What drivers said after Pocono Race 2

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A collection of post-race driver quotes following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway:

Kyle Busch – Winner: “(Denny Hamlin and I) were really close. We have kind of mirroring each other. I could gain on him in turn two, kind of stay equal to him in three, then he would get a little bit on me getting into turn one just because I felt like I was trying to still save a little bit being behind him. I could kind of let him throw it off in there. He would really push off at turn one, so I felt like he was going to burn his front tires up with the remaining laps left. Hopefully I could get by him, get a chance to get by him. When we went down from two to three coming to the white, we went from two to three, I had a run-on off of two, and was looking low and then he blocked low, and I went back high, and he really didn’t come back to block up high. I threw it in on his outside. I was like, All right, this is it, I’m going to take it. He was coming to pit road, so… I don’t know if he just positioned himself low, so then I didn’t block his opportunity to get to pit road. That might have been what went down there, so he was already out. I had no idea that was going down. Overall once I got my quarter panel, my front fender to his quarter panel, that’s kind of when I knew I had him.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 2nd: “I don’t know. It’s surprising finish for us. Our HendrickCars.com Chevy was really loose for a majority of the race, then we got a lot of nose damage there on one of the restarts. Was off on speed. I felt like after that. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody did a really, really good job managing the race, coached me through saving fuel there at the end. Was hoping that the 18 (Kyle Busch) was going to run out. I saw the 11 (Denny Hamlin) running out. I was, Okay, they’re teammates, they got to be close to running out. The 18 did pit a lap after us under caution. That actually probably won them the race. But, yeah, second-place finish, I thought we would be outside of the top 20. A lot of points throughout the race today; we’ll take it. Happy about the effort for sure all weekend.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 3rd: “We ran a really good race but just didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end like those others guys did. They beat us on power and fuel mileage. We have a lot of work to do to keep up with those guys. I am really proud of Jeremy Bullins and the team. They had the setup really well and it put is in position and we ran a great race today and maximized our day. It was a nice rebound from where we have been. We have had a lot of bad breaks with things breaking and all kinds of issues across the board. My mistakes, other mistakes. This was a really good day for us.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 4th: “I thought our car was better yesterday than it was today. We just kind of over adjusted from what we had yesterday to where we started today. They did a good job keeping us in the game and made some good adjustments in the car. We had some good restarts and good track position and were able to pick up the pace. Just still we just lose the handling of the car more than I would like to behind cars. Other than that, we just keep clawing along.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished 5th: “It’s big. A lot of confidence for myself which is huge. It came down to fuel strategy there, but I appreciate Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief), J.R. (Houston, engineer), Freddie (Kraft, spotter), telling me what to do – 80% there, 60% here, the whole time. It got so annoying, but it worked out. That’s what it takes. It takes a team effort to pull off this. Great day for us. Great day for DraftKings – their first race is the first top-five for our team. That makes you want to resign, but all-in-all, really good day. Really good weekend for us. We knew that we had the speed. Bossman was here – MJ (Michael Jordan) was here. We had the whole staff out, so it was a good day. Good weekend.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 7th: “It was an OK day for the No. 48 Ally team. Strategy didn’t work out for us. We struggled in traffic; kind of knew we would have after yesterday. But we got out front for a bit and we were pretty decent. Onto Road America next weekend.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 9th: “My team definitely made some good changes to the No. 8 Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE overnight. We were a lot better over the bumps today, which was one of my bigger issues on Saturday. I seemed to fire off too loose for each run but then build too tight, especially when I was in dirty air. The adjustments my team made all race long did help though. I just needed to get a little creative with the lines I was running since I had no grip when I would try to run the traction compound. We got a little off-sequence with our strategy today, but it ended up working for us in the long run when all those other cars ran out of gas during the last few laps. Our car had good speed all weekend long, so that’s great for us to build on as we head to Road America next weekend for some road racing.”

Joey Logano – Finished 10th: 

William Byron – Finished 12th: “I figured we were first on four tires. We can make it. I kind of thought we were closer on fuel than we were. I thought we could get up as far as we could, and a couple of guys would have to pit and we’d save and win. So that was kind of how it was looking to work out there with the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) and then we had to go into max save. I thought for sure we’d make it because usually you’ve got a little bit of fudge factor there, but we ran out with three (laps) to go, so not even close.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 13th: “P-13; I think we had a little better car than that. We did everything we could to get track position all day. We ran out just there at the end of stage two on the backstretch; so close to getting top-10 and stage points there. That would have set us up for the end pretty good I think, as far as track position goes.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 14th: “Just do what I’m told: Don’t run when I’m not supposed to run, run when I’m supposed to run. The result is we pitted on the last lap for three weeks in a row. That’s tough. I mean, I hate seeing the white coming to pit road. It’s just so frustrating. Fuel mileage has got us the last two weeks. Lug nuts the week before. We’re running fast. We’re getting a little better. I think overall we had a little bit more speed this weekend than what we’ve had the past few weeks. Yeah, can’t see the checkered right now.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 16th: “Buga (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and the No. 10 Smithfield team made steady improvements on the car all day. We thought the fuel mileage would play out better in our favor and give us a top-10. It was nice to run up front today in clean air and get some stage points. The strategy didn’t completely work out in our favor, but overall we had a decent day, and I don’t think our finish was indicative of that.”

Cole Custer – Finished 24th: “Man, we had a fast No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang today and definitely could’ve contended up there in the top-10 if we hadn’t run into trouble at the beginning of the final stage. It was hard to recover from that damage. We’ll learn and move ahead to Road America.”

Justin Allgaier – Finished 25th: 

Ross Chastain – Finished 26th: “We had to start in the back, so it took us a little while. But once we got up into the top-10, we had the balance in the car and the grip to stay there. With pit strategy, we restarted in the top-five a couple of times. I just got into the 20 (Christopher Bell) there. I drove into (turn) three and thought I could clear him. By the time I realized I couldn’t, it was too late. I tried to keep off of him, but ruined his day and mine. Sorry to Christopher. We cut our right front and I think got him into the wall. I’m really proud of the No. 42 McDonald’s team for unloading a good backup car. We’re close – I just have to do a little better job.”

William Byron focused on Talladega, not upcoming appeal

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — William Byron enters today’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway not knowing if he truly is above the cutline or below it.

He’s listed as eight points outside the final transfer spot after NASCAR penalized him 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal will be heard this week. Should the team win, Byron could get those 25 points back. 

But that doesn’t matter to Byron this weekend. He views himself outside a playoff spot.

“I race eight behind,” said Byron, who starts ninth in today’s race (2 p.m. ET on NBC).  “I don’t think about the hypotheticals.

“Obviously, I feel like we’ve got a good case and a good amount of evidence that we put together, but I race (as the points are). So just move forward with it. Go after the stage points and feel like we’re capable of running really well at superspeedways.”

If he wins today to advance to the next round, the points he was penalized won’t matter, but if he doesn’t win, those could prove valuable. 

The points deducted are an element of the Hendrick appeal. 

“The severity of the penalty, that’s what we were opposed to and that’s what the appeal is about,” Byron said.

His point is that being docked a similar amount of points in a three-race round as during a 26-race regular season is too severe. The suggestion being that point penalties should be modified for the playoffs because drivers have fewer races to make up those points before the playoff field is cut. 

That will be up to the appeal panel to determine. Should Hendrick lose, the team could further appeal that decision. 

Byron is in this situation after being upset with how Hamlin squeezed him into the wall last week at Texas. Martin Truex Jr. crashed to bring out the caution a few laps later. As Hamlin, running second, slowed, Byron ran up to Hamlin’s car and hit it in the back, sending Hamlin spinning through the infield grass. 

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said series officials in the control tower didn’t see the contact. Series officials did not penalize Byron during the event but announced a penalty two days later. 

Hamlin had wanted to be placed back in his original spot after the contact but series officials put him back in the field where he blended in. Asked if he was satisfied with the penalty to Bryon, Hamlin said: “It didn’t help my finish. … It didn’t change the fact that I could have won the race instead of finishing 10th.”

Byron said he and Hamlin spoke this week.

“It was a good conversation, learned a lot from him,” Byron said of Hamlin. “Got a better understanding of what he was thinking.”

Byron’s incident shares similarities to what happened to him at Darlington in May. Joey Logano was upset with Byron for crowding him into the wall with 26 laps left. Logano caught Byron and hit the back of Byron’s car, knocking it out of the way with two laps left. Logano won. Byron finished 13th. NASCAR did not penalize Logano.

That incident was under green and in the final laps — when NASCAR is more likely to allow drivers to settle the race between themselves within reason. Byron’s contact of Hamlin last week was under caution and NASCAR typically frowns upon such action.

Earlier this season in the Xfinity Series, NASCAR did not penalize Noah Gragson for wrecking Sage Karam and triggering a 13-car crash at Road America. Four days later, NASCAR penalized Gragson 30 points and $35,000.

Dr. Diandra: Is Talladega really the biggest, fastest, fiercest track?

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Talladega Superspeedway has a reputation as one of the wildest tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

Is it hype? Or do the numbers prove the point?

The biggest

Talladega is the longest oval track in the NASCAR circuit. At 2.66 miles (14,045 feet), one Talladega lap is the length of about 468 football fields. Talladega is longer than Mauna Kea is tall.

If we measure lengths in terms of Talladega:

  • The distance from Charlotte to Nashville (the location of the NASCAR awards ceremony) is 339 Talladegas.
  • If you flew direct from Los Angeles to New York City, you would cover 2500 Talladegas.
  • Martinsville is just 0.20 Talladegas.

Talladega also holds the record for banking in current Cup Series tracks with 33 degrees. Talladega’s banking is so high that the outside lane of the 48-foot wide racing surface is 26.1 feet higher than the inside lane. That difference is about the height of a two-story house.

Talladega is a tri-oval. Think of it as three straight lines connected by three curves.

A graphic showing the tri-oval shape and how it got its name

 

While tri-oval describes the track shape, it is also used to refer to the frontstretch — the most triangular part of the track.

And Talladega’s frontstretch is formidable. The 4,300-foot segment is banked at 16.5 degrees. Talladega’s frontstretch has more banking than all three of Pocono’s turns.

The backstretch, known as the Alabama Gang Superstretch, isn’t too shabby, either. It’s 1,000 feet longer than Daytona’s backstretch. If you were to unroll Richmond, its entire 0.75-mile length would just cover Talladega’s backstretch.

Talladega’s infield is so large that it could hold the L.A. Coliseum, Martinsville, Bristol, Dover, Richmond and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

A graphic showing that it's possible to pack five smaller tracks, plus the NASCAR Hall of Fame into Talladega's infield

The Fastest

Bill France Sr. originally envisioned Talladega as Indianapolis Motor Speedway with higher banking. At a time when raw speed was the big attraction, higher banking would allow Talladega to wrest away the closed-track speed record from Indy.

In 1970, just six months after Talladega hosted its first race, Buddy Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph mark on a closed course.

Baker’s breakthrough happened at a testing session. It wasn’t until 1982 that Benny Parsons became the first Cup Series driver to qualify over 200 mph. Just four years later, all but one of the 42 drivers starting the spring race qualified over 200 mph.

In May 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time Cup Series qualifying record at 212.809 mph. That record will likely never be broken. During the race, Bobby Allison got airborne and crashed into the catchfence. NASCAR subsequently mandated restrictor plates (and now tapered spacers) to keep speeds down and cars on the ground.

Restricting airflow to the engine makes drafting even more important. That, in turn, leads to large packs of cars racing within inches of each other. That’s why four of the top-10 closest finishes in the Cup Series happened at Talladega.

In the spring 2011 race, Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by just two-thousandths (0.002) of a second. That ties the famous 2003 Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch Darlington finish for the smallest margin of victory in Cup Series history.

Of all Talladega races run after NASCAR introduced electronic scoring in May 1993, 44 ended under a green flag. Of those races:

  • Seven (15.9%) were won by less than 25 thousandths of a second.
  • Fifteen (34.1%) were won by less than one-tenth of a second.
  • Thirty-nine (88.6%) were won by less than two-tenths of a second.
  • The largest margin of victory was 0.388 seconds.

The Fiercest

Pack racing leads to more contact. Out of 35 Talladega races run under the current green-white-checkered rule, 14 (40%) ended under caution. Rain caused one of those yellow/checkered finishes. The rest were due to accidents.

In 64 races since 1990, Talladega has seen 228 caution-causing spins or accidents, which involved 1,120 cars.

Almost half (49.2%) of these incidents involved only one or two cars. A one- or two-car accident is no less problematic for the drivers involved than a larger crash. But the more cars involved in accidents, the more likely a driver is to be knocked out of the race.

  • 3.5% of all accidents since 1990 involved 20 or more cars.
  • 5.7% of accidents collected 15 or more cars.
  • 16.7% were 10-car or larger crashes.
  • 38.2% involved five or more cars.

While probable, the Big One is by no means inevitable.

Neither are accidents in general. Three races since 1990 finished with no cautions, but all three of these races took place before 2003. The lowest number of cautions in a Talladega race since 2003 is three. That happened at the fall races in 2013 and 2015.

The average number of caution-causing accidents and spins in a Talladega race is 3.5.

  • Seven races (10.9%) had a single caution-causing accident or spin.
  • 14 out of 64 races (21.9%) had four caution-causing accidents or spins
  • 13 of 64 races (20.3%) had three caution-causing incidents.

Races with four or fewer accidents make up 71.9% of all Talladega races — which means that races with five or more accidents only account for 28.1%.

The numbers definitely uphold Talladega’s reputation. Although the track itself remains the same, the racing varies. Tune in to NBC (2 p.m. ET) to see whether this fall’s bout is accident-filled or accident-free.

Talladega Xfinity results: AJ Allmendinger edges Sam Mayer

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AJ Allmendinger, who had had several close calls in Xfinity Series superspeedway races, finally broke through to Victory Lane Saturday, edging Sam Mayer to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allmendinger’s margin of victory was .015 of a second. Mayer finished second by a few feet.

Following in the top five were Landon Cassill (Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate and his drafting partner at the end), Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson, who had won four straight Xfinity races entering Saturday, was 10th. Austin Hill dominated the race but finished 14th.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

AJ Allmendinger wins Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

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Veteran driver AJ Allmendinger slipped past youngster Sam Mayer in the final seconds and won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

As drivers in the lead pack scrambled for position approaching the finish line, Allmendinger moved to the outside and, getting a push from Kaulig Racing teammate Landon Cassill, edged Mayer by a few feet. The win ended frustration for Allmendinger on superspeedways.

Following Allmendinger, 40, at the finish were Mayer (who is 19 years old), Cassill, Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry.

Noah Gragson and Allmendinger have qualified for the next playoff round. The other six drivers above the cutline are Ty Gibbs, Austin Hill, Josh Berry, Justin Allgaier, Mayer and Sieg. Below the cutline are Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements.

MORE: Talladega Xfinity results

MORE: Talladega Xfinity driver points

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Austin Hill dominated the race but dropped out of the lead to 14th place  in the closing five laps as drivers moved up and down the track in search of the best drafting line.

The first half of the race featured two and sometimes three drafting lines with a lot of movement and blocking near the front. In the final stage, the leaders ran lap after lap in single file, with Hill, Allmendinger and Gragson in the top three.

MORE: Safety key topic as drivers meet at Talladega

Hill led 60 laps and won the first two stages but finished 14th.

Gragson was in pursuit of a fifth straight Xfinity Series win. He finished 10th.

Remarkably for a Talladega race, the entire 38-car field finished. The race was the 1,300th in Xfinity history, marking only the third time the entire field had been running at the finish. The other two races were at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.

Stage 1 winner: Austin Hill

Stage 2 winner: Austin Hill

Who had a good race: AJ Allmendinger got the “can’t win on superspeedways” monkey off his back with a great final lap. … Sam Mayer made all the right moves but was passed in the madness of the final run down the trioval. … Landon Cassill finished a strong third and gave Allmendinger, his teammate, the winning push.

Who had a bad race: The race had to be disappointing for Austin Hill, who ran the show for most of the afternoon, winning two stages and leading 60 laps, more than twice as many as any other driver. While blocking to try to maintain the lead late in the race, he fell to 14th. … Playoff driver Jeremy Clements finished a sour 20th and is 47 points below the cutline.

Next: The Xfinity Series’ next playoff race is scheduled Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. (ET) on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The race will be broadcast by NBC.