What drivers said at Richmond Raceway

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What drivers said after Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway (click here for full results, points):

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “It’s like I said last week, the cars have been running good week in and week out, and you see that we have a lot better understanding of what’s going on with how we adjusted on the car after the first run and were able to get our car handling a lot better. I think as it got dark, the racetrack really came to our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang. I knew (Christopher Bell) was coming, but I forgot to shift down the front straightaway the last time. I was not paying attention and he got closer than he should have. I made a mistake there a couple of laps doing the same thing. I wasn’t shifting on the back and I was shifting in the front. There was a lot going on, and made a couple of mistakes, let him get too close. … We’re just going to keep doing the things that we’re doing. I think we just have to keep an open mind about things and keep progressing and keep understanding the car, understanding what we could have done better today, understanding what we could have done better in qualifying yesterday and do the same thing over and over.”

Christopher Bell — Finished second: “I got held up pretty bad at the beginning of the run by a couple slower cars and that was ultimately the difference when you get beat by a couple car lengths. Just really fun and really fun race when you have different strategies and you have guys coming and going. I love whenever the races stay green and you’re able to play your cards a little bit different. Really proud of everyone on this 20 crew to be able to come back from how we started. Very tough weekend for us. We didn’t practice very well and we didn’t qualify very well. And the guys did a really good job getting this Rheem Camry up front and where we needed to be at the end.”

Chris Buescher — Finished third: “Really close. Everyone on our Fastenal Mustang did such a tremendous job overnight because we didn’t know we were in this position yesterday. I didn’t qualify real well, and everyone worked hard and had a fantastic race car today. I think it’s a little easy with this format to feel like third place doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to be close and to keep progressing and getting better as we’ve gotten through the summer. Really neat to finish here. Really proud of everybody. Just burned the rear tires up. Ultimately that’s on me. Lapped traffic didn’t do us any favors, either, but ultimately just got to keep the rears under us a little bit better so we can have a little bit better shot there to get after him for the win.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished fourth: “We had the winning strategy. I think we played it great. The fall-off was nearly as great those last couple of runs, really for the last 100 when the track was shaded over. So I thought that going long was actually the right play, and the team did a great job with that call for sure and just had a slow stop on that last one. We ended up three-and-a-half seconds behind. It was the perfect time. I knew that when we pitted there, the gap that we had to the cars that were on fresh tires, I knew that we were going to come out on the same straightaway with them on much fresher tires. It was the race call and the winning call, just didn’t execute on stuff and just a little hiccup.”

Chase Elliott — Finished fifth: “The track was very similar there early and late, if anything, I feel like it got a little faster.  It wasn’t a huge deal, just needed to be a little more forward there to have a shot.  It was really odd, I didn’t think it was driving any better, but in comparison to people around us, we were going forward.  So, just normal Richmond.  Just more confusing I feel like.  I have been here and had cars like that where you are not driving good, but you are moving forward.  Then you will have days where you feel like your car is driving good and you are not going anywhere or vice versa.   This place is really strange and the track had gained a lot of grip there at the end too.  There were obviously a lot of different strategies going on, and it was nice to get a top five out of a tough day yesterday. Yeah, obviously we want to be better and Michigan was a big time struggle for us.  This weekend was too all the way up until the last few runs.  We will go to work and try to finish these last two weeks strong and get ready for Darlington.”

Joey Logano — Finished sixth: “I think just as the sun went down and the track cooled off and lost some turn on our car. Kevin (Harvick) and some others got a lot better the last couple of runs in the race. When it was hot and slick that was probably our strength with the Shell Pennzoil Mustang. We had good turn and then once it cooled off we lost the turn but still weren’t real good on the exits. Then you start playing defenst and running too hard. It was a downhill slope from there. I was hoping for a late race caution, that was our only prayer at the end there. Overall we got a stage win and playoff points and that is something to be proud of. It stinks when you say we led 222 laps but not the right one. … When you have days like today when you have a fast enough car, you want to capitalize. We did as far as playoff points and a stage win but not enough at the end of the race. We need these ones to be race wins instead of just stage wins but I feel like we are starting to come into our own here and getting a little more solid and situated more in the top five than we have been. I am proud of that. We just have to keep that going.”

Aric Almirola — Finished eighth: “When the clouds came and the track cooled we kind of lost it. The first couple runs of the race we were so fast. We drove from 32nd up to the top-five. Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really good on the long run. We took care of the tires really well and it did everything I needed it to do. As the pace picked up and the track cooled off I just couldn’t get the car to rotate like I needed it to and just couldn’t quite carry the speed those other cars could. It was a good day. We have had a rough month, so to come here and rebound and have a good run — we need a win, but to have a good run is a confidence booster.”

Kyle Busch — Finished ninth: “We were looking okay, and in a good spot just coming up through there working our way methodically through the field with our M&M’s Toyota Camry, and we got ‘Chastained’ this week. We were his victim this week. And then that didn’t hurt us too bad. We restarted back in a decent spot. But then the next spin I think, was Christopher (Bell). That allowed the guys that were around us that we were kind of racing some of our team guys to come get tires and then they had 10 fresher laps on tires the whole rest of the day. So that kind of hurt us if we would have been on that strategy we would have run out of tires, but we also probably would have been in the top five. So just wrong side of the strategy there. At the end, nothing, nothing to do really to flip that but good fight all day long. You know, the top 10 is about what we had anyway, I figured the best we were it was about a seventh you know, but barring a strategy call, we could have probably been top-five. So that’s all we had anyway.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 16th: “I had fun at Richmond Raceway today and everyone on the No. 3 Huk Performance Fishing Chevrolet team did a great job. We started off the race loose. We came to pit road during the stage break and my crew chief, Justin Alexander, made a good call to get my car tightened up during the second stage. On lap 243 we caught a lucky break by catching a caution, saving us a lap. We struggled most of the day with the handling of our Chevrolet, but towards the end of the race we hit on a setup that really worked well with the track. We were posting solid lap times in Stage 3, even on old tires. I wish we could’ve had that at the beginning of the race. We would’ve been jamming. All-in-all, we’ll take this 16th-place finish and head to Watkins Glen International.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 22nd: “Certainly happy with our speed today in our Allegiant Camaro. That was a major step in the right direction and overall competitiveness. We had some messy things that we need to clean up, but it’s good to be disappointed with 17th after the penalty and having a messy day. I think our momentum is heading in the right direction and we are hitting our stride here. We have 11 races to go to really perform well.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 24th: “We battled all day with our Chevy Accessories Camaro.  We could never just get it fine-tuned.  The guys worked really hard, and we had great pit stops.  We just kind of missed it overall, but I’m still proud of the effort. We will keep working hard and try to be better next time.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 31st: “We had a tough day in the No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet at Richmond Raceway, but we’ll put it behind us. After we lost track position early, crew chief Randall Burnett and the guys on the 3CHI team made adjustments and it improved the balance on the car. Unfortunately, I got into the wall and then we pitted a couple of times under green because of a vibration. Next week at Watkins Glen International, we need to run well and get every playoff point we can, and I’m sure we can do just that.”

Erik Jones — Finished 35th: “We were just in the wrong spot and got caught in someone else’s mess. We made contact and killed the right front. We struggled all day with our FOCUSfactor Chevy, just couldn’t find the balance we needed to run up front. Not our day. We’ll load up and get ready for Watkins Glen next weekend.”

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).

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.