What drivers said at Atlanta Motor Speedway


HAMPTON, Ga. — A look at what drivers said during and after Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway:

Joey Logano — Winner: “We lost our track position there for a minute, but was able to just stay patient and work on it and this amazing fast race car allowed me to really make some great moves on the racetrack and getting the push there on the last lap to get to the outside of Brad (Keselowski). Just getting to break the plane of his back bumper was gonna be my only chance there, and I was able to get him there and get the push from the 20 (Christopher Bell) on the backstretch. Overall, just a really fast Ford Mustang is what it came down to. It’s nice to win with Autotrader on the car. I don’t think I’ve ever won a race without Shell on the car. It means a lot to get this one in Victory Lane. It’s been a lot of years coming. The intensity ratcheted up, obviously.  I’ve got great teammates, and I wanted to stick with them. There were plenty of times I could have moved up, but I didn’t want to leave my teammates down there. I wanted them behind me. I knew how fast their cars were. If I could pick one, that’s the one I want, so I was able to try to keep them with me. I thought with two to go the outside lane got three cars, four cars clear and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna make it here,’ but I got a good push – enough to get to the outside of the 6, and that was the big difference.”

MORE: Atlanta Cup results, driver points

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “The bottom came with a huge run. I don’t know how. I thought I had it blocked. Joey just kept shaking. His car didn’t stall out. I couldn’t get the push down the back. I thought, ‘Just get a push down the back.’ The 20 car (Bell) just hauled down there. But great run all in all for the RFK King’s Hawaiian Ford Mustang. Glad a Ford won. A heck of a battle. The coolest thing about this race is two veterans showed you can run a race here side by side, bump-drafting, and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully. I thought everybody did a great job. We were right there. Proud of my team and the effort. Nothing much we could do there at the end. Night and day from where we were a year ago. 100%. Keep running like this, the good finishes and the wins will happen.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 3rd: “Got a good finish out of it, and I’m happy with that. I don’t know, I had the position the 22 (Joey Logano) had, and I decided to bail on it and go to the top. To come so close is disappointing, but very happy with a third-place result. It was a pretty smooth day really. We started in the back, and we were able to get up front and get some stage points at the end of Stage 1, so that was pretty cool. Stage 2, the green flag cycle didn’t really work our way. Ultimately, we were able to keep the DeWalt Camry clean all day and put ourselves in position at the end of the race, so that’s all you can ask for. Speedway racing is a lot about luck and, fortunately, it worked out for us at Daytona and now here.”

Corey LaJoie — Finished 4th: “It’s like this taboo, second sucks. Fourth is great. Fourth is great for our CELSIUS Camaro and our small team. Just a great points day. We started off the year, West Coast swing, really solid. To come back here, a bit of a crapshoot. To get another career best here… I don’t expect to show up and instantly win a race. You have to keep putting yourself in these positions, like Joey (Logano). That is why he wins all the time, because he’s up front all the time. As I get some more confidence, race around these guys, these guys see me up there racing with them, our day is going to come. I hope he (Logano) gives me a shout-out for pushing him — gave him a good shot there at the end. I was probably fourth or fifth in the top lane there. I had an opportunity to get down and as soon as I didn’t take it, I was like – man, that was the race. That was probably with 18 or 20 to go. That’s why these guys make millions of dollars, They’re pretty good and know where to put their car. Honestly, I think as this track gets a little more wear and abrasiveness to it, it’s going to be like old Daytona where you’re bumping and sliding around, and your car has to be fast. I felt like the track lost 10 to 15 percent of grip from last year, so handling was a big thing. You could really drive or push if you wanted to, or you could be sideways. Our Chevy drove great. We were able to pick the right lanes at the right time, just a little short.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 5th:  “We’ll try to just go back and look at it. Our Xfinity Toyota Camry TRD was as fast as the Xfinity 10 G network. We had Toyotas lined up there, and I didn’t know if that was our move there with all three together or Christopher (Bell) was going to do it on his own. We’ll talk about it, for sure. I don’t know, maybe if we all would have went it would have worked out for one of us. I’m not really sure. It didn’t really work for one of us, so it’s definitely something for us to think about so that one of us can win the race there. It’s a bummer that we let someone else get it done. There was definitely some hard work going on. Joey (Logano) was doing Joey things. He was making the bottom work really good. … I was also at the same time trying to create an opportunity where all three – myself, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin — could all break away and take advantage of momentum. It didn’t quite work out timing-wise as it needed to for that. All in all, it was an okay day.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 6th: “The last pit road incident where cars are coming in and I’m coming out, that’s just part of it. The traffic jam that you get there. But speedways in general like this one, it’s just kind of two-by-two and you can’t really pull out to a third lane. I just restarted I think fourth on the outside row and that’s where I ended up. You have to stay in line and just watch the cars in front of you to see if you can make a hole. It’s just so circumstantial that you want to be able to stay as close as you can to each other to give each other runs. I thought there was one opportunity there where we all were clear and we could have all pulled down in front of the 22 (Joey Logano), and we didn’t. That probably was the key moment for us, but overall it is what it is, and it’s probably the most Toyotas we’ve had in the top 10 all year. Just have to continue to get better. We just need more speed, more handling, more everything to get a little better.”

Erik Jones — Finished 8th: “Just looking at the day, I thought we were just stuck farther back. It was just hard to pass. We didn’t qualify good, so it just took a while for us to get up there, and we never really did, and then we got in a crash there. Happy to get a top 10 for the No. 43 Allegiant Chevy. We needed that. We just needed a good finish. We haven’t had one this year, so it was nice to do that. I hope we keep it rolling. We just kind of squeaked that one out there at the end with some stuff working out on the last two laps for us. But happy with that, proud of that. Glad we can hopefully get some momentum going and keep rolling.”

Ty Gibbs — Finished 9th: “I feel like from where we started to where we finished, we made really good progression. The team, my 54 group, never gave up on me, and we had great stops all day. We had a very fast Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, just ran out of laps there. Probably could have worked our way up a little bit and been more aggressive, but it just comes with experience, but we’re plate racing and that’s just part of it and just learning and we’ll move on and go to the next race.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 10th: “We had a decent day. Our No. 8 Lenovo Camaro was fast enough. I think there were probably 20 of them that were fast enough. It was just a matter of positioning yourself and getting positioned there toward the end. I got shuffled out to around 16th and then made our way back into the top 10. Tried to make a move there with four to go on the outside and just hit a block or a wall of air and just slowed up. Top-10 finish. We’ll take that and head to COTA.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 12th: “It was a smooth, solid day for the No. 42 Sunseeker Resorts Chevy team. I felt pretty competitive running in the top 10 or 15 throughout the race. Really felt like we had a decent shot, we were just a little too far back there at the end to really make anything happen. But solid execution and solid job by everyone on the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevy team.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 16th: “I thought we made the best of it. We got a little bit of damage in one of the wrecks, and that probably didn’t help our speed, but we were just lacking speed in general, which made it tough for us to make moves and we kinda got stuck. Pit stops were really good, strategy was really good. We did everything right and the car handled well, just got stuck there in pack racing and we didn’t have a lot of raw speed in the car. We just tried to make the best there with what we had and we got out with a clean race car.”

Josh Berry — Finished 18th: “I thought it was a solid day for the No. 9 NAPA Chevy. I feel like we definitely improved. We got up there in the top 10, and we were pretty solid before that wreck. After that, the car was just a little too damaged to be too aggressive. All-in-all, we finished the race, learned a lot and had some fun.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 27th: “Long hard-fought day. Proud of our team for never giving up and getting us past the checkered. Onward to Texas.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 30th: “I’m OK. It knocked the wind out of me, mostly because it caught me by surprise, but I’m OK. I blew a tire. I just blew a tire. I have no idea why. We had way less laps on that set of tires than we had earlier, so I don’t know.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 31st: “There was nowhere to go. Nobody had been having tire issues, so I wasn’t even expecting the No. 10 (Aric Almirola) to have a tire issue in front of me. Even if I did, I didn’t have time to react. It’s a bummer. Just frustrating. I was finally up front on this style of race track and still end up with a DNF. I don’t know, just frustrating.”

William Byron — Finished 32nd: “It was superspeedway-type racing. I thought, for the most part, it was pretty single-file all day. That was a little discouraging because the bottom lane wouldn’t really go that much. But as we all started to save fuel on the top, the bottom started to surge there. It looked like the No. 1 (Ross Chastain) and the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) just got connected there into Turn 1 and got the No. 4 loose. It’s just part of racing. That’s the way it goes — not really in our control. We were up there running in the top five and doing what we needed to do.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 33rd: “I think he (Ross Chastain) just caught me so quick right there in the middle of the corner, and then he kind of was up on the right rear part of the corner and he came back down and when he came back down it just spun the thing out. I don’t think he actually even hit me, but it started chattering the rear tires, and then I was just along for the ride.”

Harrison Burton — Finished 34th: “I don’t even know what caused our wreck. I was looking back and forth between the windshield and the mirror trying to block people from being aggressive and taking you in the middle of three-wide. I looked back and forth, and by the time I looked back they were wrecking in front of me. It’s just one of those deals. It was such a frustrating deal. I feel like our qualifying effort was not very good, obviously. I about crashed in qualifying, but I felt really good about our car in the race, but I just could not gain track position to maintain it. It’s really, really hard to leapfrog your way forward a lot of spots. It’s just frustrating how that worked out. Once you’re back there, you’re bound to get pushed into all the wrecks for sure.”

Chris Buescher — Finished 35th: “First off, our Violet Defense Ford Mustang was really fast, and I’m proud of everybody for that. I made a mistake on pit road by getting a speeding penalty, and that put us back in the field. We drove back up to third. The speed was there, and we were doing it without unnecessary pushes in the center of the corner. I haven’t seen a replay to know exactly what happened, but I’ve got a pretty good feeling.”

Friday 5: Kyle Busch making an impact at RCR off the track


While Kyle Busch gave Richard Childress Racing its first Cup victory of the season last month, his greatest contribution could be how he pushes the organization and those teams aligned with RCR.

Busch’s level of preparedness, his observations and questions in meetings already have made an impact in the beginning of his tenure. 

“He’s bringing things to the table for us that we haven’t had,” Andy Petree, RCR vice president of competition, told NBC Sports.

Austin Dillon cited Busch’s feedback as among the areas his new teammate would make at impact when the deal with Busch was announced last September.

“You’re probably never going to have to doubt any kind of feedback from him,” Dillon said then. “If he says the cars are struggling here, we go to work on that.”

Busch said he and the team discussed in January how they prepare for each event and how to merge those ideas in their meetings.

“I brought up a lot of different topics,” Busch said. “I still don’t have all of what I want accomplished yet. Most of that is data-driven and stuff you get after practice or after qualifying, so still pushing on much of that.”

Busch described the team meetings as having “gone well” this season.

“I feel like they’ve been a little bit productive,” he said. “Hopefully those that are with us in those meetings feel the same way, so it’s been a good sense. I know Austin and I have really liked the way that it is and how we got it set up, so it’s been useful for us.”

Petree, who was Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief for Earnhardt’s final two Cup championships, says that Busch provides more detail with the car than Earnhardt did.

“Earnhardt was an incredible driver, but he didn’t have this knack that Kyle has for breaking down so many details in the car,” Petree said. “Earnhardt would go out and get you every ounce of speed that was in it, but he wasn’t really great as far as giving that detailed feedback. 

“You had to pull anything out of him. … Kyle will just pick that thing apart, the things that you don’t even think about.”

Kaulig Racing and Legacy Motor Club are aligned with Richard Childress Racing and all three teams meet together. Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley says seeing how Busch operates in those sessions has made an impact on him.

“I’ll say Kyle, he never doesn’t ask a question,” Haley said. “If there’s even a thought in his mind of a what if or why, he’s not afraid to ask it. I really appreciate it of him. 

“Our alliance and our organization in general, he pushes us. He’s not afraid to say, ‘Hey, this is not what we’re supposed to be doing. Hey this is wrong,’ or ‘Hey, this is right.’ 

“I think what you appreciate about him is that he always asks why. Even though he has this much experience, he always still has to learn. He’s pushing all of us in a direction that is good.”

Erik Jones experienced team meetings with Busch when both were at Joe Gibbs Racing. Now with Legacy Motor Club, Jones is again seeing the impact Busch can make with a team off the track.

“He approaches the meetings more like we did in those days,” Jones said. “I think it’s been really good for the group. I think, overall, it’s brought some good structure in, it’s brought some good and better feedback and probably focusing on more of the correct things that need to, things that are really going to make the cars go fast.”

2. Restart zone plans

Sunday’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marks the final race in NASCAR’s five-race trial with the expanded restart zone. Series officials will decide after this weekend whether to keep the restart zone the size it is now or return it to its smaller size. 

NASCAR expanded the length of the restart zone to give the leader more time to decide when to go. In a smaller restart zone, other drivers have more of a chance to guess when the leader will go and match him, limiting the leader’s advantage.

The only major incident in the restart zone came at Fontana, California, when leader Joey Logano waited toward the end of the zone to go. Other cars behind guessed when he would go and then had to slow since he had yet to accelerate, causing an accordion affect that collected nine cars.

“I don’t think that is going to be the last time you see it,” Ross Chastain said of the incident. “I don’t think it will be that big, but some stack-ups and some bumper-tagging will keep happening.”

Kyle Busch said he doesn’t believe the expanded restart zone provides much of an advantage for the leader.

“I think all it’s done is cause that wreck at California,” Busch said. “So, in my opinion, it’s done nothing different; nothing on the positive end. It’s only added a negative end to it because at California, Joey was just maintaining his speed and everyone was gaining, gaining, gaining, gaining and closing up their gaps because they were all trying to lay back and then time the run. 

“So he just waited for everybody to run into everybody and then went at the end of the zone. So the later you make that zone, the more anticipation everyone has and the more of an accordion effect that you’ll get. I knew that going in, and I was not a proponent of lengthening that zone, but nobody tends to listen to me a whole lot.”

Martin Truex Jr., who said he is fine with the restart zone continuing as is, said that the key is what the drivers do.

“They tell us all not to lay back on restarts all the time,” he said. “A lot of guys get away with doing it a whole lot more than others. As long as we can all stay closed up, it’s not going to be a problem. It’s given the leader an advantage, which is what it should be.”

3. Reunited

The suspensions to all four Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs — as part of the significant penalties NASCAR levied against the teams for modifications to the hood louvers — leads to a driver/crew chief combination reuniting.

Greg Ives will serve as the crew chief for Alex Bowman this weekend at Atlanta. Ives was Bowman’s crew chief from 2018-22 after having worked together in the 10 races Bowman filled in for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016.

Ives has worked on the Garage 56 car Hendrick Motorsports is preparing for NASCAR to showcase at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Asked if Ives had helped speed the communication between Bowman and new crew chief Blake Harris this season, Bowman said last weekend: “Things has been great. Greg has been super busy with the Garage 56 deal. I’ve seen him here and there but not a ton. I think Greg was really good about kind of preparing Blake and helping the transition in, but he’s super occupied right now.”

Although Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the penalties, the team decided to have all four crew chiefs sit out this weekend’s race to count toward one of the four races they’ll have to miss should they lose their appeal.

Not having a regular crew chief this weekend shouldn’t adversely impact the Hendrick teams. There’s no practice. Cars will have only qualifying before the race. Crew chiefs typically have limited impact in a superspeedway race.

4. Focused

With his move to Cup, rookie Ty Gibbs no longer is going back-and-forth between the Xfinity and Cup Series. Last year, Gibbs won the Xfinity championship and ran 15 Cup races, filling in for the injured Kurt Busch.

With his focus on Cup, it’s allowed him to concentrate on preparing for those events and also having some time off. 

“Definitely a little more peaceful, for sure,” Gibbs said of this season compared to last year and running both series. “Having a little bit more free time …  I think is really important. Allowing me to have more time to study one thing, I think, that’s allowed me to get around the learning curve quicker than it was having to worry about winning the championship in the other series and just like having so much stuff going on.”

Gibbs can appreciate what Josh Berry is doing, competing in the Xfinity Series while filling in for an injured Chase Elliott.

“I respect and really appreciate Josh,” Gibbs said. “He’s a good friend to me and he’s a really great racecar driver and very talented. Happy for him for the opportunity and hope that Chase heals up fast.

“But for (Berry), I think just enjoying the moment is the biggest thing. It’s really hard because there’s a lot going on. You’re worried about running Xfinity and Cup. Just enjoy the moment. I think that’s the biggest thing. Learn as much as you can.”

5. Avoiding history

The two Atlanta races last year combined for 24 cautions — including 19 for incidents. 

At least 30 cars were involved in accidents in both races last year, the first year of the track reconfiguration that included higher banking in the turns.

Both races had at least one accident that involved at least nine cars. 

“I feel like Atlanta is probably the most mentally draining place that we go to now,” Chase Briscoe said. “It’s kind of a hybrid. It’s obviously a shorter track by an entire mile versus a Daytona or Talladega, but it’s the same concept of racing.

“You’re in a pack, but with being a mile shorter things just happen so much faster. Your reaction time has to be better. The runs develop so much faster and quicker. Your spotter has to be able to communicate to you a lot quicker and your brain has to process things a lot quicker.”

Dr. Diandra: Don’t overlook these underdogs at Atlanta


In 2022, Atlanta Motor Speedway joined the list of tracks that Cup Series underdogs circle on their calendars. The increased banking and use of the Daytona/Talladega rules package made Atlanta race more like a superspeedway.

Some might balk at calling a 1.5-mile track a superspeedway. At the old Atlanta, grip limited how fast cars could go. The new Atlanta track is closer to drag limited, like the original superspeedways.

MORE: NASCAR issues severe penalties to Hendrick Motorsports

At drag-limited tracks, cars don’t have enough power to overcome their own drag at high speeds. This limit gives rise to pack racing, which requires a different skill set than other tracks.

Superspeedways and underdogs

Underdog talk picks up around superspeedways because of the perception that “anyone” can win at these tracks. But many of us give underdogs a higher probability of winning than they actually have.

Consider, for example, the winners of the six 2022 superspeedway races.

A table showing the winners from all superspeedway races in 2022

Austin Cindric definitely qualifies as an underdog. Ross Chastain was a quasi-underdog when he won Talladega — he had already won at COTA earlier in the year. The same goes for Austin Dillon, who is usually a contender at superspeedways.

Using the most liberal definition, underdogs won half the superspeedway races in the table. But even a three-in-six chance is better odds than at most other tracks.

The graph below shows active full-time drivers with average finishing positions less than 20 for last year’s six superspeedway races.

A vertical bar chart showing the drivers with the best average finishes in the six superspeedway races of 2022

A vertical bar chart showing the drivers with the best average finishes in the six superspeedway races of 2022

They’re not all underdogs. For example: Kyle Busch’s performance in the first four races of the year disqualifies him.

But driving for a well-established team doesn’t preclude one from being an underdog at Atlanta. With Chevrolet winning four out of four races this year, driving a Ford or Toyota confers underdog points.

Two promising quasi-underdogs

Neither Ryan Blaney nor Martin Truex Jr. has won a points race in the Next Gen car — at any kind of track. Blaney squeaked his way into the 2022 playoffs while Truex missed it entirely.

Blaney has an average finish of 12.3 for the first four races of the season, which includes an eighth-place finish at Daytona. Truex has an average finish of 12.5, with only one top 10 (at Las Vegas). He finished 15th at Daytona this year. But Blaney is much less of an underdog than Truex.

Four of Blaney’s eight career wins came at superspeedways. He has the best average finishing position of any driver at superspeedways in 2022 with a 9.0 and a worst finish of 17th.

Truex has 31 career wins but has never won a superspeedway race. He’s got two second-place finishes, but no checkered flags.

Atlanta might be the place where one of these two drivers — underdogs or not — can finally stop answering questions about when they’re going to win.

Three true underdogs

Bubba Wallace is an underdog with an advantage: He is good at superspeedways, with one win and three second-place finishes. Like Blaney, he didn’t finish lower than 17th at any superspeedway in 2022.

But 2023 has not started well for the No. 23 team. Wallace has only one top-five finish (at Las Vegas) and two finishes of 20th or worse. He crashed out at Daytona and retired due to engine trouble at Fontana.

Last week, a 37-second pit stop dropped him from 11th to 21st. That puts his average finish at 17.0 for the year. Atlanta offers Wallace a chance to shift his season onto a better trajectory.

Erik Jones won the summer race at Daytona in 2018, so we know he can compete at superspeedways, too. But Legacy Motor Club has started 2023 with a whimper. Jones’ best finish is 19th. Accidents knocked him out of two of the four races.

The only laps Jones led this year were last week at Phoenix, when he stayed out during green-flag pit stops. A win at Atlanta would be a great backdrop for co-owner Jimmie Johnson returning to race next week at COTA.

Aric Almirola has had a similarly frustrating start to the 2023 season with DNFs at the first two races and a best finish of 16th. He has, however, won two superspeedway races. His average superspeedway finish in 2022 was 13.8 in the Next Gen car. That’s better than his 18.3 average pre-Next Gen.

Almirola will be at a disadvantage at Atlanta: A loose-wheel penalty from Phoenix will bench two of his pit crew for the next two races.

Cindric, McDowell, Haley: Long-shot underdogs at Atlanta

Cindric has the second-highest average finishing position at superspeedways in 2022. That’s not just because he won the Daytona 500 that year.

Cindric had top-10 finishes in the last three superspeedway races last year. He was running around 10th place in this year’s Daytona 500 until a crash. If he can avoid accidents, Cindric’s got a good shot at a strong finish and maybe even Penske’s first win of the season.

Michael McDowell didn’t win the 2021 Daytona 500 by luck. He’s got 12 top-10 finishes at superspeedways while running for decidedly underfunded teams.

McDowell first partnered with owner Bob Jenkins in 2018. Since then, he has a mean finish of 18.2. That puts him ahead of Kyle Larson (23.2), Brad Keselowski (21.4) and Busch (20.6).

Justin Haley won a rain-shortened summer Daytona race in 2019 before he was even a full-time Cup Series driver. He’s the longest of these three long shots, but he’s got a 16.1 career average at superspeedways, the same as his average for 2022. And he’ll need the points after this week’s penalty for modifying his car’s louvers at Phoenix.

I didn’t mention the Trackhouse drivers, who both appear on the graph. I’ll focus Sunday’s column on them.


NASCAR Cup starting lineup at Phoenix


AVONDALE, Ariz. — Chevrolet, which has won the first three races of the Cup season, will have five drivers starting in the top 10, including pole-sitter Kyle Larson, in Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron starts third. Also in the top 10 for Chevrolet are Ross Chastain (sixth), Kyle Busch (ninth) and Erik Jones (10th).

MORE: Phoenix Cup starting lineup

The top Toyota driver is Denny Hamlin, who starts second. The top Ford driver is Brad Keselowski, who starts fourth.

Chase Briscoe, who won this race last year, qualified 24th.

What drivers said at Las Vegas Motor Speedway


Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

William Byron — Winner: “I felt like in practice we had a good car. I was a little bit nervous about the wind today and how that would change what we had going on and whether or not we’d be as strong, but just kind of the consensus, I guess, in the garage and then talking to some of the drivers, they were pretty confident about what we had going on. I was happy about that. Yeah, started the race good. I thought Kyle (Larson) was really strong. He could stay close to me for a lot of the runs in the first and second stage, and I felt like I was a little bit tight, but just trying to navigate lap traffic and navigate the wind and how that would change the handling. Just happy with getting the first win of the year. It’s been a while since we’ve won. It’s been almost a year, and it’s nice to kind of just get back to what I feel like we’re capable of. It’s been up and down, but I feel like this is what we’re capable of every week. … I speak for everyone in the fact that we miss Chase (Elliott) out here. He’s a big contributor to feedback and our debriefs and he’s a great race car driver. Has a lot to offer there. I think there was a void there, but I think we were able to fill it with just kind of coming together as a team, and having Josh come on board, he’s obviously a great race car driver, too, and I know him from the past. … It was an important day. I felt that for sure. I texted (team owner Rick Hendrick) after practice and felt really good about the car and just wanted to reassure that we’re going to go out there and try to win for him because it was a tough week.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 2nd: “It’s just part of Cup racing. It seems like kind of (count) laps down, lap by lap, and then sure enough, the yellow lights come on. Yeah, you’ve just got to get over that and then try to execute a good pit stop, and I thought I did a really good job getting to my sign, and getting to the commitment line, I had a gap to William behind me, and their pit crew must have just did a really good job and got out in front of us, and that gave up the front row to us. I knew I was in trouble with (Martin Truex Jr.) staying out. I felt like William was going to get by him. Yeah, just a bummer that we didn’t end up the winner, but all in all, William probably had a little bit better car than I had today, and their pit crew executed when they needed to there at the end.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 3rd: “I think I got us too tight in stage 3 and just tried to be really aggressive and make for it there on that last restart. Yeah, had a shot at it, just a couple rows too far back to start. But really proud of Hendrick Motorsports. To be one, two, three is really awesome. Our Allied Camaro was really good, especially Stage 2. Just asked for the wrong adjustments probably. Just excited with the way the year has started, and hopefully we keep the momentum rolling next week at Phoenix.

Bubba Wallace — Finished 4th: “Really thought we had a much better car in the race than what we had in practice. Just couldn’t get the front end to work and we tried everything. We went the other way on air, went the opposite way on air and just could never figure it out so we have a lot of work to do for our mile-and-a-half stuff. Happy for our Columbia Toyota Camry TRD team. Never stop fighting and never give up. I almost came over the radio and was like, ‘Hey, good job, we finished sixth.’ Then the caution came out and I perked up again and got some.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 5th: “Honestly, the finish to that ended up about as good as we could have asked. … Strange day for us because we took off and I felt really good and drove right to top-five and I didn’t feel like I had anything for the Hendrick cars. It seemed like we were the best of the rest and then we lost the handling.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 6th: “A bit of a team effort there honestly. Definitely didn’t have the strength early on in the race. The second stage we definitely fell back even a little bit further. Got the lucky dog, honestly thanks to the pit crew which was able to get us back out front. Caution comes out … just made the car better all day. Felt like we earned a top 15 from the depths of hell for awhile, but going two tires on the restart, getting a good launch and being able to be in a position in the green-white-checkered. So, a little bit of strategy, a little bit of good pit stops – some good restarts on my end and a good recovery. You’ve got to run up-front in these things to expect to win, but when we don’t have it, it’s good to know that we can get back.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 7th: “If you can somehow get a good restart, get to the white flag and they crash, then you win the thing. It almost happened. We were second at the white, we were second going into Turn 1 on the last lap and just got tight and got in a bad spot coming off of Turn 2 and lost momentum down the back. … Could never quite get it where we need it. I think we were about a third-place car, maybe fourth. Just a good, solid day. We’re in Vegas, we might as well roll the dice and like everybody says, we come here to gamble. I was proud of James (Small, crew chief) for that. Last year we didn’t and it bit us. We gave up a few spots, but all in all it was a solid day.”

Justin Haley — Finished 8th: “We had a really good long run car today and this is our Fontana car. We’re one of like three teams, three individual cars that repaired our stuff and brought it this week. I’m proud of the effort and the grind. They hung a body in this thing in the snow in Fontana a few days ago. That’s pretty awesome for our little team. I appreciate Matt (Kaulig), Chris (Rice), and everyone at Leaf Filter. This was a good run for us, especially with the start of season we’ve had.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 10th: “It was a roller coaster. We had a fast car all day. Some runs were better than others. I felt like at times that we had a car capable of fighting for the win. For some reason, I felt like we had a set of tires that was a little weird there and we lost some track position. Then we had a bad stop on the last one and lost another few seconds. It was a little difficult because we had to overcome a lot. But overall the car had speed and the car was capable of running in the top-five. That is very promising.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 13th: “We didn’t start off very good. We struggled really bad the first two stages. Thought we got a little better there the last couple runs. I think we were about eighth before the last caution, started back racing and just went backwards. It’s unfortunate. We worked hard all day to get faster. The last restart pit-stops didn’t go our way.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 14th: “I’m proud of everyone at Richard Childress Racing for their hard work today. We started the race fifth in our Alsco Chevrolet and battled a tight-handling condition right off the bat. Crew chief Randall Burnett and the guys worked on the handling of our Chevy throughout the day, but long green-flag runs hindered our opportunities. When we did pit, the No. 8 team performed and gained us spots on pit road. We just never seemed to get the balance to where it needed to be to contend for the win. We’ll take this 14th-place finish, regroup and focus on Phoenix Raceway.”

Erik Jones — Finished 19th: “Not the finish we deserved today. The guys gave me a fast Allegiant Chevy and we were running really well, even made our way to the top 10. Unfortunately, we got behind and made some adjustments to free up our car in traffic, but ended up making ourselves too loose for when we were on clean air. We had some tire issues late and that put us in the back and wrecked on the last lap. We just need to clean things up and come back stronger next week at Phoenix.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “We started the race deeper in the field than any of us would have preferred, and long green-flag runs early in the race made it difficult to work on handling issues. We just didn’t hit on the balance today. At the end of the first run, we were pretty good. Just too free. Then, our Chevy got tightened up and I couldn’t get through the bumps very well. We salvaged what we could. We ended up with damage during a multi-car wreck on the last lap, but luckily, we were able to finish the race. I had nowhere to go. It was a tough day, but this team has a lot of fight. I’m looking forward to getting back on track at Phoenix Raceway.”

Josh Berry — Finished 29th: “It was a lot of fun. Really I thought the first half of the race went pretty well. We were really close, right on the edge of staying on the lead lap or not. We just needed a couple more cautions to just give ourselves a better chance. The second half of the race, we had an issue going on with the throttle or something because every time I was letting off, it was hanging wide-open. I was just trying to nurse it home and keep it out of trouble.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 30th: “An up-and-down day. I felt like we had good speed, just lost a couple of laps on the first pit stop speeding on pit road, making mistakes and speeding again on my pass-through penalty during the first green-flag pit stop, and that put us behind all day. … I felt like we had good speed, just a couple of laps down at the end. We’ll keep working on it.”

Joey Logano — Finished 36th: “Considering how we’ve been here in the past, you kind of expect it a little bit more performance today than what we had. Just off on overall speed. We had the balance somewhat close – just not fast. We have to go back to the drawing board for when we come back here. (On if Brad Keselowski pinched him a bit in the incident) Yeah, he did. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it. It is what it is. What are you going to do, right? We got fenced.”