What drivers said after Bristol Cup race

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A look at drivers’ reaction following Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway…

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – WINNER: “It was a good race from start to finish for us. Our car was really fast. Really loose for five laps, then it would get good, then loose again, then good again, then would be pretty good at the end of the run. The next-to-last run we had there, the long one, I was really good. Thought I was going to be good there again in the last run but I didn’t have the front turn that I needed. Just tried staying patient with everything, tried not to overheat my tires, abuse them, just give myself a shot. We were able to stay close enough to Kevin (Harvick). Chase (Elliott) was obviously upset with the contact, was just making things kind of tough on him. It kept me in the game. Able to make some moves on him there late. Yeah, fun race. Have always wanted to win here, so cool to finally do it.”

Kevin Harvick (playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “What else do you say? You throw a temper tantrum like you’re two years old because you got passed for the lead and got a flat tire. We barely even rubbed. It’s all Chase (Elliott)’s way or it’s no way and if he doesn’t get his way, then he throws a fit. He did the same thing earlier. He let the 24 (William Byron) go by in the middle of the stage and then just rode around until the 5 (Kyle Larson) caught me, and I was tight behind him, and we wound up getting passed by the 5, so I just hate it for our guys.”

William Byron (playoffs) – Finished 3rd: “Honestly, I don’t think I breathed for 100 laps. I was honestly just trying to go as hard as I could. I mean, I don’t know. I had the best seat in the house for the leaders getting together. I was just trying to make as much speed as I could. I felt like that was what our car had, and we were just trying to hold off the 12 (Ryan Blaney) and just drive it as hard as I could. It was a pretty awesome moment that we could pull through being 18 points out and come into this race and advance is pretty amazing.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 4th: “I thought tonight we did a good job of just staying kind of in the hunt all night. I felt like we kind of ran top five most of the night. It wasn’t the best car. I’d take off really good, but I couldn’t keep the long run speed as good as other guys, like the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was crazy fast on the long run and we just didn’t quite have that speed, but I thought we were a little better that last run and were kind of able to keep pace with the leaders, but just not quite enough. I’m proud of the effort. It’s nice to move onto the next round, that’s for sure, and look forward to Vegas.”

Alex Bowman (playoffs) – Finished 5th: “It was an interesting night, for sure. We were pretty awful at the start of the race. Greg (Ives, crew chief) threw everything, including a laptop at it, I think. I heard there was a laptop casualty there during the race, it was so bad (laughs). I just started really out of the race track and it took a lot of adjusting on it to get it where we needed it; and it was obviously really fast there at the end. I’m just proud of everybody on this 48 team for not giving up. My mistake at Darlington kind of put us in this box; us and the 24 (William Byron). I’m really glad the 24 made it because if they wouldn’t have, that would have been on me, too.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 6th: “That’s the most speed we’ve shown in quite some time and I’m super proud of that. It’s awesome. That’s the best we’ve been. I’m thrilled to death with that and trying to move on and advance and find more speed for next week.”

Martin Truex Jr. (playoffs) – Finished 7th: “Just a battle. We battled with our Bass Pro Shops Toyota all night long and had a decent night for Bristol. No problems, no wrecks, no drama. We got some stage points that first stage and then struggled a little bit with the car, but got a bit better in the end, but came home seventh. Not a great night, but for us at Bristol, it was uneventful and not a terrible night by any means.”

Erik Jones – Finished 8th: “Solid day for the Air Force Chevy. Glad we could get them a top 10 run there. We had some damage on the right side and the balance was just a bit tight to run further forward than we did. But proud of the effort and hope we can keep the good runs going.”

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – Finished 9th: “Really disappointed about today. We were racing to to try to win and cut a tire there. We were fast, we were so fast. We got under Kyle (Larson) there on that run and cut a tire then didn’t have a caution there at the end to try to catch back up. Overall, I think we’re doing a great job. Our cars are fast every week.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 11th: “It was just a struggle. We tried some things and didn’t really get anywhere with it. The car was just very disconnected, very free in, tight landing — tight two-thirds especially and never were able to fix it with the adjustments we got in the race. It just eventually wears the front tires off and back up lights come on. I thought we might finish in the top 10 and get that out of it, but fell off pretty hard the last 15.”

Tyler Reddick (Eliminated from playoffs) – Finished 12th: “Unfortunately, we certainly gave up more than two spots over the course of this first round. Darlington, getting stuck down a lap at Richmond. Not just one key opportunity, but there was a number that was the difference. One situation, the situation tonight, doesn’t really stick out as the one that makes it sting. It was just unfortunate getting to the playoffs, we don’t really have the pace that we had to just point our way into the playoffs leaderboard. Missed it by two. Have the races we did, it kind of all adds up. For us to miss it by two and run the way we did isn’t a surprise.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 13th: “I’d say we had a good night overall. We were definitely working in the right direction in terms of adjustments and just doing what we needed to do to get the best finish we could. We had a really good Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford, but it would get a little tight later in the long runs, and that would hurt us a little. I’m just glad we were able to stay out of trouble and come out with a good finish.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 15th: “Good job by everyone tonight on this Richard Childress Racing team. We fell behind a little in the middle of the race, but (crew chief) Justin Alexander came through clutch with a strategy to get us back on the lead lap, and we were able to climb back into the top-15 in the final stage. We were just too tight to really make anything happen. Everyone on this Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet team hung in there through all of the twists and turns tonight.”

Aric Almirola (Eliminated from playoffs) – Finished 18th: “It was frustrating. I’m disappointed to have it end like that just because we had battled so much adversity throughout the night and got ourselves in position to where we were running top 10 and doing what we needed to do, and then that caution came out there at the end where we had 18 laps on our tires and we stayed out, and for whatever reason when we re-fired on those tires the car was up on top of the racetrack, skating, wouldn’t turn, I didn’t have any side bite and just struggling. I don’t know. That’s not the way we wanted it to end, but we’ll keep going and battle it out the rest of the playoffs and see if we can’t finish inside the top 10 in points.”

Kurt Busch (Eliminated from playoffs) – Finished 19th: “Really disappointing effort today. That was not a championship-type effort. We missed it big time. We had bad luck last week and we have no shot at a championship this year. We have to race for pride, dignity and honor for the next few weeks. The team is shutting down and we’re eliminated early. That’s not the way we wanted this to go. Maybe we can crawl our way back up to a fifth to tenth-range in points. But tonight was not a night to miss the setup.”

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 21st: “Just lack of speed really. We just weren’t very good at being able to make up time on the leaders there. Was only going to be about fifth quick. We fought hard there all day long and had a flat there at the end and got way behind. I guess we made it (into the Round of 12) so that’s all that matters.”

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 25th: “It’s something (Kevin Harvick) does all the time. He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks. Sometimes, it does cut down your left side. Other times, it doesn’t. He did it to me at Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing with me. Whether he did it on purpose, it doesn’t matter. At some point, you’ve got to draw the line. I don’t care who he is or how long he’s been doing it. I’m going to stand up for myself and my team and we’ll go on down the road.”

Cole Custer – Finished 28th: “Man, I never thought we’d have this much bad luck in a season, but here we are. I can say I do feel good about getting the car solid at the end of the race tonight, but that getting caught up in that wreck in the second stage just set us back too far. It’s on to the next one.”

Christopher Bell (playoffs) – Finished 29th:

Ryan Newman – Finished 38th: “I don’t know. I got turned into the fence. I’m not sure if it was my fault or if I got hooked or what, but it ended our day for our Kohler Generators Ford.”

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

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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.”

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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.”

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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. 

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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

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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

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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

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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.”