What drivers said at Dover

0 Comments

Here is what drivers had to say after Monday’s Cup race at Dover Motor Speedway:

Chase Elliott — Winner: “Had some good circumstances finally. Really appreciate Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our entire team No. 9 Chevrolet team for just sticking with it. We’ve had some tough races over the last, I don’t know, four, five months. Just great to get NAPA back to Victory Lane; great to get Hendrick Motorsports back to Victory Lane. Just so proud. This one means a lot in a lot of different ways. Just appreciate all the effort. But thanks to all the fans for coming out. You’re always awesome. Hope to see this big crowd here next year. Just a huge thanks to everybody involved. It’s been a fun day and we’re certainly going to enjoy.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 2nd: “This feels good. Hopefully we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us. That was a lot of fun. A lot of battling. It was tough to pass, but it was fun running through lap traffic. I really wish we had like a 70-lap run to end there.

Ross Chastain — Finished 3rd: “Pit crew was incredible today. They were just picking up spots every stop, got us the lead. I’m racing with champions and I got beat.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 4th: “We had an outstanding DeWalt Camry that’s for sure, just very, very frustrating to have those issues and get put behind because I feel like if we could have stayed up front we could have possibly contended for the win. We were able to get back up there in that third stage, and I’ll take it. I’m really proud of this 20 group.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th: “Just a bummer day for us because obviously we had a shot at the win there in our No. 48 Ally Chevrolet; and then that caution in the middle of the pit cycle had us starting the last run last. To go last to fifth at a place like this is nothing to be ashamed of because it’s hard to pass. As far as my guys and the race car that we brought, just wish it would have gone a little better for us.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 8th: “It was an interesting two days.It was a good run for the Fastenal Mustang. Everyone on the team worked really hard and did a nice job.It is a momentum builder It isn’t all that we wanted, but the pole was awesome, that was really cool. I know we had speed in it in clean air. We just fought dirty air. Unfortunately, that is a really big deal here. We could move around for a little bit and the tires would fall off, which is great, but once we got to the point where we had to kind of stay in line we were just sucking up dirty air which made it hard. We want more. I am not content there but it is a strong run for us and I am excited to head into Darlington.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 9th: “We just lost the car right there at the end of the second stage and it was plowing tight. We never really were able to find anything to make it any better. I am not sure what happened. We will try to figure that out and go back to work for Darlington next weekend.”

Justin Haley — Finished 11th: “We led some laps and stayed up front for quite a while until our tires started to go. We struggled a little in dirty air getting super tight, but we were able to rebound and almost got a top 10 out of it. We definitely made some gains today and were the best we’ve been all year.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 13th: “We were so behind after practice, we just didn’t get a lot of time to work on it with so many cautions, but we made it better for qualifying. We were still pretty far off Sunday when the race started, and warmer weather today really didn’t help. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) and the guys did a great job working on it and, by the end, our balance was good. We just didn’t have enough time to make up ground, and dirty air was a major factor.” 

Cole Custer — Finished 15th: “We were just fighting all day trying to make the car better. We got it decent by halfway through and we worked the pit strategy right and caught some luck and got a solid finish. The guys fought hard all day. They did a good job keeping us in the mix and we ended up making something of it.” 

Aric Almirola — Finished 19th: “Man, we had a car capable of running top 10 all day. We didn’t have it in practice or qualifying on Saturday, and Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and the guys made the right changes for the race. Unfortunately, we just got caught on pit road at the wrong time and it put us two laps down. We were still racing hard and kept our Smithfield/Weis Ford in the ‘Lucky Dog’ position, but we didn’t get the break we needed to race for position again. All in all, we had a good car and good speed, so I’m proud of that.” 

Austin Dillon — Finished 23rd: “We struggled with a very stiff front end and a tight handling condition no matter what chassis adjustments we made. This No. 3 team never gave up, though. We worked hard to make adjustments and it finally started to handle a little bit better with about 60 laps remaining in the race. By then, we were running pretty decent lap times but it was too late to make up much ground. It’s not what we wanted this weekend, but we’ll regroup and head to Darlington Raceway.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 27th: “Tough weekend for our ChevyLiners.com Camaro. From the moment we hit the track during practice to the checkered flag, we struggled to find the right balance in our car. The bumps in turn three upset the handling a lot and the car would go whichever way I had the wheel. We had ground to make up when we restarted today, but we battled from two laps down to return to the lead lap. That doesn’t happen every day in the Cup Series, especially at tracks like Dover. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep the track position, and once I blew a right front under green, we couldn’t make up those laps once again. Our Petty GMS team will keep digging and fight to make our cars better.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 30th: “Even though this was a really tough weekend for our No. 8 Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet team, we never gave up and I am so proud of everyone at RCR for that. We started out needing a lot of adjustments after practice and qualifying. With the rain on Sunday, we were using those laps in the beginning to see how our car was driving. We thought we had found the right adjustments on Sunday in order to improve our performance on Monday, but it was still a challenging day. I spent most of the race too tight and dirty air was really giving me trouble. We did run in the top five for a little bit today, which was a positive. Unfortunately, I made contact with the wall a few times and had tires go down and we were not able to rebound. This team deserves better and we will be stronger and better at Darlington.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 33rd: “Not the day we hoped for in our No. 16 Action Industries Camaro. We had good potential and showed some speed, but we just struggled in dirty air all day. The car was just extremely aero-sensitive and tight. We ran well up front for a while, but unfortunately we lost the brakes and our day ended early.”

William Byron focused on Talladega, not upcoming appeal

0 Comments

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?

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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

0 Comments

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.