What drivers said after Richmond

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(Finishing positions have been updated to reflect Erik Jones‘ disqualification)

Martin Truex Jr. – winner:Man, I don’t know what to say, I really don’t. I’m speechless, just an unbelievable job by all my guys. Toyota, TRD, Bass Pro, Auto Owners, everybody back at the shop, you guys built some unbelievable race cars right now. Had a heck of a race with Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) all night long really, and we just kept plugging away at it, kept plugging away at it, as we always do. We just keep digging and we never quit. Next thing you know, catching (Busch( for the lead, I’m like, ‘cool, all right, here we go.’ Man, to sweep Richmond finally is pretty awesome, as much as we’ve led here coming into this year, and just thanks to everybody. It’s pretty amazing. … (On the spin and coming back to win) Luckily I didn’t hit anything. I just tried to keep it off the fence, tried to get spun around and get going, and we ended up – because we were pretty far up front, we got going in a pretty good spot and left pit road in a good position and then good adjustments at the end again by (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and James and the guys. This is just freaking unbelievable, so we came here to get bonus points and damn sure we did that”

Kyle Busch – finished second:I don’t think we were as good as him all night long. Martin, the car, the combination thereof, us, the combination of, just lacked a little bit. You know, like (Hamlin) lacked a little bit more than us. Just weird, I don’t know. We led a lot of laps. We were up front a lot. But when I was out front, he could keep the closest distance to me. That kind of worried me for a finish like that in the long run. But our M&M’s guys did a great job, and we brought a fast race car here to Richmond, and I think all the JGR cars were pretty respectable there, so really awesome job by everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, and being able to have some really good pieces to go out there and race with.

(You’re now locked in to the second round. How do you treat next week’s Roval race at Charlotte) Last year I thought we were going to be all right and finish okay, but then we all decided to follow everybody else off a cliff. It was pretty ugly. But overall just – you try to go into that race, it’s a newer type of track, and I don’t know that everybody has got it quite figured out exactly yet. With this new aero package it’s going to be different and of course, too, with the new chicane it’s going to be different. We can go out there and attack it and try to try to get a win, try to get some stage points, get ourselves a bit of a cushion here, I guess, more over the rest of the guys.”

Denny Hamlin – finished third:Just seemed like the long run speed they really had quite a bit more and a little bit more turn, a little bit more forward drive, just everything – every little bit. It just seemed like it was about a half a tenth a lap there on average, and (Truex) just had a really good long-run car. We were kind of third best there, that’s kind of where we ended up. Happy with maximizing the day that I thought I was capable of, and good effort, and we’ll go to the Roval and have some fun now. … (You’re now 55 points above the cut line. How much assurance does that give you going to the Roval?) Pretty sure. You know, just go there, run a normal race, everything should be fine. We just try to move to the next round and go to work from there. I think we’re really close to where we need to be. Every time we come back to a track for the second time, it seems like we run quite a bit better. Tonight we were just a hair off.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Brad Keselowski – finished fourth:It’s definitely not good news. We’ve got work to do. They’re really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them. We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it. … We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win.”

Ryan Newman – finished fifth: “It was just a good team effort, good pit stops. The strategy wasn’t a whole lot to it, just put four tires on, but had a good short-run car. One time we had a good long-run car, but we could never get both. I think that if we would have had both we could have ran with those guys, but we were at our best probably when we were just hold good bias to a long-run car, but who would have known there were gonna be that many green flag runs. … (Good points night?) Yeah, but I would have much rather won.

(Is this the best performance of the year?) Yeah, without a doubt. The best team performance all-around throughout the entire weekend. We failed at qualifying. We got the car too tight, but, overall, just a great team effort to get the Roush Performance Ford a good run. What meant to me the most probably was just being better than we were the first race. We ran ninth in the first race and qualified (24th) we came back and showed that we were learning and we’ll keep learning. … (Are you looking forward to the Roval?) I don’t know that I’m looking forward to the Roval, I don’t really know anybody that actually is, except for maybe Truex.”

Kyle Larson – finished sixth: “If maybe I could have gotten a better restart there that last time, I could have been a spot or two better. But, we ran better than I thought I would. At the beginning of the race I was kind of falling back. But, then we made it better each stop. Actually, I had a pretty good car in the long run there at the end. So, I was happy about that. And, I haven’t seen the points, but it seemed like a lot of guys had a bad night. So, I’m sure we gained a little bit on the cutoff, so that’s always good.

(How do you take this into the Roval?) Yeah, just have another clean run. Just don’t make any mistakes. We didn’t make any mistakes tonight. Our pit crew was really good tonight, with the exception of one stop. But, other than that, we gained spots every time and we might have even gained spots on the stop that didn’t feel great. So, it was a really good night for them. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

Kevin Harvick – finished seventh: “(You’ve clinched into the second round on points. How does it feel?) It’ll be a nice week at home. I think it allows everybody to really go and the biggest thing is you want to go try and learn what you need to do to run fast there, so this week we’ll go to the simulator and try to transfer that to the race track and see how practice goes and then we’ll see how the weekend goes. You definitely still want to go there and get a race win or something that will go forward with you and also learn something for the future.”

Clint Bowyer – finished eighth: (How was your night?) It was solid. I was hoping for more, for sure. I was expecting a little bit more to be honest with you, but we did what we had to do. We gave ourselves a fighting chance going into Charlotte. I knew Richmond was gonna be an opportunity. We semi-capitalized on that opportunity, but looking forward to Charlotte. It’s gonna be fun for everybody involved. It’s do-or-die time. It’s the playoffs. You watch these football teams go through these playoffs and how exciting it is and it’s our turn to have that nerve-racking moments and do-or-die moments for your race team and your season, but I’m looking forward to it. … (You raced your teammates clean and hard?) Well, about as hard as you can run. We have to figure something out with this track and our package. I’m not sold that this is the best product we can do here. I love this place. I love the race track. I love this fan base, this area and everything ever since I started in this sport this has always been an action track and it’s lacking a little bit of that. I think we could do some things with maybe some PJ1 or sealer or tires – something. We need to try to make an adjustment, I really believe that.”

Daniel Suarez – finished ninth: “I feel like it was a clean day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the speed that we wish we had, but we worked very hard. We made good adjustments. The pit crew did a pretty decent job. They got better as the night went and we just had a top 10 car and finished in the top 10. We’re still working extremely hard to get that first win and hopefully we can make it happen soon.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 10th: “Just a solid performance and unfortunately missed our pit box on the second-to-last pit stop, and we had to dig out of that hole. But just a solid performance, and I think we could have been fifth or sixth if I didn’t miss the pit box. We worked our way back to (10th) and it was a solid qualifying effort and all three stages of the race which led to a respectable finish.”

Joey Logano – finished 11th: “It was a rough night. It was tough. We missed it at the start. I don’t know where, why how yet. It’s pretty confusing. We were decent in practice and on the long run I thought we were pretty good and we go to qualify and we were really tight, and then we start the race and we’re really tight. So many rounds and air-pressure and we hit everything we could hit to try to get the tight out of it. We got better and we went from not being able to stay on the lead lap and getting a couple lucky dogs and then towards the end we got semi-competitive. I wouldn’t say we were good, but a little closer to where we need to be. Overall, I think we had a 50-point cushion, I believe, over the cutline, so that’s a nice feeling going into the Roval. Maybe we can be a little more aggressive and try to get something there.

(Where do you think you stack up now?) Fifty points above the cutline. This track is confusing sometimes. I don’t know. We either run really good and capable of winning or we run like butt, and that’s kind of what happened today. I don’t know, but, like I said at least we swung at it and got something out of it.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 15th: “I made a huge mistake there after we pitted under green. I drove it down into Turn 3 and I thought (Truex) was gonna give me the top and then he went to the top, so I dove back to the bottom and when I did it got on the splitter and pushed up into him and spun him. All I was hoping for after that point was he’d come back and win, but our Fastenal Mustang was a top 10 car. We were running there and just a bummer two weeks in a row that I’ve cost us a good finish.”

Aric Almirola – finished 16th: “I thought our car was pretty good in practice and then tonight we were just off. We just struggled all night to get our car in the race track, really up on top of the race track not making any grip and then made too many mistakes. I sped on pit road and then we had a miscommunication on our green flag stop on when we were coming, and just too many issues. We need a cleaner race. We’re gonna have to be perfect next week at the Roval to get through.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 17th: “Overall, I thought it was a better night than what we had here, for sure. Sometimes we were running kind of close to the 15th area and that’s about where we were gonna finish and we had to come back in for a loose wheel there, it was going to be loose that last pit stop, so that kind of stinks to have to start behind everybody like that. By the time you get to the cars you’re racing your tires are wore out and it’s kind of like, ‘Dang it.’ We kind of salvaged a decent run at it here. At least we’re a little bit to the good, so hopefully we can have a solid race next week. … (What do you think about the Roval next week?) Everyone else has the same goal, so we’ll just try to do our jobs and not have any issues and see what happens.”

Austin Dillon – finished 22nd: “What a night. The Okuma Chevrolet was loose to start the race but I felt confident that Danny Stockman and everyone on the No. 3 team would be able to keep up with changing track conditions and make the adjustments needed to get us a solid finish tonight at Richmond Raceway. Unfortunately, our night became a lot more difficult after we made contact on a restart and ended up with a couple of flat tires. We fell off the lead lap when we pitted for repairs and spent the rest of the race playing catch up. We just couldn’t get the break that we needed to get back on the lead lap, which is a shame because we had a good Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.”

Alex Bowman – finished 23rd: “Yeah, we didn’t execute very well on top of it either. So, it’s definitely a bummer. We were really tight here in the spring and we came here trying to build a car that would turn really well. It did that, but it just didn’t have any drive. When you’re on stickers and the guys running 75 lap old tires are forward driving you, it’s not much fun. We didn’t have a good day. We didn’t have anything go our way either. We just struggled with the car all day. It’s a bummer, but Greg (Ives) and all of us will regroup and we should be strong next week.

(What is your outlook for the Roval?) Yeah, we qualified third and ran fourth there last year. So, we just have to get stage points and have a good day all day. If we don’t make the next round, we don’t really deserve to be there with how we are running right now. It’s definitely a bummer, but we have to get our stuff together.”

William Byron – finished 24th: “(Do you feel pressure going into the Roval?) It’s just great to have a shot. It’s just great to be even on the upside of it. And, I think if we can do that, I’m really optimistic for what we can do going forward. We’re just really fortunate to have another shot after a night like tonight and we can go forward and see what we have. … (How did you end up above the cut line at the end of the race?) I have no idea. I really didn’t know that was even a possibility. But, it was just a tough night. We started out far back and lost our first lap pretty quickly. We just couldn’t recover, we just kept getting lapped. So, we just move on from here and move on to the Roval. I think we have a good shot there to have a good result and hopefully compete for a top-5 or something like that would be nice. I’m really optimistic about that with how we’ve run at the road courses and hopefully that will work out for us.

(Even though it’s on the Roval, do you feel greater confidence going back to your home track?) Yeah, it’s definitely a combo. The back chicane is definitely a lot tighter than it was last year. So, I think we are going to have to really kind of judge the braking zone differently and it’s probably going to be a passing zone there. I think it’s going to be a totally different beast this year with that. At least we can look at the notes that we had for the other corners from last year and try to put that all together. I’m not really sure what to expect with that chicane, but it should be fun.”

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Daniel Hemric: ‘I’m not done’ after losing ride for 2020

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RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Hemric is confident as he figures out where he’ll race next year after Richard Childress Racing announced this week Hemric would not return to the No. 8 team after this season.

“I’m not done,” Hemric said Friday at Richmond Raceway.

Hemric said he is encouraged by the support he has received since the announcement this week.

“I’ve actually been very blown away by the support,” Hemric said. “It’s very humbling to have not only the people inside the industry but your peers as far as the guys you race with on the racetrack. Some of the stars of our sport reached out with their gratitude and their praise for what they feel like you’re doing on and off the racetrack. Those are the guys who really see you in the heat of the moment. Having everyone on that side support me like they have, I think that has led to a lot of phone calls and a lot of conversations with a lot of race teams over the past week. For that I”m thankful.”

Reigning Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick is expected to take over the No. 8 ride next year at RCR. As for Hemric, a rookie in Cup this year, he is open to any series for next year.

“I don’t think there is much more I could have done on this side to change the outcome, but with that being said, maybe it is time to rebuild the stock,” Hemric said. “Maybe go back Truck racing or Xfinity racing, or whatever the next opportunity is, to build that stock and show I can win. I’ve won in every single level that I ever ran full-time in on my way up the ladder.”

Hemric understands that even with that level of success early in his career, he’s never won in any of NASCAR’s three national series.

“People always talk about not winning races, hasn’t won a NASCAR race,” said Hemric, whose best finish this season is fifth at Talladega in April, one of two top-10 finishes he’s had this year. “On the flip side of that, I’ve said time and time again, you can go back to any interview I’ve ever done, I feel like I’ve always been a part of a build process. I’ve always been coming into race teams that need the work and as a driver, I’ve always had to work on myself as well. I kind of thrive under that.

“I don’t mind being a part of the build process. The success RCR has had as a Xfinity team this year I feel like started way back in 2017 between myself, Austin (Dillon), Ty (Dillon), and everybody running those cars as much as we were to get that program to where it’s at today. I feel like we were on that same path on the Cup side, we just haven’t seen it come to full vision yet.”

Now, Hemric’s vision will have to lead him elsewhere.

“It is late in the game and things have to start materializing pretty quick in order for me to land in a seat that I am hoping to get by next year in any form,” he said.

“I just want to make sure I end up in a good situation that can ultimately turn into a long-term deal down the road to be successful and desirable in the sport. You want to make sure you eliminate any possibility of something like this happening again. The best way to do that is to put yourself in a position where people can know you can win races. I’m looking forward to whatever is next. I’ve been down and out many of times. Everybody knows my situation, where I’ve come from, the things I’ve overcome to get to here. It’s not different. My back has been put against the wall and now that you’ve made it to the top level of the sport, I don’t care where I end up at. I’m not done.”

Martin Truex Jr. tops final Cup practice at Richmond

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Martin Truex Jr. was fastest in the final Cup Series practice session Friday at Richmond Raceway.

Truex, who won at Richmond in the spring, posted a top speed of 121.885 mph around the short track.

The top five was completed by Chase Elliott (119.861 mph), Daniel Hemric (119.268), Denny Hamlin (119.211) and Austin Dillon (118.995).

Hamlin had the best 10-lap average at 118.289 mph.

Matt DiBenedetto recorded the most laps in the session with 87.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Chris Buescher leads opening Cup practice at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. – Chris Buescher posted the fastest lap in the opening Cup practice Friday at Richmond Raceway.

Buescher led the way with a lap of 121.146 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (120.962 mph), William Byron (120.826), Kyle Busch (120.686) and Kyle Larson (120.487). Buescher was the only non-playoff driver in the top 10.

Sixth through 10th: Denny Hamlin (120.122 mph), Erik Jones (120.112), Ryan Blaney (120.101), Chase Elliott (119.946) and Ryan Newman (119.914).

Click here for Cup practice results

Kyle Busch had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 119.710 mph. He was followed by Larson (119.674 mph) and Hamlin (119.629).

Austin Dillon ran the most laps in the session at 66. He was 24th on the speed chart with a top lap of 119.200 mph.

Final Cup practice will be from 1:35-2:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Qualifying will be at 6:05 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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