What drivers said after the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

3 Comments

Denny Hamlin, winner: “Our car was really, really fast. We obviously saw that. Once we got out front, we were able to pull away from the pack a little bit.  Got a little bit loose when we were racing our teammates in the 18 and the 20. So wasn’t able to be as aggressive as I was earlier in the race.  We had a super fast car. That’s why we won.

“I missed pit road under green, that cost us three or four seconds, as well.  I don’t know.  We tried every way we could to give it away, and we found a way to do it with this FedEx Camry.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 2nd: “We had to unclog ourselves.  Once we unclogged ourselves, we were really good. Our Mustangs were fast all weekend long.  Took a while for our Mustang to get good.  This Rush Trucks Center Cummins car was a little off all weekend long.  I was pretty nervous coming into the race.  (Crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz), and everybody made some good adjustments, and then lean on your teammates.

“When you only have an hour’s worth of practice, it pulls you away from something you were trying, anything out of your wheelhouse.  Just kind of put us all back together with all four cars at Stewart‑Haas. All in all, hey, I wanted to catch him (Hamlin) bad.  He just come out of the pits way too far ahead of me.  Wasn’t much I could do about it.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 3rd: “It was a solid day, for sure. Overall I want to just say that I’m very proud of Stewart‑Haas Racing, everyone that makes this possible.  We’ve been working very hard to make our race cars better. Definitely we’re heading in the right direction. It’s the second week in a row that all Stewart‑Haas cars are in the top 10.  That’s something very good.”

Erik Jones, finished 4th: “It was good. We had a really good Craftsman Camry, but I put us behind there at the start getting myself in trouble spinning out. I was in a weird spot with fuel and what we needed to do. We needed to take more fuel than everybody else and ended up losing the lead there on that green flag cycle. It’s a good day, but it’s disappointing at the same time. We knew we had a car that could’ve won and to not capitalize on that is frustrating, but it’s also nice to get on track and have some good runs again.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 5th: “We are definitely moving in the right direction. The car was good in clean air and had a lot of speed in it, so I think we have found kind of center for our cars and what has to happen. It was a little evil in traffic, and I had a heck of a time on green flag restarts but really worked hard to get it up underneath me and tightening the car up a little bit for us to race. Ended up having great pace and decent drivability, so we are working in the right direction. I am just so proud of everybody on this Ally team. We’ve had a lot of pressure on us, and everyone has stepped up and (are) getting it done.”

William Byron, finished 6th: “it was good. We had a gun break on the first pit stop. I felt like we were running in the top five at that point. And then we got back to the top five later in the race, and I ran about fifth or sixth. It just felt like we were right there all day. It was a little bit free after that last green flag pit stop and that hurt us a slight bit. But, overall it’s good and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Aric Almirola, finished 7th: “I’m tired.  It was a long night last night.  I didn’t sleep at all, throwing up with a stomach bug, so I’m really, really depleted.  I haven’t been able to keep anything down, so I’m just really hungry and I’m really tired. … We don’t get to call in sick.  That’s the challenging part of our job occasionally.  The flu or a cold or a stomach bug pops up and you’ve got to fight through it.  I’m really proud of everybody on our Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford Mustang.  We had a good car and track position there and strategy and pit stops and stuff and we still got out of here with a top 10, so that’s six in a row.  I’m proud of that.”

Kevin Harvick, finished 8th: “Our day was a disaster.  Our car drove terrible, and that pretty much sums it up.”

Kurt Busch, finished 9th: “It was tough today. We had a right front (tire) go bad. So, somehow we’re not getting enough heat into the tires to get a good qualifying run and not lose spots on restarts, but then the car comes alive once it has heat and then that was burning up right fronts going too far through them. So, it was kind of a weird day; really confused about a lot of different things with the dirty air and the grip level. But, all-in-all to be another top 10, I’m really happy for the GEARWRENCH Team and everybody that’s working on the car. We really need to get into some big detail and debrief and figure out what we can do to be better.”

Kyle Busch, finished 10th: “The car just got loose there. We had made an adjustment to help with the loose issue, but it went the other way for some reason – so something to learn from there. We were in a good position there though to get the win today with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We will go on to next week and get back on it at Bristol.”

Ryan Newman, finished 11th: “It was a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford.  We just didn’t have everything we needed.  I fought track position there for a while, but the guys did a good job.  We gained some spots in the pits, so it was a good day in general and our best finish of the year, but we still have some work to do.  We’ll keep working on it.  We’re just off a little bit on speed.  When you’re only lifting once it’s hard to make up much.”

Austin Dillon, finished 14th: “We had a strong Realtree Chevrolet this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. After qualifying in the top five and showing speed in practice on Friday and Saturday, we were able to run in the top five through much of Stage 1. The biggest issue throughout the race was keeping up with the balance of the car. We could hold our own in clean air, but we were too loose on our last run. We led laps in the final stage before pitting for fuel with 12 laps to go. These RCR and ECR Chevrolets have had speed all year, and we put up a good fight today.”

Joey Logano, finished 17th: “Something came apart in the bracing underneath the hood, I believe, and then the hood started flaring all over the place.  The hood was gonna blow off the car if we didn’t get a caution, so we were able to fix it but went down a lap and there weren’t enough cautions to ever get the lucky dog.  We rode around in the lucky dog spot for a while, but never got that.  That really altered the handling once we had all the bearer bond on the front.  The car got really draggy and got real tight, but we won a stage.  I was proud of the speed that was in the car.  Our car was capable of winning the race, but didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

Ty Dillon, finished 21st: “My team built a fast Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1. We had strong practice sessions and had a great qualifying effort. I was really proud of these guys for all of their hard work in earning the ninth-place starting spot. We were pretty good at the start of the race. I was just a little tight with being on the splitter. Our Stage 1 strategy ended up not working out the way we thought it would, and that put us behind a bit. We made up as much ground as we could, but unfortunately the cautions just didn’t fall in our favor. We didn’t get the finish that I know we deserved, but we’ll take the positives of having seen major improvements in our intermediate track program with this new package. We’re making gains and seeing results every week.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 33rd: “After our strong qualifying effort with the No. 8 Bulwark FR/Wayne Workwear Chevrolet, clearly this was not the result we had hoped. The car was strong all weekend long and felt good in the pack. We were too free in traffic, but (crew chief) Luke Lambert and the guys worked on the handling each time we came to pit road. I made slight contact with the wall off Turn 2 late in the final stage and that eventually caused the right-rear tire to go down. The guys did all they could to clear the tire, but the rubber wrapped around everything under the car and we lost a lot of laps getting it fixed. We will keep our heads high and look to rebound next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Brad Keselowski, finished 36th: “Something broke out of nowhere.  We weren’t going very fast or anything, and something in the back of the car broke and it won’t go.  It’s one of those really important parts, as Kenny Schrader would say.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 37th: “A part broke off and leaked all the water out, so that’s the way it goes. It just seems that’s the way this season is going. We’ve had a shot to win pretty much every race, and something happens. That’s getting old, but the car is fast. That’s the bright side, but I’m kind of tired of looking at the bright side. I want to actually start finishing where we should. It’s just one of those days.”

What Drivers Said after Martinsville

Leave a comment

Brad Keselowski had just enough to hold off a late charge by runner-up Chase Elliott and third-place finisher Kyle Busch to win Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Here’s what drivers had to say about their day:

Brad Keselowski – winner: “The car was really good – this Ford Mustang. You know, Ford worked really hard in the offseason to build these cars and make them real strong and so far, so good. It’s just a great day for our team, awesome execution on pit road and big credit to Doug Yates and all the engine guys. Those guys work really hard and it’s just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver, where you’ve got a great car. I don’t know if we were as good as the 9, Chase Elliott. He was really strong, but he passed me there with about 200 to go and I watched him and studied him and kind of broke it down and knew what I had to do to hold him off with that fast of a car and we were able to pull it off that last run with the Reese/Draw Tite Ford.”

Chase Elliott – finished second: “It was really tough. Our NAPA Camaro was good. I felt like we were about as even with him (Keselowski) as we could be. When I did get the lead, I felt like there was a little advantage to being out front and being able to work traffic your way and play off it and whatnot. But, yeah, I tried to move up there at the end and I don’t know if I could have got to him. Maybe if I moved up a little sooner, maybe. But, I tried to get to him there in (Turn) 3, but maybe next time.”

Kyle Busch – finished third: “I had a nose underneath the 2 (Brad Keselowski) there in the middle of (turns) three and four and he just chopped my nose off. Normally when you hit a guy, they move out of the way. Instead it seemed like my car had to move out of the way and then the 9 (Chase Elliott) got by me so we ended up finishing third. That was a lot better day then we probably should have had and we made the most of our opportunity with our M&M’s Camry. … (We needed) more raw speed. We were just kind of off a little bit. We didn’t qualify good and I didn’t think we were very good in practice. Not as good as we typically are here. Just lacking a little bit of something. From where we ran midway point of the race to where we finished there, that was a really good turnaround. I’m thankful to have Adam Stevens and all of my guys that work so hard for me and give me everything I need here for this M&M’s Camry to stay up front and be up front and come home with a top five again here at Martinsville.”

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for points report

Ryan Blaney – finished fourth: “Long runs, that’s what I needed. I needed long runs and I didn’t want to see that last caution. For like a110-lap run to the finish is what it was gonna be, 120, I was like, ‘Man, that’s perfect. We’re gonna get them here.’ Our car was just starting to come to us. We just got to third and the caution came out and I was like, ‘I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to fire off alright,’ and we didn’t and we kept losing spots on pit road and you can’t have that. We would lose at least one or two spots every time we’d come down pit road and you can’t win races like that. We’ve got to clean that up, but, overall, a solid day, it’s just that those guys had a good short-run car and that’s just what it came down to. I was more 50 laps or more, but the last three weeks have been pretty smooth for us. We just have to keep having weekends like this and maybe we’ll be able to win one of these things. … (On teammate Brad Keselowski’s win) He put it on them today. It looked like from the drop of the green flag he was great. Him and the 9 looked like they had some really good racing going on for a while. They swapped back and forth, so that was good for him. He’s great here. He’s proven to be one of the best guys out here. They were on it all day. Like I said, we were kind of swapped. He was better than me short run and I was a little bit better after 50 laps, but it didn’t come down to that. It’s nice for him to get the Penske group another win and get Ford back to Victory Lane.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “It’s just one of those days where one guy hit it and was just a little bit better than everyone else, and everyone else was chasing. It seemed like we were the next car in line after the 9 (Chase Elliott), so probably a third place car. We just finished fifth because we lost there on pit road. We have a lot of races where we always have to battle back from the back of the pack, but certainly another top five and overall steady day. We just needed a little bit more speed and a little bit more handling to run with the 2 (Brad Keselowski). … (Being frustrated with pit road mistakes) we’ve got to get better. We know that. We’re struggling a little bit right now for sure, but certainly it’s a team thing. Last week I had a speeding penalty so it all equals out. If you’re not going to be the best car, you have to execute perfectly. The best car didn’t falter so it wouldn’t have made a difference either way, but certainly cost us maybe one or two spots today. Nothing to hang our heads about. Overall a good day.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “It was an OK day for us. I think as you look at our Martinsville stuff it’s been hit or miss. I feel like I was a little better than the 11 and the 12, but you’ve got to be able to get by them on the restarts. We just never could get the car right all day and be able to let off the brake and roll to the center of the corner. It was definitely not what we wanted, but not a bad day for us at Martinsville. … We just were a little bit off rolling speed to the center of the corner and I couldn’t quite get to the throttle like I needed to and kind of just, I don’t know, we could kind of hold our ground on the restarts, not really gain anything, and track position was a big deal.”

Clint Bowyer – finished seventh: “I don’t think anybody obviously had anything for the 2 or the 9 made some adjustments there early and was really fast. I think we were a top three car for sure, but we kept beating ourselves. … I guess we need to get our stuff together on being on the same page with that pit road speed. It’s such an important thing and such a big part of this style of racing, where track position is everything. We push it to the limit, but it’s so hard to practice pit road speed. You’ve got trucks on pit road when you’re trying to practice that. I’m not making any excuses, it’s just when you’re trying to pinch every little thing out of it, it was hard this week to practice pit road speed because of all the stuff on pit road. … It’s obviously on us. We just weren’t on the same page. It’s frustrating. It is what it is. We just have to quit beating ourselves.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished eighth: “It was tough. We started ninth and finished eighth. It sounds pretty simple. Actually we started eighth. A lot of stuff we worked on in between. Just really could never get the handle all day long. Too loose off the corner. I couldn’t get forward drive. No matter what we did it seemed like we couldn’t get it. We struggled a little bit. I thought we were going to be better than that today. Good job by the guys. A nice consistent day. We just didn’t have anything special. … We just missed it a little bit. We were really good yesterday in practice. Martinsville is a weird place. You can be the best car in practice and finish 20th in the race. We were too good yesterday I guess. Just fought one thing all day, a terminal problem, and really couldn’t do anything to get it better.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “We just lost a lot of track position on pit road today and then the 18 got in my left-rear quarter on one of those restarts. I got together with the 19 off two and had to check up a little bit and the 18 kind of bonsai’d it down there into turn three and about wiped me out. I lost 10 or 15 spots and then we fought track position the rest of the day. Every time we’d pass a bunch of cars and get back in the top six or seven we’d have a horrible pit stop and come back out 13th or 15th. It was just a long, long, tough day.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 10th: “We were good in the long run, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of longer runs the rest of the day. felt like in the long run maybe my car was the best, but the short run wasn’t as good. It’s funny because yesterday it was the opposite, but something good to build on and hopefully we can keep going in the right direction. … The consistency was good. I wish we had a little bit more speed on the short run, but it was a decent day. It’s something good to build on and hopefully we can keep getting better.”

Ty Dillon – finished 13th: “Our GEICO Camaro was extremely fast, but we had two speeding penalties. To finish 13th after starting 22nd and having those two penalties, that shows how much speed we had today. I am very proud of our day, and you can always say ‘what if’, like if we didn’t have the penalties – where would we have been? But I am really proud of our effort, and this is what we envisioned three years ago in doing. Just getting better every year and making sure we had taken the right steps to be where we needed to be in year three. We just want to keep going in that direction and I think if you look at Phoenix, Martinsville, and these short tracks, we have gotten better and better every year. I think as we continue to grow we are going to be more and more competitive at the short tracks. We just have to get it where we are running top-15 at the 1.5-mile tracks, and then we can be really competitive.”

Alex Bowman – finished 14th: “When the clouds came out we got a whole lot worse. That is a bummer because we were running ninth or 10th right before that. Really good execution today. We weren’t fast, but we had good execution today and it’s one of those days where you can go home and feel pretty good knowing you did everything you could. Pit stops were really, really good and adjustments were good for the most part. So, we didn’t have the race car we needed, but the team executed today really well.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana

Leave a comment

Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, highlighted by Kyle Busch’s historic 200th career NASCAR win:

KYLE BUSCH — WINNER:Feels just like number one. Feels just like yesterday. Man, that was such an awesome racecar. I mean, dang. This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today. I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway. It takes green to get in Victory Lane today. Today is St. Patty’s day. All these other guys were at a disadvantage. The Interstate Batteries Green Machine was flying today. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200, I mean, whatever it means, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to all my guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. You guys are all the best. Toyota, TRD. It’s an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs. I cherish every minute of it, love it always. Just wish that we could keep it going, keep it going like this, running strong, running well, and winning these races. … (His goal when he decided to become a NASCAR driver) I think the original goal was just to get to NASCAR and then once I got here, it was to win a race. Once it was winning a race then it was about trying to sustain and being able to be a winner here and to be a champion here. To have the opportunities to continue down the line to be able to be successful each and every year and we’ve been doing that. We’ve only won one title, but certainly I feel like I have the best team out there right now and we just have to be able to do it all year long.”

Joey Logano – finished second: “We were racing hard and no matter who got to the lead, the 18 was going to pass us. He was the best car today. We have some work to do to get faster but the team did a great job today. We held strong today with the Auto Club Ford Mustang. You want to win at the home track of your sponsor. We gave it a solid run. I hate being that close. The last few laps you are running up against the wall and he had a big enough lead to kind of cruise a little and you are just hoping a lap car gets in the way or something. It was solid. We have a lot of momentum on this race team right now.”

Brad Keselowski – finished third: “We were really good and got to the lead there on that last run but I just couldn’t quite keep it there. It was a good effort by the team and we were right there in position and we gave it all we had. … (On Kyle Busch’s win) It is really fast through the corners and that is always good. That is really important and he had that today. I gave all I had for him. I got in front of him and tried my best to hold him off, we just fell off too much.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: “We raced well today. My guys did a great job on pit road. Our car was better than it was in practice. I didn’t have anything for the Penske cars or the 18 car. They did a great job of racing hard all day and we made a lot out of the west coast swing with not very much. We have some work to do but we know you still have to go race. Our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang was okay today and we got a decent finish. My guys did a great job. We didn’t have much that we thought was going well this weekend but they made the car better and did a great job of keeping us in the game. It raced well and we had a great day on pit road. We overachieved today and I am really proud of everyone on the team for that. We have done that four weeks in a row but when you come to this west coast swing you have what you have and we left here with four top-10’s and three top-fives over the first five races. I am proud of everybody for that. It isn’t always going to be good. You have to try to figure out how to do things better when they aren’t going very good and our guys have done that.”

Ryan Blaney – finished fifth: “We ran pretty decent all day. We just weren’t very good the first run but we got a lot better. We had a lap and a half on our tires when the caution came out. I thought if I could control the race from the front row and be the leader that I might be able to hold on because I thought our car was pretty good at the time. I was fourth by the time we got to turn one. I got no push. It took 10 laps for it to come in and we were eighth and drove back to fifth. We had a really fast PPG Ford Mustang, we just never got the lead or track position with equal tires and that hurt us but overall not a bad day.”

Kurt Busch congratulates brother Kyle Busch on his 200th career NASCAR race win. Photo: Getty Images.

KURT BUSCH – finished sixth: We had a good day. I was just hoping to get a top 5 and came home just a bit short. But the growth rate of us at Ganassi and the adjustments we’re making, I couldn’t be happier. I’m smiling as I’m driving the car. It’s so much fun to toss it down in there with all this downforce and the horsepower, you just pitch it sideways and see if it’s going to stick. But, we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s awesome to run up front. I’m smiling. But, we know at our growth rate, we’re not on a plateau yet. I’ve got to keep going. … (On brother Kyle’s 200th career win) This is a big day. For my little brother to have 200 wins, they’re all added up through his hard work and his dedication to perfection. Not bat for two kids with an attitude from Vegas.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “I thought that was very typical California. The restarts were wild and crazy like we always see here and track position was king. We got strung out and fought track position a lot today. The cars are very difficult to drive in the wake of air of the cars in front of you. It is very challenging. The restarts are definitely exciting. The fans get their money worth for a few laps at least. All in all it was a great day for our Farmer John Ford Mustang. We got to lead some laps in the beginning. We just never made the right adjustments. We were a tick off all day. We had a top-six car and lost some track position and that is all we could do to muster you a ninth place finish.”

Austin Dillon – finished 10th: “We had a really fast Dow Chevrolet this weekend and we have shown speed all year. We earned the pole award and ran well within the top-five until the end of Stage 1. I could feel the right-rear tire going down and brushed the outside wall. The No. 3 team did a great job keeping me on the lead lap during multiple pit stops for repairs. The Dow Chevrolet remained fast. It was just an uphill battle to reclaim track position. Through hard work, we were able to finish 10th. I’m so proud of this team.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 13th: “We had another good Haas Automation Mustang this weekend. We have a few things we have to clean up as a team with pit road, etc., but we had a good car. We had a top-10 car and we showed that at some points, but we’re still learning each other and we’ll get better and better the longer we work with each other.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 14th: “We started the race really good. The later in the race, our Fastenal Ford just got too tight. We gambled there early on but spun out on the restart which set us back all race. We kept fighting and restarted sixth for the final 31 laps but just couldn’t hold on. It was still a decent finish for us overall in the big picture.”

Ryan Newman — finished 22nd: We just struggled with the handling all day and once we fell a lap off the pace it was hard to make up ground. Our team worked hard all weekend and we showed some good speed, so we’ll take that as a positive and move on to Martinsville next week.”

Ty Dillon — finished 27th: We had a really great GEICO Camaro ZL1 at the start of this race. It was handling the best it had all weekend. My guys had found something that was going to work and keep our good finishes going, but the flat tire under green at the end of Stage 1 really hurt us. We had strategy plans to get our laps back if we could ever catch the cautions that we needed, but those just didn’t happen. It’s unfortunate that a tire ruined our day, but that’s not going to get this team down. We are going to keep grinding and working hard to be ready for Martinsville next weekend.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 33rd: “I hate it for everyone on this No. 8 Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet team. We had a strong run going and had worked from the 17th spot to racing inside the top 10 by the end of Stage 1. I was racing in heavy traffic once we went back green, and the air just sucked me up the track and I made contact with the outside wall exiting Turn 4. That damage cut the right rear tire and we had to pit under green to repair the damage. Unfortunately, we had another flat right rear, which caused even more damage. Nobody on this team gave up and I am proud of them for doing all they could to repair the damage. The car still had speed, but without the help of many cautions, we never really had the chance to get those laps back and then we had a flat left front in the closing laps, which hurt us even more.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 38th: “I felt like we had the car dialed in today better than we had all weekend, and we were looking pretty good early. But she started vibrating and you could smell something, so we were probably on borrowed time. I’m disappointed for the Rush and Haas folks who came out today hoping to see us run up front.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyle Busch, winner: “We knew the 12 (Ryan Blaney) was really, really fast. He was probably the best car here this weekend. I don’t know if he just got too tight in that long run. That’s what it looked like all of us were doing. Just seemed like I could get through there a little bit better. I tried to search around and find something that could help me to get me going a little bit better and get around to his outside and get the lead. Just an awesome day for us here at ISM Raceway. To come out here and celebrate with another win – back-to-back races here — I’d love to be able to come back and do it again next time.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished second: “We did save quite a bit (of fuel) there. The car was really fast there at the end. Just a good day overall for our Bass Pro Camry. Everybody at JGR and TRD and everybody back at the shop are really doing a good job. Our boys in the pits did a good job today as well, so thanks to Cole (Pearn, crew chief). James (Small, engineer) and all the guys, we’re starting to click. We’re a little bit off on Fridays and that’s getting us behind, but I feel like each weekend as the weekend goes, we’re getting a little strong and a little stronger. Two second places is pretty decent. We’ll just keep chipping away at it. Had a fun day today and congrats to Kyle (Busch) and those guys.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 3rd: “Honestly, we hung on better there on two tires than I thought we would.  Fired off really good.  Got Kyle (Busch) a little bit.  I was kind of riding trying to save tires, save gas.  They were telling me we were really close on gas just doing two.  I think he was kind of riding back there, too.  I think they knew what situation I was in.  Started to get real tight. I got to the lap cars, and I was done. Then when we got past the lead, just full‑on fuel save mode.  A good recovery.”

Aric Almirola, finished 4th: “We had a good car, but we’re just not quite as good as we need to be.  We still have work to do, but I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.  We keep chipping away.  That’s three top 10s in a row, our first top five of the year, so we’re getting there.  Our cars are getting a little better, but we just have to keep working and keep finding more speed.  We have a great race team and we’ll continue to improve on what we’ve got, so we’ll just keep working.  Our Smithfield Ford Mustang was decent, but just not quite good enough.”

Denny Hamlin, finished 5th: Frustrating. Trying to get track position when you have a fast car. You just can’t drive through the field. You have to be patient and wait on everyone to kind of mess up or you’ve got try to run a different line, but when you do it’s just too much distance. Just the frustration of having a faster car and you can’t pass.”

Kyle Larson, finished 6th: “It was a clean day for us, so I was happy about that. Had some really good restarts that kept us in the game. We worked on our balance throughout the race, tried to free it up and got too free and then had to go back on changes to tighten us back up. So yeah, to come away with a sixth is nice after the last couple of weeks we’ve had of just making mistakes. Even this week we made a big mistake in qualifying, but thankfully, we were able to work through it.”

Kurt Busch, finished 7th: “I’m glad we got a top 10. We had to battle hard for this one. We didn’t do really good on pit road and we didn’t really do good on restarts, but overall with the Global Poker Chevy it was nice to have a read on some looseness and tightness at a short track and get more notes under our belt. That is key for me and Matt McCall (crew chief). Awesome, fun, running with (Kyle) Larson. The two of us got a pretty good read on each other on when we are holding each other up or if we are helping each other. Then at the end they told me I was about a lap shy on fuel, so I had to save and I just let Larson go and it worked out. To have two Ganassi cars sixth and seventh, top Chevy’s that is good stuff.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 8th: “It’s not a victory, but it’s definitely a solid day for the Ally Chevrolet. These guys have been working so hard at Hendrick Motorsports to get us more and more and we took a good step in the right direction. I even think at Vegas we were better than where we finished. Once we lost track position, we struggled the second half of the race. Atlanta was terrible, can’t say anything different there.  We are learning each week and I still think we have some catching up to do, but certainly a solid performance. Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) called a great race, it was really tricky with strategy, two tires, four tires, our pit crew had to adjust mid-pit stop one time and go from four to two and everybody responded really well.”

Kevin Harvick, finished 9th: “It took us I don’t even know how long to get past cars that were six, seven, eight-tenths slower than us at the end of the race, so just extremely difficult to pass.  We got shuffled there on the restarts and just decided to come down and get tires and see if we could do something better than being in the middle on two tires, and it took us a long time to get back going.”

Joey Logano, finished 10th:  “It was really, really, really, really, really hard to pass. You start to catch a car and you just stop. That big spoiler on the back just makes it really, really challenging to even get to the car in front of you to make something happen, so restarts became everything. If you can get through the first couple laps and settle out, you were fine. It’s just very challenging behind a car to even keep up to speed and then what happens is you get behind him and that makes the tires mad and you go slower. You’re better off just getting there and riding and hopefully that car falls off enough to where you can maybe get close enough to make a move or wait until there’s a lapped car and try to make a pass or something like that. That was tough. That was hard.”

Ryan Newman, finished 12th: “We definitely showed improvement from last week, which is a good sign for the weeks to come. Our No. 6 Oscar Mayer team worked hard after practice yesterday to make some changes, which showed once we took the green. Although we wanted a top 10, we’ll take the result, improve and move on to Fontana next week looking to capitalize on the momentum.”

Ty Dillon, finished 15th: “Today was a great day for our GEICO Racing team. We consistently ran inside the top 20, kept making adjustments to fine tune the handling, and then got ourselves in a position to run inside the top 15. I know this is what our Germain Racing team can do every single week and I’m proud of all the hard work that is going into building faster race cars. We will keep building on top-15 finishes like this and I know good things will continue to happen for our team.”

Alex Bowman, finished 35th: “We have just been too tight since we unloaded and couldn’t figure out how to fix it. We were pretty good as long as there was air on the nose, but get buried in traffic and we were just way too tight. It’s unfortunate, obviously, finishing that first stage fourth we had a good race car just had to have clean air and without that we were way too tight.”

Michael McDowell, finished 36th: “I just came off the corner and I noticed that the throttle pedal was gone. I knew I was in trouble at that point because it was still wide-open, so I tried hitting the ignition and jumping on the brakes and did everything I could to keep it up against the wall and try not to make a big mess. I was trying not to run into the car in front of me, which I think was Menard. I was just jamming on the brakes as hard as I could to try to get it to slow down and not take a bunch of people with me.”

Check back for more.

What drivers said after the Atlanta Cup race

1 Comment

Brad Keselowski, winner: “I think any win means a lot, but (60 overall wins with Team Penske is) a big number.  Now I get to wear that yellow Mark Donohue helmet. … We’re going to wear it next week. But what a tremendous honor.  This day is ‑‑ wow, I don’t even know how to put it in words. I’m just excited for this team, first race with the new rules or whatever they’re called now, and to be able to win it, that’s really special, as well, and I know everybody here is excited about that, and just a great day overall for Team Penske and our Ford Mustang.”

Martin Truex Jr., finished 2nd: Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated, you know – lapped cars. They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame. We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down and I know they were racing for the lucky dog, which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) … he just wouldn’t let me by. He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. My spotter kept telling his we need the bottom. These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him. Hell, I still ran down the 2 (Brad Keselowski) in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”

Kurt Busch, finished 3rd: “I could say that wasn’t anything fantastic or exciting, but it really was. To finish third on our second outing together and to run with the who’s-who of the sport just shows Ganassi’s got the right stuff. (Kyle) Larson had a tough break. We caught a good break to get on the lead lap with (Joey) Logano and to race in the top five at the end; but all in all, for us to get gelled together to learn what loose and tight was, but man, I just struggled in Turns 3 and 4 and that’s where I got arm-wrestled. They took us but hey, we’re top five in this kind of run.

Kevin Harvick, finished 4th: “We had a good race. It just felt like we were one step behind all the way from Friday. We made it the best it had been there at the end of the run. When we got the shadows in (Turns) 1 and 2 and cooled off our car got way too tight and started chattering the right tire. We made it a lot better at the end though. Our Busch Beer Ford had a solid day though and we were able to adjust on the car and make it better throughout the day. We just got really tight in the middle of the race and we just ran out of time.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 5th: “Our run wasn’t pretty. I knew our car had great speed. Obviously from practice and qualifying. Racing is a different beast, especially at Atlanta. You have to take care of those Goodyears. The way I had it, it felt like I was on top of the track skating around too much. We made good air pressure adjustments and got the grip level back in my race car to where I could compete. It is just weird. You see cars that are kind of up, cars that are down, cars that are dragging, cars that aren’t. Trying to figure out the right scenario for this is going to be interesting. You have to remember, this is a one-off race. There is no track that we go to anymore that is as slick as this and as hard on tires. It will be interesting to see what Las Vegas brings.”

Kyle Busch, finished 6th: “We had a hell of a day. We had a hell of a weekend. On the Cup side, we just had no fun this weekend, so it was really unfortunate for us. Guys worked hard and persevered and we battled through and took probably a 16th, 14th-place finish in our Camry and ended up sixth with it, so not too bad I guess.”

Erik Jones, finished 7th: “It’s not really a lot different honestly than what I thought old Atlanta was a lot like. I don’t think there was any more passing, I don’t think there was any less passing. I think it was kind of the same. It’s just different. Just a different way of going about it. Our DeWalt Camry was pretty good, but just a different race for sure than it has been.”

Aric Almirola, finished 8th: “Clean air was a big deal. Early in the race our car was really fast out front and when we got behind in second it still felt like we were a second or third-place car. Then I made a terrible mistake getting onto pit road and was three-tenths mph too fast and that is too fast. I had to go to the tail and then my goodness was it a challenge. Traffic, cars make so much downforce and we are all going so fast that it is really hard to make passes until late, late, late in the run. So, that is my fault. We had a really fast Smithfield Ford Mustang and it was driver error that made the mistake and that hurt the rest of our day.”

Chris Buescher, finished 9th:  “I knew that 24th-best finish stat (previous best Atlanta finish) and that was disappointing to me. I knew we were going to better it today about after the first stage. Everybody on this Scott Comfort Plus Camaro ZL1 did a great job. This group worked hard. We made big swings to get up there and to start 30th and be able to get a top 10 out of this thing, I’m proud of them. That was fun. That helped get us out of that hole or start to dig us out of that hole we got in with The Big One at Daytona. Just puts everyone in a good mood and Ryan (Preece) was running good too and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I know something a little bit out of his control. I think this is a sign of good things to come. We’ve got some more work to do, but heck of a start.”

Kyle Larson, finished 12th:  “I had a good day going until I sped (on pit road). My car handled really good and then once I got where I had to restart in the back, I was just really tight. Yeah, I mean, clean air is even more important nowadays than in the past I think, at least at a track like this. That was a little disappointing, but more so just upset at myself for making a big mistake like that.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 20th: “Just had a crazy day. I thought we were going to put ourselves in position to have a solid day. I made a lot of mistakes, way too many mistakes than what you can make at this level to even have a shot to run top five and still found ourselves in position there to do it and just had a right front tire come apart on our Alsco/Red Kap Camaro ZL1. That was the end of it, but the good thing is I feel like it put a little motivation in everybody here at RCR. That is the kind of race cars we have to have at the race track every week to give ourselves a shot. It was fun to drive, fun to pass people and look forward to next week.”

Ty Dillon, finished 25th: “This GEICO Racing team battled all day. We didn’t fire off how we wanted to at the start. Our Camaro ZL1 was just too tight in traffic and would fall off from there. This team kept working though. My crew chief made great changes, and my team had clean stops on pit road. We really had it handling how we needed it to by the middle of Stage 2. We were running similar lap times to the leaders at the end, and I was really happy with it. There is no doubt that our team learned a lot today with this new package. I’m proud of their hustle and that we kept improving throughout the race. Now we’ll turn our focus to Las Vegas.”

Ryan Preece, finished 35th: “I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t speeding. And when I looked up, he (BJ McLeod, No. 52) was coming in the pits. So, it’s a mistake. What are you going to do? It’s just unfortunate for us because we were having a really good run. Like I said, we are going to have some good cars this year. So, if we can keep that, we’ll be really good at Vegas and I’m just really proud of everybody with JTG and Kroger. There’s nothing else you can do other than that. So, I’m looking forward to next week.”

Check back for more.