What drivers said after Kansas

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A look at what drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway…

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – WINNER: “I don’t know (if I’m the championship favorite). I think looking at the drivers in the Round of 8, you can make a strong case for every single one of us, why we could win the championship at Phoenix. So, I don’t know. I don’t think you can pick a favorite. I think maybe, yes, you can look at me as being the favorite because of the momentum and stuff that we’re on and all that. But I can make a case for any one of the other seven drivers, why they could beat me and beat any of us. Anybody can win I think in the final eight right now.”

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 2nd:

Kevin Harvick (playoffs) – Finished 3rd: “We were just getting tight at the end of the runs and the 5 (Kyle Larson), 9 (Chase Elliott) and 1 (Kurt Busch) cars could really hold it wide open. I needed to get past (Larson) so I was trying to hold it wide open and had a lot of wheel in to it and got a little tight as we went to the last half of that run. I am really proud of everyone on the Subway Ford Mustang. We closed a huge gap at 1.5 mile race tracks and everyone is doing a great job.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 4th: “We did everything right, we just didn’t combo it all together at the perfect time. Pit road was awesome. (Crew chief) Matt McCall and all my guys, sticking together this late in the year with the team switching over. Just thank you to AdventHealth. I wanted to give them a good run and we were there. We did all of this right and it was so much fun racing right in the mix. It’s the little things that make the big difference. We freed it up on that last run; it got too tight. When you’re running with the big dogs, you have to do everything right. Thanks to Chevrolet and Hendrick power. That was a big deal today. Thank you to my guys at Ganassi. We’ll keep chipping away.”

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – Finished 5th: 

William Byron – Finished 6th: “Yeah, it was tough for us. On the first one, we got a good chunk of them and we got inside the top 10 and restarted ninth. Just didn’t really go anywhere on that one and it took us a while to kind of get back up there. But yeah, just a bummer we had that issue. I feel like we were executing a really good race and probably had the best car. We just had that issue and it took us out. We will rebound. This RaptorTough.com Chevrolet looked really good and we have had so much speed this year. It’s just a bummer to not get more wins, but I feel like our time is coming. We just have to keep at it.”

Martin Truex Jr. (playoffs) – Finished 7th: “It was a long day. You never quit fighting in these things and all you can do is the best you can do. Just kept working on it and kept making adjustments and do what we could. We were able to get back on the lead lap there and take the wave around with the quick caution and battle from there. All the guys did a great job on this Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry and it was pretty fast. Just sixth or seventh, where we finished was about where we were going to be. I would have liked to have done without that damage; it was pretty fast before that. Unfortunate the way that deal worked out, but we’re still in it and we’re still fighting and we look forward to next weekend.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 9th: “Yeah, we made decent restarts and our pit crew was good today and got us some spots. We were able to get the restarts and get up to the top four or so and then from lap two to 10 I just couldn’t stay with them. I went to the bottom they would pass me on the top, if I went to the top they would pass me on the bottom. I just couldn’t hold them off. From lap 10 on, we were as good as the top three or four cars, we just had last the track position at that point. We were too far back to be able to do much and try to strategize ourselves to the lead somehow. We tried the long run there in the first stage. We just didn’t really get the opportunity to do much. On to Martinsville. One more shot to do it. It is crazy watching this thing. They are trying to give it away it seems like. I have never seen so many issues in this round. Yeah, it seems like survival was the key in this round so far.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 10th: “We had a really fast No. 3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE today at Kansas Speedway. We ended up with damage in Stage 1 and never recovered, so it really says a lot that we were able to finish in the top-10. It was hard-earned by everyone on the team, for sure. We were running solidly in the top-10 in Stage 1 when another car fenced both of us. We had a lot of right-side damage, but we fixed it the best we could. Most of the rest of the day was a struggle because the damage was affecting our handling. By the end of the race, our car was pretty decent. Late in the race I got into a playoff contender and I hate it for everyone involved. It was side-drafting. It’s part of what we do, but I still hate that it happened. I tried to save it the first time, and the second time I just lost it. Overall, it was a good day for the Get Bioethanol team, and I am so proud of everyone at RCR and ECR for preparing fast Chevrolets.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 11th: “Kind of a frustrating day. We had a good Ally Chevy, but just fought being loose all day. We have two races left to get the finishes we want and that’s what we plan to do.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 17th: “That was a heck of a race. We are all just fighting to hard. I am bummed I didn’t get more out of it. I had a heck of an opportunity to score a lot of points and make next week easy. We still aren’t in a bad spot but not as good as spot as we could be.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 19th: “It was a tough day with the DEKALB Ford. The handling just was never where we needed it to be. The team did a good job of making something out of it, getting one of the laps back that we lost. We will just take it and look to Martinsville.”

Parker Kligerman – Finished 20th: “Thanks to Gaunt Brothers Racing, Toyota and Fast Checkout for being awesome to work with today. It was definitely a day where we struggled on the short run and were really fast on the long one. It was just a matter of me learning and trying to figure stuff out in the second half of the race. We needed a Lucky Dog or something to go our way to get back on the lead lap. We could’ve easily finished in the top-15. I probably asked for one adjustment that made us go back a little bit. Overall, a successful top-20 day. I don’t think that’s a miss at all after hopping back in a Cup car after two years. It was one of the best Cup cars I’ve ever driven.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 22nd: “These RCR Chevrolets are so fast, and once again we were able to run up front and contend in the No. 8 Caterpillar Dealer Tech Chevrolet. I absolutely hate how the day wrapped up, but I can’t say enough about RCR and how hard everyone has worked this year to make our 550 package better. I’m gutted that we haven’t won yet, but I know we are capable. Our Chevy was strong all day, and it felt good to run up front and lead for a bit today. It was really windy out there and I could definitely feel the wind pushing our car around during the race, but (crew chief) Randall Burnett and all of the guys did a great job adjusting on our car. Cautions didn’t fall our way today, and we also had to make an unscheduled pit stop for a tire going down with less than 20 laps remaining. That really ruined our chances of a solid finish. Overall, I’m so proud of this team and I know we are capable of winning.”

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 28th:

Erik Jones – Finished 29th: “Tough day for the Petty’s Garage Chevy. Never quite had the balance where we wanted and then cut a tire down that put us way behind towards the end. Hopefully we can rebound at Martinsville.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 37th: “Yeah, we got run into from two lanes below me. I have no idea. Obviously, it hurts. Finishing 37th is not prime. We didn’t have a great day but we did a good job of fighting back and getting back into the top-10 but then just got wiped out when we had plenty of room. That sucks. It is very unfortunate.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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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

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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.