What drivers said after Cup playoff race at Phoenix

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Kyle Busch — Winner: “I’d like to think it gives us a lot (of momentum), but I don’t know – talk is cheap. We’ve got to be able to go out there and perform and just do what we need to do. Being able to do what we did here today was certainly beneficial. I didn’t think we were the best car, but we survived and we did what we needed to do today. It’s just about getting to next week and once we were locked in, it was ‘all bets are off and it’s time to go.’ … It’s awesome to celebrate like this and we were the first ones in the Richmond victory lane and we’re the first ones in the Phoenix victory lane and I called my shot a few months ago because they had the 48 on the map showing everyone where things are at and I said, ‘That ain’t right, that’s going to be us.’ I’m glad I could be a man of my word.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “We definitely made the right call. It just didn’t quite work out. Man, it was close. I needed to pass (Aric Almirola) like a lap earlier and we were all racing for all we’ve got. It was close.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 4th: “I thought we were a seventh to sixth-place car and that’s what I thought we were yesterday too. (Crew chief) Johnny (Klausmeier) and all these guys fought their guts out and I fought my guts out inside the race car and gave it everything we had. We took a seventh or eighth-place car and the next thing you know we were in position to win the race. I’m just really thankful for this group and these guys on the Smithfield team are awesome. This is our first year working together. You look at all the teams we’re racing and they’ve got four, five, six, seven years working together, so what we’ve accomplished in one year is a hell of a lot, but right now all I can think about is being inside of Kyle down there in the new one and two and just not being able to get the power down to get up beside him. It’s bittersweet. It was a good day for us, but today we needed to win and we didn’t win.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “I felt (the tire) start to go down going into Turn 1 there and just slowed down to the point where I thought I could at least make it back to the pits and not hit the wall. It came at an OK time because it didn’t tear the car up. It never really drove as well after that, but we kept ourselves in position all day and there at the end it was just like with everybody wrecking and all over the place, we just needed to stay out of trouble and try to find a safe spot there.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 8th: “Yeah for sure, I’m proud of our American Ethanol E15 car and our team. It was a solid run all weekend. We had a top 10 car. That is what we had. We proved that. It kind of bit us, we pitted and the caution came out and that was… we had to really fight to get back that, but luckily the wrecks happened. It put us back in a pretty good position. We decided to stay out on old tires and fight them off to the end. That was a fun run for our team and our Camaro. We will work on that. That is two top 10’s in a row and I’m happy.”

William Byron — Finished 9th: “we haven’t had very good runs, to be honest, the whole year, but this run we kind of went a completely different direction with what we were doing and it seemed to pay off, and just kind of had a solid weekend other than qualifying. Got some damage there, but we were able to come back, I guess, and finish ninth, so I guess that’s decent, and going to Homestead next week.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 10th: “We were up there and we had underdog speed in the top 15 three quarters through the race and I didn’t like having all those cautions. I did because it would give us a chance to fire back off, but once we got leveled out those guys could just drive right by us. We are still working on our speed. We are still making the most of it. It was nice to be able to survive, catch a couple of breaks, catch a lot of breaks actually. Just have luck on our side for once. It was great to have the Air Force on our car for Veteran’s Day and our Chevrolet was actually decent this time.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 12th: That was a really solid day for our Kroger ClickList team. We’ve been searching for some speed at ISM Raceway the last several years, and to be able to gain spots on pit road and track position was a huge advantage for us. That was probably the best Kroger ClickList car I’ve had here. I’m really proud of the whole team for being able to get us some solid finishes the last few weeks, and I’m looking forward to finishing out the season strong next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 13th: “We had an opportunity there and I think the (Erik Jones) got together there and going into the corner I got underneath and it looked like I got loose, I thought I got hit, but nobody was near me. I got loose and I chased it up the race track and (Kurt Busch) was right there. Then it looked like he hit the wall and I was up there and kind of pinched him and then hit the wall again. It was not going to be good. He kind of turned us then, but I can’t blame him, Kurt’s been fair to me in so many years of racing. I’ve never had one incident with him, he’s been as fair to me as anyone out there and I hate it for him because trust me, I was rooting for him – all of today I was rooting for (Busch) to be the guy that got in there. Ultimately we have to go out there to try to race to win and we were battling hard off the corner. Just ran out of real estate for sure.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 14th: “We didn’t have the greatest car, but we battled hard and we had a little bit of good fortune. Made good calls, good strategy and good adjustments on the car. We got it to where it was pretty decent. The short runs just really killed us today. It would take 40 or 50 laps for the car to come in and then a caution would come out. All in all, I’m just really proud of everybody, everybody back in Denver at the shop for continuing to bring good race cars and stay focused.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 16th: “It’s definitely probably the best run I’ve had here and I’m really proud of the guys. I made mistakes on pit road instead. It’s kind of a trick pit road now with curves and straights and I was just pushing it too hard. We were able to rebound. I wish we could have got that lucky dog a little bit sooner, but (Matt Kenseth) and I were racing hard for it and it was just a tough battle there. I’m glad to get a top 20 and get some momentum back going to Homestead.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 19th: “What a crazy day of highs and lows for our GEICO Military team. My Camaro ZL1 had a great balance through the start and middle of the race, I just needed a bit more drive through the corners. Then the battery problem hit us, and we had to switch out batteries during a caution. That could have potentially ended our day, but thankfully the voltage maintained instead of dropping. My balance wasn’t exactly where I needed it in the final stage of the race, but my team kept tweaking it to get it closer. Everyone’s hard work today earned us a top-20 finish. We came to Phoenix wanting to make the most of what we have left of the season, and I’d say that we capitalized on everything we had today.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 30th: “We had an uncontrolled tire early. I don’t know, I guess the computer told them it was an uncontrolled tire. It didn’t look uncontrolled to me, but the computer is probably a whole lot smarter than me. We kind of got off pit strategy trying to come back from that. We were going to be able to overcome it and have a decent day. It was just kind of odd. Some odd things going on and then they crashed in front of us and knocked the duct work out of it. Hendrick Motorsports builds great engines, this wasn’t an engine failure because of them, this was an engine failure because it had no duct work and it ran 350 degrees for 20 laps and it can only do that for so long.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 23rd: “Was speeding on pit road and ultimately that is what got us behind. You can’t come down pit road leading the race and speed and expect to race for a championship the next week. Just unfortunate and especially that late in the race. So, that was just my fault and really no excuse for it. So, we will try again next year.

Kurt Busch — Finished 32nd: Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new (Turn) 1 and 2. If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out. I thought it was the right decision on staying out. I’m not gonna look back on it. If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook. I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day. It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford. Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 33rd: “It looked like we just blew a tire there.  We were actually getting our Ford Fusion better and better throughout the race.  We had a great qualifying spot, but obviously didn’t feel like we were capable of running there, but we were definitely getting our car better and better.  I felt pretty competitive that last run and bummed that it ended that way.  I thought we were moving forward and passing some good cars, but, all in all, it just wasn’t meant to be today and we’ll go on to Homestead.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 34th: “I thought we were pretty good. We definitely made big gains here. We were running top five all day. They noticed some water in the pit box on that last stop and I had no water pressure. We took off on the restart and it was blowing up. We found that a lugnut went through the radiator, so it’s just pure luck. We finally have a decent run here and that happens. The good news is we made good gains here, so that’s something to look forward to.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 35th: “I guess we cut a left-rear tire down. I don’t know if it’s a product of being able to get down on the back straightaway off the race track like that. At the end of the day it’s pretty unique. We travel all across the country running on race tracks that we race on the race track and this one we spend more time off of it. It’s fun to be able to do that, but I don’t know. After I saw (Joey Logano) and then felt my left-rear go, maybe that was a product of that. We’ve run low air on these short tracks like this on our left sides and maybe that was it. It’s just kind of the way our Playoffs are going. It’s frustrating. We’ve had a great year getting to where we were part of this Playoff situation and being in contention to be able to run for a championship. There’s a lot of pride with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 car. It’s been a lot of fun to go to battle each and every week all across the country with these guys. Stewart-Haas, I can’t say enough about the job the men and women have done at Stewart Haas getting all four cars in the playoffs and then obviously winning and being in victory lane, and everything Ford and everybody involved has done for us. I’m proud of our season, bummed for our day. It’s always fun to come out here to Phoenix. It’s a hell of a crowd today, appreciate everybody coming out. Unfortunately, we were a caution. You never want to be a caution.”

Joey Logano — Finished 37th: “The left-rear tire went flat. I don’t really know why. It just kind of came out of nowhere. We may have run something over, I don’t know. I went down on the flat a couple laps earlier to make a pass and I don’t know if it hit a little bit hard, maybe it knocked the fender into it, who knows what happened there, but she just went out. I tried to save it. I thought I had it saved, but by the time I got it straightened back out the rest of the tires were flat because I had them flat-spotted. That’s what it is. We’ll move on. We’re locked into Miami, so it doesn’t really matter, so we’ll keep our heads high.”

 

 

NASCAR America: Clint Bowyer crew chief Mike Bugarewicz: ‘We don’t quit’

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With a 73-point deficit to the cutoff, Clint Bowyer is in a must-win situation heading into this week’s Phoenix race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) in order to advance to the championship finale.

“(Round 3) has been a tough one on us,” Mike Bugarewicz, Bowyer’s crew chief, told NASCAR America’s Marty Snider on Tuesday’s show. “It’s definitely challenging us. But that’s what the (playoffs are) all about. … But we have one more shot to make it through to Homestead and we don’t plan to give up yet.

“The question just comes down to be are we going to be a car that can contend for the win on Sunday outright racing them or are we going to have to get strategic and try to figure out a way to get in position. One way or another, we don’t quit.”

Bowyer faces an uphill battle. Phoenix has not been one of his better track over the course of his career. With an average finish of 18.4 in 26 starts, it ranks third-worst behind Darlington (22.8 in 13 starts) and Atlanta (20.4 in 18 starts). Bowyer has not scored a top five at Phoenix since 2008 when he finished second to Jimmie Johnson.

In fact, he’s had only one top 10 in his last 10 Phoenix races (a sixth this spring).

“At the end of the day, you’re still in contention for the big prize,” Bugarewicz said. “Is it going to be a little harder to get there? Absolutely, but at the end of the day we race for wins every week, so this is no different.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Scan All, Stewart-Haas Racing report

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Krista Voda hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Parker Kligerman and Nate Ryan.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll look back at Sunday’s race and see how Kevin Harvick took down Texas to secure a ticket to the Championship 4 at Miami. We’ll also look at the drama that unfolded for some other Playoff drivers in today’s edition of Scan All: Texas.
  • Marty Snider was busy today at Stewart-Haas Racing. He provides a report on the team’s current situation in the playoffs. He also spoke to Clint Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, as well as Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer. The latter is coming off a win at Texas to grab a spot in the Xfinity Series Championship 4.
  • Parker Kligerman hops into the NBC iRacing Simulator to show us the challenges that await the field at the new-look ISM Raceway at Phoenix.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America: Playoff crew chiefs look back at Martinsville, prepare for Texas

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Even though Kyle Busch left Martinsville with a 46-point advantage over the cutoff line, crew chief Adam Steven is cautious about how the playoff picture is shaping up entering Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But that team is not the only one with questions with two races left to determine the drivers who will race for the championship in Miami.

Clint Bowyer, who is 42 points behind the cutoff line, practically needs to win to advance to Miami.

NASCAR America’s Kelli Stavast visited the shops of three playoff teams and talked to crew chiefs about what went right at Martinsville, what went wrong and their outlook for the remainder of the Round of 8.

Busch was one of the favorites to win last week’s race after securing the pole and running well in practice. He finished fourth. Stevens does not consider a trip to championship spot entirely safe.

“The cutline is flexible,” Stevens told NASCAR America. “It depends on how many (playoff) winners and non-(playoff) winners we have. We know for a fact there’s going to be one car get in on points, but it might only be one and it could be three. If someone could tell me what that number is going to be, I’d feel a lot better about it. The main thing is we try to keep that lead over the 78 and the 4.”

While Busch can be encouraged by a strong Martinsville run, Bowyer had a series of misfortunes that left him a lap off the pace in 21st. It was the third time in the playoffs that he finished outside the top 20.

The team expected to contend for the victory, given its win at Martinsville in March.

“It was way more of a struggle than we were anticipating,” Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. “Qualifying well, really competitive in practice, really close in setup. … That car pretty much sat in the corner ready to go back to (Martinsville); never raced anywhere else all year. We were a little shocked.

“I’m some senses I really felt like in the position we were in, no matter what, you were going to have to win one of these races to move on. I don’t think our position approaching the next two races really changes. Gotta just try and win one if we can.”

Chase Elliott entered Martinsville fourth in the standings, three points above the cutline. He finished in the top 10 (seventh), but left the short track 31 points behind.

When Stavast visited the Hendrick Motorsports’ shop, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson told her if a team is too stressed out or anxious, it’s just a sign they are preparing for failure.

Elliott has a strong record at both Texas (four top 10s in five starts) and Phoenix (second last fall, third this spring), so they expect to be very relaxed.

For more, watch the videos above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America: Clint Bowyer’s crew chief wants him ‘focused’ during Kansas weekend

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For some reason Clint Bowyer can’t catch a break at his home track of Kansas Speedway.

Bowyer has just two top fives in 20 starts at the 1.5-mile track, with the last one coming in 2013.

Bowyer’s crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, told NASCAR America’s Marty Snider his theory about Bowyer’s lackluster performances.

“Bugarewicz admitted to me last week, he said ‘Listen, I know when you go to your hometown race friends and family always want to tug and pull at your time. It is certainly a distraction,'” Snider said. “He told me, ‘I’m not going to ask Clint to change his schedule, but on Friday, when he walks into the garage area, I want him focused on our race team.’ And you can see it may have been a distraction in the past for Bowyer. He has just one top 10 in his last 10 starts (in Kansas).”

Watch the above video for more on Clint Bowyer.