what drivers said

What drivers said after Fontana

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:

Alex Bowman – winner: “How about that, California? I grew up quarter midget racing here, maybe 20 minutes from Pomona Valley. Went there every week. Made a lot of great friends there. I know a lot of you are here today. Man, so cool for Cincinnati. Seems like every time they are all on the car we run really good. Promised my buddy Aaron we would all get 88 tattoos if we won so I think I have to get a tattoo now. It will be a good time. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks to (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and all the guys. Greg made a lot of good calls today. We were up front when it counted.

“(Is the second win almost as special as your first career Cup win?)? Yes, for sure. The first one was a real enjoyable experience and then we sucked for six months. We started this year so strong. I feel like I’ve got a lot on my side that I’m doing better. My life has gotten a lot more organized than it was then. Greg and the guys are just on point. We’ve unloaded the last two weeks and I don’t think we have had to make a change to the race car from the way it came off the truck. That makes my job a lot easier. I’m just so proud of this team. Everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick horsepower under the hood. The whole shop back home. They work their butts off. We’ve put a lot of effort in this new car and it is obviously working out really well.”

Kyle Busch – finished 2nd: “We have a lot of work to do. Guys did a great job here though just trying to work on it and trying to make everything we could out of it all day long, all weekend long. Interstate Batteries Camry wasn’t a second place car, but thankfully we got a good finish out of here and try to get some points. Guys are doing all they can, I know along with everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development). I appreciate all the hard work, we just have to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here. Obviously, it’s a little bit of something here and maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas, but overall good car today.

“(How would you sum up your day?) Slow, we were slow. Just didn’t have the speed overall today for some reason. Then, there at the end felt like the tires were worn out at the last bit of the race.  Just frustrating day for us with our Interstate Batteries Camry. Give it up to my guys and everybody at the shop, they’re certainly working hard. I just feel like we’re kind of missing it a little bit – here, here, here and here and those things kind of add up and drag you down a little bit. Overall, great day I guess coming home with second and getting good points out of here.”

Kurt Busch — finished 3rd: “We did really good to balance our Monster Energy Chevy on short run speed, and long run speed. Being able to maneuver on re-starts is something that I’ve been harping on. Making sure we get better when we’re in dirty air. And to come away with a third place finish, that gains a lot of points back for us and I feel really good about the way the car handled this weekend. So, whatever we can do to baseline this, is what we’ve got to do moving forward.

“(Does it feel good to have the Chevys so strong? Bowman was real fast) As soon as his car unloaded, he was super fast. We were all trying to figure out what it was. But he did the job. As a team, they did their job. And he executed to put a Chevy in Victory Lane, so congrats to Alex Bowman.

“(You finished third. What else did you need?) Oh, a little spray can of grip. If I could spray some grip on her, we’d be right there. We just had different trends. The car would be wide-open for five laps and I’d be really fast after Lap 20. So, if I can narrow it down, I just need to work on that transition from wide-open to that partial throttle and then be able to maneuver through the draft.”

Chase Elliott — finished 4th: “(Was it a solid day?) Yeah, it was decent. I feel like we were better than we’ve been, which is good. Not good enough to win, obviously, but better than we’ve been. So, we’ll take it and move on. Alex (Bowman, race winner) was dominant today. He was by far the best. I was good for our company and hopefully we can keep it rolling. He was super-fast. So, we’re happy for those guys. They did a really good job.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 5th: “We had a good run today with the Discount Tire Ford. We ran fifth, which isn’t bad. There were some highlights. We were able to drive through the field there a couple times. The car had a lot of long run speed. We never had the speed (Bowman) had through the whole weekend but we fought really hard and scored a lot of points today to dig us out of a hole we had from early on in the season. There were a lot of positives. I think we executed really well today. I probably could have done a little better on one of the early restarts, but other than that the team did really good.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 6th: “We’re still slow. Our cars handled okay. If we don’t have a draft, we’re just run over. It’s tough because I feel like we’re getting beat on throttle time, but we’re also just getting murdered down the straightaways. Just need more horsepower, more downforce and less drag. If we can have all those, we’ll be better.

“(What happened between yourself and teammate Martin Truex Jr. during the race?) We’re just fighting like cats and dogs. I think I was on the bottom there on the right rear and it just dumps air so much on my right rear spoiler that caused me to plow tight and kind of shove up into him. It’s just a bad combination.”

Jimmie Johnson — finished 7th: “This team is going in the right direction. I know in my heart what I am capable of and what this team is capable of. It’s just taken a little bit to get the right people in the right places, and rebuild and get this Ally Chevy exactly where it needs to be. We just couldn’t adjust this car on the pits stops quite enough to get the tight out of it. It was really competitive and racy at the start of a run and then we would fade at the end. At the end, I thought I was going to blow a tire, I think I had cords on the fronts and I thought I wasn’t going to finish the race. So to salvage a top 10 out of it and two thirds in the stages, so we are headed in the right direction. I want to thank the fans here in California. There have been some great vibes all weekend.

“(How do you feel about today?) A lot of neat things happened today. The card is full, that’s for sure. I was pretty bummed about that last run. We got super-tight. I think I was pretty lucky to finish. I think one of the front tires was getting ready to blow out. We just didn’t stay on top of the adjustments needed to keep the car free and going, but we still had a great day and ran up front and led some laps and raced for the lead. But the longer the run, the tighter the car.

“(You are close to a win, but the closer you get the more you want it, right?) Oh, without a doubt. I’m a competitor at heart and I want to win races and be up front and get it all done. So, I was pretty disappointed the way it finished and ended up seventh. But it’s a good sign of where we’re heading.

Aric Almirola – finished 8th: “I have to clean up some things and we have to clean up some things as a team. I thought we had a top-five car and we just kept giving away all of our track position. We have to do better, but we are building and we got a top 10 and we will take that and move on. I think we have a lot of potential. I think Bugga (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and all the guys did a great job with the car and I felt like we had a top 10 car going into today and we proved that. We ran in the top 10 most of the day but I feel like with track position and a few other things going a little better, a little smoother, we could have had a lot better result. Overall, it was still a decent day and we will take the points and move on.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 9th: “We just didn’t have a very good weekend. This place wasn’t very good for us last year either. I am just having a hard time getting the car to be balanced all the way through the corner. I think as you look at it, we didn’t have a ninth-place car either, we just had a great day on pit road. Those guys did a phenomenal job on pit road and that kept us in the game.”

Erik Jones – finished 10th: “It was a step in the right direction. I don’t think any of us really had race-winning speed. I think Kyle (Busch) got some good track position on that restart and was able to maintain.  We got shuffled back and kind of had to come back from 15th. I don’t know, I think we’re off. We didn’t have anything for the 88 (Alex Bowman) or anything like that. We have to get faster, but I think we learned a lot. Just have more to get.  Don’t know how to get there, but we have more to get.”

Tyler Reddick — finished 11th: “I’m really proud of this No. 8 I Am Second team’s effort this weekend and glad that the results show it with our 11th-place finish today. We had a plan coming into the race on how we wanted to have our Chevrolet set up, and it worked out in our favor. The No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet was snug all day, especially in Turns 1 and 2, but we continually improved on the handling throughout the race. It was a lot of fun being able to race in the top five for a portion of day, and I learned a lot while up there. I wish we could have finished one spot better to claim our first top 10 of the year, but my right rear tire completely came apart on the final lap, so I had to back off to make it back to the finish line. As a team, we’ve been continually improving each week so far this season, and I’m looking forward to continuing the momentum next week at Phoenix Raceway.”

Cole Custer — finished 18th: “My guys did a good job today in the pits. We need to be better, but it was a solid day. We’re still very new to working with each other. I wish I could’ve gotten them a result better than 18th, because the car was better than that, but we’ll keep working on it together as a team.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 19th: “We led a little bit and ran pretty good, we just corded a right rear at the end. We lost the lead there at the beginning of the third stage and kind of got swallowed up and the 88 got away and got gone. We needed to be in front of him. It is just the way it goes sometimes.”

Austin Dillon — finished 24th: “Auto Club Speedway has always been a strong track for the Dow Racing Team so we had high expectations of performing well here in our Dow Coatings Chevrolet. We didn’t qualify on the pole like we have in past races here, but that was by design. We set the car up to race well. I think we would have had a different outcome today if it would have been a little warmer outside. We had really good forward drive but were too tight taking off didn’t have the speed we needed. Still, we battled hard. We probably would have finished 16th but we shredded a right-rear tire and had to pit with two laps to go and ended up 24th. We’ll shake it off and go on to Phoenix Raceway.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 28th: “It was OK. It was a decent day. We pretty much maximized what we’ve got. We’ve got to keep working to get more speed out of the racecar. We’re one more race further along as a team, and everything was pretty smooth from beginning to end, no major dramas. We’ll go on to Phoenix and try and get that much better there.”

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What drivers said after Las Vegas

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Here’s what drivers had to say about their performance in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Joey Logano – winner: “Boy, we fought hard for this one today.  Man, what a battle between Blaney and I and Chase Elliott and (Martin Truex Jr.) earlier in the race, and then to see this finish with Matt finishing second is great day for Wood Brothers and for Team Penske. Man, nothing like winning the Pennzoil 400 in front of this amazing crowd with this awesome yellow car right here in the front.  Man, this is a huge win, and nice to kick off the season with a W.

“[Was the push from Stenhouse on the final restart the difference?] Yeah, it really was. You get a good start like that, and I watched him, he pushed me and then he shoved me ahead, which was great, and then the block on the 24, that was the winning move, I was able to get down in front of him and then be able to separate myself a little bit from the field. Clean air was going to be key with old tires. If I got swallowed up by a couple cars, I was just going to fall backwards really quick. Being able to get that clean air, secure that. Man, this is great getting back in Victory Lane.

“[It’s your first win with Paul Wolfe as your crew chief, one to remember] Yeah, it really is. He’s done such a great job, and it’s been fun getting to know each other, and with the whole team. The pit crew was amazing today. I think we gained a spot every time at least. Proud of the effort that everyone has put in over the offseason, to come out here the start of the West Coast Swing and get one of those cool stickers right next to my name on top of this car.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 2nd: “This is all just too surreal. Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing.  It took so many people, Motorcraft, Quick Lane. To be driving this iconic car is so cool, Menards and Paul, I know you’re watching at home and proud and I can’t thank everyone in that whole family for this opportunity for it.

“Power under the hood is always good. I’m proud to have that Roush Yates power under the hood. This whole team, Greg Irwin, all of them, we were covered. It wasn’t pretty at the start, but, man, they did an excellent job. So happy to be working with this team, the fans. Thank you all so much. The journey has been pretty cool.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 3rd: “Brian (crew chief Brian Pattie) is just really good at calling races, and he apologized for that one (bad pit call). That one backfired on us that second run. We got good track position, and then we stayed out a little too long and gave up that track position. So then we were fighting kind of all race to get it back up, and he went long again, and it paid off with the caution. Our Kroger Camaro was good. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we know what we need to work on now, and it was cool to get a good solid run in this Camaro for everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing. Got to thank Hungry Jack, NOS Energy Drink and everybody that works on this car. So far so good. Two weeks, we’ve been fast this week, we weren’t bad this week, and we know what we need to work on, and I know Brian and the boys will tune it up.”

Austin Dillon – finished 4th: “We just needed some track position. Everybody is just really close. You can tell by how many cars are on the lead lap at the end of these races; it’s nuts. NASCAR did a great job to get these cars where they are. It is crazy racing out there. We saw those guys hit pit road. We were running the same lap times at the beginning of the tires to the end, so that was our best move. Luckily, we got the outside. Our teammate was doomed on the bottom. The bottom just seemed to lose spots all day unless you were the leader. I just want to thank all of our sponsors; American Ethanol, Bass Pro Shop, Dow, everyone that helps this team. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 5th: “It was a strong day. With about 15 to go or so, I got into the outside wall and lost some spots. But we didn’t have a strong enough tire rub to cause any problems. We put rights on before that final restart. Chaos was happening in front of me and I was able to sneak through to get a top-five finish.

“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it. We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.

“[How important is the strong finish by the Chevrolets – six in the top 10?] It’s really rewarding to see. Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevy’s up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 6th: “We had a shot at a good finish and we capitalized on that. All-in-all, it was a good day and a win for us. It was just a good gamble call. We were terrible on restarts. It would take us ten or fifteen laps just to get going and get the car underneath us. Then, we could start fighting our way up there. There were frustrating moments over the radio, just trying to make this Coke Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE better. I know how I lose my cool a little bit, but one of the main reasons I brought [crew chief] Jerry Baxter in was to calm me down and show that light at the end of the tunnel. Every time I fired back, he said ‘I get it, you’re fine, we’re going to be fine’ and he was right. It was a good call by the team and everyone involved. Coke Energy, I appreciate them coming on board for this race. It was a great outing and it shows like we were running on some Coke Energy out there.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 7th: “We had a decent run today.  There were times where I felt like we were the best car and then there were times where I felt like we struggled.  We just didn’t quite have the long run speed all race long and we got to where we were really good in the middle of the runs and just learned a lot.  This is a little different car than I’ve ever raced before, so I’m learning how to adapt to that.  There are a lot of takeaways and I’m confident we were really close to being a winning car today.  I just wish I could re-run the weekend a little bit and work through a few things, but certainly learned a lot and very confident we can win races. … It came down to that green-white-checkered at the end and it was exactly what you would expect in a green-white-checkered, a crashfest, but it would have been interesting to see if it would have stayed green and the cars with tires could have had a shot at it, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 8th: “The caution really decided that.  I think there would have been some of us that got back close to the lead by the time we got off of turn four.  I don’t even know where we restarted, but we were seventh or so going into turn one on the last lap with a big head of steam and the caution came out.  Our Busch Light Ford was really good on the short runs.  We just kind of lost the handling as we would get deep in those runs and that kind of hurt us, but it came down to what we wanted there at the end, but we just got too far back.”

Kyle Larson – finished 9th: “I fought the balance a lot early in the race. It got better, but then we had some cautions there at the end, I would be on cycled tires and the balance would get really tight. All-in-all, it was a top-ten here and I feel good about that.”

Ty Dillon – finished 10th: “I’m just really happy with our GEICO Camaro. We got pretty tight through the middle of the race, so we started freeing it up and freeing it up. We just needed an opportunity to get some track position back there. Things went our way on that restart. I was able to find some holes and finally got aggressive there at the end. We got our first top-10 of the year, so that feels good. We ran really, really strong at Daytona, but didn’t get the result that we deserved. For our team to run the way we did today is a really exciting thing for our team.

“[What were the restarts like?] It was nuts. It was three or four-wide every single restart and you just had to find the lane that had a little bit of momentum. It was crazy, it was never the same. I think I restarted 19th and went through the middle, and we ended up 10th. I don’t really know what happened, but we just started passing cars. You just had to find the lane and you’re to process things at such a high rate of speed. You just had to be committed to where you were going.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 11th: “It was just a crappy situation. We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding the 88 off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them. It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out. That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car. We were great on long runs. We were so good on long runs and that’s something to hold our heads up high about, it just stinks about the finish.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 12th: “That was a long day for us. We just couldn’t get our front end to work like we wanted it to work. Our car did not want to roll the middle today. We’ll be better in Fontana next week.”

Alex Bowman – finished 13th: “We had such a good car there at the end. Obviously, running down the 12 (Ryan Blaney) pretty quickly. At least looking at a second-place finish, if not, battling for a win there. Our car was so good. The caution came out and we read it just a little bit wrong. Bummer that we didn’t get the finish that we probably deserved. But at the same time, I’m so proud of my guys. We had such a good race car today. We made it better all day. Obviously, we had it rolling there at the end.

“It’s unfortunate to not end up with a top-10, but I’m really proud of my guys. Having a shot at winning these things is really all you can ask for and this one just didn’t work out for us.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 18th: “I was loose for the majority of the day when I tried to run the bottom, but the adjustments my team made through the race helped a lot. I was able to get the top to work fairly well, especially on the long runs. I just needed a little more to fire off with, but we’ll work on that. It was great to be able to run inside the top 10 today. That’s momentum we can build on. When that final yellow came out, we decided to gamble in Las Vegas and stay out to go for the win. Unfortunately, we lined up fifth, which meant we were on the bottom for the restart. The bottom hadn’t restarted well all day, so that wasn’t in our favor and we fell backwards but ultimately had a shot at it.”

Cole Custer – finished 19th: “It’s not the result we wanted today with the Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Mustang, but the guys worked hard on the car all day. I’m still learning a lot with the Cup car and wanted a better result. We came back from two laps down, and (crew chief) Mike Shiplett did a good job continuing to adjust on the car. I know I need to be better at restarts and some things like that, but I’m looking forward to next week and excited about working with the No. 41 team this year.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished 20th: “(What happened when you hit the wall? ) He (Kurt Busch) kept blocking until I hit the fence. Then it was tire rub, blew the tire and hit the fence. That was it. … “(How are things with your new crew chief?) Everything is fine. We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.

“(How trying of a race was this?) Just unfortunate this early in the season. It’s nice to have a fast race car. Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota was really good. We were top two or three early in the first half and then the pit stop issue. We got back in traffic. I had a role on the 1 (Kurt Busch) car and he just moving up until I hit the fence on the front stretch. I thought we were going to be okay after that. Then just cut our right front tire down and pretty much ended our day. It is what it is, but luckily we got some good stage points the first two stages. We have a fast race car we can move forward with. The guys did a good job, just have to clean up pit road.”

Ross Chastain – finished 27th: “I was just overdriving there at the end for sure. It just got away from me there and got loose.  There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton. … [You looked comfortable in the car?] Yeah, the car deserved a lot better finish. Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. These guys kind of ate me alive on the restarts and I’d lose three or four spots every time, and picked the wrong lines through one and two, and then three and four again I just kept making silly mistakes that I should learn from after I make the mistake once. I just have to be better.”

Daniel Suarez – finished 30th: “(What happened at the start of the race? ) Obviously, this is just a learning process. We had an issue with the ECU box in the beginning. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but it put us into a hole and it was difficult to get out of the hole. I feel like we could have finished somewhere in the top-25, maybe even better than that. We had to fight hard. We learned a lot of different things that we can improve for next week. It feels to get that first race in. We now know what we have to work on. We just have to go out there and keep digging.”

We will add more driver comments as they become available. Please check back.

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What drivers said after Martinsville playoff race

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Martin Truex Jr., winner: “I don’t think anyone expected that (performance).  This racetrack in general, you don’t see that. Hats off to my guys. Pit crew was stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments.  We adjusted on it early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.  I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows.  But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year, and I’m like, we’ve got work to do.  I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together today when it counted.”

William Byron, finished second: “(Truex) was really strong. I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit, and then I’d get to him and I’d heat him up a lot and then kind of fall back.  I don’t really know.  He was super strong.  Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around.  But overall it was a really good day.

“This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend, the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race.  Super excited, but second is not super fun, either.  We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”

Brad Keselowski, finished third: “I think that’s about all we had or maybe a little more than what we had.  We just kind of kept our head on our shoulders all day and made the most of what we had.  I was really proud of our team for that effort … Long green flag runs, a lot of aggressiveness, a lot of contact.  It was really tough to pass.  When you get behind somebody you’re way faster than that big spoiler would just kill you, but, all in all, a good day for us.”

Denny Hamlin, finished fourth: (What happened between you and Joey Logano?) “We were having a discussion, everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away.  So that’s Joey.  Scared ‑‑ he said, ‘Do you want to go?’  I said, ‘Yes, I’m here.’  But then he runs away.

(What was the altercation on track that led to it?) “I got close off of Turn 4. It looks like we got together, and it looks like collateral damage. He blew a tire.  I mean, he would probably say, ‘Oh, short-track racing.'”

Ryan Blaney, finished fifth: “We were in the top five all day and I thought we had a good shot at second.  We weren’t good on short runs.  We were terrible for probably 30-40 laps and then we’d come alive and be great, but just didn’t have the speed.”

Kurt Busch, finished sixth: “We finished (sixth) which was the highest we ran all day. Wow, what perseverance and an ability to make adjustments during the race. … We were lucky with the right lane on the restarts. Thanks to Global Poker, Chevrolet, Monster Energy. We got a sixth. Really good day at Martinsville for us. Our teammate Kyle Larson got a top 10 as well.”

Kevin Harvick, finished seventh: “We got our car a lot better in the second half.  We made some major adjustments when we got to the end of the second stage and made our car a lot better.  We just didn’t quite get back up there.”

Joey Logano, finished eighth: (On his altercation with Denny Hamlin) “I just wanted to talk to him about it and was pretty frustrated.  He just kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day.  A shot at the win for sure.  We probably weren’t going to beat (Truex), but we had a top five for sure coming our way, but we just were able to survive there.

“I don’t really know what happened because once he started hitting me he didn’t lift, he just kept finishing me off.  We ran each other fine all day, so I don’t know.  I don’t really know what happened.  He just kind of sends me up there and keeps on going with it.  Cut down my tires and fender rubs everywhere.

Kyle Larson, finished ninth: “This is my second best finish at Martinsville, so I’m really happy with that. We were able to steal some stage points as well, so we probably over achieved for how we usually run at Martinsville. I haven’t seen the points spread yet, but I would say we maintained from where we came in, so I’m happy about that.”

Ryan Newman, finished 10th: “We just out-tired there at the end.  Those other guys had tires and we didn’t and it didn’t work out the best for us.  It was a challenge.  They did a good job.  Our pit stops were awesome today.  That made a big difference and just came up short.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 17th: “It was a solid day for us here at Martinsville Speedway. We were just too loose and didn’t have the rear lateral grip we needed early in the race. We kept adjusting and kept trying to put ourselves in position to get the free pass or take the wave around, and finally late in the race we had something go our way that got us back on the lead lap. (Erik Jones) and (Michael McDowell) got together behind us once we were back on the lead lap and turned this Chevrolet Accessories Camaro ZL1 around. I hate that because I thought we were going to drive up into the top 15 pretty easily. It just wasn’t meant to be. We got a little too much damage to move forward at the end. All in all, just proud of these guys, proud of the effort and proud of the fight. We’ll roll on to Texas.”

Austin Dillon, finished 22nd: “I’m really proud of everyone on this No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team for working hard all weekend and giving us a really solid car at Martinsville Speedway. We put up a fight all race long, which really helped us to stay on the lead lap and battle competitively in the top 12 throughout Stages 1 and 2. Early in Stage 3, we were racing hard with another car when we cut a tire and made contact with the outside wall. Our Chevy was just too loose after that, making it really hard to earn back the lap we lost while making repairs. We had a good fight, but this is not the finish we wanted today.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 31st: “We had a good car in the first stage, and we ran solidly in the top-10. The car got tight in the second stage. Not the day we were hoping for, but we still have three races to go.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 35th: “That was so disappointing. Our BlueDEF Mustang was fast, and we were just cruising a lot today. We made contact with a lapped car, and I think that’s how we got the flat but I don’t know. The track bar broke at the end and ended our race. We had a great car all weekend, and we deserved better today.”

Aric Almirola, finished 37th: “We just got together.  I got inside of him (Kyle Busch) getting down in turn three and he chopped me, and I got in his left-rear and moved him up a little bit and got inside of him, and then we hooked and got tangled up off of turn four.  It’s disappointing.  I had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang and felt like we were maybe one adjustment away from being maybe a second or third-place car, so I’m proud of my guys, proud of the effort and we’ve got three more weeks.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th: “I’m not sure what started those two cars spinning (No. 10 Aric Almirola and No. 18 Kyle Busch). While they were spinning, I made an early decision to go where I thought the road would be open but by the time I got there it was closed up. Wrong place, wrong time.

What Cup drivers said after Kansas playoff race

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Denny Hamlin, winner: “I just had to hold the bottom and get a good push. It was all about the push that I got from the 9 (Chase Elliott) and really the 18 (Kyle Busch) those last couple of restarts. That was the most important thing for us – to get a good restart. Once we got out front, we could hold it wide open. Our car was built for downforce, so it worked out that it was just fast enough to win.”

Chase Elliott, finished second: “I was trying to make a run at Denny.  We never got our momentum up enough for me to do anything about it.  The restarts were helping his cause on tires. The good news was the bottom lane rolled good enough on the last restart to at least get back to second.  So, I appreciate the effort.  We were really struggling there at one point in the race.  You have to stay fighting in these things, especially with these late‑race restarts. Just proud of the effort today. Just excited we get to fight another race.”

Kyle Busch, finished third: (Do you feel like you made strides in today’s race?) “No, it’s about how we’re supposed to run. I guess if you’re not in control on the last restart then you don’t have a chance to win.”

(Did you work together with your teammates to ensure a Joe Gibbs Racing Camry won the race today?) “I think we proved that point when there were three Gibbs cars on the bottom row and all we did was basically push each other and stay in line with one another all the way down into the corner.”

Kurt Busch, finished fourth: “We got fresh tires at the end and the outside lane really worked well for us. I was able to give it a lot of throttle on time and knife my way up to fourth place. It was nice to have Advent Health on our car today. We had a breast cancer survivor Nicole riding with us and she got us a top five. We struggled a little bit, didn’t get any stage points but you can’t be disappointed with a top five.”

William Byron, finished fifth: “Yeah, it’s just a bummer (not advancing in the playoffs). But we had a great run today and we can take pride in that, for sure. We had a great car, one of the best cars we’ve had on a 1.5-mile track. It was fun, but we just needed to win and we couldn’t do that. But it is what it is. It was a great day for us overall, we’ll move onto the next couple of weeks and keep fighting. If we can go out and win, that’s all that really matters now.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished sixth: “It was a good race and we had a good Bass Pro Toyota all day long. We just got off there those last couple runs of the race. When it got cloudy, we got tight and we couldn’t quite get it dialed in where we needed to. Overall, a solid day and we did what we needed to do.”

Erik Jones, finished seventh: “It was a good day. Kind of up and down. We lost some track position there in that middle stage and it was just a struggle to get it back all day. I thought the Reser’s Camry was really good on the long run and we were kind of running those guys down before we had the caution come out late for the first of those final restarts. We just didn’t have a great short run car and it didn’t play out the way we needed it and not a clean enough race to contend. It’s frustrating when you have that fast of a car, but a good day.”

Clint Bowyer, finished eighth: “Obviously we wanted to be in victory lane. I like the situations that we could put the car in and it would withstand. We got a little bit of damage there on that last stage. I don’t really think that affected it that much. It was a decent day. It wasn’t a stellar day by any means. I am proud of our effort. I am proud of trying something there and it working out.”

Kevin Harvick, finished ninth: “That was not a very good weekend from top to bottom. I just didn’t have a very good car today and didn’t have a very good day on pit road. Nothing went right all weekend. It was definitely one of the worst weekends we have had in a while. We had to start in the back and had a tough day getting through traffic.”

Alex Bowman, finished 11th: “We got up to fifth or sixth there pretty quickly and obviously had a really good car to start. I got loose, I saved it and it was all good; that’s just racing. I guess just the 6 (Ryan Newman) being right there tore the left rear off of it. You wouldn’t think it, but that’s probably the most sensitive corner on these cars for rear downforce and rear side force. We really fought with it the rest of the day and all but crashed it for the remaining 260 laps or however long it was.”

“We didn’t get in (to the Round of 8), so that sucks. We had a good start and a really good car there for five laps or however long it lasted. It just sucks driving a wrecked race car for the rest of the day.”
Kyle Larson, finished 14th: “Today was our roughest day that we’ve had in a long time. I stalled it on that green flag stop and we just had some really slow stops. My pit box was really slick, so I couldn’t get in aggressive enough and I couldn’t leave fast enough. It made the pit stops seem worse than they were. It’s tough to have a day like that, but we had a fast car. We tried to gamble on tires there. It worked out for Denny (Hamlin), but it didn’t work out for us and we got ate up on those restarts. We finished 14th with a top-three car.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr, finished 16th: “We were really tight all day. No matter what we did to our Fastenal Ford it just remained tight. It’s definitely not what we wanted after running so well here in the spring but overall it was a decent finish. Our main goal is just to finish the season strong and we have done that the past few weeks.”

Joey Logano, finished 17th: (Surprised you were able to survive and advance?) “Yeah, it felt like that this whole round. Starting in Dover when we watched the race start in the garage. Then the crash in Talladega but scoring enough stage points and an okay enough finish to get some points. Then today, whew, we got that stage win which was great and that is a point that will continue on, so that is a big deal. We needed every point we could and it looked like we were in a good spot. Next thing you know they are wrecking on the outside and I get hit and I am going through the grass. I felt comfortable before that but the next thing you know – I am watching it here on the replay for the first time – I didn’t hit anything so I got lucky for sure. I have been lucky a few times. We were able to finish Talladega and I parked the thing and there was a hole in the radiator. It was hard-fought and blue-collar round for sure. We

Brad Keselowski, finished 19th: “We didn’t make it (to the Round of 8). I pushed as hard as I knew how and didn’t quite do good enough on the last restart and that was it. We clawed as hard as we could and there were times it looked like we were going to be fine and times it didn’t. In the end it didn’t work out.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 21st: “It was an up and down day. We didn’t start off great but we got better throughout the race. We were able to get up to second there but (Hamlin) was pretty phenomenal and I could only make time at the wall and had to pound the fence to do anything. Lap cars were running the fence and they wouldn’t give you the fence so I would lose time trying to run down. We couldn’t really run different lanes of the race track. That kind of stunk. Eventually I got too close to the fence trying to run it and run those guys back down and hit it. We blew a tire before we could get to pit road. We knew we had to take that chance today trying to run hard. It sucks that I blew a tire and caused that caution.”

Austin Dillon, finished 23rd: “Man, what a day. I was excited about our top-10 starting position, but we were just way too loose to start the race and lost a lot of positions. We ended up falling one lap down to the leader and struggled all day to earn our lap back. Crew chief Danny Stockman called for a lot of adjustments but no matter how many my crew made, we just never got a solid feel for the handling of the Roland Chevrolet.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 31st: “We had a fast Chevrolet this weekend, and it was really special to earn our first pole award as a group at Kansas. I was hoping once the green flag dropped we’d be able to set sail, lead laps and be in contention for the win. Unfortunately, our Caterpillar Chevrolet was just a little tricky to balance today. I needed more rear grip throughout most of the day, but never got it to where I could run both the top and bottom grooves like I wanted to. On the first attempt at a late-race restart, it all just happened so fast on the frontstretch and before I knew it, (Daniel Suarez) was turned down in front of me and we made contact.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 32nd: “We had a really good ARRIS Mustang to start the race. We held our position up front, and then I got shuffled back on one of the restarts. We were working on adjusting the car and trying to make up our track position, and towards the end we had made a lot of ground. Unfortunately, we got in an accident getting ready to take the white flag.”

What Cup drivers said after Talladega

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Here’s what Cup drivers said after a chaotic playoff race at Talladega

Ryan Blaney, winner – “I know a lot of guys had their problems today.  But we had our problem last week (at Dover), a bad problem.  We have kind of been saying all week, we’ve been wanting to win races all year.  Why have any different mindset? This was a huge, huge race for us.  I’m pumped up

Ryan Newman, finished second – “I told Aric (Almirola), I said they spent $50 million redeveloping this place.  I should have threw in 50 bucks for them to move the start/finish line, repainted it or something. It was a great run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford.  Everybody at Roush‑Yates, Roush Family Racing.  All the team effort that went into it was good.

“I mean, we just came up that little bit short.  I don’t know what else to say.  I could have pinched him some more.  I could have probably took the aero.  You can go back and bench race that three weeks from now.  It was a good race until the end.

“I saw the guys spinning in the back.  I was hoping for a yellow, but there wasn’t.”

Denny Hamlin, finished third – “(Our agenda) changed with every caution.  It changed with every car that fell out.  I mean, just a game of chess all day.  Sure, we could have got up there and raced, got in the middle, but we would have been in all those wrecks.  Didn’t make sense to me. I knew the statistics, the odds, the chances.  I looked at how many cars were on the lead lap if we were to crash at that point in the race.  It just wasn’t worth the risk.  There wasn’t enough to gain with cars still crashing. We waited till the bulk of them got out, then went up there and tried to win.  We almost did.”

Aric Almirola, finished fourth –  “Obviously, when you get that close to the end and you feel like you’re in position you want to win.  Man, it’s hard.  It’s hard to make the right move and do the right thing at the right time.  It’s so situational.  There’s maybe a couple of things, maybe one thing I could have tried to get up in front of (Ryan Newman), but he was coming so fast.  There was no way I was gonna block that run.  He was just gonna get to my outside and then I was gonna be stuck in the middle three-wide.  All in all, it was a good day.  We needed a good run.

Michael McDowell, finished fifth – “You’re always looking for anything to build momentum.  Results always do that and that’s always part of it.  Talladega and Daytona in particular are unique race tracks and a unique style of racing.  I don’t know how much it helps you going into Kansas, but it’s always good to get a top five and to have a strong day and be in position to push a Ford to Victory Lane.  That’s good, too.”

Austin Dillon, finished sixth – “It pushed really well and to get up through there at times, it just didn’t seem to be able to maintain the lead. But I’m glad we were able to get a good finish. Sixth place, we needed that. The No. 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), he had a heck of a run down the backstretch. If he could have picked me up, it would have been nice. We did everything we could for what we had, and the race was very close.”

Corey LaJoie, finished seventh – “We call that stacking pennies.  You take a 33rd-place car and finish seventh with it, so we’ll take it and run.”

Chase Elliott, finished eighth – “We had our ups and downs for sure today. Got caught up in that crash but my guys did a nice job of putting it back together as best we could. Just head out West to Kansas now and try to get a win out there. That’s about all we can do now.”

“You have to have the mindset to go out there and control what we can control and do everything we can to get a win. That’s all we can do.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished ninth – “It’s nice being that close.  We put ourselves in the right positions, got to control the race for a little while.  I felt like my spotter and I did a really good job blocking the right lines at the right time and just trying to learn for the end of that race.  That one restart we picked the bottom and I don’t know if that hurt us and it let (Kurt Busch) get to the outside and the third lane formed, so, all in all, we had a really fast car.  I’m bummed we couldn’t finish it off.  There at the end I felt like we were still plenty fast enough to get the job done, but I just ran out of laps to get back up there.”
Ty Dillon, finished 10th – “When there’s so few cars left running at the end of the race, the top just seemed to never really go. On the last restart, there were only eight or nine cars running, so I knew we were in a little bit of trouble. I needed a push in the outside line as far as I could to try to get us in position where we were in second or third and I just couldn’t get any help from behind. We had a nice, big run there at the end, but couldn’t really do a whole lot with it. Another top-10 finish for our team, which is good at the superspeedways. A top-10 finish is always good for us.”
Joey Logano, finished 11th – “It scared the crap out of me because it came out of nowhere.  I was riding around and everything was good in second place and, ‘Boom.’  The next thing I know I’m sideways and up in the air.  My team did an amazing job today because when we got done with the crash the hood was up and I couldn’t see.  The thing was barely rolling with four flat tires and everything else, and they got it to where it would run and then got through another crash to get the lucky dog and finished 11th on the day.  Two second places in the stages and an 11th-place finish with a crashed race car isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than it could have been, so I’m proud of that.”
Kevin Harvick, finished 17th – “You always want to do better.  I would have loved to have scored stage points and finish better, but we didn’t.  You can’t put much merit into this.  It’s kind of like bumper cars with your friends that don’t know how to drive at the go-kart track.”

Kyle Busch, finished 19th – “Everybody starts getting more aggressive towards the end and some guys just started pushing and I got pushed. I don’t know if (Kurt Busch) was getting pushed from behind him or what, but just got turned sideways the wrong way on the straightaway and that was it.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 23rd – “I brushed the wall.  I got into (Daniel Hemric) and was just pushing like I was all day long.  I don’t know.  He ran up too high and when you push you’ve got to kind of be to the outside and run me into the wall.  I was afraid it was gonna go flat, so I bailed out of there and, sure enough, it went flat.  And then I just got stuck down there.  I couldn’t get those guys to cooperate.  They stared at me for a lap.  I was like, ‘Boys, we’ve got to figure this out.  We’ve got to push this thing off.’  I don’t know that they knew I was stuck.  I shut it off and was trying to scream, but it is what it is.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 25th –  “I got wrecked, but I haven’t see the replay.  We were about to take the lead. I was pushing Brendan Gaughan and was really excited about how it was looking there for a minute and it just didn’t work out.”

Martin Truex Jr., Finished 26th – “Obviously we tried to find a safe place there and chill out and ride. That’s kind of what our plan was and we couldn’t even do that. Wrong place, wrong time, which seems like about every time I come here. I feel like I should just race as hard as I can race because I’m probably going to get wrecked anyway.”

Brendan Gaughan, finished 27th –  “It was okay, it was just one easy, quick flip and we put it down. The only thing you worry about then is somebody hitting you.  That is what you don’t want and that is where the fear comes in. Other than that, I am fine and like I said, some people would argue that I have anything up there that’s going to hurt. Thank you to Chevrolet and thank you to the Beard family, love you guys, and yes, I will see you at the Daytona 500. Mom, sorry.”

Kurt Busch, finished 28th – “I was just trying to make the middle lane work and all hell broke loose. I was having a lot of fun out there. Just trying to hold it steady and gain some points. I don’t even know who is left. It was pretty wild. These cars are so unstable in those big packs pushing hard. It just takes the smallest little mistake.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 29th – “I don’t really know what to say.  I don’t know what we could have done different.  We were just racing hard and then went straight to the back.  We were coming back to the front and then the whole mess started in front of me and I turned the wheel a little bit too hard to try to avoid the wreck and I ended up spinning out myself.  It was either spinning out myself or wrecking, so nothing really I could have done there.”

Matt DiBendetto, finished 30th – “I saw a car go up in the air and over. It’s just crazy. I don’t know. The car was fast, pushed great obviously. … I wanted to get this car to victory lane so bad for Toyota and LFR (Leavine Family Racing). It just stinks being that close. Man, that’s insane. I was pushing Kurt (Busch) earlier before that all happened and was just focused on pushing ahead of me because my car did it so well locking on the guys in front of me. I don’t know. Seems like a dang routine. We run a superspeedway race and then I meet you guys here for an interview after the care center. These races are crazy.”

David Ragan, finished 32nd – “Everybody just got to pushing and shoving and that’s just a product of speedway racing.  These guys race extremely hard.  The cars are really safe.  I don’t really think anyone is gonna get hurt, so that probably makes everyone drive a little bit more crazy than they should and when you’re pushing and shoving at 200 miles an hour eventually you’re gonna wreck people.  I think most of the big wrecks today were because of that and that’s just the way it is, so you get out there and you tear all of these race cars up.  I hate it for the car owners, but the fans saw a lot of great racing today.  Our Envision USA Ford Mustang was fast.  It was fun, but it just didn’t last to the end.”

William Byron, finished 33rd – “Obviously, our noses are pointed and it just jacked me right up and turned me around. I have to look at it. Yeah, it just turned me to the inside first. I don’t know what to do different there to get the push better. Just unfortunate for us. We had a really good run going. I felt like we were going to at least finish pretty solid. Our car was good, just trying to bide our time. Just unfortunate, for sure.”

Erik Jones, finished 34th – “It looks like the 1 (Kurt Busch) turned the 24 (William Byron) and kind of caused that wreck, so it’s unfortunate. We had a really fast car today. It’s one of the best superspeedway cars we’ve brought as far as single car and pack speed. It’s disappointing. The DeWalt Camry was definitely a contender, I thought, for a win today. We battled back from a lap down and got right back to the front. It’s unfortunate. We’ve just been on a bad streak and we haven’t been able to shake it. Hopefully next week at Kansas – it’s been a good track to us – we can get things back going again.”

Alex Bowman, finished 37th – “My guess is that I threw a block I shouldn’t have thrown a block. I got shoved way out there. I knew the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was coming and I just tried to move down just a little bit. As soon as he touched me, it just turned it sideways. They just had a bigger run than I realized. I should have let them go and shouldn’t have thrown a block. I apologize to all the cars that got torn up, that’s on me. Talladega happens. I hate it for all of our sponsors.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th – “I was just drafting and looking through the window like we do on the back straightaway and I noticed out of the left side of the windshield that the 88 was down there sideways by himself. So, something happened up there that got him pitched out of the line and unfortunately just slid right back up in front of myself and Chase (Elliott). I hope I did not knock Chase into the 88, and I feel like fortunately I may have turned him away from it and down the track. Hopefully he can still get some points here. It’s just one of those plate racing incidents and I hate it for Alex but a few people made it through from the Hendrick side of things in having a couple cars still in the race

Kyle Larson, finished 39th – “I just saw a little bit of smoke. I was in the top lane just hoping to get through it and it all happened quick. I saw the No. 88 (Alex Bowman)’s door numbers and I got into it. Yeah, that was a huge hit on my part. Thankfully, I’m OK and we’ll move onto next week and try to get a run at Kansas.”