What drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series second-round cutoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, where Christopher Bell advanced to the Round of 8 with his third career victory:
Christopher Bell — Finished first: “Whenever I came off pit road and I was the first car with tires, I was just trying to wait and see where I stacked up. I saw there were 11 cars that stayed out on old tires, I was the first one on new tires. I said, ‘I guess we’re going to roll the dice here and see what happens.’ When I got into Turn 1, my spotter did an amazing job. They all started wrecking. He told me to stay tight to the middle, and that kept me out of all the junk in Turn 1.
RESULTS, POINTS: Where everyone finished and the reseeded standings
“Man, you just got to be there at the end of these things. I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. No secret that road courses have not been our strength this year. We were just there at the right time. We obviously weren’t in position to win. We rolled the dice, gambled, and it paid off for us. I feel really good about (the next round). I knew that this second round of the Playoffs was the troublemaker, with Talladega and then the road course being in here, when we weren’t strong on the road courses. I was really nervous about this round.”
Kevin Harvick — Finished second: “I knew we were going to have to have a perfect corner there with Christopher having such fresher tires. He was able to get through traffic and was able to roll through a little bit more speed in Turn 1, 2, 3 and 4 and just got in front of me, but we were able to hold Kyle off so it’s still a good day. Our guys did a great job of putting us in position and having a chance. We were half a lap there from being in the right spot. It didn’t all work out but still a good day. I knew we were in a bit of a pickle there with Christopher on new tires and I just didn’t want to blow the first corner, I wanted to give us a chance he was just able to roll more speed than we were and from there it was just kind of like damage control and make sure you bring the thing home and that’s what we did. They did a good job. They got us in position and that caution coming out killed us there. We were half a lap from coming to the white and caution, so they did a good job.”
Kyle Busch — Finished third: “It was definitely a good day for our Camry. There at the end, before everything happened, we were just trying to keep it on the track and stay straight. We were really losing rear tire grip and losing time. But we got that late caution, made a pit stop and took advantage of new tires – came up with a third-place finish. Vegas is next week and we always look forward to it. We were fast there in the spring so hopefully we can do the same thing.”
AJ Allmendinger — Finished fourth: “When you are that close to winning, it’s for sure disappointing. But I’m happy with the way this No. 16 Chevy was. It was really fast. We just need to work a little bit on pit road. We lost that little bit of track position, and it was a track position game. Once I got around (Tyler Reddick), I was burning my stuff up trying to catch (Chase Elliott). With those restarts, I knew I was kind of used up already. I got a good restart there and when Chase and I touched kind of through (Turn) two, I went to set up for three and it turned me sideways and I slid a little more. That was unfortunate because that allowed (Kevin Harvick) to get to my bumper and we know Kevin is going to do that if he gets any chance. That’s a part of racing and going for the win. That second restart there, it was just a couple of guys with better tires, and you are just a sitting duck.”
Denny Hamlin — Finished fifth: “It was the type of day where basically wherever you got placed on the track was where you were going to run, unless someone made a mistake in front of you. We preferred that kind of day even though it is what it is even though our team did a great job with strategy and making sure that we junked stage two when we saw we weren’t going to get stage points there. Those guys that were in front of us most of the day ended up behind us and nobody could pass so it worked out nicely for us. All of (the tracks in the third round) are P1 for me and I like all of them. All of them are just perfect for what our strength is, especially with the Toyotas and myself. I’m excited. We had a good test at Martinsville and even though we finished bad there in the spring. We’re going to have to qualify well there and track position is going to be huge. We’re going to go to work and really excited about our prospects in this next round.”
Chase Briscoe — Finished ninth: “What a wild day. I told my guys before we took the initial green in the race, there’s a difference between thinking we could move on and knowing we could move on. This team never gives up. I told them I was never going to give up. It took every bit of it there at the end. To be easily in, then that debris caution comes out. Still, I thought we had a really good shot of making it in. Get wrecked on the backstretch. Crazy at the end of these races, especially the road course race, how much can change so quickly. I had no idea we were even going to have a shot. Truthfully I knew we were probably out. I saw (Austin Cindric) wreck, I thought maybe there’s still a chance. We had so much fresher tires than anybody. Johnny pumped them way up to qualifying pressures, let me go attack, have the ball in my hands. Super proud of this race team. Looking forward to the Round of 8. A lot of really, really good racetracks for me. If we can get to Phoenix, we know we got a good car there, too. … Nobody believed we were gonna get past the Round of 16 and here we are in the Round of 8 and three really, really good racetracks for me coming up, so I’m looking forward to them.”
William Byron — Finished 16th: “Stage 1 was pretty good for us. We got second-place stage points, and try to go for the stage points in Stage 2, missed out. Just both times had to restart in the 30s. Really difficult to get through there and try to pace it with (Briscoe). Just try to keep all four tires on the ground and between the curbs at the end. Certainly, just not how you want to race there at the end, but it was just crazy racing with the green-white-checkered and the way that guys are able to get into each other, make contact, guys spin out and the track gets blocked. It just gets wild there at the end. But we did what we needed to do, which was to get some stage points and finish the race. We’ll move on and get ready for Las Vegas.”
Joey Logano, Finished 18th: “When you have desperate situations like that, people just send it, and it ends up to be a mess. I’m sure there are a lot of scorecards that everybody kept today, and I didn’t dump anybody, so that was great. No one’s mad at me. I feel good. I like Vegas. We had a pretty good test at Miami and Martinsville has been one of Penske’s best racetracks as of late, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Chase Elliott — Finished 20th: “I thought I had a pretty good launch (on the second-to-last restart) and thought I got through (turns) 1 and 2 good. I thought I gave AJ (Allmendinger) enough room through one and two to not run into the fence. I don’t know if he just got loose, overdrove Turn 3 or whatever, but I ended up on the outside. Whatever the reason, he ran wide and I ended up the track in a super compromised situation. Bummer. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) called a great race. Our No. 9 Chevy wasn’t great, but it was plenty good enough to win. Our team called a perfect race to get us the lead, and our pit stops were really good to not to have any mistakes and get us a really nice cushion. We had a lot of laps on our tires, but I could maintain my pace out there with having a nice gap. We’ll try again next week. I think it’s going to be a really tough round. Vegas was a struggle for us in the spring. Homestead, we’ve just been really hit-or-miss there. We did have a test there a couple weeks ago, so hopefully we’ve learned from that. Martinsville, it’s just going to be about how you qualify because I don’t see anybody passing there. We’ll see how it goes. Try to bring our A-game. It would have been nice to have some more points from today, but we didn’t and we’ll try again out in Las Vegas.”
Austin Cindric — Finished 21st: “My guys did a great job all weekend. We had a long shot but had a shot at it and kept ourselves in the game. Obviously, I had a great shot at the end. That last caution really stung because we would have been in without that last caution. Old tires against new tires. I wish we would have had probably some better track position and probably do a few things right here and there, but overall great to have a shot, great to be in the playoff picture. I learned a lot in my rookie season racing against a lot of the best. I was a bit of a bonehead on the last couple restarts just trying to make something happen with 30-lap worse tires than everybody around me, but, overall, great experience but just a little bit short. I would have liked to make it further. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t look at this as an opportunity that everyone is going to have every year. If you’re in a good car with a good team it’s still not guaranteed. We had one guy make it in on points this year and that’s it. There’s past champions that missed out on the playoffs. I’ve got a guy standing next to me right here (Larson) that I think is one of the best drivers, if not the best driver in the field, and he’s not advancing on. This is not an easy format. It’s not that easy and it’s not an opportunity that’s guaranteed every year and I want to make the most of it.”
Ryan Blaney — Finished 26th: “It was nice to come in here with decent points and do a good job in the stages. It’s a shame because I thought our car was super fast, but when you’re stage points racing you just bury yourself and you’re just trying to stay out of everyone else’s junk there at the end. We still ended up getting in other people’s junk because people are running you over and spinning you out, but luckily we had a good points cushion. Got run over by people (on the last restart) just like Indy. I don’t know who ran me over, but put them on the list I guess. We did the stage game in the first stage and got our points, but then you just bury yourself the rest of the day, and it was so hard to pass today. You kind of bury yourself right at the beginning and it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, you can’t come from 25th and drive up through there. We did a good job. We had a plan coming into this weekend with where we were on points and stuck with that plan. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but on the other side you just try to be as smart as you can. I’m looking forward to getting to Vegas. I think we’ve come a long way on our mile-and-a-half program. Between Vegas and Homestead and obviously Martinsville is a strong place for us in the spring, so I’m looking forward to it. We’ve just got to put together good races with no mistakes and keep doing what we’ve been doing. I’d really like to win and not have to worry about the next two weeks, but I think this team has been doing a great job. They’re really focused right now.”
Kyle Larson — Finished 35th: (When were you worried?) “As soon as I hit the wall. Yeah, I mean, you give up that many spots, you know you’re going to be close. Then the caution there. So yeah, I just made way too many mistakes all year long. Made another one today. Ultimately cost us an opportunity to go chase another championship.
“Just extremely mad at myself. You let the team down a number of times this year, and let them down in a big way today. We’ll keep fighting. We’ll come back stronger. I’ll definitely come back stronger and smarter, make better moves out there. Just mad at myself. Bummer, but just got to move on. There’s definitely no other person to blame but myself for today. I feel like our team put ourselves in position as well as we could on points. Got as many stage points as we could. I think it was plus-28 at the time when I screwed up. Just for no reason, either. I wasn’t even pushing that hard at that moment. Got loose, caught my off guard. Yeah, just got to keep working on my craft, just be better, make a lot less mistakes. I made way too many mistakes this whole year. You can’t win a championship like that. Yeah, no surprise that I made another mistake today and took us out of contention.”
Daniel Suarez — Finished 36th: “(Corey LaJoie) wasn’t driving very smart today. He was blocking me and doing all different things that I could have wrecked him like two or three times. I don’t know why he was doing that.
“I’m the only driver in the field who could have finished that race the way my car was (with steering problems). My arms are completely destroyed. I’ve never felt like this in my life. My shoulder is very bad. My hands are destroyed. It was tough. It was very, very tough. We did what we needed to do the first half of the race getting stage points and everything. Once we lost steering, it was just hoping for a little bit of luck. We almost got it right there at the end. It is difficult to rely on luck 100 percent. It is what it is. We have to continue to get better. I think we were the only car that actually had a steering issue. I don’t want to say it was a crappy part because I was the only one that had the problem, but we have to come back to the shop and look at what went wrong. It was very, very bad everywhere. There were more than a couple of times I was just screaming. I needed to get it out. It was for sure the most difficult race I’ve had in my life, but I wasn’t going to give up. I needed to keep pushing and waiting for a little bit of luck. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but a little bit unfortunate to (get eliminated) because of an issue. I feel like we were having a normal race in the first half, but it is what it is. We have to continue to keep our heads high and continue to see forward.
“It’s sad (to be eliminated). I felt like it was going to be an easy transfer on a road course being 12 points above and getting a lot of stage points. I think we started Stage 3 18 points above, so it was going to be easy really unless we had an issue. Unfortunately, we had an issue.”
Ross Chastain — Finished 37th: “I’m human, so it hurts to make the mistakes that I made today and yesterday. I’ll take some time here with my guys and when I drive out of this parking lot, I’m going to make a big effort to leave the Roval here. Normally, it’s Monday morning when I’m done with it and look through everything, but we’re onto another round. It’s a testament to our season and our finish in points today. The strategy by (crew chief) Phil Surgen and our strategy with Trackhouse and Team Chevy to get the stage win in Stage Two is ultimately the difference that gave me the buffer when I needed it the most. I will drive off the property here in Concord and leave this here. It’s the No. 1 priority. I hit the wall really hard, so hats off to this car and what NASCAR and the France family has rolled out. I don’t think a year ago I’m able to continue as hard as I hit the wall. I couldn’t believe it when I made the mistake. I’m still in a bit of a disbelief, but when I walk out of here tonight, it’s full speed ahead to Vegas. I have to move on.”