Erik Jones

Brad Keselowski bumped up to fourth, but JGR domination still ‘not good news’

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Brad Keselowski ended Saturday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway with what he thought was a fifth-place finish.

About an hour later though, Keselowski was moved up one position to fourth place after original fourth-place finisher Erik Jones was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection.

Still, gaining one extra finishing position didn’t make the 2012 NASCAR Cup champion happy because of Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination in the second race of the playoffs – even with Jones’ DQ.

(How JGR finished is) definitely not good news,” Keselowski said. “We’ve got work to do. (JGR is) really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them.

We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Keselowski tweeted a few hours after the race that he didn’t “take no pleasure & seek no treasure from another man’s loss,” referring to Jones’ DQ.


Even so, Keselowski took some consolation from his overall performance.

We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win,” he said.

Keselowski mistakenly said in a post-race interview that he had joined Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in advancing to the Round of 12 two weeks from now due to his points in the standings.

Yeah, we’re locked into the next round,” Keselowski said. “That feels good. I’m proud of that effort.”

Actually, Keselowski left Richmond two points shy of being locked into the next playoff round. That will have to come next Sunday at Charlotte’s Roval.

There’s still work to do not only for Keselowski’s car, but also those of his teammates — Joey Logano finished 11th and Ryan Blaney 17th — to counter JGR’s domination.

But what exactly has to be done is a question mark, Keselowski said.

Honestly, I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “They’ve got all the secrets so we need to find some more secrets.”

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Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”

 

Ryan Newman scores second top five of year with strong Richmond run

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Every answer Ryan Newman gave after Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway was in regards to a sixth-place finish.

Erik Jones’ disqualification improved Newman’s result in the playoff race by one spot, but likely didn’t change his positive sentiment.

Newman left Richmond with a fifth-place finish, his second top five of the year, and a position inside the cutline for the second round of the playoffs.

That was after what Newman described as “without a doubt” the “best team performance all around” for his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team this year.

Newman qualified 19th but was a presence in the top 10 by Stage 2, where he battled for position with Jones for much of its 100-lap length before placing sixth (later improved to fifth as Jones also lost his stage points with the disqualification).

Newman didn’t lose any positions on pit road during the Stage 2 break and ran as high as third after the restart before falling behind Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

“You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win,” Newman said. “I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.”

Newman said his team’s main strategy was simply to put four new tires on his No. 6 Ford.

“Had a good short-run car,” Newman said. “One time had a good long-run car, but we could never get both. I think that if we had both we could have run with those guys. We were at our best when we were a little bit biased to a long-run car, but who would’ve known that it was going to be that many green-flag runs.”

Newman has finished in the top 10 in three consecutive races, marking the third time he’s done that this year. He has 11 top 10s through 28 races.

“What meant the most to me probably was just being better than we were the first race (at Richmond),” Newman said. “I ran ninth in the first race, qualified (24th). We came back and showed we were learning and will keep learning.”

With his stage points and top-five finish Saturday night, Newman is now eighth in the standings, 14 points above the cutoff heading to the first elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“I don’t know that I’m looking forward to the Roval,” Newman admitted. “I don’t know anybody that actually is except for maybe Truex (Richmond winner Martin Truex Jr.).”

NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

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RICHMOND, Va. — Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car failed inspection after Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway and the disqualification puts him in a must-win situation next weekend to advance in the playoffs. 

The team confirmed that Jones’ car failed on the rear toe in the Optical Scanning Station. Jimmy Makar, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said that the team did not plan to appeal.

Jay Fabian, managing director of the Cup Series, explained what officials found:

“There’s fairly critical measurements on the rear wheel alignment that have to be followed, so there’s any number of things that the team could do or not do to make it fail,” Fabian said. “Standard process as a race, we give a pretty strong allowance on what they can run pre‑race to post‑race, and it’s crept out of that range.

“We didn’t see anything that was designed to fail. At the end of the day, the result is the same, it failed.”

Fabian explained why the measurement is important.

“Rear wheel steer and alignment is important as a critical factor in downforce,” he said. “It’s an aero benefit to get more skew in the rear, so we keep those parameters pretty tight so that everybody is racing with the same thing, and that’s the key to running all 16 cars through there. We just finished up probably 30 minutes ago, so it’s important to keep the playing field level and make sure all the playoff cars are the same and pass that thing.”

The disqualification takes away from Joe Gibbs Racing’s first 1-2-3-4 finish in team history.

Jones was dropped to last place and given one point. He had scored 42 points.

Jones is now 45 points behind Willian Byron for the final transfer spot to the second round. The penalty makes it highly unlikely he can advance to the second round of the playoffs via points, so he will need to win next Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

This is the first time this season that a Cup car has been disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Four cars have been disqualified in the Xfinity Series and one Truck has been disqualified in that series.

What drivers said after Richmond

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(Finishing positions have been updated to reflect Erik Jones‘ disqualification)

Martin Truex Jr. – winner:Man, I don’t know what to say, I really don’t. I’m speechless, just an unbelievable job by all my guys. Toyota, TRD, Bass Pro, Auto Owners, everybody back at the shop, you guys built some unbelievable race cars right now. Had a heck of a race with Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) all night long really, and we just kept plugging away at it, kept plugging away at it, as we always do. We just keep digging and we never quit. Next thing you know, catching (Busch( for the lead, I’m like, ‘cool, all right, here we go.’ Man, to sweep Richmond finally is pretty awesome, as much as we’ve led here coming into this year, and just thanks to everybody. It’s pretty amazing. … (On the spin and coming back to win) Luckily I didn’t hit anything. I just tried to keep it off the fence, tried to get spun around and get going, and we ended up – because we were pretty far up front, we got going in a pretty good spot and left pit road in a good position and then good adjustments at the end again by (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and James and the guys. This is just freaking unbelievable, so we came here to get bonus points and damn sure we did that”

Kyle Busch – finished second:I don’t think we were as good as him all night long. Martin, the car, the combination thereof, us, the combination of, just lacked a little bit. You know, like (Hamlin) lacked a little bit more than us. Just weird, I don’t know. We led a lot of laps. We were up front a lot. But when I was out front, he could keep the closest distance to me. That kind of worried me for a finish like that in the long run. But our M&M’s guys did a great job, and we brought a fast race car here to Richmond, and I think all the JGR cars were pretty respectable there, so really awesome job by everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, and being able to have some really good pieces to go out there and race with.

(You’re now locked in to the second round. How do you treat next week’s Roval race at Charlotte) Last year I thought we were going to be all right and finish okay, but then we all decided to follow everybody else off a cliff. It was pretty ugly. But overall just – you try to go into that race, it’s a newer type of track, and I don’t know that everybody has got it quite figured out exactly yet. With this new aero package it’s going to be different and of course, too, with the new chicane it’s going to be different. We can go out there and attack it and try to try to get a win, try to get some stage points, get ourselves a bit of a cushion here, I guess, more over the rest of the guys.”

Denny Hamlin – finished third:Just seemed like the long run speed they really had quite a bit more and a little bit more turn, a little bit more forward drive, just everything – every little bit. It just seemed like it was about a half a tenth a lap there on average, and (Truex) just had a really good long-run car. We were kind of third best there, that’s kind of where we ended up. Happy with maximizing the day that I thought I was capable of, and good effort, and we’ll go to the Roval and have some fun now. … (You’re now 55 points above the cut line. How much assurance does that give you going to the Roval?) Pretty sure. You know, just go there, run a normal race, everything should be fine. We just try to move to the next round and go to work from there. I think we’re really close to where we need to be. Every time we come back to a track for the second time, it seems like we run quite a bit better. Tonight we were just a hair off.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Brad Keselowski – finished fourth:It’s definitely not good news. We’ve got work to do. They’re really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them. We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it. … We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win.”

Ryan Newman – finished fifth: “It was just a good team effort, good pit stops. The strategy wasn’t a whole lot to it, just put four tires on, but had a good short-run car. One time we had a good long-run car, but we could never get both. I think that if we would have had both we could have ran with those guys, but we were at our best probably when we were just hold good bias to a long-run car, but who would have known there were gonna be that many green flag runs. … (Good points night?) Yeah, but I would have much rather won.

(Is this the best performance of the year?) Yeah, without a doubt. The best team performance all-around throughout the entire weekend. We failed at qualifying. We got the car too tight, but, overall, just a great team effort to get the Roush Performance Ford a good run. What meant to me the most probably was just being better than we were the first race. We ran ninth in the first race and qualified (24th) we came back and showed that we were learning and we’ll keep learning. … (Are you looking forward to the Roval?) I don’t know that I’m looking forward to the Roval, I don’t really know anybody that actually is, except for maybe Truex.”

Kyle Larson – finished sixth: “If maybe I could have gotten a better restart there that last time, I could have been a spot or two better. But, we ran better than I thought I would. At the beginning of the race I was kind of falling back. But, then we made it better each stop. Actually, I had a pretty good car in the long run there at the end. So, I was happy about that. And, I haven’t seen the points, but it seemed like a lot of guys had a bad night. So, I’m sure we gained a little bit on the cutoff, so that’s always good.

(How do you take this into the Roval?) Yeah, just have another clean run. Just don’t make any mistakes. We didn’t make any mistakes tonight. Our pit crew was really good tonight, with the exception of one stop. But, other than that, we gained spots every time and we might have even gained spots on the stop that didn’t feel great. So, it was a really good night for them. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Kevin Harvick – finished seventh: “(You’ve clinched into the second round on points. How does it feel?) It’ll be a nice week at home. I think it allows everybody to really go and the biggest thing is you want to go try and learn what you need to do to run fast there, so this week we’ll go to the simulator and try to transfer that to the race track and see how practice goes and then we’ll see how the weekend goes. You definitely still want to go there and get a race win or something that will go forward with you and also learn something for the future.”

Clint Bowyer – finished eighth: (How was your night?) It was solid. I was hoping for more, for sure. I was expecting a little bit more to be honest with you, but we did what we had to do. We gave ourselves a fighting chance going into Charlotte. I knew Richmond was gonna be an opportunity. We semi-capitalized on that opportunity, but looking forward to Charlotte. It’s gonna be fun for everybody involved. It’s do-or-die time. It’s the playoffs. You watch these football teams go through these playoffs and how exciting it is and it’s our turn to have that nerve-racking moments and do-or-die moments for your race team and your season, but I’m looking forward to it. … (You raced your teammates clean and hard?) Well, about as hard as you can run. We have to figure something out with this track and our package. I’m not sold that this is the best product we can do here. I love this place. I love the race track. I love this fan base, this area and everything ever since I started in this sport this has always been an action track and it’s lacking a little bit of that. I think we could do some things with maybe some PJ1 or sealer or tires – something. We need to try to make an adjustment, I really believe that.”

Daniel Suarez – finished ninth: “I feel like it was a clean day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the speed that we wish we had, but we worked very hard. We made good adjustments. The pit crew did a pretty decent job. They got better as the night went and we just had a top 10 car and finished in the top 10. We’re still working extremely hard to get that first win and hopefully we can make it happen soon.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 10th: “Just a solid performance and unfortunately missed our pit box on the second-to-last pit stop, and we had to dig out of that hole. But just a solid performance, and I think we could have been fifth or sixth if I didn’t miss the pit box. We worked our way back to (10th) and it was a solid qualifying effort and all three stages of the race which led to a respectable finish.”

Joey Logano – finished 11th: “It was a rough night. It was tough. We missed it at the start. I don’t know where, why how yet. It’s pretty confusing. We were decent in practice and on the long run I thought we were pretty good and we go to qualify and we were really tight, and then we start the race and we’re really tight. So many rounds and air-pressure and we hit everything we could hit to try to get the tight out of it. We got better and we went from not being able to stay on the lead lap and getting a couple lucky dogs and then towards the end we got semi-competitive. I wouldn’t say we were good, but a little closer to where we need to be. Overall, I think we had a 50-point cushion, I believe, over the cutline, so that’s a nice feeling going into the Roval. Maybe we can be a little more aggressive and try to get something there.

(Where do you think you stack up now?) Fifty points above the cutline. This track is confusing sometimes. I don’t know. We either run really good and capable of winning or we run like butt, and that’s kind of what happened today. I don’t know, but, like I said at least we swung at it and got something out of it.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 15th: “I made a huge mistake there after we pitted under green. I drove it down into Turn 3 and I thought (Truex) was gonna give me the top and then he went to the top, so I dove back to the bottom and when I did it got on the splitter and pushed up into him and spun him. All I was hoping for after that point was he’d come back and win, but our Fastenal Mustang was a top 10 car. We were running there and just a bummer two weeks in a row that I’ve cost us a good finish.”

Aric Almirola – finished 16th: “I thought our car was pretty good in practice and then tonight we were just off. We just struggled all night to get our car in the race track, really up on top of the race track not making any grip and then made too many mistakes. I sped on pit road and then we had a miscommunication on our green flag stop on when we were coming, and just too many issues. We need a cleaner race. We’re gonna have to be perfect next week at the Roval to get through.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 17th: “Overall, I thought it was a better night than what we had here, for sure. Sometimes we were running kind of close to the 15th area and that’s about where we were gonna finish and we had to come back in for a loose wheel there, it was going to be loose that last pit stop, so that kind of stinks to have to start behind everybody like that. By the time you get to the cars you’re racing your tires are wore out and it’s kind of like, ‘Dang it.’ We kind of salvaged a decent run at it here. At least we’re a little bit to the good, so hopefully we can have a solid race next week. … (What do you think about the Roval next week?) Everyone else has the same goal, so we’ll just try to do our jobs and not have any issues and see what happens.”

Austin Dillon – finished 22nd: “What a night. The Okuma Chevrolet was loose to start the race but I felt confident that Danny Stockman and everyone on the No. 3 team would be able to keep up with changing track conditions and make the adjustments needed to get us a solid finish tonight at Richmond Raceway. Unfortunately, our night became a lot more difficult after we made contact on a restart and ended up with a couple of flat tires. We fell off the lead lap when we pitted for repairs and spent the rest of the race playing catch up. We just couldn’t get the break that we needed to get back on the lead lap, which is a shame because we had a good Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.”

Alex Bowman – finished 23rd: “Yeah, we didn’t execute very well on top of it either. So, it’s definitely a bummer. We were really tight here in the spring and we came here trying to build a car that would turn really well. It did that, but it just didn’t have any drive. When you’re on stickers and the guys running 75 lap old tires are forward driving you, it’s not much fun. We didn’t have a good day. We didn’t have anything go our way either. We just struggled with the car all day. It’s a bummer, but Greg (Ives) and all of us will regroup and we should be strong next week.

(What is your outlook for the Roval?) Yeah, we qualified third and ran fourth there last year. So, we just have to get stage points and have a good day all day. If we don’t make the next round, we don’t really deserve to be there with how we are running right now. It’s definitely a bummer, but we have to get our stuff together.”

William Byron – finished 24th: “(Do you feel pressure going into the Roval?) It’s just great to have a shot. It’s just great to be even on the upside of it. And, I think if we can do that, I’m really optimistic for what we can do going forward. We’re just really fortunate to have another shot after a night like tonight and we can go forward and see what we have. … (How did you end up above the cut line at the end of the race?) I have no idea. I really didn’t know that was even a possibility. But, it was just a tough night. We started out far back and lost our first lap pretty quickly. We just couldn’t recover, we just kept getting lapped. So, we just move on from here and move on to the Roval. I think we have a good shot there to have a good result and hopefully compete for a top-5 or something like that would be nice. I’m really optimistic about that with how we’ve run at the road courses and hopefully that will work out for us.

(Even though it’s on the Roval, do you feel greater confidence going back to your home track?) Yeah, it’s definitely a combo. The back chicane is definitely a lot tighter than it was last year. So, I think we are going to have to really kind of judge the braking zone differently and it’s probably going to be a passing zone there. I think it’s going to be a totally different beast this year with that. At least we can look at the notes that we had for the other corners from last year and try to put that all together. I’m not really sure what to expect with that chicane, but it should be fun.”

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