Doug Yates

Friday 5: Ford boss reaffirms commitment to motorsports

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The executive overseeing Ford’s racing program said the company is “committed to motorsports” even as the manufacturer faces economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports, said motorsports remains important to the manufacturer but admitted that “scrutiny to make sure we’re getting the return from every dollar is probably higher than it ever has been before, or at least in the last five years.

“So that is part of the discussions that we have internally with our motorsports steering team and governance board that we have with our racing partners, but Ford is a company founded based on motorsports with Henry Ford (winning a race in 1901) and ultimately forming the company over 100 years ago. It’s part of who we are today, so we’re here to be in motorsports. We’re committed to motorsports.”

Ford announced during an earnings call in April that it lost $2 billion in the first quarter of the year. Before taxes and after adjusting for one-time items, Ford lost $632 million. Projections at that time were that the number could top $5 billion in the second quarter. Even so, Ford stated in April it had $35 billion in cash.

“Be assured that everyone at Ford is squarely focused on both today and our future,” said Jim Hackett, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Co., during the April earnings call. “We believe it remains bright and it’s a great source of motivation for us as we serve that future and of course take care of all these immediate needs.”

On the track, Ford has been a leader this season, winning seven of the 13 Cup races. Ryan Blaney’s victory Monday at Talladega gave every Cup driver at Team Penske at least one series win this season.

Ford’s wins this season are by Kevin Harvick (two), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two) and Blaney (one). Seven Ford drivers are in the 16 playoff spots at the halfway mark of the regular season: Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto.

“The season is going really well so far,” Rushbrook said. “Certainly the four races before the break that we had with our two wins out of those four races and just continuing that momentum even a little bit better for our win percentage since we’ve returned from that break.”

2. Missing practice

Although racing without practice appeases some fans, it creates challenges for some teams.

Chris Buescher, who is in his first season back at Roush Fenway Racing and has a new crew chief in Luke Lambert, said the lack of practice has impacted his team.

Buescher said the team knew “that it was going to be very difficult to start up coming back to a new team with a new crew chief and not having the ability to do any testing, and then after just four races taking away all of our practice. 

“That’s made it extremely difficult for us as a team trying to build chemistry and come together, so we’ve been put at a pretty serious disadvantage, and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do in the last several weeks. We’ve made some huge gains that are really helping us be able to be more competitive.”

Chris Buescher is 19th in the points at the halfway mark in the regular season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) 

With the regular season at the halfway point, Buescher enters this weekend’s races at Pocono Raceway 19th in the standings. He is 40 points out of what would be the final playoff spot, which is held by rookie Tyler Reddick.

Buescher opened the season by scoring four consecutive top-20 finishes, which included a third-place result in the Daytona 500. Those races featured practice.

When the sport resumed in May after a 71-day pause because of the coronavirus pandemic, practices were eliminated. In the nine races since, Buescher has three top-20 finishes, including a sixth-place finish Monday at Talladega.

Cup teams are not scheduled to practice at upcoming races at Pocono, Indianapolis, Kentucky, the All-Star Race at Bristol and Kansas. Weekend schedules for upcoming races at Texas and New Hampshire have not been revealed.

With 13 races left until the playoffs begin in September, Buescher and his team will need to show better results despite not having any practice time.

“I feel like we should be stepping our game up every week going forward right now,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of the elementary stuff behind us that we had to learn as a group and being new with Luke Lambert leading the charge for the 17 group, for me not being able to go into the shop and be a lot more hands-on with everything has been very difficult.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and pride myself in being able to know exactly what’s underneath our race cars, what’s going into it and how we’re going to be better. With this distance, it’s just made it difficult, so where we’re at we definitely have a chance to make (the playoffs) still. We just have to clean up. We have to keep progressing in what we’ve been able to do the last couple of weeks.”

3. Looking ahead

While Cup races Saturday and Sunday at Pocono Raceway, it is not expected to be the only doubleheader weekend this season for the series.

NASCAR has not announced its schedule beyond Aug. 2 but Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway are expected to host doubleheaders after both tracks had earlier races postponed by the pandemic.

Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said this week that he would be concerned most about engines at Dover.

“I’m a little bit more nervous about a doubleheader at Dover than the other tracks,” Yates said. “Dover is a long race no matter what and it’s also a race where on a green track you turn a lot of RPMs and as the lap times fall off, the RPM comes way down, so when we go there to qualify or when we used to qualify we would turn 9500 RPM on Friday in qualifying, but during the race you’re about 9000 RPM, so it’s a big swing. Conditions change a lot, so I think Dover is the one that makes me nervous and obviously we’ll do our homework and prepare, but just something to look out for and it is a different track.”

As for running two races this weekend at Pocono and the impact on engines? Yates said it shouldn’t be a problem.

“When Pocono was originally laid out, we were going to have practice and qualifying and then two 350-mile races, which would have put us over 700 (miles),” Yates said. “… So if we were to go over 700 miles, we would need to change springs after Race 1 before the second race. Now that we’re not going to have practice or qualifying, we’re going to run both races without changing valve springs. We’ve made a pretty extensive checklist, so we’ll probably end up changing oil and checking the filters, going back through some things that you would normally do after a race event.” 

4. More of the same?

Drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing have combined to win each of the last five Pocono races.

Kyle Busch has won three of the last five races there. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. each has a win during that time. Erik Jones has finished in the top five in each of the past three races there, including a runner-up finish in the most recent race there last season.

In the last six Pocono races, Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have five wins, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. They’ve also combined to lead 51% of all the laps run in those races. Joe Gibbs Racing has 14 career wins at Pocono. The only track JGR has won more races at is Richmond. JGR has 16 Cup victories there.

5. Leading the way …

Ryan Blaney has scored the most points in Cup since the series resumed in May. He has scored 342 points, collecting one win and six top-five finishes in those nine races. After Blaney in points scored since the season resumed is Martin Truex Jr. (328 points), Kevin Harvick (326), Brad Keselowski (323) and Denny Hamlin (317).

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Long: Will 500 be Great American demolition derby (again)?

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Let’s be frank. Blocking will continue at Daytona and Talladega. It will happen in Thursday’s Cup qualifying races and it will take place in the Daytona 500.

And yes, there will be wrecks because of it.

“Product of what happens when you get out front because you know if you can keep the lead, nobody can pass, so you just try to do what you can with all the blocks,” Kyle Busch said after he was blocked by Joey Logano before they made contact and crashed in Sunday’s Busch Clash.

Blocking has become hairier since the larger rear spoiler was added to cars last year. That gives trailing cars an aerodynamic boost to close faster on to the back of the leading car.

The increased closing speed decreases the reaction time a driver has to block. Even if they defend the spot, they often force the car behind to slow quickly, creating an accordion affect that can lead to an incident deeper in the field.

Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski collide in Turn 4 during Sunday’s Busch Clash. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

“By the time the spotter sees (a trailing car making a move), keys the mic, says it … it’s too late,” two-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin told NBC Sports after Sunday’s Clash. “Live to race another lap in my opinion, but, hey, if they want to keep crashing, I just hope I’m not in it.

“There’s no guarantee that the guy is going to clear you. Let them get beside you, who cares? You’ve got a chance to stay up there, but it’s when we chop each other’s nose and stuff like that, you just continue to see it with a lot of the same guys who do the same things and they’re not successful with it.”

Brad Keselowski was livid at Logano after Keselowski was collected in the incident between Logano and Busch.

“You would think these guys would be smarter than that,” Keselowski said. “We all cause wrecks. I get in wrecks all the time and I cause them. … It’s the same thing. Somebody throws a stupid block that’s never going to work and wrecks half the field and then goes ‘eh’. Maybe we need to take the helmets out of these cars and take the seat belts out. Somebody will get hurt and then we’ll stop driving like assholes.”

Busch acknowledges there is a benefit to blocking, which is why drivers will do it despite the risks.

“If you can get the block done enough times, then that bubble of air (between the cars) pushes you out … and that’s what (Logano) was trying to do, but I was too close,” Busch said. “I was on him. You’ve got to accept the repercussions in those situations when you throw that many (blocks).”

Understandably there’s some concern about blocking after what happened in the Clash and recent Daytona 500s. Thirty-six of the 40 cars in last year’s Daytona 500 were in accidents, according to the NASCAR race report. In the 2018 race, 27 of the 40 cars were listed as in accidents. In the 2017 race, 33 of the 40 cars were listed as in accidents.

Put another way, 80% of the cars in the last three Daytona 500s were involved in an accident.

The Great American Race has become a demolition derby.

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Overlooked in Erik Jones’ dramatic last-lap victory in the Busch Clash was how teammate Denny Hamlin pushed him for most of the final lap, a la tandem racing — which was prevalent at Daytona and Talladega a decade ago until NASCAR rules made it unfeasible to do.

Teams started experimenting with tandem drafting last year but could only do it for part of a lap. A few teams tried it in Cup practice last weekend and saw benefits.

Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin in a tandem draft on the final lap of the Busch Clash at Daytona. (AP Photo/Darryl Graham)

“I think it’s typically a straightaway or half a lap that it seems to work,” Byron said of the tandem draft before the Clash. “Based on the radius of the corners at Daytona, it’s kind of hard to carry it through off the corners, especially as fast as we’re going, but I think there’s definitely some pushing that will influence the race.

“That’s what it’s going to take for the race win, honestly. I think it’s going to be about blocking that run and forcing them to push you and hoping they push you out and you guys can race it out. I think it’s going to come down to pushing, looking at how guys are doing it in practice. It’s only going to get more aggressive in the race.”

Hamlin was a lap down in the Clash so his only motivation was to stay locked on the back of Jones’ car and push his teammate to the win in the exhibition race.

Jones said the tandem is starting to return because “the cars just punch such a big hole in the air, you can get all the way to people’s bumpers with pretty minimal effort from both drivers.  As long as the lead guy gives you a little bit of a brake drag, you lock on, you stay locked on for a long time.

“If you’re in a situation late with a restart, you could see some tandem racing.”

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Daytona International Speedway made the surprise announcement Monday that the 2021 Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 14.

NASCAR has not announced the 2021 schedule and is not expected to do so until April. But with Daytona already selling tickets for the 2021 Daytona 500, don’t expect the date to suddenly change.

That leads to a bigger question. What happens to the Busch Clash?

Easy, it’s the weekend before the Daytona 500. Yes, but the Super Bowl will be Feb. 7 in Tampa, which is about two hours from the track. Maybe it could work running the Clash in the day and finishing well before the Super Bowl begins.

Or, with the possibility of bold changes for the 2021 schedule, would it make sense to shorten Daytona Speedweeks and have the Clash on Wednesday night, four days before the 500? That leads into the qualifying races on Thursday, Truck race on Friday, Xfinity race on Saturday and the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Certainly, there could be other options. Shortening Speedweeks has been a topic discussed before. 

Another question, though, might be is the Clash still necessary? With NASCAR seeking to help owners save money, has the Clash outlived its usefulness?

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David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, was adamant in an interview Friday on “The Morning Drive” that his cars wouldn’t be a contender for the Daytona 500 pole.

“I wouldn’t put us at the top of the board for qualifying at Daytona,” Wilson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s just not going to happen.

“I don’t know that many people appreciate what it takes to sit on the front row of the Daytona 500. I have an immense amount of respect for what the Hendrick camp does to that end and for what (Ford engine builder) Doug Yates does. It’s a massive effort just to sit there. We’ve been very intentional to focus our time and our resources and our energy on building cars that race well and that goes for the Daytona 500 and frankly goes for the rest of the season.”

The result last year was that Toyotas won 19 races and the championship but only four poles.

Even with such a strategy, what happened Sunday was interesting. Toyotas showed more speed. Toyotas were fifth (Denny Hamlin), sixth (Kyle Busch), ninth (Christopher Bell) and 10th (Erik Jones).

It was a marked significant improvement from last year. Only one Toyota was in the top 10 in qualifying at Daytona or Talladega last year.

“I think it goes back to Talladega last fall,” said Chris Gayle, crew chief for Jones, about the increase in speed. “We didn’t feel like we had as good of cars as we needed as a group.”

Jones qualified 11th at Talladega in the playoffs last year. No other Toyota was in the top 15 that day.

We kind of found something we thought we could tweak on in the off‑season and improve,” Gayle said. “The faster cars win, right? They may not always win, but the numbers are going to show they win. They’re going to be in better positions in the race to use runs and clear somebody when they’re faster.”

It will be worth watching the Toyota cars in the qualifying races Thursday. Handling remains key at Daytona. The question will be did Toyota sacrifice handling in race traffic for single-car speed? If not, then watch out for those cars this week.

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Hendrick Motorsports saw its streak of five consecutive Daytona 500 poles end Sunday but the engine shop’s streak continued.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (right) celebrates his Daytona 500 pole with fellow front-row starter Alex Bowman. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Hendrick Motorsports supplies engines to JTG Daugherty Racing. So when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. grabbed the pole for Daytona 500, he ended Hendrick’s streak of having its cars on the pole but not the engine shop’s streak.

“I want to see those guys do well but they did a little better,” Hendrick said, laughing before he finished his sentence.

“Being on the front row and having them all up there is a great job for our company. I’m real proud of those guys (at JTG). They work hard. They’re good friends. We’ve worked with them on chassis and motors.”

Hendrick Motorsports will still have one of its drivers on the front row for the 500, though. Alex Bowman will start alongside Stenhouse.

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After being let down in the search for sponsorship often, Bubba Wallace is less prone to get excited about possible deals as Richard Petty Motorsports looks to fill out space on the No. 43 car this year.

Asked how optimistic he was of those gaps being filled, Wallace said: “I don’t carry optimism anymore. I’m just a realistic person, so we’ll get though Daytona and go on to Vegas and see how it goes.”

As for why he’s a realist instead of an optimist in regards to sponsorship, Wallace said: “I’ve been let down so many times in my life with sponsorship efforts, so just realistic. I told everyone at RPM, you work your tails off in the office but don’t call me with updates, call me when it’s done.”

Bubba Wallace seeks to recapture the magic of his runner-up finish in the 2018 Daytona 500. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Wallace’s runner-up finish in the 2018 Daytona 500 didn’t lead to the swell of sponsorships that some thought could happen. But Wallace has experienced that often.

“They told me winning a Truck race would get me sponsorship,” he said. “I’m still looking for a sponsor. That was (2013). You can carry optimism for that long, it will kill you.”

Wallace says his focus is on each day.

“It’s a new day every single day,” he said. “You try to give your 110% effort each and every day. Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be.”

But Wallace does admit to having good vibes at Daytona. 

“I do get excited coming to the speedway stuff just because our program has been so solid,” he said. “For all the small teams, you get excited about these because anybody can win these races.”

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The World Series of Asphalt Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida features nine nights of racing through Saturday, including seven nights of Super Late Models.

Fifteen-year-old Sammy Smith won opening night last Friday driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Super Late Model team. It was Smith’s first start with the team.

Busch will get to race with Smith next week at Las Vegas when Busch jumps into a Super Late Model and that will give a better chance to gauge Smith.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Busch said of the Super Late Model race in Las Vegas. “But what’s going to turn (Smith) and make him viable or successful to move on to the next level is going to be the same as it was with all the rest of the drivers. If they are running up front, if they are competitive and winning races, parts aren’t falling off the cars and cars are prepared well and they are fast, that will obviously show that they’ve got the opportunity to get to the next level.”

On Saturday night, the Super Late Model winner was Jesse Love, who, like Smith, is 15 years old and a Toyota Racing Development driver.

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Ryan Newman will start at rear after car fails inspection

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SPARTA, Ky. – Ryan Newman, who holds the final playoff spot, will start at the back of the field after his car failed inspection Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Speedway.

Newman was to have started 23rd but an issue with the car’s body caused the failure. That led to his qualifying time being disallowed for tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Quin Houff was the only other driver whose car failed inspection. Houff is with Spire Motorsports, which won last weekend’s Daytona race with Justin Haley.

On Friday, Newman noted that passing could be difficult in the race.

“The cars are so fast, and the track is gripped up so much that it’s going to be a challenge,” Newman said Friday about this race. “We’re going to move around, but if you move around like for instance in (Turns) 1 and 2, you can’t outrun the guy that is wide open in front of you running the shortest distance, it’s just not going to happen. You’ve go to be way way faster.

“That’s not the case. The cars are so similar now that you really can’t just drive around somebody when they’re driving a straight line almost. I think that passing, it’s going to be probably the biggest challenge we’ve had this year this weekend.”

Newman enters tonight’s race 16th in points, holding what would be the final playoff spot. He has a three-point lead on Daniel Suarez, who starts on the pole and seeks his first Cup victory. Erik Jones trails Newman by 13 points.

Newman climbed into a playoff spot by scoring three top-10 finishes in the last four races, including a fifth-place finish last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. But Newman said Friday that his team can be better.

“I’m not proud of how we’ve done it,” Newman said of his recent run of top 10s. “We’ve kind of skipped by, whatever you want to call it, not been as good as we need to be and that’s my focus. It’s good to have some decent results, but it’s not good to have decent results when other guys are collecting top fives and wins.”

So what does his team need to get to Victory Lane?

“Just raw speed,” Newman said Friday. “We’ve been off on raw speed. Trying to figure out downforce vs. drag. Obviously, we can’t complain about a Roush Yates Engine when they’ve been to Victory Lane. So knowing that Doug (Yates) does a great job with all that stuff, we’ve got to work on our cars more.”

 

Could NASCAR have an engine to run a 24-hour race? ‘Of course we could’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A 24-hour race at a NASCAR track is nothing new. The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, one of the crown jewels of the IMSA sports car championship, has been contested at Daytona International Speedway for over a half-century.

But what about a 24-hour race at a NASCAR track … with stock cars.

Hmmm.

When Doug Yates, the CEO of the Roush Yates company that builds engines for NASCAR and IMSA teams, stopped by the Peacock Pit Box during the ninth hour Saturday of the 2019 Rolex 24 on NBCSN, NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr. was curious.

“Could NASCAR run a 24-hour race?” Earnhardt asked Yates. “What would you need to do to a NASCAR engine?”

“I’m kind of worried about getting to Atlanta with a tapered 550 package first,” Yates joked in reference to NASCAR’s new reduced horsepower rules for this season.

“But yeah, of course we could do it. That would be an interesting race, of course. Everything in our engine is made to run 501 miles. As crew chiefs and drivers, you guys know, you’re always beating on the engine guy to give you more power. We didn’t want to give you too much margin, right? The thing wasn’t built for a 24-hour race. But we could do that.”

It might require a rethink of the philosophy of NASCAR’s V8 engine, which is based on antiquated architecture with little relevance to modern-era street models.

Yates, who talked about his desire to run more modern engine technology in last year’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast, already likes the Rolex 24 because it’s different from “engines set up specifically for NASCAR events.

“This is such a good event because these are production-based engines,” Yates said. “We test them. We push them to their limit, then we turn back and give that technology back to the street cars. The things we learn goes back to Ford Motor Company and making their cars better.”

Hmmm.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

Of course, there are the niggling questions about the durability of brakes, rotors and other parts.

As well as what track might work well for holding such an event.

Martinsville? Bristol? The Roval or another road course?

Hmmm.

This might be an idea with some serious staying power.

What drivers said after Darlington

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Brad Keselowski — Winner: “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my pit crew. We were running second and that last stop they nailed it and got us out in the lead. I thought Kyle was really good, and he was flat-out flying. I know how it goes. In 2015 we led a bunch of laps and lost it on the last pit stop and today my team won it on the last pit stop. Then it was just about me hitting all my marks and not screwing it up. How cool is this winning in Rusty Wallace’s Throwback car, the Southern 500, Throwback Weekend.”

Joey Logano — Finished 2nd: “We had a good car. We were like a third-place car and whether it was a short run or a long run it didn’t really matter. We made some adjustments there at the end to take off a little bit better, but I didn’t get by the 42 in time to try to run down the 2. We were just matching lap times, so I couldn’t catch him enough. I was just hoping lap traffic would screw it up enough to try to catch him, but one-two for Team Penske, that’s pretty cool. Brad sweeping the weekend, that’s awesome for him to do at Darlington. That’s no easy feat, so congratulations to them. I just keep going back to two restarts to the end. I didn’t have the best of restarts and if I got to second our pit stop was good enough to get us to the lead and give us control and that’s what ultimately won Brad the race was his pit crew that got him out in the lead. Once he was out in the lead, he was gonna be hard to catch. I had a lot of fun on the Throwback Weekend. It’s really cool to drive Steve Park’s car and give it a good run. I wish I got to celebrate with him in Victory Lane and hold up the 1 that he used to drive.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 3rd: “It’s always important to come out the leader off pit road or be the control car on the restart. I felt like if I could have been in clean air, I would have been all right. All day when I would get in traffic I’d get loose. There on that last run I was just really loose and allowed Joey (Logano) to get by. I knew the only really weakness we would have throughout the race was a short run and that’s what it kind of came down to. On long runs, I was just really, really good all race long. That was good. Hat’s off to everybody back at our race shop. This car was extremely fast. We had the dominant car and we proved it. We just came up a little bit short. Thanks to DC Solar and everybody, like I said. It’s nice to show some dominant speed like that and a 1.5-mile like this leading up to the Playoffs.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 4th: “Darlington just has a lot of ups-and-downs in general just because of the fact that it’s a tough old race track. As a driver, it’s a challenge and a lot of fun. For us, we just could not make the front end of our car work all night and everything we did to try to help it just undid the back and just never could get it right. Track position was bigger here than I’ve ever seen, so we all got to figure that out as a sport.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 5th: “I thought we got it better as the night went along and got to a pretty decent place there and we just so happened to get into a decent place when we had track position as well. Circumstances were pretty good for a course of that run when we ran second and was trying to pace Kyle (Larson) and just felt like I was probably having to work a little too hard to pace him and was really hard on my rear tires and then by the end fell off pretty bad. Have a little work to do, but mistake free night, which is nice and we just got to find the next little step to keep up with that crowd.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “We’ve got sixth through tenth covered. We had a good car, we just got pinned a lap down with 80 miles to go and that’s happened to me a lot here. We just end up on the wrong sequence and we got pinned a lap down. Then we had some overheating issues. I guess our grille screen – there’s an outer and an inner – and the inner got clogged, so we had to come in. Luckily, the engine held together over 300 degrees, so thanks to Doug Yates and those guys for building the durability and being able to salvage a top-10 finish. Otherwise, engines like that blow up, so thanks to Doug Yates and Ford.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 7th: “We never are very good here. I don’t know what the problem is. Just fought a lot of things and tried to make the most of the effort. We made some good changes on pit road, but just nothing there at the end could free us up for the short run to make our Camry very fast. Hard to make lap time at the end.”

Erik Jones — Finished 8th: “We had a really good car. It’s funny, you look at the last lap time and we were the first or second-fastest car. We just needed a long time to come in. I mean we needed 15 laps to get going and that’s just kind of how it was. I knew if they came down to some short restart stints, it was going to probably hurt us quite a bit unfortunately. The Sport Clips Camry was good. You can’t complain. We worked hard on it all night and had a fast car – had a car that I think if it would’ve stayed green, maybe we could have contended with (Kyle) Larson. You know Larson didn’t win either, so sometimes it’s just not your night to have a shot and tonight wasn’t ours.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 9th: “I missed the commitment line I guess on one of the green flag stops, so we had to fight to get back on the lead lap like two or three times, but had a really good car. Both of our cars were… Kyle (Larson) was really fast tonight. We had a great car too we just could never get the track position that we needed, but yeah, a really good day.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 11th: ““It’s really disappointing to have a car that good to be up front and have that many troubles on pit road. It’s pretty disappointing. We have to clean it up. Playoffs are coming. We do that in the playoffs and we’ll be out in the second round.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 12th: “Overall, it’s our best career finish and really running the whole race at Darlington. I kept it out of the fence, which was goal number one. We got off two or three runs, which was a bummer because I felt like we were really good the rest of the race. Those three runs just caught us off-guard. That’s a little lack of laps here because I haven’t run many, but it was a good finish for us. I was real happy we were able to get back on the lead lap and pass some good cars and race some good cars there at the end. All in all it was a good weekend.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 13th: “That is a good day for us there. I’m proud of this team and everyone on this Bush’s Best Since 1908 Camaro ZL1. I mean that was a good race. It’s a long race and it’s always fun when you get to run the whole thing and be there at the end. Kind of a wild one with the way it played out with everybody all over the place, but we had a good run. We had one set of tires that corded on us really early and that was strange. Got a little behind there. I think we should have had a better day. Everybody did an excellent job. Everybody with Kroger Clicklist, JTG Daugherty Racing they are putting solid efforts in and we are starting to get some results and even though Bristol didn’t end up the way we wanted to they knew we were there and we were definitely fast. We are sneaking up on it.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 16th: “First, I’d just like to say it was a privilege to drive the ‘Silver Secret’ and honor Dale Earnhardt for NASCAR Throwback weekend at Darlington. The No. 3 American Ethanol e15 Camaro ZL1 showed solid speed today even though we finished 16th. At one point during the first stage, we were the fastest car on the track. Near the end of the stage, I battled to stay on the lead lap and managed to do so even with some contact before the stage break. I battled a loose car during Stage 2. And again, near the conclusion of the stage, I was touched by another car as I fought to stay on the lead lap. Even though I missed staying on the lead lap by a nose, I got the Lucky Dog to start the final stage. Our guys did a great job making repairs to the minor damage. The final stage proved to be a bit more difficult. Unfortunately, we were assessed a penalty for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop halfway through the stage. Even though we went a couple laps down, we didn’t stop fighting and eventually found ourselves back on the lead lap with less than 25 laps to go. In the end, our finish didn’t represent the team’s effort. We had a better car than 16th and will look to get back on track next week at Indy.”

David Ragan — Finished 18th: “I felt like we struggled a little bit when they dropped the green flag. Our car just wasn’t balanced as good as it could have been, but as the track cooled off we made some pretty good adjustments. We had a little different strategy too and I think it all played out. I’m proud of our Citgard 700 team for overcoming some adversity in practice. We didn’t get a lot of practice, but that was a good recovery and a top-20 finish. We would have liked to gotten a little bit more, but that was a lot of fun.”

RYAN NEWMAN — Finished 19th: “We had another strong start to the weekend by leading final practice and qualifying sixth. When the race started, our Caterpillar Camaro ZL1 was extremely tight so we needed to use our first stop to free us up. For most of the race, we fine tuned our No. 31 with wedge adjustments. Turns 1 and 3 were my biggest issues while we ran loose on longer the green flag runs. Regardless, we raced the majority of the event in the top 10. There were two pit strategies going and we were on the more favorable side with the No. 42. We had an extra set of tires compared to half of the front runners. With about 55 laps to go, it was time to pit. But, before we made it to pit road, we got wrecked. It’s a shame. The Cat Racing team brought me another fast car. We found ourselves three laps down after addressing a tire rub under green, and from there, we hoped for cautions so that we could take the wave around. We got two laps back, but it wasn’t enough. Our bid for the Playoffs comes down to Indy. We have to win, and I’ve done it before when it mattered most.”

William Byron — Finished 35th: “I mean it’s hard to hear, but they don’t really know what happened yet. Overall, we were trying a couple of different strategies out there. The track was really slick. I felt like our car was capable of finishing probably 10th or 11th, which was kind of where we were running. Overall some good positives, tough race track, but wanted to definitely finish this one.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 36th: I hit the 31 really hard. I don’t know. I guess he was pitting or something and it’s a product of this place, I guess. There are lapped cars that are 50 laps down all over the damn place. That’s pretty frustrating. I’m about tired of that. This track is too narrow for cars to be that far off the pace. You’re in and out of those guys, diving all over the place, trying to navigate around them, trying to figure out where the hell they’re going, and then you come up on somebody trying to actually compete in the race and you’re not on the game — he’s pitting or something and I run over him. I didn’t see him wave, but, like I said, when you come off of two and you pass 37 lapped cars and you get your bearings and everything else – maybe he waved, maybe he didn’t – I didn’t see it. He just stopped right in front of me and I hit him hard. I’m obviously pissed off and frustrated, but it seems to be that way for me every time I come here. We run decent. We had a frustrating night, just mistake after mistake and obviously we ended up wrecked.

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 39th: “Our engine shop is so rock solid, if anything I would be a little nervous for my teammates out there right now that have the same stuff. Sometimes we have material issues and things out of our control that we have seen when one engine goes a bunch go. So, fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen with my teammates. These guys are the best in the business we will be fine next week.”