What drivers said after Texas

0 Comments

A look at what drivers said following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway…

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – WINNER: “It’s awesome. I mean, we had a good points lead or whatever from the cutoff going into it, but still, you know, Harvick had his issues last year and didn’t make the (Championship 4). That will always be on my mind. We had a fast, fast car today, and we had a good couple stages, so even if I didn’t come out with the lead or the win or whatever, I wanted to play it smart and take what I could get. I got good shots from behind me every restart and allowed me to get clear into 1 every time and then do some blocking for a few laps. Fine on all those restarts and we had a great race car to allow me to be aggressive with the blocks, and fast, too, to stay out in front of William (Byron).

William Byron – Finished 2nd: “(Larson) just (had) control of the lanes. It’s all about the push. And I think here at Texas, the shortest lane kind of wins because of the way the track kind of separates into Turn 1. Our Axalta Chevy was fast all day. We just never quite got control. I think he (Kyle Larson) was definitely better than us in that first Stage. And then I was right there with him the rest of the time and it was just clean air, basically. But congrats to those guys. Kyle really deserves it. They’ve been awesome all year and flawless on pit road; and pit calls and everything. Our team is right there and I think we’re building something really good for years to come.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 3rd: “(Crew chief) Adam (Stevens) did a great job making the right calls – putting tires on at the end really helped us. We kept gaining on this Rheem Camry every pit stop. I felt like we were pretty strong at the beginning of the race and then we kind of lost the handle in the middle stages and fell back and lost some track position, so fortunate to come home third for sure. I’m really happy for this 20 group. I think we have some strong races coming up.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 4th

Kevin Harvick – Finished 5th: “We were really loose to start the race and the team made some good adjustments on the car. When they all crashed on the backstretch we were able to start around 16th and just work our way up from there. Overall, it was a good day. The team worked hard to put everything together and get us there at the end.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 6th:

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 7th

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 8th: “(Getting above the cutline is) about the only thing we got out of today. We were just off. I don’t know how we missed it, why we missed it, or what but just taking off on fire off, there’s just no grip whatsoever. We would just chatter the front tires, so we missed it today. We missed it big time. I don’t know what is going on, but that wasn’t the way to perform on the opening day today. Thanks to Interstate Batteries. I appreciate all of their people that were with us today. I just feel bad that we didn’t do a better job. We have to go back to work. Next week is Kansas – same kind of thing.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 9th: “Man, we came so close today. We definitely gave it all we had and put everything on the line to try and find Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. This Clark Pipeline Services Chevrolet team came so close. We had speed right from the start of the race, and Randall Burnett and the guys did a good job of keeping up with adjustments throughout the race. We cut a right-rear tire at one point so I’m glad we were able to recover from that. After the midway point of the race, our Chevy would get tight in the resin, and loose out of the resin, so it was interesting managing that today. At the end, we just didn’t get a good enough chance to make a run at the No. 5 car. Another car got into us on the second-to-last restart and that’s what caused us to fall back. I’m just glad we didn’t have to pit for a tire rub and could hang on to finish ninth. It was a little disappointing after running in the top-five and battling for the lead for most of Stage 3, but I know that this team is capable and we will get to Victory Lane soon.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 10th: “I feel so bad for (Martin Truex Jr.). I feel like I ruined the race for him, but he just can’t be doing that. I’m racing as well here. I have a lot of respect for the guys in the Playoffs. But one thing is respect, another is taking advantage of the situation. He wasn’t even close to being clear and I don’t know why he did that. We’re in the last 10 to 12 laps of the race; I’ve got tires and he doesn’t have tires. I don’t know, I think he’s just got to be a little smarter.”

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – Finished 11th: “I think we went a different direction with our car and we weren’t just as fast as we were in previous mile-and-a-half races. I thought we were kind of a third-to-fourth place car on the long run, seventh-to-eighth on the short run. Just weren’t ourselves today in that case and then obviously getting in two wrecks at the end didn’t help, but the fact that there was a lot of attrition and the fact that the team did a phenomenal job fixing the car got us back up to P-11.”

Erik Jones – Finished 12th: “Up and down day for the Medallion Bank Chevy. Finally got back on the lead lap at the end and got a top fifteen. Proud of the effort to stay in it all day as a team. Hope to take what we learned to Kansas and improve on it.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 14th: “I love Texas Motor Speedway, and our entire Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet team came here this weekend with the goal of backing up our performance from 2020 and finding Victory Lane. Things just didn’t fall that way. We ran in the top-10 early in Stage 1, but we were too tight to stay up there. Even though we threw the kitchen sink at our No. 3 Chevy during pit stops, our Chevy never got dialed in to my liking. The day became even harder with a couple of cut right-rear tires, and untimely cautions that caused us to fall off the lead lap. Our team never gave up, though, and we were able to fight our way back from two laps down. By the last restart, we were too loose. It definitely made things interesting. We worked hard to finish 14th. I’m proud of everyone on this Richard Childress Racing team for sticking with it today.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 15th: “The finish didn’t show it, but the guys did a great job making our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford better all day long. I really appreciate the effort, especially after last week. It got a little crazy at the end, there, which makes you wonder what might have been if we could’ve avoided at least some of that. But it is what it is.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 18th: “We just couldn’t recover from the damage we got early in the race. Our No. 10 Smithfield/Walk-On’s Ford was just too tight, and I couldn’t get it to turn with the damage. Man, that was a long day. The guys on pit road worked hard to keep us going. We’ve run so well at Texas in the past, so it’s a bummer we didn’t get to truly see what speed we brought. But it is what it is, and we’ll move on to Kansas.”

Cole Custer – Finished 19th: “Not the day we wanted at Texas. That wreck in the first stage really hurt a strong run for the No. 41 Feeding America/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang. I’m proud of our team for never giving up, though. They fixed up our car, and then we used those cautions at the end to get back into the top-20. We’ll move onto Kansas.”

Martin Truex Jr. (playoffs) – Finished 25th: “I’m not sure. I’ll have to see it. I was definitely running tight trying to get all we could and maybe I squeezed him (Daniel Suarez), maybe he came up, I’m not sure. I don’t even know if we touched. I got loose and when I gathered it up (shown replay). Yeah, we touched for sure. It’s really fast right there and yeah, hit the splitter and went straight to the fence. Tough spot to have contact like that. I don’t know. It is what it is.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 30th: “I thought it was starting to maybe give up a little bit of power in that run. We were just getting passed. Not really though. It just kind of let go. It is one of those days when nothing went right. The strategy didn’t go the way we wanted it to early in the race. Cautions didn’t fall the way we hoped they would and every time we started fighting our way back something happened and we ended up like this. Now we know what we have to do these next two weeks. We better go find a way to win.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

0 Comments

Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).

Long: NASCAR needs to quickly correct officiating issue from Texas

4 Comments

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

1 Comment

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

2 Comments

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.