Ryan: Even without plates, Talladega still served up a spectacular show

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Better plate than never?

That was a major question entering this year’s Daytona 500 — and particularly after a pair of lackluster races at Talladega Superspeedway last season.

The 2019 season opener marked the last superspeedway race before horsepower-sapping restrictor plates permanently were removed and replaced by the (similarly shaped) tapered spacers used to choke down engines at the rest of the tracks on the circuit.

The plates defined some of the most indelible moments, both tragic and triumphant, in NASCAR over the past three decades

So what would the post-plate era look like in NASCAR?

The 26 Hours of Talladega provided a definitive answer: A lot like most of everything that transpired on the biggest, fastest tracks in NASCAR for the previous 31 years.

Incessant chaos, crushed sheet metal and costly errors.

In other words, insanity on four wheels (as Marcos Ambrose infamously dubbed it) for 500 miles at a time.

It’s the bedrock upon which superspeedway racing happily has rested for three decades in the interest of entertainment (and, ostensibly, safety in ensuring speeds are manageable enough to prevent cars from sailing over catchfences with disturbing regularity at Daytona and Talladega).

After an off-year in 2018, NASCAR found its sweet spot in Sweet Home Alabama this season.

The most arbitrary form of racing delivered by NASCAR’s premier series again felt as predictably unpredictable as it ever had since the restrictor-plate era began in 1988. There were colossal crashes, double-crossing duplicity and razor-tight finishes.

That was great for fans. It wasn’t necessarily good for Cup drivers.

Of course, it rarely is in the finicky and violent environs of Dega, which was unusually tame last year with only two wrecks of at least a half-dozen cars across 1,013 miles (this year, there were three times as many).

The knock on plate racing in 2018 was the lack of driveability. It’s hard to make passes when cars aren’t stable at 200 mph-plus in the draft.

That put the leader at a huge advantage of being able to tow lines at will and control the front of the pack in a decidedly un-Talladega-esque manner. It was most evident last October when Stewart-Haas Racing led 155 of 188 laps with cars that (stunningly) were built for handling instead of speed.

NASCAR addressed this by raising spoilers to 9 inches with the advent of the spacers. That didn’t do much for handling, but it did punch a bigger hole in the air that caused massive acceleration in the draft and eradicated the “aero bubble” barrier that drivers said made it difficult for trailing cars to pass last year.

So the ability to catch the leader improved … even though handling didn’t nearly as much (look no further than Joey Logano’s in-car camera, which was a furious blur of hands manhandling the steering wheel on every shot).

That was a recipe for the return of the huge wrecks that felt like Dega of yesteryear. Holes in the draft vanished much more quickly, and blocking became futile as drivers scrambled (and often failed) to adapt to the higher closing rates.

If there was a theme, it was that misjudgment on blocking and bumping made the racing much more treacherous – particularly in the rain-shortened July 7 wreckfest at Daytona and the extravaganza Sunday-Monday.

As analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted in the NBC broadcast, though the bumpers don’t line up as well with the Gen 6 as in the previous iteration (which spawned the nefarious tandem drafting), the bump-drafting has become even more aggressive in the era of stage points and playoff berths tied to wins.

With bigger runs coming from every direction, an increased susceptibility to being passed and cars just as unstable when in a pack, the lead no longer was the place to be at Talladega.

There were more lead changes Sunday-Monday (46, up from 38 in the April 28 race) than the combined total (40) for both 2018 races. There were 22,214 green-flag passes (59 per lap) at Talladega in 2019, up from 13,294 last year (35 per lap).

A NASCAR without restrictor plates?

Talladega still served up the action for fans — on a silver platter strewn with twisted sheet metal, of course.


The situations weren’t entirely analogous, but NASCAR’s non-call on the final lap Monday was reminiscent of its controversial non-call on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winning pass of Matt Kenseth in the April 6, 2003 race at Talladega. In both instances, officials claimed the spirit of the yellow-line rule wasn’t violated even though the letter clearly was.

Here’s how the rule was presented in the drivers meeting at Talladega: “Drivers, this is your warning. Race above the double-yellow line. If in NASCAR’s judgment, you go below the double-yellow line to improve your position, you will be black-flagged. If in NASCAR’s judgment, you force someone below the double-yellow line in an effort to stop someone from passing you, you may be black-flagged.”

It’s indisputable that, just like Earnhardt did in passing Kenseth 16 years ago, Ryan Blaney went below the yellow line before taking the lead for good Monday from Ryan Newman. It’s possible that contact with Newman caused Blaney to dip below the boundary, and that seems to be NASCAR’s explanation in why no call was made.

But it also seems like the rule demands that (as it did in 2003) a penalty should have been called on either Blaney or Newman. NASCAR can rule that “in its judgment,” Blaney didn’t intentionally go below the yellow-line to improve his position … but if that’s the case, it means he had to have been forced there, right?

Regardless, NASCAR officials say they are happy with the language of the rule.

Given that it affords them tremendous leeway to turn every yellow-line pass into a ball and strike call, it’s easy to see why.


As many have noted, manufacturer alliances at Daytona and Talladega were invented long before the 21st century. In the 1990s, Chevrolet and Ford drivers regularly worked together – when possible — to try to ensure their makes won the race.

But there were some glaring differences about the tempest that sprung forth last weekend and sparked major disgruntlement among fans and media.

Chevrolet’s decision to call an in-race meeting at Garage Suite 3 in full public view was ill-advised, at best. The references afterward to shilling Corvettes and watching PowerPoints were too clever by a factor of maybe 100, and they also were indicative of why the optics were problematic.

Chevy’s extremely disciplined approach felt too corporate, and it seemed micromanaged to the point of making Michael Scott blush. Chastising drivers for racing three wide instead of single file while still in Stage 1 is hardly palatable to anyone in NASCAR, which has an appealing undercurrent of cutthroat intensity (especially at Daytona and Talladega).

It’s understandable why Jim Campbell demanded his Chevy drivers stay on script. The heat from GM headquarters in Detroit surely was unbearable after Hendrick Motorsports essentially helped Toyota win the Daytona 500. And Ford and Toyota drivers surely were given virtually the same marching orders at Talladega – just much more discreetly.

That might be the right line to choose next time.


The focus on manufacturer alliances wasn’t all bad, though.

It forced some good discussions on awkward topics into the open, and it raised important issues about how much influence manufacturers and teams should have in effectively determining race winners. If younger drivers for midpack teams essentially are told to subjugate themselves for the greater good (or risk being stripped of perks), is that a just sacrifice at a track that might offer their best opportunity at winning all year?

That conversation got shoved to the forefront by the weekend’s manufacturer debate. And it was nice that none of it actually mattered at the conclusion of a race that featured a passel of unheralded underdogs vying for the checkered flag.

It also could be indirectly good for NASCAR while continuing to court new manufacturers to enter with its next generation engine (which probably won’t happen until 2023). With the overall decline in the corporate sponsorship spend over the past decade, there are few entities investing as much in stock-car racing as the automakers.

At least they got good bang for their bucks at Talladega, particularly if you ascribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity.


Ryan Blaney still isn’t a favorite to reach the Championship 4 this season, but Monday might be remembered as a turning point if the No. 12 driver eventually wins a Cup title.

Ryan Blaney receives congratulations from teammate Joey Logano (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

There is enormous pressure on the 25-year-old to perform at Team Penske, which has been enjoying a worldwide results bonanza well beyond NASCAR that is impressive even for this storied organization. Never mind championship teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Blaney also is competing against winners of the Indianapolis 500, Bathurst 1000 and Rolex 24. If he makes the playoffs but still goes winless this year, it gets noticed more than it would at a less successful team.

It was important that his 2019 breakthrough happened at Talladega after a string of plate failures the past few years. Blaney’s Fords led four of the past six races at Talladega but didn’t finish higher than 11th in any of them. He finished seventh in the 2018 Daytona 500 despite having the best car and leading a race-high 118 laps.

The confidence-booster of making every right move over the final two laps (including the bold decision to choose the outside for the lead on the final restart) should go a long way toward making Blaney feel his place is secure at one of racing’s greatest teams.

 

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Bubba Wallace reveals to Dale Jr. intimate details about battle with depression

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In one of his most revealing interviews, NASCAR Cup driver Bubba Wallace explained why depression has been and remains a struggle for him.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver, who turns 26 today, appears with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Dale Jr. Download on both NBCSN (today at 5 p.m. ET) and on Dirty Mo Radio.

Wallace opened up about his battle with depression, the relationship he has with his parents, as well as his racing career.

Wallace first said he suffered from depression in May after an emotional breakdown earlier this year at Kansas Speedway.

On the Dale Jr. Download, Wallace expounded about his battle with depression.

I guess I’ve never looked at it as a sign of weakness or coming out and talking about any issue that I have,” Wallace said. “If you ask me, I’m going to tell you. I don’t know if it’s the bigger picture or light at the end of tunnel, but I was definitely in rough times there at Kansas. They were like, ‘What’s going on, you seem different?’ And I said, ‘I’m depressed, it’s as simple as that.’

For weeks and weeks (since then), I’m still getting thanked for talking about depression, that it’s helped so many people. I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was such a big deal.’ I was just asked what was going on, and I told them because I’m an open book. What you see is what you get. But it’s such a bigger deal than ‘I’m just depressed. Hey, I’m going through this, days are dark and long and I’m quiet and lonely and I’ve never been able to come out and talk about that. It’s signs of weakness and whatnot.’

Wallace went on to say:

I’m pretty good at holding things in. That’s my problem. I held it in for so long and it had just built up. I don’t talk. When I’m mad, I just hold it all in. That’s what’s ruined relationships and whatnot. I just hold it in and a day later it blows over and ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and you don’t realize the damage you’ve done.”

When asked if he now sees his public revelation as a regret or release, Wallace replied it’s been the latter.

A release, for sure, a release of emotions, anger, frustration, tears, sadness, darkness, loneliness, everything,” he said. “When I talked about it, it’s emotional to think about it to this day. There’s still days … it’s been a lot better, (but) there’s still days that I’ll go home, sit on the couch and just look at a blank TV.”

Wallace said he did see two therapists to help him deal with his problem.

I tried,” he said on the Dale Jr Download. “I went to counseling and people say there’s nothing wrong with counseling. I went and did that twice with a psychiatrist and psychologist and it was very weird, sitting there talking like this is what I’m feeling. ‘Well, why are you feeling this way?’ I don’t know, I just am. They said you’ve got to give it time, it’s not going to go anywhere in two weeks and I stopped going. I can’t do it.”

In one of his most revealing interviews ever, a very retrospective Bubba Wallace reveals a number of private details about his battle with his depression, his parents’ divorce and more on today’s Dale Jr. Download. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Earnhardt interjected he also has gone to therapy. Of the first few times of discussing his problems with a professional, Earnhardt felt relieved, noting: “This is an awesome person and I’d like to spend more time with them and we’ve become very close friends.”

Wallace said it’s been nearly four months since he went to therapy but continues to work on his problems on his own. It’s part of wearing his emotions on his sleeve and being an emotional person.

That’s how it’s always been, really,” he said. “I think I’m guilty of doing before I think, especially on the negative side. It’s like, uhhh, probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Wallace also talked openly about how his parents’ contentious divorce in 2016 impacted him.

This is the first time I’ve talked about (the divorce),” Wallace said. “That’s why I like this show, because honesty comes out. It’s like speak the truth, nothing but the truth.”

He shared more, including what happened after his mother told him: “Well, me and your dad got into it.”

That led to a physical confrontation Wallace said he had with his father.

The light switch went off, I got in my truck and went over and fought my dad, like swinging fists, just did before I thought. A physical altercation,” Wallace said. “For 15 years of racing it was me and him. And then that day, that was it.”

But things are starting to get back on track in his relationship with his father.

This year, finally my dad and I are making some progress,” Wallace said. “My dad is super hard-headed to talk to and just to make him understand things. I still love him to death, no matter what, right, wrong or indifferent, he’s still my dad.

Multiple times I did (extend an olive branch to his father). His favorite saying is, ‘Time shall heal all wounds.’ I’d say, ‘Hey man, wanna talk?’ He’d say, ‘Time shall heal all wounds.’ A couple months later, ‘Hey man, wanna talk?’ He’d say, ‘Time shall heal all wounds.’ You still have a little bit of that awkward tension there.”

Wallace cited his relationship issues with his father impacting him.

This is a big chunk of the depression I’ve had, losing your best friend,” Wallace said.

Catch the show on today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN or click here to listen to the entire podcast on Dirty Mo Radio.

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What drivers said after Dover

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Kyle Larson – winner: Everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressed next week at Talladega except for me. So, that’s good. The last time I was at Talladega, I was on my lid and I could still end up on my lid next week, but it doesn’t matter after this win. What a day! This Clover Chevy was really good. After the first stage, I kind of changed my driving style up and I felt like we made the car better at the same time. And, they really benefitted our long runs. That’s as good as I’ve ever been around, cutting the bottom, here. So, it was just a great combination here. To be fast in practice and then be good in the race and you get the win.

“I can’t thank all you fans enough for coming out. This cool weather was nice for a change. This is unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to win a Cup race here. I’ve been close a number of times, so to get a ‘Golden Monster’ (trophy) is pretty sweet. … A million dollars earlier this year (at the All-Star) was pretty nice but no, to win a playoff race, my first playoff victory, is special. I hope there’s another one in our future, especially in the next round. So, we’ll see what we can do. I kept saying that I felt really close to winning here, or anywhere, right now. Our pit crew has been doing a better job and the team is doing a better job and I’ve been doing a better job. We’s just got to keep it going now.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished second: (How big of a factor was traffic today?) It was about everything to be honest with you. We got the lead there at the end of Stage 2. Got that stage win. On the pit stop, we had the issue and lost track position and then the whole third stage we were behind. We were catching (Larson) at the end – we got close – but just unfortunate. We win and lose as a team. The guys will clean it up; I’m sure. It’s cool to come home second after that with how hard it was to pass. … (You earned 54 points today. How does that ease your mind heading to Talladega?) Yeah, it’s good. Every week is just about doing the best you can and getting all the points that you can. Positive day for us today. Had a shot at the win today and came up short. Been nice to have that win and the free pass, but second is the next best. Good job to all of the guys. Just a good solid day here at Dover. Wish we could have won again, but that’s how it goes.”

Alex Bowman – finished third: (It seemed like you got better as the race went on) Yeah, I mean I think we had a good car there to start. It’s just really hard to pass and it took a while for the track to widen out. I made up some track position and then I had an issue on a pit stop that kind of put us back behind some of the guys we just passed. We just have to keep working at it. Obviously, (Larson) and (Truex) were way out there, but we had a really good race car and I’m proud of my guys. I’m really proud of my race team and everyone for keeping their heads on straight. I’ll take it after last week. We got together with (Ryan Blaney) there off of Turn 2 really early and I was like ‘No, not again’. I’m glad he saved it. Just two cars going for one spot on the race track, nothing happened from there. We had a clean day. The only real issue we had was that one pit stop. But, aside from that pit stop, my guys were probably the fastest on pit road. I’ll take it for how good they are.”

Kevin Harvick – finished fourth: For us, we had a tight condition and just right off the bat we struggled with getting the front of our car to turn and we really just lacked overall grip for us. It was much different in the race today than it was in practice. … I would say that luckily this is a good race track for us and we were able to grind out a good solid finish and get some stage points on a day when a lot of people had trouble.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “(Talk about losing the lead late in Stage 2) I thought the 22 (Joey Logano) was trying to stay on the lead lap, but they said he was 24 laps down and so he was kind of air blocking us and we lost the lead, and we lost that stage. Then after that we lost control of the race and the track got tighter. There were no cautions to pick up the rubber. We just got tight. Once we lost control – lost the clean air – it was so difficult to pass. I needed to be up front with as tight as my car was, so I just lost the lead and backpedaled from there. Top five, this track, I’ll take it every week. … (You radioed in that you may be having engine issues, but you were able to finish the race. What happened?) I missed a shift on the last restart. The car changed tones and lost a little power, but it’s next year’s motor which is not concerning any more this year. Certainly, I was concerned that we weren’t going to make it.”

Kyle Busch – finished sixth: (How was your race?) I don’t know, speeding on pit road never helps. We probably finished about where we should’ve I guess, maybe one spot better, but that’s it. … (Where do you go from here heading to Talladega?) It’s a completely different thing. You try to go to Talladega and race and survive. I don’t even know, we haven’t talked about that. That’s Tuesday. We’ll figure it out.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished seventh: (How did you grind it out?) All day, inching forward. Very little by little. That was the team, just so you know. Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief) and my whole group, pit crew, everybody, making really good adjustments. This was the first time we’ve had Dumont Jets on the car in quite a while and I was like ‘this Dumont Jets car is flying’. But no, it took a lot of discipline today. The car was really fast. Even faster than seventh-place, but you get in situations with the dirty air and with the high downforce it was a lot harder to pass. The fastest drivers had to be a lot more disciplined. You had to stay behind them and not abuse your stuff and wait for traffic or situations to pounce.

(You’re not in the playoffs but there’s still a lot to race for. What do days like this mean?) It’s been big. It’s really neat. I love working with this team. They are such good people. I’m so appreciative to work with them. I’m so glad this whole second half of the season has really turned around where we have been knocking off a bunch of top 10’s, so it’s really important to us. We’re trying to get in the top 20 in points. We’ve been climbing up big time the second half of the year running where we probably deserved to run. I hate that we aren’t in the playoffs, because we have been contending like a Playoff car. But it is what it is. I’m just thankful we’ve had some good solid runs. This Toyota has been running fast.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished eighth: “I felt like we had a shot. When we were in clean air, our lap times were great. Just as everyone experienced, it was really tough to pass. We had a few things that set us back and lost track position throughout the day. But we had a really fast race car. We were able to pass some, which I don’t think many could pass at all. All in all, it was a good day. We ran better than eighth for most of it, but we just couldn’t finish higher. … (What are your thoughts about Talladega and Kansas?) Talladega is kind of its own animal. I think Kansas we’re really excited for and feel like we can control our own destiny. The high downforce tracks, the Hendrick cars have been more competitive. I know we are all excited to get back to Kansas and build off of what we’ve had the last month or two.

(Were you satisfied with the run today?) No, I mean we’re here to win the race and that’s where my heart and mind is. Throughout the day, I felt like we did have pace at times to run for the lead if we could just cycle through all the pit stops to get there. Unfortunately, we had some things happen on pit road. I had to avoid cars coming out of stalls and it just set me back. Coming in fourth and coming out ninth, I think the way it all worked out with the pit box location, I lost positions during each pit stop. So, just really tough to recover from that. I’m disappointed there, but in my heart, I know we’re going the right way.”

Kurt Busch – finished ninth: “Today, we started ninth, ran ninth, and finished ninth. It was about all we had. I was on the tight side and Kyle (Larson) was a little bit on the loose side, but we made it work. I’m happy for my teammate to win and advance. It was a good step for us to just have a nice, smooth day. We just never really found anything to help the car steer.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 10th: We started 17th and finished 10th, I don’t know. It was hard to pass. Extremely hard to pass. Almost impossible. You had to have a really, really good car. It was just kind of a struggle out there all day long for us. Our ITsavvy Ford was about where we came out about where we ran. I am looking forward to Talladega though because you can certainly pass there.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 11th: We had an okay day. We held serve. We came into the weekend 19 points up and we leave 20 points up with two big races in front of us. If we can have a great day at Talladega it would be huge. We are due for another great run there. … (Two of your teammates had issues. Were you nervous?) Oh yeah. There was something going on. I don’t know what it was, that is for the smart guys that build and engineer the cars but it is certainly not good when you see your teammates breaking down.”

William Byron – finished 13th: “(Talk about the costly pit road penalty) Yeah, we couldn’t recover from that after. We just had a miscalculation of when we could accelerate out of our pit box. I thought we were fine on pit road speed to leave the box hard. That was a bummer for sure. We had a pretty good car. We couldn’t really make many passes, but we were able to get from the back after having to start pretty close to the tail end. It just really hurt our day. But overall, the guys did a good job and got out of here with a decent points day, I guess. We’ll just have to go on strong next week. The team and I all were convinced that I could go straight out and have not issues. I got a really good launch off the pit box, probably a little too good. I was kind of worried about it because I beat (Johnson) pretty good off pit road and it nipped us for sure. It was just a miscalculation. We probably won’t pick that pit box again for that reason. It really kind of ruined our day, but at least we got some decent stuff out of it.

(What’s your mindset heading to Talladega?) Our cars are always fast at Talladega, so we’ll just have to go there, lay it out there and see what happens.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 14th: “It was very hard to pass today at Dover. We obviously didn’t get the result we were looking for in the ARRIS Mustang, but we’ll move on to next week at Talladega. My guys are working really hard, and we still have races left to go and win.”

Austin Dillon — finished 18th: “Our team showed a lot of improvement during the race today even though an 18th-place finish isn’t what we wanted. The No. 3 AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 started off super tight in the first stage. I had a difficult time passing cars, especially in traffic. During the first pit stop, our team made some chassis adjustments to free up my Chevy for the rest of the stage. This proved to be successful because I ran top-five lap times at the conclusion of Stage 1. The beginning of Stage 2 was excellent. My car felt great and we were fast out there. We made a  trackbar adjustment during green-flag pit stops thinking it might help, but it didn’t seem to affect the car much at all. For the final stage, I started near the rear because of a speeding penalty on pit road. Fortunately, the team made solid adjustments to the AAA Chevy between stages and I quickly made my way up through the field. I had one of the fastest cars on the racetrack and made big gains in track position, but even with that speed, I couldn’t manage to get back on the lead lap. Our final position wasn’t representative of how hard our team fought all day. We’ll learn from this weekend and be ready for a wild race at Talladega.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 21st: “Nobody on this No. 8 team gave up throughout the weekend and we were able to make gains from where we started with this Lucas Oil Chevrolet. The car bobbled on my first qualifying lap Saturday, so we had to start deep in the field today. We kept moving forward and fighting all race long. The shifter lever broke during the second stage but luckily it didn’t hurt us too bad on the final few stops of the day. With so few cautions, we were stuck multiple laps down but kept fighting for every position we could and focusing on racing whoever was on our lap. Hopefully we can go to Talladega next week, stay out of trouble and have a shot at contending for the win.”

Joey Logano – finished 34th: (What was wrong with the car?) Something back there wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, so we had to fix that and we were 20-something laps down from there. You can’t make up 20 laps, that is for sure. Maybe you can get one or two back if things go right. It was a bummer. Things happen. … We definitely used our mulligan. We used the playoff points we accumulated, we just have to be perfect now. We have two really good race tracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best race tracks and I would say Kansas is as well. We just have to be perfect from here. … (It sounds like Denny Hamlin is upset with the way you were racing him near the end of the second stage) Well, the situation was that I had about four or five cars that it was possible for me to catch, which is five points. You tell me if it is worth it. I would say it is worth it and I have to go. I have to try to get those spots if I can get them. If some of those cars that were that slow out there and were going to be 20-something laps down, the pace we were running we were going to be within a lap or two of them. I had to race hard. I had to keep going.”

Chase Elliott – finished 38th: I just had an engine failure of some sort. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what it was just yet. It just quit running. It didn’t really seem like anything was off. We were just kind of making laps and then obviously had a failure. It’s an unfortunate way to start this round for sure. … I don’t know where we’ll stack up (after today’s race). I assume we’ll have to win one of these next few weeks. If you ever make it to Homestead, you’re going to have to win down there. I guess it’s a good opportunity to practice here these next few weeks.”

Bubba Wallace on if things are over with Alex Bowman: ‘We’ll see’

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DOVER, Del. — Bubba Wallace says he regrets that others were splashed by liquid he sprayed at Alex Bowman but did not regret doing it to Bowman.

Wallace said Saturday at Dover International Speedway that he apologized to Jeff Gordon and Dr. Angela Fiege, medical director of the AMR NASCAR Safety team and reached out to Hendrick Motorsports executive Jeff Andrews, who also was splashed.

Asked if things are over with Bowman, Wallace said: “We’ll see. He’s already on six strikes.”

Wallace expressed frustration with Bowman for incidents the past two weekends at Richmond and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“It’s the same thing as Richmond,” Wallace said of Bowman. “He ran over me as soon as he got to me at Richmond and got underneath me, this is the next time, he got underneath me and ran me up the race track, so I was ‘OK, he’s getting wrecked here, if he ever gets by me, he’s getting wrecked. In the fence.  Done.’

“We ended up beating him. I was, ‘Alright, that’s the higher road.’ It was over with. It was done.”

Until the opening lap of the race at the Roval the next week.

“(Then) Lap 1 of the new configuration of the Roval, after we had all sat there and watched the Xfinity race and watched a car come through from 15 cars back and wad up about six of them, it’s like ‘Alright, we’re the Cup level, let’s take it easy this first lap and just get through there,’ ” Wallace said. “What do you know? (Bowman) runs over (Austin Dillon) and me. Shoves me through the chicane, gives me a penalty. NASCAR and I talked about that. We’re on clear terms on why we got the penalty.

“It’s Lap 1. Come on. It’s a new configuration. Everybody knows how treacherous it is and he runs over us. So there’s no excuse for that. I believe he was the only car to run over somebody there on Lap 1. All of us except for one car had the mentality of let’s take it easy, let’s figure out how this chicane is going to work on the initial start.”

Later in the race, Bowman wrecked Wallace. Bowman said after the race that he tired of seeing Wallace flip him off multiple laps, saying last week: “Probably wouldn’t have gotten wrecked if he had his finger back in the car.”

That’s not the first time Wallace’s middle finger got him in trouble this season. Daniel Suarez had a post-race disagreement with Wallace at Pocono in July after he was flipped off by Wallace. So will Wallace alter his middle-finger policy toward competitors?

“It’s still going to be the same,” Wallace said. “You know what car gets it the most is (Martin Truex Jr.). Me and him have a joke about it. We laugh about it every time. It’s one of those, like I need to stop doing it because there’s a lot of eyes on me.

“At first it was just like a joke but it’s become obviously a thing and people are getting really sensitive over a finger and wanting to retaliate and right rear somebody on the race track, which is grounds for taking your gloves off and fight.”

Truex said that the middle finger is a joke between them after a discussion they had earlier this season.

“I got close to him coming off (Turn 4) and he got sideways,” Truex said of an incident at ISM Raceway in March. “I guess he thought I hit him and flipped me off for a whole lap. I talked to him a week or two later, and said, ‘Listen man, somebody is going to get out of the car one of these days and shove that finger straight up your ass.’ ”

Even after his issues with Bowman at the Roval, Wallace said he raced Bowman clean the rest of the event.

“We got that restart and they put us up there and we started next to (Bowman), close to (Bowman) and my spotter made sure I was well aware of who was on the outside of me and I was like, let’s just get away from him here and we drove away. But after the race I had had enough of him.”

After finishing second at the Roval, Bowman climbed from his car, sat down on the ground and leaned against his car. He was being treated for dehydration and overheating when Wallace approached. After a brief conversation, Wallace splashed Bowman and those around Bowman with his drink.

Asked if Bowman said something that led to Wallace splashing him, Wallace said: “He couldn’t have said anything, I was still going to throw water on him.”

Bowman sought to defuse the situation Friday. He told the media “I don’t think we need to talk before Sunday. I think it is what it is.”

They won’t be around each other at the start of Sunday’s Cup race at Dover (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Bowman qualified 12th. Wallace qualified 26th.