John Hunter Nemechek

What drivers said after Brickyard 400

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Kevin Harvick – winner: “We knew (Denny Hamlin) was gonna be really close on tires and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) told me on the radio he said, ‘Just make sure you keep the pressure on him,’ and that was all the pressure I could give.  Those guys do a really good job.”

(HOW TOUGH WAS THE BATTLE TO STAY OUT FRONT?  YOU MADE ONE DARING MOVE WHERE YOU WENT TO THE GRASS TO TRY TO GET THE LEAD.) “I didn’t have anymore room. That was for sure, but it’s the Brickyard. This is what i grew up wanting to do as a kid, win at the Brickyard and to be able to come here and have won for the third time is something that I could have never dreamed of.  I want to say hi to my family at home. I know (his son) Keelan will be jacked up. (Daughter) Piper is probably asleep. If not, hello. But just really, really proud of all these guys on this team.”

Matt Kenseth – finished second: “It was a great day for the 42 team today. It’s always nice to be up front and be in contention late in the race. (crew chief) Chad (Johnston )did a great job on the box with his calls today. We had a really good strategy and the best tires coming to the end of the race, lining up fourth behind the leader late in the race, but just couldn’t get it done to take the lead. I tried everything to get to the front, but just didn’t have quite enough to get around the (Harvick). If we had gotten to the lead though, I know we would have been hard to beat. All in all, though, a great race for us. It felt good to run up front and was a confidence booster for all of us. Looking forward to getting to Kentucky and carrying that momentum forward.”

Aric Almirola – finished third: “We had such a great Smithfield Ford Mustang, but we kept having to get off-sequence on our pit strategy because we kept having tires come apart. They’d start to come apart and they would vibrate and shake so bad that I could hardly see where I was going, so we kept having to pit for that and it kept messing us up on our strategy and getting us off-sequence, but fortunately there at the end the caution came out when we needed it to and things finally went our way and we knocked out another top five, so just really proud of all the guys on this team. We’re doing such a good job of being consistent. We’re bringing great race cars and we’re being really consistent running up front, so just really proud of this team and just want to keep it going. It’s fun to run up front like that.”

Brad Keselowski – finished fourth: “I think we were kind of up and down. We started ninth or 10th and just kind of hung around sixth or seventh and couldn’t quite make the pass. Our car was really, really fast in clean air, but I couldn’t run in traffic. We’d run up to cars and get stopped and would kind of ride. Then we started to see the tire issues and tried to be really smart about that and try not to beat ourselves, keep tires on the car. Of course, every time we pitted to put tires on the car we’d cycle to the back, but we were just really mindful to not beat ourselves and that paid off. It gave us a good finish. If I’d have had clean air all day and not had to worry about the tires, we were as good as anybody, but worrying about the tires and not being spectacular in dirty air we kind of had to play it straight with the way it was and ended up with a top five and a fourth-place finish. We’ll take that and move forward.”

Cole Custer – finished fifth: “It is awesome to have all of SHR running well here at Indy. It is Tony’s (Stewart) backyard so it is a huge race for us. For us, our team, this package has been exactly the opposite of what I am used to driving. For it to all come together today means a lot. Thanks to all the guys at SHR for bringing great race cars. HaasTooling.com went national this week, so check them out. I am psyched. I am really happy we finally had it all come together.”

(Why did it come together at Indianapolis?) “I think it is just that I am getting better with the cars and knowing what to expect when we go to the track and getting better at what to bring in the cars to the track. It is a work in progress and having no practice doesn’t help that. I think it is all starting to come to us.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: “We just kept getting off on pit strategy with the Skittles America Mix Camry. We had a valve stem come off the left rear (tire) on a stop and that put us in the back. Then we had vibrations at various points throughout the race with different sets of tires so we had to stay on top of that and make sure we changed those. Each time, that would put us on the back. I struggled to pass anybody most of the day, but somehow got spots on restarts. I was able to salvage a sixth-place finish and will head to Kentucky next week.”

Michael McDowell – finished seventh: “Another great finish for us. Another solid top 10.  t’s such a big run for us. I’m so proud of everybody at Front Row (Motorsports) and (owner) Bob Jenkins for giving me this opportunity. It’s taken so long to be this competitive and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity.  To have CarParts.com and Power Stop and Love’s Travel Stops and FR8 Auctions and all our partners throughout the year, Speedco — so many great people that make this possible and we’re doing it  We’re doing it every week. We’re definitely way more competitive than we’ve ever been and it’s a lot of fun.”

Tyler Reddick – finished eighth: “We had a great No. 8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet when we could run in clean air and record some good lap times, but unfortunately we struggled in dirty air, like a lot of our competitors today. Any time we were battling someone side by side or from behind them, our car would just build way too tight and make it tough to gain or hold track position. We just had an up-and-down day, falling back early and then playing some strategy to stay out to start Stage 3 from the fifth spot.

“Once the race restarted for Stage 3, we were able to hold on to that position for a while before having to make our final green flag stop of the day. Unfortunately, a yellow came our when our pit stops were cycling through, trapping us a lap down and forcing us to take the wave-around and get shuffled back in traffic again. When that final yellow flag came out and set us up for a green-white-checkered finish, my crew chief Randall Burnett made the call to come in for four fresh tires and put us 16th for the restart. I was able to capitalize on the final restart with fresher tires and race up to eighth place, which is a great finish for our day. We had to grind it out today, but it turned out in our favor.”

Bubba Wallace – finished ninth: “I guess it is good to be frustrated when you finish in the ninth place. All-in-all, it was a good day for this No. 43 World Wide Technology (WWT) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. It was fast. We just did not have the handling underneath us. It was good down the straightaways. It did not want to turn very well – specially behind traffic. One of the more frustrating days being behind cars and just trying to maneuver. So, coming out of there with a top-10 finish is good momentum going to the Kentucky Speedway – another good track for us. We will continue the good vibes and keep staying on Jerry (Baxter, crew chief) to produce good finishes for us.”

Kurt Busch – finished 13th: “This was an Indy race to forget today. We had to make too many unscheduled returns to pit road, which cost us a lot of track position. We just had an unbelievably tight handling Monster Energy Camaro in traffic, I just could cut through the corners to make any passes. Obviously I was hoping for better results for (start) No. 700 today.”

Ty Dillon – finished 14th: “A nice 14th-place finish at Indy for our GEICO Military team. It was a crazy one, but overall, it was a really solid day. From start to finish, we had speed and these are the types of cars that I knew we could bring to the track that would make a difference. I’m very proud of (crew chief) Matt (Borland) and all of my Germain Racing guys for their hard work. To finish the first two stages in 11th and 12th and then finish the race in 14th is a great day for our program. This is our fourth top-15 finish of the season and we are going to keep stacking those up. We’ll go get them in Kentucky and keep this momentum rolling.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 15th: “It was a hard-fought day for our No. 38 Fire Alarm Services, Inc. Ford Mustang. We were tight in traffic to start and it was difficult to keep the car turning when I was behind another car. (cew chief) Seth (Barbour) and the crew made some good adjustments throughout the day that helped our handling a lot. We got caught up there at the end, but still had a decent top-15 day.”

Austin Dillon – finished 18th: “We had a really strong Dow Salutes Veterans Chevrolet today at the Brickyard and it was fun to be able to earn stage points in Stages 1 and 2 and lead laps. Our Chevy was handling really well all day so we really only needed to make small adjustments throughout the race. Justin Alexander made great calls to help us get track position. Clean air is huge. We made the decision to stay out when the caution flag was displayed at the end of Stage 3. That put us in a great position for a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag. We were racing for sixth but tangled in Turn 4 coming to the checkers and ended up backing into the wall. Definitely not the finish we wanted or deserved today, but I’m proud of our effort. We had a lot of positives with earning stage points and leading laps.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 20th: “I thought the balance of our Certified Used Vehicles Toyota was good today and we did a good job of keeping up with the track. One thing we know we have to do is keep working to find more speed. The team did a good job dealing with a couple of issues we had, one with the power steering that took a couple of extra stops to fix. We worked hard and got a top 20 out of it, but we also know we are better than that and we know the areas we need to keep working on. We’ll just keep working hard on getting better and if we keep working hard, we will. We all want this.”

William Byron – finished 27th: “Our Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was super-fast today. It just sucks because we have had a lot of these things happen this year. It’s not a fault of anyone, it just happens and it’s a bummer for sure. We’ve had fast cars and it feels like we always have bad luck when we do. That’s what hurts even more. We just need to bring that same speed to Kentucky and hopefully we won’t have any issues there. To be leading the race like that and have a tire issue is, I guess, a good way to go out. We’ll just see what we can do in Kentucky.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 28th: “It’s just tough. I hate it for the FedEx team. We didn’t do what we needed to do and it didn’t work out for us today. I had a fast car obviously and was stretching it out there but wasn’t pushing right front at all. It’s kind of roulette if you’re going to get one that will stay together or not and mine didn’t. You saw the end result. These big races — things don’t go my way all the time. We’re still going to go next week and try to win the next one. We’ll do all we can.”

Alex Bowman – finished 30th: “I wish we could have some luck here in Indy. Every time we come here, something happens. We had a pretty decent car, but through a series of events it just got worse. We suffered a tire issue right before we made a green flag stop, which ended our day. I hate it for my guys and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports because they have been putting in a ton of hours both at track and at the shop. We will move on to Kentucky and I hope we bring some luck with us.”

Erik Jones – finished 33rd: “The Stanley Camry was pretty quick. We were kind of just trying to move to the front and get some track position and I guess we had a right front go down. I felt it pop, and I was kind of along for the ride. It was a pretty hard hit. It’s a shame. The Stanley Camry was fast. I think we just needed to get up front a little more and we could have contended. It’s a shame; it’s kind of the story of our season. We’ve just had a rough year, and things are just not going our way. Hopefully, we can just turn it around, keep bringing fast cars and have things turn around for us.”

Justin Allgaier – finished 37th: “The No. 15 (Brennan Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got (hit) the gentleman on the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney‘s crew member) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into. It’s just a shame. I hate it for these guys on this Ally No. 48. They’ve done such a great job. They’ve prepared so well for the circumstances. Obviously, our hearts and thoughts are for Jimmie (Johnson) and his family right now. That’s the most important piece of all this is getting him back to the race track soon. And, I wanted to do well for them today and it’s disappointing to be standing here talking to you (TV interviewer) unfortunately. But we’ll go on. I don’t know what next week looks like yet. We’ll go run the Xfinity Series race and go have a good shot at it. It’s a disappointing way to end the Brickyard 400.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 38th: “Terrible. Disappointing. We really only ran one lap up to speed, then we ended up having that engine deal, so it’s just disappointing. Our Auto Owners Camry felt amazing. I thought that we were going to have a great day. We ran a lap and a half, I guess, and it was feeling really good and then engine went down. The deal on pit road, that kind of happened to us last year. I almost aborted. I almost said I’m going to wait and come around the next lap, but the guys really wanted to get under the hood and assess the engine, and come to find out it was just a spark plug problem, so we could have easily fixed it and had a really good day. Thanks to Auto Owners and Toyota and everyone that supports us. We will come back strong and hopefully get them next week.”

First 15 Cup races have been ‘eye-opening’ for Christopher Bell

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Believe it or not, Christopher Bell has not come to dread Thursdays.

That’s when NASCAR announces the starting lineup, based on a random draw, for Cup races.

Due to his position in the owner points (which the draw is based on), the rookie driver has started 32nd or worse in five of the last seven races. That rough patch continues Sunday in the Brickyard 400 (4 p.m. ET on NBC), when Bell and his No. 95 Toyota start 35th.

“Honestly, I haven’t even been paying attention to it,” Bell said Friday in a Zoom press conference. “I go to the racetrack and then just listen to see what the damage is when my team tells me. But it’s the name of the game and we buried ourselves there that first four weeks and really, really killed our points.”

For Bell, the first four races of his Cup career were a “disaster,” as he had two DNFs and failed to finish better than 21st.

After NASCAR’s COVID-19 shutdown, that bad start continued at Darlington, where he placed 24th. But his slow rebound began in the second Darlington race with an 11th-place finish. He followed that with his first top 10 in the Coca-Cola 600.

Since the sport’s return, Bell has five finishes of 11th or better, including his first career top five in the first race of the Pocono doubleheader last weekend. His only DNF since May 17 was for a crash in the second Pocono race.

But it hasn’t been enough to dig himself out of the cellar of the owner point standings and achieve his “No. 1 goal” of getting to the 24th spot. The way the random draws are done, being 24th in owner points would allow Bell to start anywhere between 13th and 24th.

“It’s crazy … I ran fourth for Pocono 1 and then I looked at the points and I didn’t make any headway at all because I’m pretty sure (Michael) McDowell ran eighth and the guys that I’m racing in points, it seems like whenever I have a good day, they have a good day too,” Bell said.

Through 15 races, Bell is 26th in owner points. He trails McDowell by three points and fellow rookie John Hunter Nemechek, who is 24th, by 17 points.

“So it’s been very frustrating, we’re just gonna keep plugging on and thankfully, these races are 400-500 mile races and not sprint races,” Bell said.

For Bell, the strategy involved in Cup races compared to shorter Xfinity races is what’s surprised him the most about his rookie season with Leavine Family Racing. The biggest difference: pit stops.

“It just seems like the races are way more dynamic in the Cup Series, you know that the strategy is all over the board,” Bell said. “Even if you go to a place like Atlanta or Homestead where you put four tires on every time you pit, there might be 10 pit stops in one race. Compared to the Xfinity Series, there’s guaranteed only going to be three, maybe four. So that’s been very eye-opening just how many times you come down pit road, how many times you pit. But as far as competition standpoint, I knew what I was getting into in the Cup Series. The Xfinity side you have that eight-ish number of competitive cars and that number gets turned into 25 on the Cup side.”

Going into his 16th Cup start and his first Brickyard 400, you can count Bell among the drivers who have actually preferred not having practice and qualifying, even if it means he’s starting deep in the field.

“For me, I feel like it fits what I’ve grown up doing,” Bell said. “And if you look at our performance, we’ve ran exceptionally better since we stopped practicing for whatever reason that is. But I really enjoy it and as a rookie, going to the racetrack … I’m not starting on the pole or the front row so I’m not having to go wide open into Turn 1 and expect the car to stick or anything you know. I have enough time starting in the back that we’re able to just creep up on it and I feel like I’ve done a good job of not overstepping my limits and making sure that I get to that first pit stop where we can tune the car to my liking and stuff like that.”

What drivers said after Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono

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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “I was just hoping for no cautions, I knew we had the car. I was just maintaining my gap right there and didn’t want to make any mistakes like I did at Bristol and threw that win away. I just tried to work through the traffic as best I could and obviously (crew chief Chris Gabehart) is paying attention to strategy there and made the right call. … A lot of adversity early. We got some nose damage and had to fix that. Then we just worked on the car and got it better and better. It finished the race there a lot better than we finished yesterday and I thought we had a race-winning car yesterday. We knew after yesterday’s race and showing the speed that we had, just don’t mess it up and we’ve got a good shot today and that’s what we did.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 2nd: “Car was actually better today than it was yesterday. Just the way that the end worked out.  We had to run in a lot of traffic there. Denny (Hamlin) kept clicking off laps. They did what they had to do, did the opposite of what we did as far as when we pitted.  We lost time going through that traffic, just came out behind him, wound up second today. …  I think overall you can’t be dissatisfied with a first and a second. I’d feel childish if I sat her and nitpicked that apart.”

Erik Jones — Finished 3rd: “Yeah, today was a lot better than yesterday for sure. It’s great to rebound like that. Unfortunately, I think we could have – definitely could have had two top-fives, and really, I think our primary car was quite a bit better than this car. I thought we could have probably contended both days a little more towards the win if we had our primary, but the Craftsman Camry was good. We made good changes overnight. We actually changed a lot of stuff and tried to kind of rebalance with what we had with this backup car. It’s nice to get a solid finish. I mean, we came off a good run at Talladega and went right back to a DNF and to come back here with a third. We just need to be consistent from here and keep it rolling.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 4th: “It was good to have a solid run for our NAPA team after yesterday being so poor. Obviously, we would’ve liked to of been a little better, but after starting in the back, I was pleased how I was able to move forward and gain a lot of that track position back. It was a good rebound. Looking forward to getting back on track at Indy.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 5th: “Another top five. I’m so proud of (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and al the guys on this 10 team. That’s four top fives in a row. What a weekend we had here in Pocono, got a lot of stage points and finished third yesterday and fifth today. We’re riding a wave of momentum … We’ll go to Indy, a place that’s very similar to the tunnel turn at Pocono and felt like we were really good there this weekend.  I’m excited about Indy and another top five.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 6th: “Two races back-to-back was pretty cool. Knocked them both out in one weekend, but we got stage points in all four stages between the two races, so that’s good and I felt like we finished solid yesterday and today we had a good day. We got stage points in both and the second stage we were actually anticipating possibly giving up the stage points for our strategy to have a good finishing position, but it worked out to where we still had some solid restarts and got up there to get at least a couple points, so everything helps. That was big and today was just pretty much real smooth from start to finish, just was up there in that top 10 for most part start to finish for the day, so Greg and the team did a real solid job keeping us up there and having a real good strategy.”

William Byron — Finished 7th: “We ended up with a top-10 finish today which was good. It was definitely an improvement from yesterday – seven spots better to be exact – which is good. We still struggled a good portion of the race but I think we made the right calls and adjustments at the end. We had a lot of speed actually the last couple runs. I think the track kind of came to us and ultimately that’s what we needed. So we’ll go on to Indy and hopefully have a better run there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 8th: “That was a tough race. We were just so loose today. By ourselves we were good and could turn in a good lap, but in traffic we struggled.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 9th: “It was an up-and-down day. So many people are on different pit strategies throughout the day here in Pocono. We had a top-10 car all day, just didn’t have the running positions to show for it. Greg (Ives) and the guys made great adjustments on pit road and really improved the car throughout the race. A top-10 finish today is good momentum for us going to Indy next weekend.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 13th: “The team made a lot of changes to the car from the race yesterday, but we still really struggled with the handling in traffic. The difference between dirty and clean air is crazy. The Monster Energy Chevy was good early on when we had track position (clean air) and we were able to lead all the laps and get the Stage 1 win, but just a tough ending for the No.1 team, a little Pocono Deja vu for us today!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 14th: “Everyone on the Symbicort Chevrolet team did a great job hanging in there today and working together to pull off a top-15 finish. We made a few adjustments to our car and strategy based on what we learned yesterday. There was a lot more grip on the track then what I figured there would be for a 4 p.m. race start. We just battled a tight-handling condition for most of the day today, especially at the beginning of the race. We had to free up a bunch. We missed stage points at the conclusion of Stage 1 by just one position, but then earned a few key Stage points at the end of Stage 2. During Stage 3, we worked our way into the top five before pitting for fuel with 13 laps remaining. All-in-all, can’t complain about a 14th-place finish.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 15th: “Overall, I think it was a solid weekend. We definitely learned some things on Saturday that we were able to adapt to for Sunday, but the track raced very differently on Sunday than it did on Saturday. We were really loose most of the race, but Brian (Pattie) made some great strategy calls to keep us running up front and ultimately get a top-15 finish at the end. We’re on a solid momentum streak and I’m looking forward to carrying that over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend.”

Cole Custer — Finished 17th: “Thank you so much, guys. We got the car a lot better today. We definitely made gains and got the car better during the race. Well go get them next week.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 19th: “Wasn’t quite the day we were hoping for at Pocono Raceway, but we finished better than we did in yesterday’s race, and that’s an accomplishment for us. Our No. 38 Death Wish Coffee Ford Mustang was decent in clean air, but we just couldn’t make it work in traffic. I was too tight whenever I got behind another car and we couldn’t quite get the handling right in order to really make the kind of gains we wanted to on track. I’m proud of my team and thankful for their effort.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 22nd: “Our Richard Petty Motorsports team made the right adjustments for what we fought yesterday, but it still was not the right adjustments; that is kind of the frustrating part. We did not have enough raw speed and couldn’t quite get the handling we needed. All-in-all, we came-out with a top-20 finish and it’s an improvement from yesterday. Good to get out of Pocono, and give us time to refocus before we come back.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 26th: “The balance of our CommScope Toyota was OK in Turns 1 and 3, but unfortunately we were still struggling in Turn 2, especially in the first 10 or 15 laps of the run. Obviously, we’re lacking overall speed, but we’ll just keep on digging. It was a good job by the guys all weekend. We just need to keep digging and we’ll get there.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 35th: “This weekend did not go at all how we wanted it to, but I’m proud of the No. 8 Caterpillar team for never giving up at any point. Unfortunately, when I came across the line to take the green flag today I lost all power steering and had to drop back to protect the car. Right as I was going to hit pit road to see what we could do to fix the handling, the caution came out for rain, which almost ended up helping us. I was able to pit and give my team the entire yellow to work on the car. We figured out we would be able to replace the alternator belt right as the red flag came out. Once the yellow flag came back out, my team worked as fast as they could to make the repairs but we still ended up a handful of laps down by the time we could rejoin the field. From that point on it was just a matter of capitalizing on everything that came our way to gain as many spots as we possibly could. Every point matters in the fight to make the Playoffs, and we weren’t going to go down without a fight. We got trapped a little bit with how the race played out, but we gave it our all today to get everything we could. I wouldn’t want to be racing with any other group than the one I have right now and am looking forward to getting back after it at Indy next weekend.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 38th: “I don’t know. The guys did an amazing job from yesterday to today. I guess it proves that if you get a little practice time in and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with so hopefully life gets back to normal eventually but we are in 2020, so it doesn’t surprise me getting crashed out of the lead. The M&M’s Camry was pretty fast today. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a great job. It’s just very frustrating and unfortunate. I know what happened but it doesn’t make any sense to talk about it. It will just come across in a bad way.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 39th: “I was kind of rolling out there by myself, and I had a good gap between the guy in front of me and behind me, and it just stepped out getting into Turn 2 there. It’s disappointing, but I’m really happy with the speed that we’ve had these last couple weeks. Obviously, yesterday here we were really fast and we had another great car today, so these guys keep bringing really fast Rheem Camrys to the racetrack and we will have good shows.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 40th: “Today was a real shame. The first few laps of today’s race felt really good and I thought that we were going to have the opportunity for another strong run. I’m still proud of the race that we had yesterday and the speed that we’ve been showing all year. Unfortunately, it’s all part of the ups and downs of racing. I’m really proud of the effort by everyone at Front Row Motorsports for bringing us a competitive car and I’m ready to head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend and hopefully rebound after today’s unfortunate events.”

What drivers said after Saturday Cup race at Pocono

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Kevin Harvick — Winner:  “We weren’t where we needed to be to start the race and lost a bunch of track position but we came back and made some great strategy calls to get in clean air and get out front and make some good laps. It is great to finally check Pocono off the list. Everybody at Stewart-Haas racing has done such a great job with all our cars over the last several years. … I knew when we came out of the pits and they told me how big of a lead we had. I saw the 11 come out of the pits and he was in second. I knew that the tire gap was going to be a little less. He caught us a little in traffic but I knew I could be pretty patient with the gap we had. As I started to see everything cycle out and see with the track position we had with the fresher tires you could kind of start to put it together in your mind as we started to run through the last stage and cars started to have to pit. Just a great call by Rodney Childers and aldl the guys up on the pit box for having the right strategy and getting us to victory lane.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 2nd: “I don’t know if more time would have helped, but I had a bad vibration there the last 15 (laps) and that kind of hampered our efforts coming to the front there. Not sure what it was, but it was really, really bad and we just did all we could to run him (Kevin Harvick) down and that’s all we had.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 3rd: “(Crew chief Mike Bugwarewicz) and I talked about it coming here. This was a great opportunity to score a lot of points with a doubleheader. If you unload and you have a good car in the first race, you have an opportunity to score a lot of point in two days. Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was really, really fast. We opted to score a lot of points and that probably hurt us on strategy a little but I am proud of Bugga and these guys. They have been bringing some awesome race cars. I felt like we were tit for tat with (winner Kevin Harvick) when we were on older tires there and in clean air. Three top five’s in a row. I am really proud of my race team.”

Christopher Bell —Finished 4th: “Whenever I started working with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) two years ago in the Xfinity Series, well even before that, I started following him and I knew he was really aggressive on strategy to get his driver up front. Seems like the majority of the race tracks that we’ve been to the last couple weeks have just been, put four tires on and go, but Pocono is definitely a place where you can mix up strategy, pit early, pit before the stages and so forth. Obviously, Jason did a great job and got us up front and we had the car speed to stay up there.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 5th: “We had some speed and there were laps that I could run with (Denny Hamlin), but (Hamlin) could just do it lap after lap after lap where I was pushing everything I had to keep up with him there. I just couldn’t do it. I would make the tires mad and would start to fall back. We were just a little tight all day. We really fought tight early on, but we made some really good adjustments and got it a lot closer and got it a lot better. Our strategy there worked out to get us in the top-five – that was about all we could ask for out of today. We got some really good ideas for tomorrow hopefully that will help us out and hopefully get us some speed so we can keep up with those front guys.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 6th: “We started in a decent spot and lost some spots early. I thought we had a pretty decent SiriusXM Toyota early on and kind of had to do a little different strategy there. Stage one didn’t look too good, but I felt like we were pretty close with the car. We made some adjustments and got some track position through stage two, so we were able to get some decent stage points there. We were in a decent spot again towards the end and got a really bad vibration, so I was a little concerned that we were going to have a tire issue or something. Luckily, it held on and it wasn’t a great finish by any means, but a solid finish for sure and something we can work on for tomorrow.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 7th: “We were really loose and in traffic we were terrible. But I think we found our direction in the last part of the race. We had a vibration late or I think we could have gotten more spots. What a swing! Johnny Klausmeier and my guys did a good job calling the race.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 8th:

Brad Keselowski — Finished 9th: “We didn’t start where we wanted to but we adjusted really well. I thought by the end we were one of the best cars. It was incredibly difficult to pass. I caught cars that I was a second faster than and then I just couldn’t pass. It was a big track position day. I think you saw that with the guys that started up front all finished up front. We tried to make some moves to make some passes and probably caught ourselves some spots. If we rode around all day we would have maybe got two or three more spots out of it. I appreciate the fact that my team has a lot of effort and was shooting for the stars.”

William Byron — Finished 14th: “We struggled today. We had a hard time making speed and tried to salvage what we could there at the end. We started gaining more speed as the car tightened up by the end of the race. We’ll make some changes for tomorrow and see what we can do then.”

Cole Custer — Finished 16th: “Solid day for us today. We ended up 16th and at the end, I felt we were fast enough to run up front. It’s just trying to get track position and I think I can get my restarts better for tomorrow. It was a solid day, which is what we needed. We can improve on it tomorrow. I think we have a good car and I cannot thank my guys enough. Looking forward to improving on it all tomorrow.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 18th: “I’m not really sure what went wrong with the handling on our Monster Energy Camaro. The track changed dramatically for us. We were pretty good the first half of the race, before the car started handling really tight on the exit of the corners. The second half was not so good for us with the handling and track position. We’ll turn it around and work for a better result tomorrow”.

Austin Dillon — Finished 19th: “Not what we wanted. Lost our track position in the middle of Stage 2 when the caution fell. It stunk. We were running eighth, and hoping it would go green and cycle out, but it didn’t. Nineteenth is what we had.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 22nd: “Well, that was a whole bunch of nothing. We didn’t really hit on much all day. On the tight side; just could never get the front end to work. The guys did good trying to figure out something on our No. 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, it just wasn’t enough. We tried to pull some strategy there at the end, and just didn’t have enough raw speed to dial ourselves out. So, all-in-all, I’m proud of the effort. We just kind of swung for the fences but didn’t really hit anything good. We know what not to do for tomorrow. We’ll come back way better with a totally different package. I had a good debrief with the guys, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings for us starting in the 22nd-place. We missed that invert spot by two; stayed on the lead lap almost by a lap. But all-in-all it’s good to come out of there with a clean car. A lot of people had a bad day, so we capitalized. On to tomorrow.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 24th: “We made some adjustments to try and free it up and made some progress, but I just got loose under the 27 at one point, and slid up into him a little. We still struggled toward the end of the race and needed to be freer on our runs, but we made some good notes for tomorrow.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 26th: “Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE was fast and handled well through the corners, but something was wrong under the hood. Our car just didn’t have the speed on the straightaway and it hurt our momentum. We started the race really tight, but Matt (Borland) made a big adjustment on the first stop which helped the balance. My Germain Racing guys will try to figure out what was wrong tonight, so it doesn’t hinder us tomorrow.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 27th: “That is not the way we wanted to end the race. We had a good run going and were going to end up top 10. (Brad Keselowski) got into us there at the end and we cut a tire. Definitely don’t have the finish to show how our day was going, but we will be back tomorrow with a new car.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 28th: “We brought our Camry home in one piece and I think we’ll be better Sunday. We were hoping to do the third stage without stopping and we came up just short with no yellows. We’ll work hard to make the changes we need to tonight and tomorrow morning. I’m confident we’ll be much better than a 28th-place car.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 30th: “We had good speed at the start of the race but we were involved in a wreck at the end of Stage 2 that put us two laps down and changed the course of our race. From then on out, it was all about finishing and earning maximum points. I have to thank my guys for their hard work and making repairs so I could finish the last stage. We kept after it as a team and finished all the laps, trying to maximize on as many points as we could. We will regroup and be ready for round two tomorrow.” 

Joey Logano — Finished 36th: 

Kevin Harvick wins for first time at Pocono in Saturday Cup race

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If at first you don’t succeed, try 38 more times and you’ll finally break through.

That’s the situation for Kevin Harvick, who earned his first career NASCAR Cup win at Pocono Raceway in his 39th start at the “Tricky Triangle” on Saturday.

It was the 52nd career Cup win for Harvick, who now has won at every track on the current NASCAR Cup schedule, with the exception of Kentucky Speedway (two weeks from now) and the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway (later this season).

MORE: Results, standings after Saturday’s Cup race

MORE: What drivers said

“As well as we’ve run here, you definitely talk about it,” Harvick said when asked by NBC Sports in a post-race teleconference if he was glad to finally get a win at Pocono. “For us, it was just one of those things that you joke around about it because we’ve run plenty good to win races here.

“It’s kind of like Texas. We finally knocked down the wall and won three years in a row. Hopefully, that’s the same thing that happens here at Pocono because it’s definitely a place where we could have been to victory lane several times. It’s just a matter of this or that happening.”

It’s not like Harvick has performed poorly at the Tricky Triangle over the years. On the contrary: Harvick came into the race with four runner-up finishes, 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes at the 2.5-mile track.

“Today was just like the last seven years here, we’ve run well, been in contention to win and today we wound up on top,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t bother me because we run well. But if we were just coming here and not running well and this was a place you didn’t like driving at, but I enjoy coming up here, I enjoy the racetrack, I enjoy the challenge it creates and we’ve run well.

“When you run well, that kind of takes away all the chatter about not liking the place or being frustrated.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, finally won at Pocono Raceway in his 39th career Cup start at the Tricky Triangle.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Because the top 20 finishers Saturday will be inverted in Sunday’s race, Harvick will start from 20th place in the second half of the first Cup weekend doubleheader in NASCAR’s modern era.

“We were back to 20th today, so I think in the end, it will come down to strategy and what you need to do,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “Thank you to all the fans. I wish you were here. This isn’t near as exciting (without fans in attendance). I feel I’m like my seven-year-old (son Keelan), I’ve got all this pent-up energy and I’m just going to share it with nobody.”

Harvick was unable to celebrate his third win of the season with a post-race burnout, as he — as well as all other drivers (with the exception of those who may have to go to back-up rides) — will have to use the same car in Sunday’s race at Pocono.

“I’m not doing any more celebrations,” Harvick said in a post-race media teleconference. “With nobody out there to celebrate with, until the fans come back, I’m not doing any burnouts, I’m not standing on the car, not doing any of that stuff.

“It doesn’t feel right not having my team in victory lane. It doesn’t feel right not having the emotions from the fans to share your emotion and everything you have being in the race car and being excited with what’s going on. You win the race and you get out to silence.”

Denny Hamlin finished second, followed by pole sitter Aric Almirola, rookie Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch.

Saturday’s race was the first of a two-day NASCAR Cup doubleheader at Pocono. With the inversion Sunday, Saturday’s 20th-place finisher, Ryan Preece, will start from the pole Sunday.

The start of the race was delayed nearly an hour to allow workers to dry the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped race track after rain throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. That morning rain forced NASCAR to postpone Saturday’s Truck Series race to Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano (fourth stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Aric Almirola (first stage win of season)

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Michael McDowell finished eighth, giving Front Row Motorsports consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in the organization’s history. John Hunter Nemechek finished eighth last week at Talladega. … Bell was the highest-finishing rookie, earning a Cup career-best fourth-place finish.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick were involved in a hard wreck near the entrance to pit road on Lap 72. Jones was checking up and trying to move around a slower car, while Reddick was unable to slow down and avoid Jones’ car. If one or both drivers has to go to a backup car for Sunday’s race, they would start from the rear of the field.

NOTABLE: After being forced to sit out last Sunday’s race at Talladega, IndyCar driver James Davison made his NASCAR Cup debut Saturday for Spire Motorsports. He finished 34th. He also has four prior Xfinity Series starts. … The cars of Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer were found to have one lug nut not safe and secure in post-race inspection, but there were no other incidents.

WHAT’S NEXT: The second race of this weekend’s Cup doubleheader at Pocono Raceway will take the green flag Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski