What drivers said at Watkins Glen

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An aggressive move by Kyle Larson on the race’s final restart opened the door to a victory  Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Larson forced Chase Elliott, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, to the outside and took the lead with five laps to go.

Following Larson were AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, Elliott and Daniel Suarez.

Here’s what drivers said at Watkins Glen Sunday:

Kyle Larson — Winner: “I had the restart before, I kind of got put in a bad spot because he (Chase Elliott) had the dominant position on me with the nose ahead. Every time I was in the right lane yesterday in Xfinity, I was in the same spot, I would always get pinched into the curb. A lot of times I got passed by the time we got to turn two. I figured it was probably going to be the last restart of the weekend. I told myself if I had a nose ahead of him before we got to the braking zone, I was going to have to try my best to maintain that, not let him get a nose ahead of me, pinch my corner off, end my chance of winning. I had a good restart. I got in there hot. Did what I had to do to win. Again, I’m not necessarily proud of it, especially with a teammate, but I feel like I had to execute that way to get the win.”

MORE: Watkins Glen Cup results

MORE: Watkins Glen driver points

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 2nd: “Obviously, Kyle (Larson) drove it in quite deep to get the lead there on Chase (Elliott), and I was getting shoved in the corner. Maybe if I could have gotten the car squared off a little bit earlier in the corner, but obviously I was getting run into so hard that I was happy just to keep it on the race track and not have anybody next to me off the corner. Just proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing. This is absolutely one of the most fun cars I have ever driven in my life. I was hustling it and it was fast.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “It was crazy and I am ecstatic about what we did. We got the (second) stage win, and usually, if you get a stage win here you bury yourself, which we did. We were 27th at the start of the third stage. We passed a bunch of cars and got to 17th and then we got stuck around 15th or so. I have to give it to Paul (Wolfe), he put two tires on it and gave us some track position and then we had a couple of more good restarts and it ended up as a top-three. Pretty good.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “Just a huge congratulations to Kyle and everybody on the 5 team. Congratulations to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for getting another win. He (Kyle Larson) did a great job. Seriously, they deserve it. Looking forward to going to Bristol next week and trying to get one for our team.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 5th: “It was a little bit tight, a little bit loose. I felt like we had to play with the balance of the car quite a bit. But overall, I felt like our car was good. Probably not a winning car, but a solid top-five car. With the right circumstances, we probably could have won the race, but we just spent too much time trying to gain track position.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 6th: “It is disappointing. I don’t think we quite had enough for the 9 or the 5. I tried to hold them off as long as I could. They just had a bit of pace on me. They were pushing me hard enough that I was getting wide and making mistakes. I tried to make a move on that second-to-last restart there and got a pretty good run on the 5 and went to the inside and it just didn’t work out. We got jammed up on the bottom, and everyone was smashing into each other and we lost a couple of spots. That was pretty much it at that point. It is just disappointing. We’ve got to win to get into these playoffs. But I am proud of everybody at Front Row. We had a fast car and we were in the hunt. It just wasn’t quite enough.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 7th: “We lost a lot of track positions when I spun in the bus stop, but we fought our way back and we were in contention for a top five at the end of the race. We started off the day in wet conditions and once the track dried our KCMG Chevrolet got really tight. We made the car better by the end of the race. We finished seventh, but I was hoping for a top five.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 9th: “We had a really good Fastenal Ford. I am so proud of everybody. Just didn’t need that caution at the end. We needed a green flag run. We were running down the next several ahead of us and we had (newer) tires. That was working for speed. I don’t know if I could have gotten to the lead with green flag runs, but it definitely would have been better than we finished. It didn’t play out the way we needed it to, but still a really solid day.”

Erik Jones — Finished 10th: “Best road course car we’ve had all year. Thanks to the 43 guys, the hard work is paying off. We need to qualify a little better, but a good day and finish for our FOCUSfactor Chevy. Honestly, I was kind of hoping for more rain. I was having fun when the track was wet. Watkins Glen is one of my favorite road courses, so I’m glad to leave with a top 10 and head to Daytona next weekend.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 16th: “I’m really proud of our result today with our Allegiant Camaro ZL1. We’re just building momentum, man, and it takes time in this sport to build relationships with a lot of new people, but it feels like Jerame (crew chief) and I are starting to click. The last three weeks, we’ve been running really strong and doing what we want to do. We cashed in a lot of stage points today, but were also able to turn it around and finish 16th. That’s really hard to do on these road courses, and we did it. Really proud of our effort; we’re building momentum at a good time.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 17th: “We started our day maintaining speed and position in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Tracker Off Road Chevy, and then we had to make a decision with pit strategy. We went with the strategy of keeping strong track position because it was really difficult to pass. During the final stage, we got spun and ended up having to go to pit road earlier than planned, and it put us way back on the restart. We fought back all day long and after our final pit stop, a few cautions came out so we were able to gain some spots. Pretty up and down day for our team, but I’m proud of how hard we worked all day. We’re looking forward to Daytona.”

Kimi Raikkonen — Finished 37th: “I wasn’t really involved with it. I had a good line there, but everybody seemed to be coming on the left of me, and unfortunately I had no time to react. The first impact, somebody hit the tires or the wheels directly, the wheels spun and something was wrong with the race car, but that how it goes. It was good fun. I felt more confidence all of the time. We had some good laps. It’s a shame. The car felt like it had a lot of speed, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”

NASCAR weekend schedule for Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll into Talladega Superspeedway, a center of uncertainty, for the second race in the Round of 12 this weekend.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) could place the first driver in the Round of 8. Any playoff driver who wins the race automatically advances to the next round.

Through the playoffs to date, playoff drivers are batting zero in the race-win category. Non-playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace and Erik Jones — have scored wins in the first four playoff races.

Joey Logano leads the playoff points entering the race. Ross Chastain, who won at Talladega earlier this year, is second.

The four drivers below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron was above the line earlier this week but was penalized 25 points for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. That move lifted Chase Briscoe above the cutline.

Playoff races also are scheduled for the Xfinity Series (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, USA Network) and the Camping World Truck Series (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., FS1) at Talladega.

Here’s a look at the Talladega weekend schedule:

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74.

Sunday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High of 75.

Friday, Sept. 30

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 2 – 7 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.