Randall Burnett

What drivers said after Sunday Cup race at Dover

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Here is what drivers had to say after the Sunday Cup race at Dover:

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “I love the grit of our race team. I think that is what Gene Haas and Tony Stewart have built at Stewart-Haas Racing. A team with a lot of grit. Sometimes we don’t have the fastest car but we have guys willing to suck it up and when we have a weak link that day someone else will carry the team. I am really proud of that and that is what it is all about. You are only as good as the people around you and we have great people. With Denny (Hamlin) winning yesterday we needed to win today and we need all the points we can get. I think as you look at these playoffs you never know what to expect but I know that as we go week to week we will give it all we have and I am just really proud.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “Second or third, it seems like every week here. On one hand, it’s good obviously and you want to be running up front and having good finishes. On the other hand, we didn’t get any better than we were yesterday, it was actually a little bit worse. I was a little disappointed in that. These things are really, really tricky to figure out to get them right. We just had to battle hard all day long and it took us a long time to get up towards the front in our Bass Pro Shops Camry. We just battled hard with an ill-handling car all day long. Just tried to hang onto what we could and came out with a decent finish.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 3rd: “I was so excited and so happy to have the view I did sitting there up front (for the final restart) and have control of the restart.  I knew when we hit the gas and the 4 car was able to stay with me I was going to be in trouble.  I needed to clear him into 1 and quickly I realized that my left sides were pretty exhausted and just didn’t have the grip we needed in them.  We had a really good car and I really credit (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) for making that brave call for two tires.  I think we were one of the fastest cars if not the fastest car over the last two runs, just unfortunately clawing our way back in from losing track position, and we didn’t have the best stop two from the end, so we really just had to gamble. I really appreciate his courage to do that.  It netted a better finish.  Certainly wish there was more there, but a great couple days here in Dover.”

William Byron — Finished 4th: “It was like a completely different race car and completely different race for us today compared to yesterday. We had the Axalta Chevy doing the things we wanted it to do on most runs. It just felt good out there. I knew at the beginning of the race that we were keeping pace with the No. 19 the No. 11. As soon as we got the track position, we were able to stay up there. I think we were a little bit behind though since we really didn’t have a notebook from yesterday. I think if we had another race at it, we would run a bit better. Overall, this is good for our Axalta team. Now we’re going to Daytona where it’s going to be insane. I don’t think you can really points race. It’s going to be a race to be as aggressive as you can and hope things fall your way.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th: “Man, I am so proud of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Three cars in the top five today. For us to pull out a back-up car, the No. 88 team did a great job getting everything together and regrouping after yesterday’s issues. Very appreciative to end up in the top-five and get Acronis a good run. We needed to get things turned around and this is a good step in the right direction. I felt like we were a second-place car on the short run and probably shouldn’t have picked the bottom on that last restart. So appreciative to have a great run and a huge shout out to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. This was great.”

Joey Logano — Finished 6th:  “I screwed up (in contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. early in the race). I don’t know any way better to put it. We raced each other hard and I was trying to make the bottom work and my car was tight. I got a little loose down into three which kind of sent me up the race track and there was a pocket of air that if your front is really close to someone’s left rear tire the nose really takes off. I am not making excuses for the mistake. it is on me. I got in that pocket and then got started really going up the race track and I barely tagged him. I am not sure if I actually tagged him or not but it was enough to spin him around and I needed to be further away to protect the damage to our car and countless others. Like I said, I apologize to him and his race team and the others involved. I got myself in a tight spot and I didn’t do a good job getting out of it.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 7th: “Great job from everyone on bouncing back today. I need to do better, we all need to do better, and we just need to keep grinding with the playoffs coming up. We didn’t have a clean race today again and still found ourselves leading laps and running in and around the top-five. Our goal when we started the season was to make Daytona not matter before the playoffs and we accomplished that goal by clinching our spot in the playoffs today. Looking forward to heading there with no pressure and racing one last time for that regular-season win.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 8th: “Obviously if we knew what was going on there we would copy it the best we could. I agree that the 4 car (of Kevin Harvick) has been the best car for the last six years and some could argue that the 18 (of Kyle Busch) has been with them a couple years. They deserve credit for that success. They deserve credit for being fast and putting all those pieces of the puzzle together. When you have that kind of speed you try to keep the band together and keep them motivated and something you can do as a driver quite honestly it comes down to the team and management in the company that you drive for and the crew chief. Especially in these latest of times, shoot, I haven’t seen my team but for a few minutes here and there every weekend so there isn’t much I am going to do to lead them and guide them because of the environment. Fast cars go fast. When you have a fast car and you are experienced you show up and try not to mess it up. You try to execute your perfect day. Restarts, getting out of the box, trying to give the feedback to make the car better throughout the race, you know. You put a great car with a great driver and you will get dominance like that. Kevin is a great driver and that is a great car.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 9th: “We had a good day at Dover International Speedway in the Dow Coatings Chevrolet, and that shows just how hard we all work at RCR. It feels good to come out of the Monster Mile with two solid runs. We started the race too free. A pit stop for right-side tires definitely tightened me up, but it went back at the end of the run, and I was just sliding around out there to end Stage 1. Our Chevy definitely had speed today, it was just too loose to do anything with it during portions of the race. (Crew chief) Justin Alexander and all of the guys on the team did a good job at making adjustments. Towards the middle of the race we were knocking off some of the fastest lap times of the field. We went four-wide to make a pass and I got a little damage to my right-front, which made our No. 3 Dow Coatings Chevrolet really tight. It was still fast, though. I’m proud of a top-10 finish.”

Cole Custer — Finished 10th: “We had a solid day today at Dover. We made improvements on the car from yesterday. I think we have some good notes for whenever we come back here.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 11th: “It was a long day with our Interstate Batteries Camry. We worked on the car overnight and wanted to improve on yesterday’s finish. Got run into the back of near the beginning, and I’m not sure what exactly that did to our car. We just couldn’t quite get it handling like we wanted to or even like it did yesterday. We just kept fighting all day and did the best with what we had.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 13th: “We have been consistent in our hunt for the playoffs all season. With today‘s finish, not what we hoped for, but we locked-in! I’m proud of everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. Teamwork is what it’s all about.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 16th: “Overall a good weekend. Good day yesterday, had a decent day going today doing what we needed to and had a little hiccup with left front on the last stop. We’ll have to wait until next week to lock us in the playoffs.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 17th: “Dover killed us. We were pretty horrendous both days. I just tried to make the most of it that we could and it just wasn’t much. It was the perfect storm of really losing a lot of points and having a rough weekend. Going to Daytona. I hate to be negative but if we were going somewhere else I would feel better about it because we have been pretty strong at most tracks aside from here. I have struggled here. Going to Daytona and the Ford’s are strong but I have ended up at the infield care center the last two years there. We keep getting caught up in everyones mess. I am going to sit and hope and pray all week that we can just come out of there clean and make the playoffs. We shouldn’t be this close to the bubble. It is frustrating. A couple weeks messed us up. Getting wiped out at Texas and Kansas and then really hurt us points wise and then we come here and really hurt ourselves here. It has been a tough go of circumstances and going to Daytona is going to make it quite an uncomfortable week.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 18th: “We started off with our No. 8 Cat App Chevrolet a lot better than yesterday. I was able to roll through the turns a lot smoother and just needed a bit more rear security. I thought maybe that issue would be cleared up as the track began to rubber up, but it just never tightened up quite as much as I needed it to. The adjustments that my crew chief, Randall Burnett, and the team made through Stage 1 and 2 helped fight that looseness, but I still needed even more stability to really carry speed into the corner like I needed to. At the end of Stage 2, we took a big swing on our adjustments, which did help solve the rear security issue, but took it almost to the other extreme and made it too tight to turn. The day didn’t go how we wanted it to, but I’m proud of our team. No one gave up, and we worked hard all race long. This isn’t over for us yet. We still have one more chance to make the Playoffs at Daytona International Speedway, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 20th: “We made some good improvements from yesterday in our No. 38 ACME Markets Ford Mustang. We started off pretty free today, but Seth (Barbour, crew chief) and the crew made some good adjustments on pit stops throughout the race. I have to say a big thanks to my crew for sticking with me all day. We were able to improve on yesterday’s finish and that’s something to be proud about.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 21st: “Today was a little bit better day for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Columbia PFG Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. It was kind of the same balance as yesterday. Our Chevrolet handled the same, but we had a little bit more speed. Still not where we want to be – just could never get the rear-end underneath us. When we did, it was just way too much. We need to get some more adjustability in our car, but overall a good day for our Columbia PFG team. It was cool to see them on the race track and I’m excited for what’s next with them. We will keep everything going and continue the momentum into Daytona (International Speedway) next week.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 25th: “Well, it was a busy day for my guys on pit road. Our No. 34 Shield Cleansers, Digital Ally Inc. Ford Mustang started out on the loose side and just seemed to stay that way throughout the course of the race. We threw a lot of wedge and trackbar adjustments at the car to try and help find a bit more speed, but unfortunately we were also battling a changing race track as the sun started to set in Stage 3 and temperatures began to cool off, so it was tough to predict how the car was going to behave as the race went on.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 28th: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a season, for sure, and after a weekend like we’ve had here with our CommScope Toyota, we know we just need to keep working hard and keep our eyes on the big picture. We struggled with our handling on corner entry and exit today and just had a difficult time trying to find a way to fix it. It’s definitely frustrating, but one thing we are doing for sure is to keep working hard and keep trying to make our racecars better. It may not always feel like it, but in the big picture we are continuing to make progress.”

NASCAR penalizes Xfinity owner, driver for testing violation; team will appeal

NASCAR penalizes
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Image
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NASCAR fined Xfinity car owner Mario Gosselin $50,000 and docked him 75 points for violating the private test policy last weekend at Daytona International Speedway with driver Alex Labbe.

NASCAR docked Labbe 75 points for the L2 violation. Labbe was 73 points out of the 12th and final playoff spot before the penalty.

DGM Racing stated that it will appeal the penalties. The team stated: “DGM Racing is aware of the allegations against us. We feel we followed all the proper protocol and will be appealing the penalty. We are unable to comment further. Thank you for the support we have received so far.”

The issue stems from an SCCA event last weekend on the Daytona road course that Labbe participated in.

NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will race for the first time on the Daytona road course this month. There will be no practice before each race. Drivers are not permitted to compete in more than one series event as a way to get extra track time.

Labbe was listed in Regional Race Group 7 in a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro is the approved model for Chevy teams in the Xfinity Series.

NASCAR viewed that as an illegal test because of the car used. Section 5.1.a of the Xfinity rule book states: “Private vehicle testing by any race team, employee,  contractor, affiliate, associate, subsidiary, or surrogate is strictly prohibited.”

Section 5.1.d of the Xfinity rule book states: “NASCAR, in its sole discretion, will determine in advance what constitutes an authorized test. In general, only tests conducted under the NASCAR National Series Unified Testing policy are considered to be authorized tests.”

NASCAR also stated penalties that stem from last weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had already been announced.

Those penalties included suspensions for the New Hampshire race for crew chiefs Jerry Baxter and Ryan Sparks after ballast was found to be improperly mounted before the race. The teams also were docked 10 points and drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie each were penalized 10 points.

NASCAR also stated that Clint Bowyer‘s crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, will be suspended for Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after two lug nuts were found to be not safe and secure after the race. Stewart-Haas Racing has stated that Greg Zipadelli, the team’s director of competition, will fill in for Klausmeier for Saturday’s race.

NASCAR fined crew chiefs Jeremy Bullins, James Small and Randall Burnett $10,000 each for having a lug nut not safe and secure on their car after the race.

 

Friday 5: Focus is on drivers, teams to be vigilant against COVID-19

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NBA and NHL players reside in bubbles. Major League Baseball and NFL players do not. While the NBA and NHL have not reported any positive tests from those inside their bubbles, Major League Baseball faces a COVID-19 outbreak on one team, and the NFL will see how well its system works with training camps underway.

NASCAR, meanwhile, rolls on.

There is no coronavirus testing in NASCAR. The onus is on competitors to avoid contracting the virus and infecting their team and others in the sport.

NASCAR’s plan is designed to keep drivers separate from their crews, pit crews separate from road crews and those that travel separate from team members working in the shop. If someone is infected, it should only impact a small group instead of an entire team.

The challenge is for drivers and crew members to remain vigilant against COVID-19 away from the track and shop as the year progresses and the desire grows to be in more public settings.

Dave Alpern, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. (Photo: JGR)

“It’s easy to get fatigued with this and let off the gas and we can’t do that,” said Dave Alpern, president of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Teams need to run races to collect sponsor and TV money. When the series was shut down for 10 weeks, teams didn’t get paid. At least six Cup organizations received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program

After the 70-day shutdown, Cup teams ran 16 races in 68 days — an average of one race every 4.3 days — between the series resuming May 17 at Darlington Raceway and the July 23 race at Kansas Speedway.

August will not be much easier. Cup teams will race seven times between Sunday’s race at New Hampshire and Aug. 29 at Daytona. Five of those races will be held in a 16-day period — a pair of doubleheaders at Michigan and Dover each and the series’ inaugural race on the Daytona road course.

So, if anyone deserves a break, it is the Cup drivers and crew members. Last weekend provided that opportunity and some shared photos on social media about their getaways.

But with no COVID-19 vaccine available and what’s at stake should they be infected, drivers and team members must balance being cautious in what they do outside the track and shop and living life.

Christopher Bell said he plans to run in midget races next Tuesday and Wednesday at Pennsylvania.

“The biggest thing is just trying to use common sense and being as smart as I can about going to the races and making sure you keep your distance,” Bell said of balancing health concerns with personal decisions. “Instead of traveling up to the Pennsylvania races on a plane, like I probably would, I’m going to be riding in the rig and isolating from the masses as much as I can anyway. I think it’s a matter of just doing your part. Wearing masks when you need to and making sure that you’re staying away from people and just using common sense.”

Although Ryan Preece admits he’d like to race a modified between Cup events this summer, he isn’t doing so.

“I think it’s hard right now with the way things are to do it and not know if you’re going to be forced into quarantine or whatever it may be,” Preece said. “I’m used to racing 60 to 80 times a year, but at the same time my focus is on the Cup series.”

And that means avoiding situations that could compromise his health and force him out of his ride temporarily at JTG Daugherty Racing while he would have to quarantine.

You don’t put yourself in those situations,” Preece said. “That’s really it … because I want to race. And that’s it.”

Alpern says Joe Gibbs Racing reinforces car owner Joe Gibbs’ message of “Just be smart” to the organization’s drivers and team members about when they are not at the track or the shop.

NASCAR informed all teams and others in the industry going to New Hampshire for Sunday’s race that they are “prohibited from patronizing any restaurants (take-out/to-go/delivery orders only) or bars in the area and must limit their travel to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and their hotel only.”

Such restrictions are mandated by a modified travel-related quarantine the state of New Hampshire approved for those traveling to put on the race.

Jimmie Johnson missed one race after testing positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is the only Cup driver to miss a race for testing positive for COVID-19. He missed the July 5 Indianapolis race after he and his wife tested positive. Johnson said he did not know how they were infected. Also this month, Brendan Gaughan stated he tested positive. He is not scheduled to compete again until the Daytona oval race Aug. 29.

Formula One, which tests drivers and team members, announced Thursday that Sergio Perez had become the first series driver to test positive for the coronavirus. He will miss this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps defended the sanctioning body’s protocols earlier this month.

To those who raise questions about NASCAR not doing COVID-19 testing, Alpern says he understands the reasoning.

“When we were talking about protocols, there was a ton of discussion about testing and should we test, should we not test,” he said. “We went back. I know testing is not like you just walk down the road and get one. It’s not super easy, but it’s a lot easier right now than it was. When we came back (to race in May), there was a lot of sensitivity to people who really needed tests not being able to get a test.

“So I think our sport wanted to be sensitive to the fact. Do we really have to use up tests for folks? The challenge that you have when you don’t have a bubble, let’s say for example we were testing people every day, the second you leave the bubble, the test is rendered useless because you tested but now you have gone and exposed yourself. If you’re in a bubble, testing makes complete sense because then you’re protecting the bubble.

“Once you are in the bubble you can act like things are normal. We are not acting like things are normal at the track or (at the shop) because of that. We are spacing, we are wearing masks because it’s difficult when people are coming in and out of the bubble as we talked about before. I think the process we have is working pretty well.”

2. Frustrating stretch

Last week at Kansas Speedway, Ryan Preece didn’t finish last. 

It’s been that kind of a month for the JTG Daugherty Racing driver who had finished last in three consecutive races before he placed 34th last week at Kansas. But that race marked the fourth consecutive time he’s failed to finish: three times because of an accident and once because of a transmission failure.

“Whenever I hear people talk about bad luck or that, I’ve always been a believer of making your own luck,” Preece said. “But this has probably been the first time in my career that I really, wrong place wrong time, things that were out of my control happening. I’m not one to make excuses, but it’s been frustrating for sure.

“The thing that’s even more frustrating is Kansas. I really don’t know what else I could have done. I don’t think there was anything else I could have done. But we had a fast race car right there, at that point in time when it needed to be and that’s kind of been the case. We’ve struggled at the beginning of the races and then gotten our car better as the stages have gone on. The only thing you can do at this point is really go and gamble on things. I’ve got nothing else to lose.”

He was collected in a crash at Kansas that sent his car into the inside SAFER barrier on the backstretch. Asked how long he was sore after that vicious crash, Preece said: “I was ready to go as soon as I got out of that race car.”

He says he won’t let these struggles beat him.

“You’ve just got to be positive,” Preece said. “It’s easier to say than it is to do, but I feel like over the past few weeks of just constantly living that way, things have become easier. My life has become much happier. I’m probably a lot better to be around. And you just put in the hard work, that’s it.

“Just sitting there hoping things are going to turn around … it doesn’t work like that. Life doesn’t work like that. So, I’m just going to continue fighting and hopefully we can finish 2020 better than we have.”

3. Different stage length

One thing that will be different about Sunday’s race at New Hampshire (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is the length of the last two stages.

Stage 1 ends on Lap 75 as it has in the past. Stage 2 will end on Lap 185 — 30 laps later than it has in the past. That makes the final stage shorter by 30 laps.

Randall Burnett, crew chief for Tyler Reddick, says the changes to the stage length could make an impact since the race is among the shorter ones, which puts a premium on track position.

“It will definitely make it a little more interesting I think with the longer stage,” he said. “You have tire wear, you’re going to have fuel mileage stuff to look at. It’s definitely going to change the strategy a little bit, which we’re going to have to stay on top of. You’re going to have a Lap 30 competition caution, which should give you a good read on tires, as far as what kind of wear you’re going to be looking at throughout the race and the lap time fall off. So, I think that’s going to kind of dictate what you do in that second stage, for sure.”

4. One way of looking at it

It’s easy to look at Ryan Newman’s season and think how different it could have been had the Roush Fenway Racing driver won the Daytona 500 instead of crashing as he came to the checkered flag.

“No doubt I’ve thought about it, but the reality is it’s not the truth, it’s not what happened, it’s the what could have been and everybody has that in their season,” he said. “We have to do our job to go back and kind of replay those events and make corrections to whatever mistakes or whatever differences we can to try to be victorious. That doesn’t go just for Daytona, that goes for every racetrack. 

“The season no doubt has been a challenge in so many ways for so many people and our team, I feel like we’ve struggled a little bit, but I feel like we have the things that we need to make the corrections to be better and be stronger and be successful, so we’re just gonna keep our nose to the grindstone and carry on.”

5. Will dominance continue?

A few things to watch for in Sunday’s race:

Joe Gibbs Racing has finished either first or second in 13 of the last 14 Cup races at New Hampshire. JGR cars have led 45% of all the laps run in those last 14 races.

Toyota cars, led by JGR, have been dominant in the last five races, leading 84.3% of the laps run in that time. Chevrolet teams have led 2.9% of the laps in the races at New Hampshire since July 2016.

Martin Truex Jr. has won the first stage in three of the last four years there. His 744 laps led there makes him the driver to lead the most laps at the 1-mile track and yet to score a win. His best New Hampshire finish is third.

Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon complete special day for RCR

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A day of promise began with an unforgettable moment. By the time the clock passed midnight, a special day had ended for both of Richard Childress Racing’s drivers.

Rookie Tyler Reddick finished a career-high fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and teammate Austin Dillon placed seventh.

Sunday marked the first time since the July 2018 Daytona race that RCR had two cars finish in the top 10. The last time two RCR cars finished in the top 10 at a track other than Daytona or Talladega? That was 2017 at Darlington.

But before the day’s results would be recorded as among the team’s highlights, Sunday began with the birth of Dillon’s son.

Ace Dillon arrived at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. He weighed 9.1 pounds and was 21.5 inches. Austin Dillon spent a few hours with his son and wife Whitney before flying to Miami for the race.

Austin Dillon with wife Whitney after the birth of their son Ace. (Photo: Austin Dillon)

“You’re just kind of like starry-eyed kids and you feel like you are 18 years old, but it ain’t that way anymore and you’re about to get ready to have a baby,” Dillon told NBC Sports of arriving at the hospital early Sunday morning. “It was funny on the way in, it was kind of surreal. We go through the process and the baby comes out into the world and it just blows your mind.”

Dillon said mother and son were fine afterward, noting “Ace was a stud.”

But Dillon had to leave by about 10 a.m. to go to the airport for his flight. He made it to the track about halfway through the Xfinity race and had time for a quick nap.

While this day had been circled for his son’s birth, Sunday also had special meaning for Reddick. It marked the return to the South Florida track that witnessed Reddick’s victories and Xfinity championships the past two seasons. Few drivers seemed to have been such a perfect fit for this 1.5-mile track as Reddick, who helped revolutionize running along the wall in the Xfinity Series.

Expectations were high for Reddick. He delivered with his first Cup top-five finish. But when it was over, Reddick had mixed emotions.

“I feel like if I could have just gotten ahead of those guys, what if, right?” Reddick told NBC Sports after the race. “I was definitely a little tighter than I needed to be. That was going to make it very challenging for me.

Tyler Reddick’s fourth-place finish was the best result by a Cup rookie at Miami since 2007. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“We thought we were going to make the right adjustment to help us, but we couldn’t quite get our Chevy Cares Camaro to rotate better into Turn 1 like we have been wanting. We really couldn’t find that answer and, unfortunately, I think that is what held us back from being able to break through tonight.”

The more Reddick runs at the front, the more experience he and his team gain in making the right adjustments to take command late in a race.

“It’s me trying to figure out what I can do to the car to make it better,” he said. “It’s (crew chief Randall Burnett) figuring out what adjustments, what knobs can he turn better. On the Xfinity car we kind of had that notebook, we kind of knew what we could do to make those adjustments that I needed.

“On these Cup cars, they just drive a little bit differently. Because of that, it’s kind of like starting from scratch for him and myself and trying to predict that next step the track takes with the 400- and 500-mile races that we have and understanding that the next step is going to be another learning curve we’re going to have to tackle.”

Still, Reddick couldn’t be too down, saluting his pit crew’s performance. Reddick also was happy with something he didn’t do Sunday night while running close to the wall.

“i don’t feel like I stepped over the edge and made the Tyler Reddick rookie mistake,” he said. “Granted that could have been very well what held me back from being that little more aggressive to win the race, but it was going to be hard (to gain to pass the leaders late). I was just trying to play it smart. I guess that’s the biggest thing, I didn’t do anything extremely stupid to on the racetrack hurt our car, damage it or back us up through the day. We were able to get to the front and stay there. That made for a much smoother day than we’ve had in the past when we’ve gotten the good runs.”

Sunday’s race wasn’t easy for Dillon. His car’s handling was off early and he complained about it to crew chief Justin Alexander. The proper adjustments helped but NASCAR penalized Dillon for an uncontrolled tire on a pit stop. That dropped Dillon from fifth to 26th on Lap 175 of the 267-lap race.

Austin Dillon rallied from a pit road penalty to finish seventh. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Dillon climbed into the top 20 on Lap 184. He moved to 15th on Lap 195. He was 10th by Lap 211. After green-flag pit stops, he was back to 10th on Lap 219 and stayed inside the top 10 the rest of the race.

“We ended up having a very fast car,” Dillon said. “At the end of the race, we were a top-four car. The pit road penalty with the loose tire getting away, that hurt us, but we were able to drive from dead last up to seventh and you don’t usually do that. That was pretty special to get a seventh-place finish with the day that we had with having baby Ace. I was very pumped for that. Reddick had a good run also.”

While Richard Childress Racing had one of its better days in recent seasons, Dillon suggested more such days could be coming.

“I feel like people have been sleeping on us a little bit,” he said. “Since we came back from the quarantine, our No. 3 team has been pretty stout. We had an up-and-down race at Darlington, the first one we were good, the second one we were OK. Past that, the Charlotte races we flexed our muscles.”

Dillon finished 14th in the Coca-Cola 600.  He followed it by placing eighth at the second Charlotte race, sixth at Bristol and 11th at Atlanta before finishing 37th at Martinsville after exiting the car early when he was overcome by fumes after early damage.

“We’ve had good cars for the last couple of weeks and it’s been fun to be a part of,” Dillon said. “I feel like we’ve got a good group, the 8 and the 3.”

Penalty report from Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to crew chiefs for having one unsecured lug nut on their cars during last weekend’s races at Auto Club Speedway.

There were two fines in the Cup Series. Randall Burnett, crew chief on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 8 Chevy, and Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 41 Ford, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, Dave Rogers, crew chief on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000.

There were no other penalties announced by NASCAR.