What drivers said at Atlanta

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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

Kurt Busch — WINNER: “What a battle. What a genuine, awesome, old-school racetrack, and I just asked the track today, last time here on your old asphalt, can I have an old guy win, and she answered. Thank you, Atlanta Motor Speedway! This has been one of those years where I knew we were going to have our back up against the wall with trying to get above the cutoff line and race hard and race smart, and to have GEARWRENCH in Victory Lane, this is their last race of the year, they’re with us all year, and with Monster Energy, I couldn’t have two great primary sponsors. What a Chevrolet today, hell yeah!

Kyle Busch — Finished 2nd: “It’s just the same as always. We just don’t have enough front end with laps on tires. I had everything I had early in the run and then just smoked it behind the 42 (Ross Chastain), obviously. It shows you what kind of driver he is. Just tried to fight hard after that when I got passed and had one valiant effort off of (Turn) 2, but didn’t have enough momentum to drag him down and make him go high in (Turns) 3 and 4, and after that the tires were smoked. Great effort. Guys gave me a great piece. We were fast. The No. 1 (Kurt Busch) was definitely better than us today. I just thought I had him. And we did. But racing just didn’t play out that way for us.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 3rd: “It’s funny you look at results and oh, you started fifth and finished third, that’s a pretty good day. We went through a lot today on our Auto Owners Toyota Camry. … We definitely had the speed to battle for the win at the end, just had to come from too far back. I’m proud of everyone at (Joe Gibbs Racing), Toyota, TRD. Everyone at the shop is working really hard getting our stuff better. It just had the feel I was looking for today. We were good on the short runs and good on the long runs. I’m glad to be back running up front.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 4th: “We were OK. We had a really good racecar, just not good enough to contend for the win. I feel like we were really fast on the short runs, and I could run with those guys. I felt like I was just hanging out and trying not to burn my tires off. It never really paid off for me in the long run. I struggled at the end of runs and was really lane-limited at the end of the race. I needed the bottom to make the car turn. It was a good solid day for our Ally Camaro but not quite good enough.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 5th: “We got our best at the end. We didn’t start off very good. It was a long day of working on our race car and finally at the end we got going a little bit better. I was super tight all day and couldn’t really do anything. I was worried about cording right-front tires and we just kept taking pretty big swings at it. We still didn’t really get it to where we needed at the end, but, overall, not a bad day for our group. We’ve still got to find a little bit of speed, though. … I definitely think we’ve got to find some speed. None of us have won a race in a while and, honestly, we haven’t really been leading laps and running up front. We’ve been lacking, so we’re getting better, that’s for sure. It’s just little, tiny baby steps. I want to be winning races next week. I want us to make huge gains, but that’s not what this game is anymore. It’s tiny, little things that you find over weeks and weeks and apply them. I think we’re heading in the right direction, but we still got a little bit to go.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 6th: “I was able to get up into the top five early and stayed there for most of the race. Our car was a bit tight almost all day long, but the team was able to help counter that with air pressure adjustments throughout our pit stops. It felt like handling faded a little bit towards the end of the day, but I was able to switch up my lines and keep our speed for the most part, which was good. Racing in the Cup Series is just so tough. Everyone in this series is so smart and immediately picks up on anything someone does differently, so you’re constantly having to find new grooves and lanes during the race to stay up front. While I wish we could have finished top five, races like today are a testament to all the hard work the men and women of RCR and ECR put in at the shop every day, and this result is just another step in the right direction for our team. I know we can make the playoffs, we just have to continue to push.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 7th: “We changed a bunch of stuff throughout the day and just kind of kept grinding. I feel like we got to a decent spot there at the end. We weren’t anything special. But it was a heck of a lot better than where we started today. So, I’m happy with that. We just need to find a little pace and need to find a little bit myself and I think we can get back to where we need to be. We just need a tick more.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 9th: “This is another good example of where we’re really clicking as a team and executing, and I think we made about the most of our car. We just kept chipping away at it. (Crew chief Jonathan) Hassler made good adjustments and just kept getting better and better. That’s all you can ask for. I think everybody just did a good job. You like those days when you don’t have anything too crazy to talk about other than our team just doing a good job. Our pit stops were good. We were solid all day there. Hassler made great adjustments and we did fall back there. At a point we got pretty tight. The track changed a little and we got tight, but we took a little stab at it and got right back to where we were running in the top 10 and made the most of it. I’m pretty happy with it.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 10th: “That was a blue collar day for our MoneyLion team. Our guys had a great day on pit road and we had a great day on restarts.  We just needed a little more speed.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 12th: “We started the race way too tight and struggled with the handling for most of the race. Despite the challenges, we earned stage points in stage 2 before losing most of our track position pitting for lengthy adjustments to help the tight handling condition on our No. 3 Chevy. That adjustment really helped, but we had to climb our way forward from 20th. We kept digging and ultimately finished 12th. I know we learned a lot today, and I am proud of this team for never giving up.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 15th: “I felt like our One Cure Ford Mustang was a little better than where we finished, but we worked on it all day, and it definitely was better toward the end. It wasn’t one of our best tracks, but we improved and came out better than we were, and I’m proud of the team for sticking with it. We may have some work to do at New Hampshire, but I’ll be ready for the road courses when we come back from the break in a few weeks.”

Joey Logano — Finished 19th: “We weren’t bad today overall from a handing perspective, I’d say we just lacked some overall speed and put ourselves a touch behind when we had to pit early in the second stage. We had a better run going than where we finished but the last five laps I started to have a right side tire come apart.”

ROSS CHASTAIN — Finished 21st: “Kurt asked for the bottom so I gave him that lane. I was racing to stay on the lead lap. I’m very aware of what’s going on on the track around me. Kurt asked me for the bottom and I gave it to him. To see a Chip Ganassi car in Victory Lane with all that’s happened the last couple of weeks and all this year, there is nothing I want more. One team, one goal and that’s to win. I hate that Chip wasn’t here to enjoy this. But for our Clover Chevrolet to be so far off as we were and have a teammate go win, that’s a best-case scenario for us. We’ll learn from what they did and look through their notebook.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 23rd: “It was just a rough day at Atlanta. The balance was off on our Smithfield Ford Mustang for most of the race. We were hoping the rain would work out in our favor there in the second stage, but ultimately, we had to come to pit road in the end. We’ll move on to New Hampshire.”

Long: NASCAR needs to quickly correct officiating issue from Texas

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NASCAR’s admission that it did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is troubling.

With video evidence of impropriety and Hamlin’s team vigorously arguing for relief, there were enough reasons for series officials to take a closer look at putting Hamlin back to second before the race returned to green-flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race resumed. 

Add the lack of access series officials had to Byron’s in-car camera— something fans could readily see at NASCAR.com and the NASCAR Mobile App — and changes need to be made before this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

While NASCAR should make every effort to judge matters between drivers regardless of their playoff status, that it was two playoff drivers involved in an incident demanded greater attention. With three races per round, one misstep can mean the difference between advancing or being eliminated. 

Just as more is expected from drivers and teams in the playoffs, the same should be expected of officials.

“If we had seen that (contact) good enough to react to it in real time, which we should have, like no excuse there, there would probably have been two courses of action,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Sunday night. “One would have been to put Hamlin back where he was, or the other would be to have made William start in the back.”

Here is how the incident played out:

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash at 8:19 p.m. ET.

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.

About 90 seconds after the caution lights illuminated, the USA broadcast showed a replay from a low angle of Byron directly behind Hamlin’s car and apparent contact. 

Contact can happen in multiple ways. It can come from the lead car hitting the brakes and forcing the car behind to hit them, or it can come from the trailing car ramming into the car ahead. The first video replay did not make it clear what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to rule one way or the other based solely on that.

This also is a time when NASCAR officials were monitoring safety vehicles on track, checking the lineup and making sure pit road was ready to be open. It’s something NASCAR does effortlessly much of the time. Just not this time. 

A different replay aired on USA 11 minutes, 16 seconds after the caution that showed Byron and Hamlin’s car together. That replay aired about a minute before the green flag waved at 8:31 p.m. ET. Throughout the caution, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.

But once the race resumed, the matter was over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.

Three minutes after the green flag waved, the NASCAR Twitter account posted in-car video that showed Byron running into the back of Hamlin’s car while the caution was out. Such action is typically a penalty — often parking a driver for the rest of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done during the rest of the event. 

After the race, Miller told reporters that series officials didn’t see the contact from Byron. 

“The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them,” Miller said. “By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

But it didn’t happen that way.

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

NASCAR didn’t act. By that time maybe it was too late to do so. But that’s also an issue. Shouldn’t the infraction be addressed immediately if it is clear what happened instead of days later? Shouldn’t officials have been provided with access to the in-car cameras so they could have seen Byron’s actions earlier and meted the proper punishment? Instead, Miller hinted at a possible penalty to Byron this week.

Miller didn’t reveal details but it wouldn’t be surprising to drop Byron in the field, costing him points. He’s 24 points from the cutline, so a penalty that drops him from seventh to 30th (the position ahead of Truex) could be logical and that would cost Byron 23 points, putting him near the cutline. 

Texas winner Tyler Reddick said something should have been done. He knows. He was parked in a 2014 Truck race at Pocono for wrecking German Quiroga in retaliation for an earlier incident.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

“I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Texas shuffles NASCAR Cup playoff standings

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Texas marked the fourth consecutive playoff race that the winner didn’t advance to the next round.

All three races in the first round were won by drivers not in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick won Sunday at Texas, a week after he failed to advance from the Round of 16 and was eliminated from title contention.

Texas did shake up the playoff standings. Chase Elliott entered as the points leader but a blown tire while leading sent his car into the wall, ending his race. He falls to the No. 8 spot, the final transfer position with two races left in this round. He’s tied with Daniel Suarez, but Suarez has the tiebreaker with a better finish this round.

Chase Briscoe, who scored only his second top 10 in the last 22 races, is the first driver outside a transfer spot. He’s four points behind Elliott and Suarez. Austin Cindric is 11 points out of the transfer spot. Christopher Bell is 29 points out of a transfer position. Alex Bowman is 30 points from the transfer line.

The series races Sunday at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

XFINITY SERIES

Noah Gragson’s win at Texas moved him on to the next round. The win was his fourth in a row.

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer are tied for the final two transfer spots to the next round. Riley Herbst is one point behind them. Daniel Hemric is eight points from the final transfer spot. Brandon Jones is 13 points from the last transfer spot. Jeremy Clements is 29 points shy of the final transfer position.

The series races Saturday at Talladega (4 p.m. ET on USA Network).

 

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

The series was off this past weekend but returns to the track Saturday at Talladega. Ty Majeski has advanced to the championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

 

Winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s marathon race at Texas Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Tyler Reddick – Reddick isn’t acting like a lame duck. Headed for 23XI Racing in 2024 (if not sooner), Reddick now owns three wins with Richard Childress Racing, the team he’ll be leaving.

Justin Haley – Haley, who has shown flashes of excellence this season for Kaulig Racing, matched his season-high with a third-place run.

Chase Briscoe — Briscoe wrestled with major problems in the early part of the race but rebounded to finish fifth. It’s his second top-10 finish in the last 22 races.

LOSERS

NASCAR Officials – Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, admitted that series officials missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution after Martin Truex Jr.‘s crash. Such a situation could have major playoff implications, although Miller hinted that series officials may still act this week.

Christopher Bell – Bell met the wall twice after blown tires and finished a sour 34th, damaging his playoff run in a race that he said was critical in the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. – Harvick (finished 19th) and Truex (31st) were late-race victims of the day’s tire dilemma. Both crashed while leading.

Track workers  Somebody had to clean up all that tire debris.

Chase Elliott – Elliott remains a power in the playoffs, but he left Sunday’s race in a fiery exit after a blown tire while leading and finished 32nd. He holds the final transfer spot to the next round heading into Talladega.

 

 

Blown tires end race early for several Texas contenders

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Goodyear official said that air pressures that teams were using contributed to some drivers blowing tires in Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all crashed while leading after blowing a tire. Among the others who had tire issues were Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher Cole Custer and Christopher Bell twice. 

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

MORE: NASCAR says it missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution 

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

Eight of the 16 cautions were related to tire failures that caused drivers to spin or crash.

“It’s not a good look, that’s for sure,” Ryan Blaney said of the tire issues others had. “How many leaders blew tires tonight? Three or four?

“You just don’t understand what is making these things do that. From last week to this week, it’s really unfortunate. It’s just luck now.

“You never know if you’re going to blow one. You go into (Turn) 3 almost every lap with 40 laps on your stuff and I don’t know if one is going to blow out or not. That’s not safe. That’s for sure. Running (180) into (Turn) 3 and the thing blows out and you have no time to react to it. It’s unfortunate. I hope we can figure that out.”

Blaney said he was confused that the tires were blowing partly into a run instead of much earlier.

“It was weird because those tires didn’t blow right away,” he said. “Like the pressures were low. They blew like after a cycle or two on them, which is the weird thing.”

Asked how he handles that uncertainty, Blaney said: “Nothing I can do about it. Just hope and pray.”

After his crash, Elliott was diplomatic toward Goodyear’s situation:

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Tyler Reddick, who won Sunday’s race at Texas, said his team made adjustments to the air pressure settings after Saturday’s practice.

“We ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire,” he said. “So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”

This same time was used at Kansas and will be used again at Las Vegas next month in the playoffs. 

Reddick is hopeful of a change but also knows it might take time.

“I just think to a degree, potentially, as these cars have gotten faster and we’re getting more speed out of them, maybe, hypothetically speaking, we’re putting the cars through more load and more stress on the tire than they ever really thought we would be,” he said. 

“I know Goodyear will fix it. That’s what they do. It’s going to be a process. I know they’re going to be on top of it. Hey, they don’t want to see those failures. We don’t want to see them either. They’re going to be working on looking through and trying to find out exactly what is going on. We’ll all learn from it.

“It’s a brand-new car. It’s the first time in the history of our sport we’ve gone to an 18-inch wheel and independent rear suspension. All these things are way different, diffuser. All these things, way different. We’re all learning together. Unfortunately, just the nature of it, we’re having tire failures.”