Austin Dillon

What drivers said after Phoenix race

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The field is set for next weekend’s NASCAR Cup championship race at Miami, following Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Here’s what many drivers had to say afterward about their performance:

Denny Hamlin – winner: “(How does it feel to know you’re going to Miami to race for the championship?) The caution was the most nervous moment. I was counting down, I have a clock inside the car and I was looking at the clock and thinking, 20 more minutes of laps, 10 more minutes of laps, five more minutes of laps. I knew it was inevitable. I’ve been through so much at this race track. Obviously in 2010 and the downfall of our championship run there to get it all back 10 years later, this is special to me.

“(Is this the best drive of your career?) One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that. Fast car. But, yeah, I pushed for all I had. I mean, that’s all I got. Once we got the big lead there, a little over 10 seconds, I just kind of sat there. I got to thinking about if the caution does come out, I want to lap as many as I can. That’s all we had. So proud of this whole FedEx racing team … There’s still work to be done. Doesn’t guarantee a championship. Gives us a chance. Live to fight another day. That’s all you can ask for.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: “Just didn’t quite have enough (to win). I knew (Hamlin) was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.

“(You go to Miami with a 21-race winless streak. How do you change that?) Yeah, thanks for the reminder. Fight as hard as we can, do the best job we can, exactly what we did today. Today we just weren’t good enough. Next week we’ll just have to make sure that we are. Somehow, some way, if it works out, it was meant to be. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Hopefully the sun will come up for another day.”

Ryan Blaney – finished third: “We ran third. I thought we got better all day. I thought we did a good job of getting better on long runs all day and the short runs too. We just got overall better, and then passed a couple cars we were behind the first couple runs, but nowhere near in the league, especially the 11, but in the 18 and the 19 were in. We’ve got to do our homework. We’ve got to start working on that. I’m really proud of the whole group for today, but the whole playoffs as well. It stinks that you miss it, but a solid day.

“(It seems like a Gibbs year. How do you battle that next year?) You’ve got to figure something out, right? It’s gonna be the same car next year, so everyone will spend the offseason trying to figure out the most efficient way to build these cars and everything like that, and we talk all the time about how this sport goes in cycles and they’re obviously on a really high one all year, which is really impressive, but I’ve got faith in the whole Penske group to really find some stuff and hopefully we have a decent run at Homestead and that leads into next year.”

Kyle Larson – finished fourth: “(Denny Hamlin) had an amazing race car there. So, he would have had been tough to beat. But obviously with that final restart there, everybody felt like they had another chance to try and beat him. I just felt like if I could have lined up on the outside row, I would have had a really good shot. Had I lined up sixth or eighth even, I felt like I would have been in a much better position than starting seventh. It didn’t work out. I restarted on the bottom every time but one today, so that was unfortunate. It’s still a good year for us. It was a little rough in the beginning of the season, but we have rebounded from that, worked hard, got our cars better and our team better. We were battling for a championship. We’ll go to Homestead next week, race and try to get a win.

“(What are your feeling emotion-wise now?) I would like to battle for a championship next week. We did a good job in the playoffs; I feel like we’ve learned a lot. We stayed consistent, didn’t get too anxious at times and got good finishes. I think we’ve ran in around the top 10 in every race, but Talladega. It was good. We finished top 10 at Martinsville in thepPlayoffs, so that was an improvement. We’ll try and be better for next year; get our cars a little bit better for these short tracks and have a better shot.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fifth: “(How would you evaluate your day?) I’d say about like I thought it was gonna go. The Gibbs cars were strong and we were probably about where we finished, about a fifth-place car. I’m just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1 Ford for battling through the day and we’ll see what happens next week in Homestead. … (You’re the only non-Gibbs car in the championship race. What do you need to do?) Beat three Gibbs cars. Go faster than them.”

Martin Truex Jr. — finished sixth: “I know we’re ready for Homestead, and feeling really confident about that. Today we had a really strong car on the long runs, we just would get killed on restarts there. I was in a good spot on that last one to make a run at him, and went down into 1 and it just went straight. We fought that all day long, just took us too long to get going. You know, for having half a team and an old car and not really working on it, I thought we had a second‑ or third‑place car today, so that’s pretty good.  Excited for Homestead, and can’t say enough about everybody back at JGR.  To put three cars in the Championship 4 is pretty incredible.

“(What will it be like racing against two of your teammates?) I’m not sure.  We’ve raced against the 18 there a few times, and kind of quasi‑teammates, but never under the same roof, so to speak.  I’m not sure.  It’s going to be interesting for sure.  I feel like we’re here for a reason, and that’s because we all work together so well, and hopefully we’ll do that the same this week and throughout the weekend next weekend and then Sunday let the best team win.”

Erik Jones — finished seventh: “We struggled with the handling on our Interstate Camry early in the race. We made good adjustments but track position was everything.  We had a really fast racecar at the end but we just needed a few more cautions. We had a solid top-10 day and we’re ready to head to Homestead to finish up the season.”

Clint Bowyer — finished eighth: “That was a tough race today. We worked hard to get our car better and everyone did a really good job. We were just in the wrong lane there at the last restart. It was tough to pass today. Track position was everything. We’ll go to Homestead and finish this season out right next weekend.”

Joey Logano – finished ninth: “(What happened to your car?) I don’t know. I have no idea. It went from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap with changing tires and a half-pound of air. A lot of things don’t line up there. That doesn’t make any sense. The car shouldn’t do that, but it did and once we put tires back on it we got to where we could run competitive at least again, but we were so far back and I was running so hard trying to get back to (Hamlin) that we ended up using it up again. We just needed a caution at the right time and we didn’t get it to try to get back up there. It stinks.

“We did the first half of the race really well. We had a fast car. We scored a ton of stage points and to the point that we could tie (Kyle Busch) and all I had to do was finish in front of him, which was the goal, and it went bad from there. I don’t get it, but it just wasn’t our year I guess. I don’t know what to say. You’re up there wishing that somebody gets up there and passes him, but (Busch) wasn’t gonna pass him. He could have, but wasn’t going to obviously to have all of their cars in, so it is what it is. We’ll move forward.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 10th: “I don’t know if I had anything for (Hamlin and Kyle Busch). I didn’t really get a chance to run around them on equal tires, but I felt like we were a top three or four car at least and lost a cylinder at the end. I felt lucky to bring home 10th. … (Can you be part of the conversation at Homestead?) We’re gonna sure try, I can promise you that. The tracks where tires fall off and the short tracks the Gibbs cars have been lights out, so we certainly have some room to be better and hopefully we can show it at Homestead.”

Kurt Busch – finished 11th: “Just battled with a loose handling car all day. We just couldn’t find the balance that we needed to be competitive. I got penalized for speeding on pit road and that just put us way behind. With no cautions, it was hard to make adjustments or recover the lost track position.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 15th: “We had good speed in the car on the long run, but we were lacking a little bit on the short run. I got a pit road speeding penalty early on, but we were fortunate enough to recover from that. At the end of the race we were 11th, and then the last caution came out. We all restarted with a few laps to go, and everyone had their own agendas. We lost a few spots and had some damage to the car, which is disappointing.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 19th: “We just struggled all weekend honestly. We could never really get the right handling on our NOS Energy Drink Ford. I’m still proud of my guys has they never gave up despite going a lap down due to the tire issue. I’m looking forward to Homestead next week and finishing my season out strong.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 21st: “We made small gains today at ISM Raceway, and that’s what it is all about. The No. 8 Cat Large Dozers Chevrolet was too tight for much of the day, but Luke Lambert and all the guys on this crew kept adjusting on it to help the handling. We made some gains in the Rookie of the Year battle today, so we’ll go to Homestead next week to try to finish the year out right and lock up that rookie title. I’m proud of this entire team and all their hard work all season long.  I’m hopeful we can end the season on a positive note with that rookie of the year accomplishment.”

Aric Almirola – finished 22nd: “We fought hard all day, and even though we weren’t where we needed to be from a handling standpoint, we managed to get up to 11th to where a top 10 was possible. But then we got a flat tire and that was it.”

Austin Dillon — finished 24th: “Even though we didn’t qualify as well as we had hoped, we had a lot of confidence that we were going to have a solid day. Danny Stockman and the No. 3 American Ethanol team did their best to make improvements throughout the race, including making a big swing at adjustments during a pit stop between Stages 2 and 3. We ended up with a pass-through penalty at the end of Stage 3 for speeding exiting pit road, and that put a further damper on our day, even though our Chevrolet was definitely handling better towards the end of the race. We know we can improve on this so we’ll go back to the drawing board on this one. We’re looking forward to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next week and ending the season with a strong run.”

Chase Elliott – finished 39th: “It’s just a continuation of our first two weeks, unfortunately. I hate it for our NAPA group. We had a decent NAPA Chevy today. It was really tough in traffic to catch guys and then pass and whatnot. But, I feel like we were in a good position to run solid. I’m not sure why we had a tire go down. I think that’s what happened, at least; it seemed like it. It’s unfortunate. Like I said, these last three weeks have been pretty rough. So, hopefully Homestead goes better and we can get prepared good for next season and get a good notebook for next year.

“(Track position seemed to be the key today?) It certainly seemed that way. You’re racing really hard and it’s like slow motion. It’s just hard to make a lot happen in a little amount of time. You really just have to think about what’s coming and where lapped cars ahead of you are running and where the person in front of you is running if you’re better than he. It’s definitely tough. It was a tough race to that point. I enjoyed racing there towards the end of that stage. I thought we were racing hard. You never want to have a round go like that.”

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Cup, Xfinity teams to be penalized practice time Friday at ISM Raceway

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Three Cup teams and five Xfinity teams will be docked practice time Friday at ISM Raceway for inspection issues last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Cup teams of Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Jimmie Johnson must sit out the final 15 minutes of the first practice session. The first Cup practice session will be from 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App (and NBCSN at 4:30 p.m. ET).

In the Xfinity Series, the cars of playoff contenders Chase Briscoe and Michael Annett each will miss 30 minutes of final practice for failing inspection three or more times last week at Texas. The final Xfinity practice is scheduled for 6:05 – 6:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the opening Xfinity practice, the car of playoff contender Noah Gragson will miss 15 minutes of the first practice for failing inspection twice at Texas. The cars of Chad Finchum and David Starr each will miss 15 minutes of the first practice for being late to inspection at Texas. Opening Xfinity practice is scheduled for 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App.

Friday 5: With pressure on, time for Denny Hamlin to perform

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For all that Denny Hamlin has accomplished, what he does this weekend at ISM Raceway could alter the narrative for one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers without a Cup championship.

Among the favorites to win the title when the playoffs began in September, Hamlin is in danger of seeing his championship hopes end with Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hamlin trails rival Joey Logano, a driver he’s feuded with in these playoffs and over the years, by 20 points for the final spot in the Championship 4 field despite a stellar season that ranks among the best in Hamlin’s 14 seasons in Cup.

Hamlin is in this position after a crash last weekend at Texas dropped him from a transfer spot. Kevin Harvick is the only driver to race his way into the championship race at ISM Raceway, winning that event in 2014 and then claiming the title a week later.

While the pressure is on now, Hamlin professed before the playoffs began “pressure doesn’t get to me, nothing like it probably did 10, 12 years ago.”

Hamlin’s best chance for a title before this season came in 2010 when he led the points going into the season’s penultimate race at ISM Raceway but had to make an extra pit stop for fuel late. That allowed Jimmie Johnson and Harvick to close the points gap.

Miami weekend started with the press conference for the title contenders. Johnson and Harvick ganged up on Hamlin. Harvick said of Hamlin: “He definitely seems like the most nervous.”

While Hamlin still led going into Miami, he had a poor qualifying effort and an incident early in the race that doomed his title hopes, allowing Johnson to win his fifth consecutive title in a row.

That late-season collapse will always be a part of Hamlin’s history. He made the championship race in 2014 but hasn’t been back since.

If he doesn’t advance this year, it does not diminish the two Daytona 500 wins, two Southern 500 victories and 36 career Cup victories, but it leaves a gap for a driver who likely is Hall of Fame bound (just maybe not as soon as others without a championship). Only Junior Johnson (50 Cup wins) and Mark Martin (40) have more Cup wins than Hamlin and also not a title.

“I’ve seen it all,” Hamlin told NBC Sports before the playoffs of his postseason disappointments. “Any way I can get taken out of a championship battle, I’ve had happen.

“But I know as long as I prepare each week, the way I’ve been doing, as long as I do the work during practices, give the right feedback like I’ve been doing, we’re going to be fine. That makes me rest easier than anything.”

Those experiences help Hamlin, who will turn 39 the day after the title race. While it’s easy to wonder what might have been, Hamlin says he’s moved past that in regards to 2010.

“It probably took a year to get over that,” Hamlin said earlier this week at Toyota’s national headquarters in Plano, Texas. “After that, you’re so week-to-week, you can’t let stuff linger, and if you do, you’re not doing your job 100 percent.”

Few thought Hamlin would be in this position based on his season and his playoffs. His five wins trail only teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the most this season. Hamlin has finished third or better in 10 of the season’s 34 races. In the playoffs, Hamlin has a win and five top-five finishes in eight races. Yet, that might not be good enough after finishing 28th at Texas.

Hamlin, the NBA fan, can look to LeBron James and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers for inspiration this weekend.

Hamlin says his favorite moment in sports came in the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors that year. Golden State led the best-of-seven series three games to one before Cleveland rallied to force a seventh game.

Late in that series-deciding contest came the play that Hamlin says “I remember like it was yesterday.”

“(Andre) Igoudala fast break at the end of the game, and LeBron chasing him down,” Hamlin said. “If (Igoudala) makes that basket, it’s over. LeBron chases him down, beats it off the backboard, and they (later) go down and score and change the whole game.

“Anyone down 3-1, they always talk about the odds and statistics of how impossible it is to come back, but that was the moment that someone just wanted it more.”

Such is the position Hamlin is in. Can he provide a memorable moment Sunday?

2. A NEW APPROACH

Austin Dillon’s 13th-place finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway wasn’t particularly noteworthy on the surface, but it was significant in other ways.

Dillon’s result marked one of his team’s better finishes on a 1.5-mile speedway this season.

“I feel like we need to try to find a baseline that we can kind of go to, and we haven’t had that this year,” Dillon said before the race. “We have had some fast cars but haven’t been able to race very well with them. We’re trying to kind of tune our cars to more a race-style setup. (At Texas) and Homestead we’re going to try to develop a little more of that baseline.”

The Richard Childress Racing cars were set up with less downforce easier in the season, giving them more speed in qualifying, but when they fell into the pack during a race, the cars were more unstable and harder to drive.

Dillon qualified in the top 10 in eight of the nine 1.5-mile races before Texas, including a pole at Chicago, but never finished better than 10th in any of those races. He showed that speed also at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in March, winning the pole but failing to score any stage points despite the favorable track position and pit stall.

At Texas last weekend, Dillon qualified 21st, his worst starting spot at a 1.5-mile track this year. He joked ahead of qualifying that if they were any better than 15th to 20th, “we will have tricked ourselves.”

The point being is the team put more downforce in the car to make it more stable in traffic, knowing it would hurt the qualifying speed.

“It’s been pretty obvious where our cars are and what they’ve had,” Dillon said of the setup. “There’s a happy medium in there. You see some of the guys that make it work and the other teams that don’t even try to run that concept. The Chevys that are fast don’t seem to be doing what we were doing.”

Another change is that crew chief Danny Stockman will give way to Justin Alexander after this season. Alexander was at Texas and will be with at the track the final two races to assess the team.

3. LOOKING AHEAD

As Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finishes the season with Roush Fenway Racing, he’s looking ahead to 2020 with JTG Daugherty Racing.

Stenhouse joins JTG in a virtual swap that sees Chris Buescher taking over Stenhouse’s ride in the No. 17 next year.

Stenhouse says he’s begun preparing for his ride by talking to Ernie Cope, competition director at JTG Daugherty Racing, and team owner Tad Geschickter after races.

Stenhouse says he’s discussed with Cope and Geschickter “the things that they fought through (with the car) in the weekend, kind of compare that to what I’m feeling and then also just looking at the potential that they have.

“I thought both their cars had really good short-run speed at Martinsville. We had better long run speed. Going over there it’s like, ‘Alright, how do we get that long-run better and keep that short-run speed?’ I look at Kansas … we raced around (Buescher) a lot and felt like in the end they were probably a little bit better overall.

“I’m interested to see how Phoenix goes. We ran decent there in their spring, but (JTG Daugherty Racing’s) short track stuff, I feel like, seems better than what we have right now and that’s an area that I feel like needs to get better.”

Until Stenhouse finished last after a crash last weekend at Texas, he had placed in the top 20 in six consecutive races, his longest stretch since 2017 when he won two races and made the playoffs.

“I am focused on making sure we finish the job here,” Stenhouse said of his final races with Roush Fenway Racing. “We’ve had some solid runs. We haven’t had any stellar runs, but we’ve had solid runs since the announcement came out in Charlotte. Just looking to continue that … and end on a decent note.”

4. BETTER HELP

One of the issues with the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, particularly at Daytona and Talladega, is that its pointed nose made it more challenging to push as compared to the Fords and Toyotas, which each had flatter noses.

While Chevrolet won at Daytona (Justin Haley in July) and at Talladega (Chase Elliott in the spring), the nose on the Camaro ZL1 1LE that Chevy teams will use in 2020 should prove beneficial at those tracks.

“It was definitely a challenge for us being able to push like some of our competitors were doing,” Elliott said. “I think all the drivers wanted (a flatter nose). We’re just lucky that Chevrolet saw it and wanted to make an effort and try to make it a little better. I think they did. We’ll see when we get to Daytona how it affects things, but I certainly think with all the pushing and how aggressive restarts are … hopefully that helps us.”

Cars pushing one another could become more important at those tracks in 2020. The Talladega playoff race showed more cars could form a two-car tandem and pull away briefly from the pack. With the rules stable for next season, teams will have more time to maximize that, and the tandem could play greater role in those races next year.

5. LAST CHANCE

Chevrolet will need a big day Sunday from Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott to avoid missing the Cup championship race for a third year in a row.

Chevrolet last had a team racing for the Cup title in 2016 when Jimmie Johnson won his record-tying seventh series crown.

In 2017, the Chevy teams of Elliott and Johnson were eliminated in the Round of 8 at ISM Raceway. Last year, Elliott was eliminated in the Round of 8 at ISM Raceway.

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A streak worth celebrating, but just don’t talk about it

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To know the information is one thing. To share it is another. But to reveal the fact to the driver it pertains to is to invite the potential for scorn even though that fact is quite an achievement.

“Oh thanks, I appreciate that,” Kevin Harvick says in jest after being told he has gone more than one year since his last speeding penalty in a Cup race.

Mind you, he was told that two days before last weekend’s Texas race, which he won to clinch a spot in the Nov. 17 championship race in Miami.

So it was understandable with all that was at stake, being informed about his perfect streak on pit road — where drivers toe the line on being too fast — might make a driver uneasy.

But Harvick’s run of 38 consecutive races without a pit road speeding penalty isn’t the longest streak in the series. Fellow playoff driver Joey Logano has gone 69 races, dating to last year’s Daytona 500 without speeding on pit road in a Cup race.

Told of his achievement, he jokingly looks to knock on wood and laughs. Logano often laughs, sometimes at himself, sometimes as a reflex and sometimes because it is just good to be him, the reigning series champion. 

“Maybe it means I’m not pushing hard enough,” Logano says, laughing.

What Logano and Harvick have done is remarkable in a series where a hundredth of a second matters and going too fast on pit road can prove costly. The only other full-time Cup driver without a pit road speeding penalty this season is Chris Buescher. He has gone 65 races since being penalized for speeding at Auto Club Speedway in March 2018.

A pit road speeding penalty this weekend at ISM Raceway could impact who makes the championship race in Miami. Six drivers are contending for the final two spots. One mistake could end a driver’s title hopes.

Last year’s Cup playoff race at ISM Raceway had 10 pit road speeding penalties — including one by Chase Elliott, whose infraction came while leading with about a quarter of the 312-lap race left. The penalty played a role in his playoff elimination.

“You can’t come down pit road leading the race and speed and expect to race for a championship the next week,” Elliott said after that race.

Elliott has been better at watching his speed. He last had a pit road speeding penalty in the Coca-Cola 600 in May, a stretch of 21 races. Or think it about it this way — it’s one race longer than Kyle Busch’s winless streak.

Busch has the most pit road speeding penalties among the eight remaining playoff drivers. He’s been caught six times, including the Dover playoff race.

“I’ll bet you all the money in the world that I can go a whole year without speeding on pit road if you want to make that bet,” Busch says.

No bet is taken.

“It’s all about where your tolerances are set,” Busch says of the series of lights on the car’s dash that is tied to RPMs, which is how teams measure their speed because their cars don’t have a speedometer as passenger vehicles do. “You have that tachometer that we all work off of and our lights and everything else … that we set our pit road speeds to. Some guys’ tolerances are way tighter and closer to that limit than others. It’s just a matter of it.

“There’s a sheet that we get every week that gives us a rundown of pit road speeds and guys on pit road and how fast they are and all of that sort of stuff. The 18 car, we’ve been No. 1 on that sheet for the past four years. We will keep doing what we do and continue to be No. 1 on that sheet. Sometimes, we will have to pay that price with a speeding penalty, and you just have to know when you have to back it down a little.”

All teams get that weekly report card on their time driving on pit road, giving competitors a sense of how fast or slow they are compared to the field.

Michael McDowell, who has been penalized seven times for speeding on pit road this year, says that data is meaningful.

“All of us analyze this on Monday, and you get a ranking,” he says. “I don’t want to be 30th on pit road. I want to be top 10 on pit road every week. I don’t want to leave anything on the table, and neither does anyone else.”

Still, a speeding penalty can set a driver back and ruin their day, so why risk it?

“I think that it is a challenge on pit road to not leave anything on the table,” McDowell says. “That is what everybody is doing. You’re pushing as hard as you can to not lose half a second on pit road. The reason I’ve had more penalties than most is I push it really hard. I try to get as much as I can, and sometimes you overstep it.”

The reverberations of even one pit road speeding penalty can be felt months later. Kyle Larson knows.

He was leading at Atlanta in February when he was caught speeding two-thirds of the way through the race. He never recovered and finished 12th.

Say he hadn’t had that penalty and gone to win, he would have collected five playoff points. He enters Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 23 points out of the final transfer spot. As Logano noted earlier in the playoffs, every point matters.

And every moment on pit road matters.

“If you lose focus for a second trying to launch out of your stall or you don’t get slowed down enough coming in, it’s very easy to step over and be a thousandth of a mile an hour over the speed limit or a hundredth and get popped for speeding,” says Larson, who has had only one other speeding penalty this year. “I try not to push it. I’d say I’m on the slower end.”

That Harvick, Logano and Buescher have gone all season without a speeding penalty is remarkable considering all that takes place on pit road.

Drivers watch their dashes, making sure they don’t go over the speed limit as cars pull in or pull out of pit stalls around them. Add to it that the easiest place to pass cars often can be pit road, and the pressure to not lose any time increases.

“As you look at it, I feel like it is one of the reasons our team is still in it,” Harvick says of not having a pit road speeding penalty this year. “I don’t feel like we have had that knockout speed that the (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have had on a week-to-week basis. We have had it a few times and been able to capitalize on that, but I feel like we have done a good job minimizing the mistakes.

“Hopefully, you don’t jinx us.”

Logano credits his team for keeping him from speeding on pit road.

“When you look at pit road and drivers that get penalties more often than others, it’s not just the driver in this case,” he says. “In some cases, it is. In other cases, if the team doesn’t calculate the lights the right way, you’re going to get a pit road speeding penalty.

“As long as you’re in tune with what your team is doing, and they’re in tune with how you’re going to run down pit road, you can maximize it and not go over. You got to be cautious, but you got to push it.”

Sunday night, after Harvick had crossed the finish line first, celebrated in victory lane and came to the media center, he found the person who had asked him earlier that weekend about not having a pit road speeding penalty.

“Yes … we made it through the whole night without having a speeding penalty, so I don’t have to find you this next week to … we didn’t have a speeding penalty,” Harvick said with a smile, “so you’re off the hook.”

Of course, two races remain. Two more chances to make a mistake, and if it happens in Miami, it could cost a driver the championship.

 

Here is a list of the playoff drivers and their last speeding penalty:
Driver Date Track
Joey Logano 2/18/18 Daytona
Kevin Harvick 10/21/18 Kansas
Chase Elliott 5/26/19 Charlotte
Kyle Larson 8/11/19 Michigan
Kyle Busch 10/6/19 Dover
Denny Hamlin 10/13/19 Talladega
Martin Truex Jr. 10/13/19 Talladega
Ryan Blaney 10/13/19 Talladega

Racing Insights 

 

Drivers with the most pit road speeding penalties this season:
7 – Ty Dillon
7 – Michael McDowell
6 – Kyle Busch
4 – Denny Hamlin
4 – Martin Truex Jr.
4 – JJ Yeley
3 – Ryan Blaney
Racing Insights 

What drivers said after Texas

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Kevin Harvick – winner: (How critical was this race for you?) Well, we’ve already been going down the road. They’ve already built the car, picked a direction. Like we talked about earlier, we’ve got so many things that you had to choose from from an aero standpoint, and Homestead is such a unique racetrack. We’ve already been to the simulator, we’ve already built the car, and now we’ve just got to make sure that we do what we think is right and go with our gut and see what happens.

(Your son, Keelan, set the air pressures before the race and again you won. What’s up with that?) Yeah, I think he’s three for three or four for four. I think all four races he’s set the air pressure this year, so if anything we’re helping him with math. It’s fun to have him at the racetrack. Had a fun weekend. They have a great zoo here, in case you were wondering. We didn’t do much yesterday. But just really proud of everybody on this team.”

Aric Almirola – finished second: “Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really fast. I am really proud of the effort by everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Yates Engines and Ford Motor Company. Our cars were really, really good from the time we unloaded here and we all came with a little something different, just trying to learn and get ahead for next year. I think we learned some stuff. I am really proud of all the guys on my team. We have had such a bad run of luck the last two months and it is so nice to come here and just execute all night and have a fast car, lead laps and win a stage and run up front. We had a great night on pit road. I did my part on restarts and on and off pit road and just an all-around solid night. We can build on that.

(You were relentless tonight, weren’t you?) Yeah, for a little while I thought we had a car capable of winning. When Harvick got a good restart there and was able to keep pace with us I knew I was in trouble. His car was a good bit faster than ours in clean air.”

Daniel Suarez – finished third: “That was a very solid night and I am very happy with the performance and speed that we brought from the shop. Everyone back at the shop did a great job. We knew we would be fast here. We had a solid performance here last time. We did a good job. We had good execution and a good clean day. I am very happy for Stewart-Haas Racing and the 41 Ford Mustang was pretty sporty. I am very happy for Kevin (Harvick) getting his ticket for Homestead.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: (Kyle Busch said he will have to race you next weekend and you’re tough to beat. Your thoughts?) It is going to be a good battle for sure. We are definitely racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us outside of the top-four wins. Then it will come down to (Busch) and the 22 to try to get for that last spot. It is going to be fun. I am looking forward to the battle. It will be a good time. Obviously the 18 team is good and Kyle is a good driver but I think we are a great team and they are beatable just like everybody else.”

Alex Bowman – finished fifth: We started really tight and we made good adjustments throughout the day. Obviously, once the sun went down, the car got a lot better and we were pretty solid. I wish we could have had a little more track position and our strategy go our way a little more there at the end. But we definitely had a really good car today. It was just really tough to pass, but the guys did a good job. We came through the field a couple of times and had a good day.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished sixth: (What was today like?) Just a battle. We felt pretty good after practice going into this thing that we’d be competitive. We were not very good and then we got some track position and we were hanging on okay. Then, we got back in the pack again and just had one run where it got really, really tight and lost all of our track position again and then it was just a battle. Made huge adjustments. We’ve not adjusted on a car that much all year long and we still never got it perfect, but definitely a lot better at the end. We just fought hard and never gave up on it all day and came home with a decent finish.”

Kyle Busch – finished seventh: “(What are your thoughts about today’s race?) I don’t know, I was running wide open there and those guys were just driving away. We got what we got out of our M&M’s Camry tonight. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some good adjustments. The whole first set of tires was just ugly for us. Once we got past that and got some other tires on the car, it seemed to go a little bit better. It was hard battling some of them guys up there and up through traffic and what not. We should have run third and ran out of gas and starved the pump there at the end. Then I was stalled on pit road. That cost us four or five spots there.

(How do you feel about heading to Phoenix to get back to victory lane?) We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy. If we can obviously go to Phoenix and have a strong run and be able to go out there and win, that will put ourselves through as well too. We’re two (points) on (Joey Logano) so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and the 22, imagine that. … The last couple times we’ve been to Phoenix, we’ve run pretty good. Hopefully, that can translate to this time around again. We were good at Richmond and normally Richmond translates good there. Loudon (N.H.), that translates there. I’m optimistic about it. I think we can do okay. It’s just a matter of running another clean race and not having mistakes.”

Ryan Blaney – finished eighth: “It was a long night. We struggled really bad all night with track position and then I felt like even when we got a little bit of it we still weren’t very good. We tried a lot of things tonight and they didn’t really work. Unfortunately we didn’t really get many stage points and the 4 winning didn’t help our cause but we have to run better than that anyway. … (How do you feel about Phoenix?) Gotta win. Hopefully we go do that.

(What happened late in the race with Ryan Newman?) I am not in his head. Ryan is Ryan and he is going to race hard. I was mad that I had a massive run up top and he just turned right and it made me jump out of the gas and get tight and hit the fence. That is what I was mad about. I was fine with the racing before that but when someone has a big run like that it is like, ‘C’Mon.’ I don’t know. I don’t really care. I forgot about it until you brought it up to be honest.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “I think we just need to stay positive on this with our Monster Chevy and we finished ninth. We were running second and had everything under control and the yellow came out right after we pitted and it locked us a lap down. It’s just tough to be on the back side of that circumstance and to be locked back there in 20th with only 90 (laps) to go. It’s tough to make that back up. Our car had really good speed. I was really happy with the balance the second half of the race. And all-in-all, it just wasn’t the top-five effort that we needed but we’ll take ninth.

(What did you make of the traction compound at the top of the track?) They don’t need to spray it that heavy right before the race starts. That just throws away everybody’s set-ups and it’s too inconsistent to start and with too many guys having trouble that are quality cars, it shows that the surface wasn’t prepped right.

(Your teammate criticized Bubba Wallace’s spin. How do you look at it?) We won Kentucky earlier this year when the No. 43 (Wallace) spun on the same spot. He had an axle problem a couple of weeks ago. My spotter said 200 feet before he spun, he had a flat tire. So, if you have a flat tire, it’s kind of hard to hold on to your car.”

Erik Jones – finished 10th: (Talk about your finish) It was okay, the car was alright. Got caught out there on pit road and had to restart pretty far back with 90 to go and just drive back to where we could. Kind of a tough day. The Sport Clips Camry fired off the race well and just kind of lost it through the race. We’ll go on to Phoenix and hopefully be a little bit better.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 11th: “Track position was everything, and we just lost out on that in the end.”

Kyle Larson – finished 12th: “I’m not really sure yet. But it was just vibrating really bad and it lost a lot of speed. So, something happened. But what really killed our race was the No. 43 (Bubba Wallace) spinning on purpose. They put us a lap down. I think we were up to fourth at that point. It really killed us and a few others. You hate to see that and be affected by it, but it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it now. We’ll try and go to Phoenix and get a win. I don’t really know who is in front of us. I feel like we had a good shot to win up until the No. 43 spun in front of us.

(Can you put a positive spin on this weekend that give you a positive outlook heading to Phoenix?) Well, I felt like once the traction compound came in today, I was really fast; probably the best on top, for sure. Next week they’re going to be doing it at Phoenix as well. I hope that opens up some lanes for me. I feel like there’s nobody better at finding different lanes and things like that to find speed. So, hopefully it lends to benefit us because we need to get a win. We can do it. I’ve been close to winning there before. So, we’ve just got to work hard.”

Austin Dillon – finished 13th: We put up a good fight tonight in the No. 3 RigUp Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway. We came up from the back three times, which is a testament to the amount of speed we had in these Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets. I think we could have ended up with a top-10 finish if a few more things would have just went our way. We’re working hard to make our cars respond better in traffic, and we’re learning a lot as a team. We’ll be in a strong position for 2020. I want to thank RigUp for their support this weekend.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 16th: Everyone on this No. 8 Cat Dozers Chevrolet team fought all day and never gave up. We were just way too tight to start the race, then we had a piece of debris wrap around the splitter and cover the right-side air duct, which really hurt the handling. I hate we lost that whole run to adjust on the car and make it better, because when we did get a chance to work on it and wave around, we were sitting in a position to have a good day. I feel like we just needed one more caution to be on equal tires with everyone ahead of us and fighting on the lead lap, it just didn’t work out. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 8 Cat Dozers Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. We love to fight another day and we’ll go on to Phoenix to do just that.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 28th: (What happened in your incident?) Just got up in (the traction compound) before it was really broke in. Just lost control. That’s all there is to it. Proud of the whole FedEx team for putting their best effort forward so we could be there at the end. Did the best we could and we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win.

(How confident are you going to Phoenix to win and to transfer to Miami?) The car and the effort will be there, that’s for sure. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can go there and win. In these circumstances, I like the challenge. We’re going to go out there and give it our best shot and put our best foot forward and see if we can’t get a win next week.”

Chase Elliott – finished 32nd: (What happened in your crash?) I made a mistake, got loose and crashed. I really hate that happened. Obviously, it’s not good and not what you’re looking for. It’s just my mistake and there’s really no excuse for it. It’s just all eyes on Phoenix.

(Has anyone had a crazier playoff run than you with all the highs and lows?) I’m not sure. Obviously, today was very self-inflicted. I made a mistake that there’s really no excuse for and that’s what you get. You make mistakes, you put yourself in a bad position and that was all on me today. I hate that it happened, but it did and we’ll just go onto Phoenix and try to get a win out there.

(You’re in a must-win situation at Phoenix. How do you feel about your chances?) I feel a lot better about it than I did today. So, I look forward to getting out there.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 39th: “(What happened in the accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?) I just busted my butt. I feel terrible for Ricky, he didn’t deserve to get caught up in it. I was just real loose and trying to make something happen. When you are getting passed by other cars you kind of lose your confidence and you try something and I knew better. My butt told me I would wreck if I do that. I was getting passed and swung for the fence and I hit it. It just sucks. I am kind of embarrassed to do that. I was just trying to make something happen for my team and swung too hard.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 40th: We got our car better there and we were running top five but with the flip-flop of track position we made an adjustment and I got running 1 and 2 really good and passed some really good cars. Then we got around to Brad (Keselowski) there in (Turns) 1 and 2 and he got loose underneath me and almost crashed us down there. We lost a lot of track position. Then going into Turn 3 there I was running the top and saw him getting loose. When I checked up my car got loose as well. I was just trying to avoid him and it got mine sideways. It is a bummer of a weekend. Our Fastenal Mustang was really fast and I was having fun until then.”

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