as one of two playoff drivers not to score stage points (Christopher Bell was the other).

“It was frustrating the whole time,” Byron said. “I felt like the race was just going away from us. We couldn’t make anything happen. We were just kind of stuck. I don’t know what we need to do next time.”

When Byron failed to score points in the second stage, it only added to a challenging day and put more pressure on a better finish.

He managed only to place 12th. Byron finished with 25 points. He outscored only three playoff drivers.

The result is that Byron is 11 points below the cutline.

While the first stage was a harbinger of Byron’s woes Sunday, that stage proved critical for Austin Cindric.

The Daytona 500 winner was 15th with six laps to go in the stage. He finished fourth, collecting seven points — despite suffering some nose damage in an incident earlier in that stage.

“Stage points are a big deal,” Cindric said. 

He got those with quick thinking.

“I think when everybody tries to scatter to do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive,” Cindric said. “I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. I’d call it 50-50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck. 

“It certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the (Charlotte) Roval.

Cindric entered the race seven points out of the last transfer spot. While he didn’t score any points in the second stage, his ninth-place finish led to a 35-point day. 

That gives him the same amount of points as Chase Briscoe, who owns the last transfer spot because he has the tiebreaker on Cindric in this round.

For Briscoe, he earned that tie by collecting one stage point. 

In the first stage, he was running outside the top 10 when he sensed a crash was likely and “decided to bail” to protect the car and avoid being in a crash.

That crash didn’t happen and he was left without stage points. In the second stage, Briscoe was 14th with two laps to go. He beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. across the finish line by 0.035 seconds to place 10th and score that one stage point.

“You don’t think that one (point) is important until you see that you are tied,” Briscoe said. “One point could be really, really important for us next week.”