John Hunter Nemechek

NASCAR fines seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations at Las Vegas

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NASCAR announced Tuesday it has fined seven crew chiefs for lug nut violations from the Cup and Xfinity races this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,

In the Cup Series, NASCAR issued fines to crew chiefs Matt McCall (Kurt Busch), Greg Erwin (Matt DiBenedetto) and Seth Barbour (John Hunter Nemechek) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, NASCAR fined crew chiefs Bruce Schlicker (Ross Chastain), Dave Rogers (Riley Herbst), Ben Beshore (Harrison Burton) and Brian Wilson (Austin Cindric) for having one lug nut not safe and secure on their cars. Each crew chief was fined $5,000.

 

What drivers said after Las Vegas race

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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday night’s Las Vegas race.

Kurt Busch — Winner: “This is what kids dream of when they grow up racing. You dream of winning at your hometown track. And for two decades it’s kicked my butt. And tonight, with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe. I knew the race would come to us. We needed to get to nightfall and one of those quirky Mac McCall (crew chief) pit sequences finally unfolded. We got lucky. You’ve got to be lucky. And you have to be lucky in any race, but we did it tonight with teamwork and pulling through and just not giving up. … Yeah, the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had a ton of speed. I was wide-open. And you just have to manipulate the draft. I pulled out some old drag racing skills on the restarts. I knew that was our strong suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held off. Chip Ganassi was up in the suite somewhere and I could feel him breathing over my neck, I want to win. And we did it.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 2nd: “Two seconds at Vegas.  It’s tough to come that close, just wanted it so bad for this team. I love driving for the Wood Brothers.  I want that number 100 for them so bad and for Menards, the whole family and everything they do for us and the team, and having Duracell on the car this week, we’re keeping her charged up good. Our car was the best it had been at the end, just couldn’t get control on those restarts. The 1 car, Kurt, did a great job. We had completely different ratios for the restarts and once he gained control of the race, he played the right games on the restarts, knew what we had on our weakness there. Man, it’s tough to come that close. I just want it so bad, but I’m proud of the team. They did a great job. My pit crew did a great job tonight and really earned that one for us.”

DENNY HAMLIN — Finished 3rd: “We had a dominant car today and I’m proud of the whole FedEx team for giving me such a great car. By far the best car I’ve had in Las Vegas in a long time. It was really, really good. Happy with it and this new tire here. We’ll run that a few more times this year. Really encouraged by the way we ran, but very disappointed that we didn’t get a win. It’s just been the way that the playoffs have gone. Whoever stays out the longest puts themselves in a great spot to win. … I feel good about it. I certainly had a great day. It’s something I’m happy about, it’s about how we ran and how fast we were. We restarted 13th there with just a few laps and then the top got shuffled and we were able to make some ground on the bottom. If either one of the cautions don’t happen, we’re still in great shape, but it took them like seven laps to get a piece of debris off and then we had debris right in the fuel window.

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 4th: “We were right there in the hunt coming down after the last pit stop there under green. We were third and we were tracking them down just a little bit at a time. Felt like we were maybe going to have a three-way race for the win and then that caution came out and put us all the way to the back. To be able to battle through that and ended up pitting again for tires because we weren’t going anywhere and restarted like 24th there on not the last caution, but the one before that. To be able to drive back up to fourth is really something. The Bass Pro Toyota was really strong tonight. We needed just a little bit to be as good as the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and maybe the 88 (Alex Bowman), but we were a third-place car, no question. Just missed it a tiny little bit. Decent night. Just needed a little bit more, but happy with the team and the job they’re doing. See what we can do next week at Talladega.”

ALEX BOWMAN – Finished 5th: “I guess it is good to be disappointed in a fifth-place finish. We did not need that caution to come out in the middle of the pit cycle like that. I thought it was going to be ok for us, but we just couldn’t get through traffic as well as we needed to. Our program is continuing to improve and I just feel like this is another Vegas race that go away from us. At least it was a good points day, which is what we need.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 6th: “We weren’t great early on and didn’t quite have the long run speed. We worked on it and I thought we were making some gains on it and then we got that damage and got way back in traffic. Then there towards the end, was just able to get lucky on a couple of the last restarts in order to pick off a few spots with the M&M’s Camry and get ourselves in a better position for the finish. It was a pretty dismal day I guess. I looked like it was going to be about 12th or 14th if we didn’t have some good moves on that last restart there to get us a sixth-place finish.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 7th: “Overall it was a decent night. We had to start mid pack and were able to drive up through there pretty quick. I thought our Mustang was good and we made good adjustments on it throughout the night. By the second stage I thought we were really strong, we just needed to kind of restart with the leaders and stay in touch with them. That caution that trapped a bunch of us a lap down was unfortunate. I think we were running fourth or fifth at the time. That stunk. We were able to rebound alright and we started third on that last restart and tried to push Matt (DiBenedetto) and get there but the top just kind of trained up on us. It was unfortunate to run seventh but we had a good car and really good adjustments all night. I thought we were right there, it just didn’t all work out. I thought our car was really fast though, so I am proud of that effort.”

Erik Jones — Finished 8th: “It was kind of an up-and-down day. We started off and I didn’t think that our Toyota Camry was really where it needed to be. We were struggling with rear grip in the heat and couldn’t really get the thing going in the right direction. Towards the end, got some track position and had some good restarts and got the car a lot better. We got caught a lap down with the pit cycle and had some contact there with another car trying to avoid (John Hunter Nemechek) and had to come in and pit and fix some damage. It put us behind there with six laps to go, but still good to come home eighth. Top 10, we will take that and move on.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 10th: “We just missed everything tonight. The car just didn’t drive good. We were slow on pit road and that was pretty much it. We just got buried in the field there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 12th: “I was more worried about this race than I am the next two. We didn’t get out of here as good as I wanted to. Obviously, the 1 car was not a car that we needed to win a race. It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. Him winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out. It wasn’t near as bad as it could have been. The car was nuclear meltdown and I was lucky to finish, so 20 points is pretty easy to overcome at a track like Talladega that’s for sure.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 13th: “It just wasn’t the night we wanted. It’s a good thing we had a little bit of a points cushion to lean on and we’ll run our best the next two weeks. It could have been a lot worse. It is frustrating but we are certainly not out of it. We still have a pretty good points cushion so we will try to get through these next two weeks and put up a good race and build ourselves a cushion.”

Joey Logano — Finished 14th: “Unfortunately, we got a little damage there and had to pit for the left-rear tire. You can’t afford to blow a left-rear tire in the playoffs and back the thing in the fence and shoot yourself in the foot. We had to pit and then just no cautions, and then the one time I had a shot at it the 48 just got me, so that was a little unfortunate. Eventually, we got the lucky dog and went around with our Pennzoil Mustang and drove back to 14th. I felt like that second stage, not scoring any stage points there hurts, but we’re still above the cutline and we’ll head on to Talladega and see how that one goes.”

Cole Custer — Finished 16th: “We just didn’t have the restarts we needed tonight. Obviously, the caution that came out in the middle of the green-flag pit stop cycle hurt us. The guys did a good job tonight and were good on pit road too.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 17th: “Our mile-and-a-half stuff has been really good lately. We ran really good at Kentucky, Texas and we’ve just been solid, so I came in here with a lot of confidence. I thought we would come here and run good. The guys have been working really hard on the cars back at the shop and we just missed it tonight. We were off in speed, off in handling, we were not very good at all on pit road. We didn’t do a lot of things right myself included, so it was just a bad night. Nothing went the way it was supposed to go. We’ve got to be better than that. You can’t transfer through these rounds running that poorly, so we’ll go to Talladega and see if we can’t pull one out of our hat.”

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK — Finished 20th: “Man, that was a heartbreaker. Our No. 38 Speedy Cash Ford Mustang was on the free side to fire off and we were bouncing on the splitter pretty bad. Seth (Barbour) and the crew did a fantastic job on pit road getting the handling to where we were comfortable, and we fought our way up into the top five. Unfortunately, we had a tire go down towards the end of the final stage and then made contact a few laps later trying to avoid a wreck. Definitely not the finish my guys deserved today.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 21st: “That was definitely a tough finish to what was a much stronger performance by our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops | Delo team all race long. We ran inside of the top 20 for basically the entire race, getting as high as fifth or sixth at one point; but unfortunately the handful of late-race cautions and multiple restarts just got us shuffled back to where there weren’t enough laps to drive back towards the front.”

William Byron — Finished 25th: “Just a bummer of a result tonight. We really had a good car. We needed to keep adjusting to keep up with the track but we were running inside the top 10 before that caution during green-flag pit stops. Then we could never rally back unfortunately. Being stuck back there, we then got caught up with two laps to go and couldn’t recover.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 26th: “Our GEICO Military team battled all night long. At the start of the race, the car didn’t have enough rear grip to charge and make speed, but Matt (Borland) kept chipping away at it. Our Chevrolet continued to get better throughout the race. The caution came at the wrong time after our green flag pit stop there at the end, which trapped us a lap down. You can’t control those things though. I’m looking forward to Talladega next week. It is important to our Germain Racing team to finish these final six races strong and we will keep working hard to do that.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished 28th: “Awful. Just missed it. On to Talladega.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 32nd: “We were doing what we needed to do. We were a solid, top-five car in Stage 1 and Stage 2 and were able to earn some points during the end of each of the first two stages. We weren’t so fortunate in Stage 3. We were issued a safety violation on pit road with less than 80 laps to go and had to restart at the tail end of the field. We shook it off because we knew that we work well under pressure. We made our way up to 20th and we were in pretty good shape because we were three cars behind the No. 1 car and we were going to run long, probably. But then I suddenly lost all steering and the water pressure gauge pegged at 400 degrees. We made quick repairs but lost nine laps on pit road and that pretty much did us in. I’m proud of this team for continuing to fight. We’ve got two races left in the Round of 12 and we’re not giving up. It’s on to Talladega Superspeedway where anything can happen, and our goal is to win.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 37th: “We just didn’t really have any luck on our side tonight. I was a little tight to fire off, but we had good overall speed in our car. Unfortunately after our first pit stop of the night, we had a loose right rear tire so we had to make a second stop to fix that and fell a lap down. It’s frustrating to have a car as fast as the one we had and be trapped a lap down, but as a team, we knew we still had a lot of time to get back on the lead lap and into the mix before the race was over. On the final lap of Stage 2, I got into the wall pretty hard and it ended our night early.”

What drivers said after Bristol night race

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Kevin Harvick – winner: “We had just a really, really good Busch Light Ford Mustang tonight. I got it a little dinged up with 50 or 60 laps to go. I knocked a hole in the nose and made it a little too tight through the center of the corner, but turned into a heck of a race, in and out of traffic there with Kyle (Busch). He got me once pinned up there in traffic and I was able to do the same thing back and then hold the lead there until the end. Just really proud of everybody for everything that they’ve done all year and just continuing to fight, and there’s not many races that you can win that are like winning here at the Bristol night race. That was a lot of fun.”

Kyle Busch – finished 2nd: “Frustrated over finishing second.  You know, just felt like this was one of our greater shots to win, and I don’t know. You know, just come up short. You know, Skittles Camry was fast and we had a good car, one that was in contention all night long.  Fired off the start of the race, I was like, oh, wow, this is a pretty good car and then got beat by another really good car, I guess.”

Erik Jones – finished 3rd: “I guess it was a solid day. I thought we had a good car there at the end. But had to start at the back and that took a while to work through there and get some track position. It is really challenging to pass here, even though it is a short track. But a good run. The Auto Owners Camry got better all night, and honestly the last run of the race was our best. We got up there into third and I kind of knew I couldn’t beat those guys straight up, so I tried to save a little bit on the front side of the run and run at the end hard, and just kind of ran out of time. I just started getting to those guys there when we took the checkered.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 4th: “Our No. 8 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet Camaro was a fast one tonight, and we had a great finish to show for it at Bristol Motor Speedway. It took a couple adjustments to get our car to where I needed it to be, but our communication as a team on what adjustments to make has been a big focus for us over the past few weeks and that paid off during tonight’s race. I fired off a little loose on the bottom and tight on the top, so our team had a decision to make on what to focus on. I felt that the top the better groove for our car, so we chose to work on loosening up our Chevrolet a little bit throughout the night and got it in a really good spot for the final stage.

“Those adjustments made it so I was able to cut through traffic during that last stage and race our way into the top five for the last 100 laps or so. I think I may have pushed my front tires a little bit too much on that final run, but this was a really good night for our team. We’re chasing wins in these remaining races while also working on building a strong notebook for next year, and this is a solid step in the right direction for both of those goals.”

Aric Almirola – finished 5th: “We had a solid top five tonight at Bristol and we’re moving on to the Round of 12 again. It was a great run. We missed it a bit to start. This Smithfield Ford team worked so hard to make the right adjustments all night. I was scrapping in the car to get everything I could get. Really proud of everybody on the race team. Ready to see if we can’t make it happen again in this next round.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 6th: “We definitely did what we needed to do. Our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Engine Ford Mustang was pretty good tonight. We were just way too loose to run with (Harvick or Busch). The cycle on the tires when we actually had that caution, had a cycle on the tires and that usually makes it tighter and that was by far our best run. We drove up through them pretty good and put ourselves in position there, but as soon as the green flag dropped right there at the end I was right back loose again.  We did what we had to do. Obviously, you come here to win a race and be on top of that building over there, but proud of the guys and all their efforts.  We’re moving forward and that’s all that matters right now.”

Chase Elliott – finished 7th: “Definitely excited to move on in the playoffs. I thought the NAPA team had a solid race tonight. It’s unfortunate the way the pit cycle went there, but I felt like we were close. Not sure if we were as good as (Harvick) and (Kyle Busch), but I thought we were close to them. I am proud of the effort and I hope this next round is good for us. It’s definitely not going to get any easier as it goes. Nice to get the stage point and stage win and we will try again in Vegas.”

Ryan Preece – finished 9th: “That was a really fun night at Bristol Motor Speedway. This year has obviously had its challenges for us, and we’ve worked so hard to try and make the strategy play in our favor and get JTG Daugherty Racing the finish we deserve and it feels really good to be able to put it all together. Our BUSH’S Beans Chevrolet was really good on the long run … The cautions finally fell our way and we were able to capitalize on it. Every week for the rest of the season is so important to keep focusing on the positives and get as many good finishes as we can and to be able to get BUSH’S Beans as top-10 finish at their home track is something we’re all proud of.”

Michael McDowell – finished 10th: “Well, what an awesome night for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. We got a top-10 at Bristol. I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports. I’m so thankful to Bob Jenkins and all of my guys for giving me this opportunity. It’s the best season that I’ve ever had and another top 10 really helps to keep our momentum rolling. We also have a Ford in Victory Lane, so that’s awesome. I’m just super-excited to get a top 10 at Bristol.”

Joey Logano – finished 11th: “We had a car that was probably top five. It wasn’t as good as (Harvick and Busch) but we had something that was competitive and had that longer run with a loose right rear wheel and we tried to make it last long and it started to get pretty bad. Here, if you go too long it will ruin your chances for the day. It felt like we were late enough in the run that maybe we would start to cycle if we pit. We were so close. The caution was because of (Harvick) pitting and bottling everyone up. We were probably 10 or 15 laps from the cycle being complete and getting our lap back and being in contention for an even better finish. That is how it goes sometimes. We had a solid car and we have a lot of momentum still into the playoffs with three really solid runs outside of one little hiccup here. We will move on to the next round and be happy.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th: “We did what we had to do tonight in our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road/ E-Z-GO Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We advanced to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Playoffs. We started off really strong, but our Chevy ended up getting extremely tight in Stage 2. We recovered from that and were running in the top 10 when Harvick slowed on the track to make a green-flag pit stop. I got on my brakes as hard as I could to avoid hitting him, but a lapped car was in the middle of the track and I had nowhere to go. My RCR team did a great job making repairs, but we were never able to catch the break we needed to get back into the top five. Our car was fast overall tonight, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish during the remainder of the season. We’ll go to Las Vegas next week and try to get a win.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 13th: “We started off tight and then that second run we got really tight after the competition caution and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kind of were able to drive up through there. We got to fifth or sixth the one time and we were super tight again and it went really long. That just kind of made it worse and we just kind of got behind there. The track just swung really tight. I was kind of tight all night, but it just swung really tight on us and that was just the wrong direction that the track needed to be at. That stinks.”

Kurt Busch – finished 15th: “It was a good day, we had a loose wheel and we battled after that, but our stage points are what really helped the Monster Energy Chevy tonight. That gave us the cushion we needed to absorb the problem that we had. All-in-all we advanced and that’s what we expected to do and that is what we have to continue to do. We will do it through teamwork and execution. The next round we have a mile-and-a-half Superspeedway and then the Roval. We’ve just got to be on our toes, keep adjusting and adapt to all the things that are coming our way in the next round.”

Alex Bowman – finished 16th: “That was pretty eventful. We had a really good car all night. Our Axalta Camaro was really fast. Probably going to end up somewhere in the top five, at least the top 10. We just had a tire issue under green there in the last stage and had to pit. Unfortunately, we were not in our window to pit. Once the caution did come out, we weren’t able to take the wave around. We were just kind of trapped there and unfortunately couldn’t recover from that. … So awesome to advance to the next round. Proud of my team. This is the strongest we have been going into the Round of 12. I feel like we have some great tracks for us coming up. This is the most consistent we have been as a race team. I am bummed we lost our streak of top-10 finishes, but we have plenty more opportunities throughout the year to have great cars and contend for wins. Wish we would have ended up a little better, but we are ready for Vegas.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 18th: “Our Germain Racing team battled all night long. It was a really good night for our GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE. Everyone on our team executed throughout the entire race, from Matt (Borland) making good calls, the pit crew having great stops and Chris (Monez) on the spotter stand helping me navigate traffic. We all worked hard and it paid off. The car was its best at the end of the race, which is all you can ask for as a driver. I’m proud of our effort and we will keep digging to finish strong.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 19th: “If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all. I don’t know. It’s just frustrating. I hate it. I want to get Menards and Dutch Boy and this team a good run like they deserve because we’ve had a rough couple weeks, and had a loose wheel, overcome it — drive through the entire field with a lot of green flag. We get to seventh, hoping for a caution, but either way we drove to the top 10 — good run — and I was screaming, ‘Debris in (Turn) 1,’ three damn times and we found it. We ran it over multiple times and I cut the right-rear down and it just ruins our day.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 20th: “The crew put together a solid top 15, maybe even top-10 car tonight at Bristol. Our No. 38 Mystik Lubricants Ford Mustang was decent on the long run, but we struggled a little with drive off. After the first stage, it was looking like we were going to have a decent night. We tried a couple of different adjustments on pit road tonight – some of them helped, some not as much. Overall, we wanted to be able to finish a few spots higher. Thanks to our partners at Mystik Lubricants for coming on board with us this season. We’ll debrief this week and come back ready for Las Vegas.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 21st: “I think (Martin Truex Jr.) must have been on the splitter or something when he came out after he took a green flag pit stop. He just kind of went straight off of the corner. I was running the top and when he went straight, he saw he was going to hit the wall, so he slammed on the brakes and I was going, so I jammed up under him. That was unfortunate. That was bad luck for us. I think he was a couple laps down, but they were fighting their car all day. I’m sure they got in the next round, but we just had some bad luck. We drove up to fifth, and I felt pretty good. We caught the lead within three seconds – drove to them within three seconds, so I was pretty happy about where we were going to be, and then we crashed.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 22nd: “We had a pretty fast No. 43 Cash App Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight – probably the best car we’ve ever brought to Bristol (Motor Speedway), so that was a positive. We got a stage point in Stage 1. I thought the guys were doing a really good job throughout the night. Our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was on the tight-side a little bit. We didn’t really seem to help it, but we didn’t really hurt it all either – kind of just stayed the same balance from the start of the race to the finish. A little frustrating, but super frustrated that we just can’t seem to get some luck on the strategy side. Unfortunate that we got trapped three-laps down, or whatever it was, and you’re just stuck, especially that late in the race. We’ll go onto the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and see if we can turn it around.”

Cole Custer – finished 23rd: “We just struggled here. I don’t know why. I’ve always liked Bristol, it just hasn’t come together this year here. We’ve just really struggled. I just can’t thank everybody enough at SHR, everybody at HaasTooling.com, Autodesk.  I just wish we had a better night. We were just a little bit off. I think we can hang our heads high on what we’ve done this year, but we still have a lot of races to win the rest of this year, so we just have to keep building.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 26th: “We deserved better than that. I don’t know what happened at the end there, but it should not have happened. We had a few things to work on at the start of the race. Then, in the middle part of the race, we were super tight for a long time until the Toyota Genuine Parts & Service car really started coming to me on old tires. We didn’t make any changes on the last stop and it was feeling pretty good until what happened there at the end. That’s Bristol, I guess. Let’s go to Las Vegas.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 34th: “It was a frustrating night, there is no way around that. I am thankful we were able to lead some laps but that certainly was not what we were hoping for. We had a power steering pump issue. I am not sure exactly what it was. I will let the team guys get to that and chase it down. Obviously it killed out chances. I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have that problem but we did so we will move on to the next week and I am thankful we had the win at Richmond last week to fall back on.”

William Byron – finished 38th: “I think the No. 51 car (Joey Gase) checked up in the middle of the straightaway. As fast as we were running the top, I was right behind the No. 95 (Christopher Bell) and I had literally nowhere to go. You can’t stop in the middle of the straightaway when everybody is so committed to the top like that. Just ridiculous that that’s what takes us out. I thought honestly we had a shot to run top-five or seven. The car was really, really good. We just needed a couple good pitstops. We were running probably ninth or tenth there. Just super disappointing – I’ve got to go back and watch that because that was kind of ridiculous.”

What drivers said after Richmond playoff race

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Brad Keselowski – winner: “It was a great race for us and the 2 team. This is, I think my car from Loudon, and I wanted to do a really cool burnout with it, but I want this car for Phoenix. It’s 2-for-2 and I’m real pumped. I don’t want to look too far ahead. We’ve got to get there. The next round is gonna be really difficult, but, still, I’m really pumped about this performance and the way we run at short tracks. I felt like coming in here with the Western Star/Alliance Ford Mustang that we would run well, but this thing was awesome.”

(WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT IS THIS FOR PHOENIX?)  “We’ve got to get there. The last two years I haven’t made it all the way, so we’ve got to get all the way there, but if we can get to Phoenix, we’re gonna be really good.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished second: “Really was pretty surprised that we ran as good as we did with the way that the car felt. It really wasn’t doing anything that I wanted it to do or that we’ve done here in the past when we’ve been good. Just a battle all night, fought hard and the guys did a great job with adjustments, pit stops and all that to just execute and keep us up front. Good, solid night.”

Joey Logano – finished third: “It was a pretty calm race and we just kind of hung around in the top three the whole time. I felt like our car was pretty good in the beginning of the race. The track kind of tightened up a little bit and we lost a little bit of speed to (Martin Truex Jr.) and (Austin Dillon) a little bit and also, obviously, (Keselowski)  Congrats to those guys.  They were fast today. It just seemed like if we fixed the turn I got loose off, so it seemed like pick your poison a little bit.  It just seemed like we had third to fourth-place speed in our car and we finished third with the Shell/Pennzoil Mustang. We’re doing what we have to do.

We scored stage points and a top five and puts us in a pretty good spot for next weekend. I’m proud of the effort and proud of what we’ve picked up here lately since the playoffs started. We just have to keep it rolling. If we keep getting top fives we’ll get all the way to Phoenix. We just have to keep doing that.”

Austin Dillon – finished fourth: “I feel like I gave one away tonight. Our Dow NORKOOL Chevrolet was so fast. We had a massive day for stage points, which is going to help us out big picture-wise. We had a speeding penalty in Stage 1, and to come from the back to the front in that stage just shows how fast our Chevy was tonight. This No. 3 team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters. I have a line at Richmond, and it has been working for me. I run a little lower on the straightaway, and it gives me good forward drive. I saw some other drivers start picking it up and laying the rubber down on that line. It might have hurt us a little bit at the end of the race, but the biggest thing is when we came to pit road for our second green-flag stop in Stage 3, we were trying to bring everybody down.

“The No. 1 car was in my mirror on tires. I overdrove that entry just a little bit thinking that I needed to avoid getting rear-ended, and then it was like ‘Oh no, I’m going to hit the red box’ so I had to make another lap around the track. That cost us three seconds. It probably killed our deal, but it was still early, so who knows. It was a lot of fun out here tonight, and I think we had the best car tonight.”

Chase Elliott – finished fifth: “First off, we were way better than we’ve been here, probably ever, so I thought that was a big improvement for us. We really needed it here. This has been a really, really tough track for us. I thought we got our NAPA Auto Parts Camaro good, especially through the middle portion. Just got a little behind, I think, as the race went on to roll the center as good as we needed to late in a run. But, we were way, way better than we’ve ever been here I feel like before. And consistently all night, too. I thought that was a pretty big step for us at a track that we’ve really struggled at.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: “Kind of same as last night (in the Xfinity race). Just not quite enough turn in the middle of the corner to keep wrapping on the long runs. The short runs it seemed like I was actually a little bit loose and then it was starting to go a little bit tight and then it was tight loose. Just not enough overall grip I guess. Kind of been fighting that a little bit this year. The guys gave a great fight. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) not being here and I thought Jacob (Canter, fill-in crew chief) did a great job. We all know Adam was back at home. … Overall, that’s all we had. We fought hard with our M&M’s Camry and we came up short of a top-five.”

Aric Almirola – finished eighth: “The Smithfield Ford was a handful all night. Everyone kept in it and kept working on it. We got a top-10 finish and it was a good point day. That’s the big thing. Now we need to go to Bristol next weekend, run well and get ourselves into the next round.”

Alex Bowman – finished ninth: “How about that? We ended up top 10 at Richmond. That is like a miracle. We had a really good car and definitely better than a ninth-place car. I made my fair share of mistakes and we had some issues getting on and off pit road. We lost some time there. I am pumped for Truck Hero and CHEVYGOODS.com. It is really weird to be this pumped about running ninth, especially when we had a much better car than ninth. Last time we were here we ran, I think, 24th. This is good momentum for us going into the cutoff race next week in Bristol.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 10th: “We were just off a click. Honestly, I thought we’d come to Richmond and run better than that. We needed to run better than that. Tenth place isn’t gonna cut it when you get in the playoffs. We’re looking for more than that on these short tracks in particular. We’ve still got one more. It’s a lot of fun going to Bristol. Being nervous about something there’s a sense of fun in that. I’m looking forward to next weekend and seeing how it all shakes out. We were good last time there and there’s no reason why we can’t be it again.

Tyler Reddick – finished 11th: “I think Richmond Raceway is one the most challenging tracks on the circuit, but my No. 8 Cat Rental Store team did a great job tonight helping me find my rhythm and build a strong run out there with our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. Not having any practice here for my first Cup start, it took me a little bit of time in the first stage to figure out the best way to get around here with the balance I had in our car. My whole team did a good job of analyzing the SMT data available to us in real-time and relaying to my spotter, Derek Kneeland, on what I needed to be doing differently on track to gain spots out there. That data really did help and made a ton of difference in our night. Between that feedback and the changes we made during our pit stops tonight, I was able to become more confident in the car and run harder with each run of the night.”

Denny Hamlin  – finished 12th: “It just seemed like once the track rubbered up, we just weren’t any good. We couldn’t get off the corner good, couldn’t get in the corner. Just nothing was really very good with it. I want to thank everyone from FedEx Cares for putting this car on the race track. This definitely means a lot to people I spoke to last week with the National Urban League, so thank you everyone. We will move on to the next round and go have some fun next week and see how we do.”

Kurt Busch – finished 13th: “Our pit strategy just didn’t turn out the way that we had hoped. We really had to work hard early in the race to manage the tires and an ill-handling car. The guys did a nice job working on the balance, to make the Monster Energy Chevy better on the long runs. With no cautions to help us out we just weren’t able to catch a break that we needed. Who ever thought we would a short track with no unplanned cautions?”

Cole Custer – finished 14th: “It’s just classic Richmond, I guess. You just try and fight and fight all night for that perfect kind of balance and it’s just really hard to find. This track, it’s like you’re on ice out there pretty much, so putting a perfect car together is really hard. We had times where we were pretty good with our HaasTooling.com Mustang and there were times where we were a little off, and it just kind of led to an okay day. I think we’re still eight points out, so it’s not too bad and we can go to Bristol and if we have a good day, we can lock ourselves in, but it’s just gonna be a fight all the way to the end.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 17th: “If there is one track to be in a must-win situation that I would choose it would definitely be Bristol. I think we have a good shot at it. It is one that I am excited about and have circled off in this round. I think obviously tonight was a tough one on us. It is tough with no practice. We had to really make a lot of changes on the car on the pit stops. We got it where it needed to be but it took a little while because of no practice. We got it driving decent and then there were just no cautions to get us back on the lead lap and get us in contention to have a decent day which we would have if we got the car right. So, we will go to Bristol and do the best we can.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 19th: “We have to win next weekend. It is pretty plain and simple. With the bad couple of races we have had here to start the playoffs off, we probably need to go out there and win Bristol. That is our mindset. That is our goal. It is our goal every week to win the race but now it is our season on the line. We will see if we can get it done. We have been pretty close at Bristol before, it is just a matter of trying to put a whole race together there.”

William Byron – finished 21st: “It is what it is – we ran horrible tonight and no excuse for that. It was really kind of a slow death the entire race, so we’ll go to Bristol and regroup for that one.”

Michael McDowell – finished 25th: “Well that was a long night at Richmond. We fired off pretty good on the first run and I felt like we were going to have something, but I’m not exactly sure what happened on the second run; we just got really loose and lost a lot of track position for a while before finally getting it back. Without a lot of cautions, there weren’t many opportunities to get bunched back up. It wasn’t the run that we wanted for our No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops / Speedco Ford Mustang, but we stayed close to the guys that we’re racing with in the points and we’ll keep fighting; head to Bristol and try to get a better run in there. Everybody did a good job and worked really hard, we just didn’t quite have it tonight.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 29th: “We need to keep working hard to find speed. Our T-TEN Toyota was loose on entry and exit and tight in the center the first part of the race. We worked to make it better, where it was pretty good on new tires in the first part of the run and really good on old tires the last part of the run. We just struggled during the middle part of those long runs. Like I said, we just need to keep working hard to find more speed. Let’s go to Bristol, where we had one of our best finishes of the season, and try to do even better.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 30th: “It was a tough night for our No. 38 team. We had an issue with the steering wheel from the start, and just couldn’t really catch that much of a break throughout the race. We were free for the most part, and just struggled on power. But the great thing about this Front Row Motorsports team is that we never give up. My guys still do everything they can to set us up for a good finish. We have some notes to add to our short track notebook, so we’ll hit the reset button at the shop this week and move on to Bristol.”

Check back for more.

What drivers said after Southern 500

Southern 500
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Southern 500:

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “We kept having a lot of trouble with the right-rear tire cording. The car was really loose all night long for whatever reason and would cord the right-rear tire, so I think that was probably about as far as they felt like we were comfortable of going and wound up being the right strategy in the end. Anytime you can win the Southern 500 is a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and this is one the most prestigious racetracks in our sport, so anytime you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal, but, man, Southern 500!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 2nd: “Man, it would have been nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the next round of the NASCAR playoffs, but it was a heck of a finish for our No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team. I’m proud of our second-place finish, especially after dropping to the rear of the field at the start of the race and having to recover from that setback. We battled really hard all night for every single spot we could get. We had a really good long run car and towards the end of the race I knew Kevin Harvick was getting tighter each lap. I caught him earlier in the closing run, but he took my low line in Turns 1 and 2, which was where I was running the best, and stopped the momentum that I had going. I gave it everything I had though.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “Man, hard fought. We kind of were decent, it’s just so hard to pass with these big spoilers on the car at this racetrack. That makes it challenging. We had a right-front go down the last lap of the second stage, hit the wall and we did a good job fixing the car and then strategy worked well, so Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) did great there, and then they had an amazing pit stop the last stop, had a good restart and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Shoot, we could win this thing.’ To see what the left-rear looks like after that I was pretty impressed to get whatever we got. It’s funny how the team always tells you, ‘How does the damage look?’ ‘It looks great. It looks great.’ You get out and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Overall, that’s what we needed to do. We need to come out of these playoffs running hard and having a solid top three finish to start the playoffs with a couple stage points is a good way to start.”

Erik Jones — Finished 4th: “It was good. It was really tough to pass. Once you got up inside the top seven or eight, those guys were all pretty equal, and it was hard to make ground from there. We started deep, 30th, today and drove up and finished fourth. We got a couple of extra spots at the end, but this Sport Clips Camry was quick. We just never got up front. We just needed to get up front and get some clean air. That’s what we did last year. I thought we had just as good of a car as what we did last year. We just never got to the lead. That’s what held us back, I think. It’s tough. The cars are finicky. They are on edge, and it’s really hard to make ground, but decent day.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 6th: “Sixth place isn’t terrible, but man we had a fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight in Darlington. We had some issues on pit road that hurt us and we had to recover from that. I really feel like we were a car capable of winning. We just got buried there, but thankfully recovered from it. Sixth place isn’t the end of the world, but you know you had a fast car when you are bummed about sixth. This car looked amazing tonight and hopefully we can go to Richmond next weekend and do the same thing. It is a good feeling to have a good start to the playoffs.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 7th: “Traffic was definitely our detriment, there was just nothing I could do to try to find clean air in order to make up any speed back in traffic so I just got mired wherever the heck I was and that was it. Being out front in clean air, I was able to run with Martin (Truex Jr.) and had a fast M&M’s Camry and could really show how fast our car was when we drove away from the field by a couple seconds there until that caution that NASCAR flew that was not a caution.”

Kurt Busch — Finished  8th: I’m happy with our run tonight with the Monster Energy Chevy. I know it’s not a win, but we got everything out of the race that we were hoping for; except maybe the alternate strategy that we were trying with one stop in the final stage. I was hopeful for the long run. I like dancing with the Lady!”

Aric Almirola — Finished 9th:  “We got in a little bit of a hole early in the race with some left-rear quarter panel damage that we had to fix on pit road and really put us in a spot to where we couldn’t capitalize on stage points, so that hurt us a little bit just not scoring any stage points, but we were able to battle back from that and get back to the top 10, which is where we felt like we were capable of running.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 10th: “I certainly was hoping for more.  Frustrated to be honest with you. I have to go back and look at the race to see what happened with the debris. By the time that they picked it up I’d say it was way off the racetrack, so that kind of set us up to not have a not very good day. That put us in a hole. We were gonna be in the single digits for sure there, looking pretty good, but just had a lot of trouble. Right-rear (tire)— threw the rubber off the right-rear and had to pit there. It could have been catastrophic. At the end, the left-rear (tire) was about to fall off of it, so we’ve got to clean some things up. I told you going into this we’ve got to put 10 races together. We’ve got to put whole races together. We can’t make these mistakes.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 11th: “(Crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and everyone on the Discount Tire team did a great job tonight. I made a mistake early in the race, but we worked together and made a good recovery.”

Cole Custer — Finished 12th: “We definitely fought hard the whole night just to try to keep ourselves in the game. We had to go to the back with a speeding penalty and just overall fought as hard as we could all night and ended up 12th. Overall, I mean, we wanted to run better, but that’s something that can keep us in the game and keep us in the game for the next two races. Hopefully, we can put together better, but Darlington definitely hasn’t been our team’s strong suit, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what I can do better and what we can get better with the car.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 16th: “Well, that was a really positive end to what started out as a pretty tough day for our No. 34 team. We didn’t unload exactly how we had hoped to start the race, but Drew (Blickensderfer) and the guys did what they do best and made our race car a lot better by the time we took the green flag for the final stage. Overall, it was a pretty decent points day and another top-20 to add to our season. I definitely wanted that top-15, coming up just one position short; but we’ll take what we can get.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 18th: “That was not the result we wanted, we had a fast Ally Chevy until that last stage and it just kept getting tighter, but my guys just keep fighting. We will just focus on Richmond.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 20th: “He (Martin Truex Jr.) had a run on me there off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in three and four to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave him the run and then he just slid up in to my left front, I felt like and on we went.”

MARTIN TRUEX Jr. – Finished 22nd: “It’s Darlington and typically you don’t want to go in side-by-side. I felt like I had enough of a run and enough space there that the last foot or so he (Chase Elliott) was going to understand that if I was committed, we both weren’t going to make it. Typically, here that’s kind of how you race. If a guy gets a run on you and he’s just about got you cleared, you have to give that last little bit. Now obviously, the end of the race, probably the pass for the win, he wanted to drive it on in there and I was committed to being clear and there was no way we were both going to make the corners. Basically, when I made up my mind and I was driving it in there and then he drove in on my right-rear quarter, there was no possible way that we both weren’t crashing. That’s what happened.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 23rd: “I’ve gotten to run a lot of cool races, but the Southern 500 has always been towards the top of the list for me, so it was really special to be able to make my first start in it tonight. I love NASCAR’s throwback weekend, and our No. 8 Cat Power Chevrolet honoring Jeff Burton’s No. 8 scheme that he accepted Rookie of the Year honors with looked great out there. We fired off really fast tonight, but our handling was just a touch loose. My team made some good adjustments early in the run to tighten me up, but then the rear security of our Camaro became really unstable, which made it tough to manage the handling through the turns on both sides of the track. During the start of Stage 3, the field got stacked up on the restart and I received some damage to the nose of our car, right above the grille. That affected the handling a lot for the rest of the night and kept the temps up high, too.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 24th: “Definitely wasn’t our night for our Menards/Maytag team. We had the inspection penalty and lost points before the race started and had some bad breaks. We’ll get ready for Richmond and Bristol and try to gain ground back in the playoffs.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 25th: “We made the most of what we had in our throwback CommScope Toyota tonight. We didn’t have the speed we were hoping for, but everybody did a good job turning us around into the right direction. We struggled to find grip in the beginning, when we were not too good on the short runs but better on the long runs. That changed when the track changed – we were pretty good on the short run but then too free over the longer run. I’m proud of Dave (Winston, crew chief) and the guys for their hard work making the car better at the end of the race.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “That definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to end our night driving Elliott Sadler’s CITGARD throwback scheme. Our No. 38 Ford Mustang fired off pretty tight but then I got looser as the run went on and the sun set. We had some really good pit stops tonight and Seth (Barbour) and the crew made some good adjustments so that we had a good balance by the end of Stage 2. Unfortunately, we had a miscommunication on track early in the final stage and that ended our day. I hate it for my guys because they’ve worked so hard all year and they never give up. We’ll reset this week at the shop and get ready for Richmond.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 38th: “We had some bad luck on our side. I don’t really know what the main issue was that ultimately led us to not finish the race. We started out decent. Our guys made some good adjustments on the car and then got it better, and I was really happy with it. After we had our mishap and went to the garage, we came back out and I thought our car was really good. We just had to survive until it went to night time and I thought we could have put a decent race together by that time, but it didn’t work out.”