Friday 5: Xfinity driver’s quest for success goes one call at a time

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“Hey, my name is Brandon. What do you think of NASCAR?”

That’s not how Xfinity Series driver Brandon Brown starts every phone call looking for sponsorship, but sometimes it’s not too far off.

While other drivers watch film, run laps on iRacing, work out or fulfill sponsor obligations during the week, Brown often is on the phone looking for sponsorship for his family’s team.

That’s life in the middle of the field in the Xfinity Series where the chassis are older, sponsorships harder to find, pit crew members interchangeable and results are overshadowed by the dominance of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

Through it all — and that includes Brown moving from his family’s primary car to another ride twice because someone else brought sponsorship money — Brown is 14th in points heading into Sunday’s Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway.

He is 97 points out of the final playoff spot, held by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones. While the playoffs would be quite an accomplishment, it will be difficult for a team such as Brown’s to top many of the better-funded organizations ahead.

Even so, Brown is reaching one of his goals for the season.

Brandon Brown (right) races Jeremy Clements (51), Justin Haley (11) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (18) at Charlotte last month. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“Our focus this year was to crack the top 15,” he told NBC Sports. “Getting a top-10 finish would be great. I don’t want it to be because the leaders wrecked. Superspeedways, we can count them if we want, but that’s like a crapshoot. We want to earn a top 10 this year.”

He hasn’t gotten there yet. Brown finished a career-best 13th this season at Atlanta, Dover and Pocono.

It’s not easy to get into the top 10 with a fleet of older chassis that includes those once driven by John Wes Townley at Athenian Motorsports. Brown said the team also added some Richard Childress Racing chassis when RCR downsized its program.

There have been other changes throughout the season. Brown has had seven different pit crew combinations in the first 13 races because not everyone they’ve used is always available. With tenths of a second often the difference between gaining or losing spots on pit road, the less a crew and driver are familiar with each other, the longer it can take to complete stops.

“When you’re switching to new guys, I don’t think they know what to expect (from the driver) until after the first stop,” he said.

Brown’s biggest challenge, though, is money, especially for a team with fewer than a dozen full-time employees. Even Brown has a dual role. The team’s website lists him as marketing director/driver.

That means the 25-year-old makes a lot of phone calls.

“The goal is obviously to search for any company that has expressed any interest in motorsports at all, whether it is circle track racing, road course racing, dirt bike, whatever,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Also, it kind of comes down to who do we know, who do any friends and family know, try to make some sort of a connection so that it’s not a complete cold (call), ‘Hey my name is Brandon, what do you think of NASCAR?’

“It’s going through everybody’s rolodex in the shop because a lot of the guys come from different areas, try to pull from each one of them.”

For every phone call that provides hope, there are many more rejections or calls that aren’t returned.

Brandon Brown has finished in the top 20 in 11 of the season’s first 13 Xfinity races. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“It’s definitely tedious,” said Brown, who graduated from Coastal Carolina University in December. “It’s not the most fun at all. I understand that each and every team in the garage in some shape or form has gone through something similar. I just kind of throw it up to growing pains and just kind of look forward to … a day where I can just go to the track and come home and just focus on watching film or doing a simulator.”

Until then, he’ll keep looking for money for Brandonbilt Motorsports, which is running its first full-time season in NASCAR.

Brown ran the season’s first seven Xfinity races without a primary sponsor. He has had a sponsor in five of the past six races. Vero True Social is back as a sponsor this weekend at Iowa after it served in that role at Charlotte and Michigan.

“It all comes down to the dollar that keeps the race team alive,”  Brown said.

He will remain in the No. 86 for the foreseeable future since no one has purchased any more races at this time.

Even with all the challenges, Brown has made gains. His season-worst 26th-place finish last weekend at Michigan ended a streak of five consecutive top-20 finishes. Despite not having sponsorship early in the season, he opened with six top 20s in a row.

“We want to peg up the ladder,” Brown said. “We understand as a team where we are in comparison to the rest of the garage.”

That doesn’t mean he’s satisfied with staying there. So he keeps calling, searching for the money that will help this team climb higher.

2. Familiar foes

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have combined to win each of the last seven Xfinity races heading into Iowa Speedway this weekend.

Reddick has three wins during that stretch, while Bell and Custer each have two wins.

Reddick notes how competition between helps make each better.

“Every single week and every single lap I feel like, if say I’m leading and they’re catching me, I push harder, if I’m catching them, they push harder,” Reddick told NBC Sports of Bell and Custer. “Most people I’m able to run down and catch and make something happen, but those two are definitely the hardest to pass. They work the hardest to keep you behind them. It’s a lot of fun battling with them.”

3. Wanting to scream!

Chase Cabre did just that after winning his first K&N Pro Series East race June 2 at Memphis International Raceway. The win came in his 33rd career series start.

Chase Cabre celebrating his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win June 2. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP, NASCAR)

Cabre, in his third season in the series, had three runner-up finishes, including two this year, before the win.

OK, so once the celebration in victory lane is done, the car passes inspection, and it’s time to leave, then what?

Cabre drove back to the Charlotte area with his mom and brother but first they stopped for dinner at a Red Robin restaurant.

“It’s funny how the emotions change so fast,” Cabre told NBC Sports. “You get out, you’re screaming and the next thing you know you want everybody to realize I won. (At the restaurant), nobody here knows you won.

“They have no clue. ‘What are you so excited about?’ “

If only they knew.

4. Truck debut

Sixteen-year-old Chandler Smith makes his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He’ll be in the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Toyota development driver has three ARCA wins and six poles in 13 starts. His most recent ARCA victory was May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.

Smith also is scheduled to drive for KBM on June 28 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nov. 7 at ISM Raceway. He will drive the KBM Super Late Model Oct. 13 at the Winchester (Speedway) 400, Nov. 3 in the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Dec. 2 in the Snowball Derby.

5. Chastain’s chase

In his first Truck series race since declaring for Truck points, Ross Chastain scored 38 points for his 10th-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

He must be in the top 20 in points to be eligible for a playoff spot should he win. His Kansas victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because he had not declared for Truck points at the time.

Chastain enters this weekend 64 points out of 20th place in the season standings. Anthony Alfredo is 20th with 102 points.

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NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano tie for No. 1

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This week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings not only feature two ties, but also two unique additions.

First, Kyle Busch and Michigan winner Joey Logano are tied for first place. There’s also a tie for sixth place between Chase Elliott and Xfinity Series points leader Tyler Reddick.

But perhaps the two biggest surprise names in this week’s rankings are one from NASCAR’s past and the other from NASCAR’s future:

* Greg Biffle, who made his first race start in 2 ½ years, went on to win last Friday’s Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, earning him enough points to take No. 8 in this week’s rankings.

* Conversely, K&N Series driver Hailie Deegan, also got one vote in this week’s rankings for her bump-and-run win last Saturday at Colorado National Speedway.

Dropping out of this week’s rankings are Kevin Harvick, as well as Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, William Byron and Denny Hamlin.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings shape up:

(tie) 1. Kyle Busch (38 points): Still the driver the rest are measured against. Last week: 1st.

(tie) 1. Joey Logano (38 points): Five top fives (and a win) in his last eight races is building Logano’s case to be sole No.1. Last week: 4th.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (32 points): Hit or miss in his last seven races. Has three wins and a third-place finish but also has three finishes of 19th or worse. Last week: tied for 8th.

4. Brad Keselowski (23 points): Three finishes of sixth or better, including a victory, in the last four races. Last week: 3rd.

5. Kurt Busch (19 points): Michigan runner-up finish was huge. Four finishes of seventh or better in the last eight races. He’s knocking on victory’s door. It will come soon. Last week: Not ranked (was in others receiving votes).

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott (13 points): Saw his streak of five consecutive top-five finishes end at Michigan. Even though he drops in this week’s rankings, still belongs in the top 10. Last week: 2nd.

(tie) 6. Tyler Reddick (13 points): Having an absolutely amazing season. In first 13 races, he has three wins (including Saturday at Michigan), 11 top fives and one other top 10. He has just one finish lower than 10th. Last week: Not ranked (was in others receiving votes).

8. Greg Biffle (12 points): When you win in your first race since 2016, you get into the top 10. Don’t be surprised if The Biff gets a few job offers to make a comeback in either Trucks or Xfinity. Last week: Not ranked.

9. Daniel Suarez (11 points): Has back-to-back top 10 finishes and is having his best season overall. Still, just like the rest of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, he keeps coming up short of victory lane. He needs to steal a win away. Last week: Not ranked (was in others receiving votes).

10. Alex Bowman (8 points): We would think he’d have been ranked higher this week: five top 10s in the last six races (including three runner-up finishes). Last week: Not ranked (was in others receiving votes).

Others Receiving Votes: Ross Chastain (3 points), Kevin Harvick (2 points), Hailie Deegan (1 point).

Friday 5: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski add to their history of duels

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Kyle Busch’s victory last weekend at Pocono Raceway was more memorable for his disdain with being asked about the aerodynamic package raced there, but overlooked was that rival Brad Keselowski finished second.

The history between Busch and Keselowski is long, tense and filled with biting comments and bent sheet metal.

But it also is marked by how often they run next to each other at the front.

Pocono marked the 11th time in Cup that Busch and Keselowski have finished first and second in a race. Keselowski has won seven of those races, but Busch has been the victor in the last two instances (Pocono 2019 and last November’s race at ISM Raceway).

Only one other matchup among active drivers has had more 1-2 finishes. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have finished first and second 14 times with Johnson winning 12 of those races. After finishing second to Johnson at Auto Club Speedway in 2010, Harvick memorably said: “Jimmie is a good friend of mine, but there’s no denying how lucky they are. They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their a–.”

Of course, the gold standard in 1-2 finishes is Richard Petty and David Pearson. They ran first and second 63 times. Pearson won 33 times to Petty’s 30.

Here’s a look at most 1-2 finishes among active Cup drivers heading into this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway:

14 — Jimmie Johnson (12 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (2)

11 — Brad Keselowski (7 wins) vs. Kyle Busch (4)

10 — Kyle Busch (5 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (5)

7 — Jimmie Johnson (5 wins) vs. Kyle Busch (2)

7 — Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins) vs. Kevin Harvick (3)

7 — Denny Hamlin (4 wins) vs. Jimmie Johnson (3)

2. Optimism for a better race

The belief among some in the garage is that this weekend at Michigan could provide some of the same type of racing that fans saw last month at Kansas Speedway – racing that drew more positive reviews than last weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway.

“I think it’s going to look somewhat like Kansas,” said Alex Bowman, who finished second to Brad Keselowski in that race. “I think Kansas and Michigan are the two tracks that complement this package the most.

“It’s probably not going to be as double-file as Kansas, just because Kansas has widened out so much more than Michigan has. If you look at the Xfinity race last year with that package, it was a pretty good race I thought. I think it was very interesting how you had to work the air. I’m looking forward to that; I think it’s going to be a really good race for the fans.”

Erik Jones placed third at Kansas and also thinks the racing this weekend could mirror what took place at Kansas.

“Obviously the track is not as wide groove-wise, but as far as the throttle you’re going to carry and the racing you’re going to see, I’d say similar to Kansas,” Jones said. “I feel like it’s going to be really packed up a majority of the time. You’re going to see guys getting big runs and making big moves. There’s probably going to be some big wrecks. I don’t know. It’s going to be fun.

“By yourself, you’re probably going to be pretty easily wide open, which is kind of unexciting, but as you get into the race and get into a pack, it makes it pretty eventful.”

3. Preferable schedule

While the focus on schedules often is on where NASCAR is or isn’t or where it should be, there’s been a change the past couple of weeks.

Last week’s Pocono schedule was changed to have both Cup practices Friday and qualifying moved to Saturday. That meant that Cup cars were only on the track Saturday for their qualifying effort.

Michigan has adopted the same schedule this weekend.

“I think it’s great,” Chase Elliott said last weekend of the change at Pocono. “We’re supposed to be the best at what we do, and I don’t know why we practice for hours on end, anyway. So, whatever they want to let us do is great.

“It just separates the guys who belong and the guys who are good and the guys who aren’t, you know? Again, you have a certain amount of time. Everybody has the same about of time. And, you just make the most of whatever you have and try to get it as good as possible for Sunday.”

4. Streak ends

Ross Chastain will see his record streak of consecutive starts across NASCAR’s top three national series at the beginning of a season end this weekend.

The streak will end at 36 after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Michigan International Speedway. He is not entered in Sunday’s Cup race (Garrett Smithley is in the No. 15 Premium Motorsports ride Chastain has been in this year).

Earlier this week, Chastain announced that he was declaring Truck points instead of Xfinity points. Drivers are allowed to declare for only a series at a time but can switch however often and whenever they want.

Chastain enters tonight’s Texas Truck race with zero points — because he didn’t declare Truck points earlier. He’ll likely need to win to make the playoffs (his Kansas win doesn’t count toward playoff eligibility since he hadn’t declared for Truck points at the time) and be in the top 20 in points when the regular season ends.

5. Streak buster?

Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske enter this weekend having won 13 of the 14 points races in Cup. Neither organization has won in the past five races at Michigan. Kyle Larson has three wins for Chip Ganassi Racing during that time. Stewart-Haas Racing won the other two races, both last year, with Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

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Bump and Run: Biggest surprise, disappointment of 2019

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Biggest surprise and disappointment in the first half of the regular season?

Nate Ryan: Surprise — Alex Bowman. Disappointment — Erik Jones

Dustin Long: Surprise — The lack of cautions from accidents, particularly multiple cars, with the field closer and the blocking so prevalent. Disappointment — That Stewart-Haas Racing remains winless after winning 12 races last year. SHR has three stage wins this season compared to eight at this point last year.

Daniel McFadin: Surprise — That Circuit City still exists as a primarily online store and will return as a full-time sponsor for Shane Lee in the Xfinity Series. Disappointment — That Ross Chastain didn’t declare for points in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He’s the only Truck Series driver who has finished in the top 10 in all eight races so far and he’d be locked into the playoffs with his Kansas win.

Jerry Bonkowski: Biggest surprise — Kurt Busch has been outstanding since coming to Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s only just a matter of time before he reaches victory lane. Biggest disappointment — Bubba Wallace was primed for a strong season, but he’s done nothing but struggle for much of the first 13 races – his advancing to and finishing fifth in the All-Star Race notwithstanding.

Who will you be watching closely in the second half of the regular season?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Larson

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson. He’s on a 59-race winless streak and holds the final transfer spot for the playoffs. Can he and his team be stronger to ensure a playoff spot and be relevant in the race for a championship?

Daniel McFadin: Alex Bowman. After no tops 10s in the first nine races, he has four straight leaving the Coke 600. I think he could be very dangerous going forward.

Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson. I feel confident that he’ll not only break his 72-race winless streak that dates back to Dover in spring 2017, but that he’ll be part of the final four heading into Miami for the season-ending championship race. The seven-time champ is a hot streak waiting to happen.

Will all 16 drivers in a playoff spot now make the playoffs? If not, who outside a playoff spot will make it?

Nate Ryan: At least one from the trio of Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make it and possibly all three.

Dustin Long: No. Erik Jones will find his way into the playoffs.

Daniel McFadin: No, I think one or two drivers outside the top 16 will sneak in, and I guess Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. right now.

Jerry Bonkowski: No. I think Ryan Newman has a good chance if he develops better consistency in the second half of the regular season. Likewise for his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

What Drivers Said after Coca-Cola 600

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On what began as one of the hottest days of the season, Martin Truex Jr. continued his hot ways behind the wheel, earning his third win in the last five races with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 triumph.

Here’s What Drivers Said afterward:

Martin Truex Jr. – winner: I don’t know how we did it honestly. I blew that right-front tire earlier and hit the fence off (Turn) 4. I thought man, that’s not good. I know this car is pretty banged up. We just fought back from it. We kept working on the car and kept adjusting on the car. What a rocket ship this Bass Pro Toyota was this weekend. I felt good about it in practice, but you just don’t know and these mile-and-a-halfs have been tough on us this year – kind of scratching and clawing trying to find something. Kansas a few weeks ago was really a reality check for us. It’s one of our best tracks and we really struggled there and knew we had to get to work. Just hats off to the guys for listening to my input and what I had to say. We had a pretty good car at the All-Star race last weekend, but we knew it wasn’t good enough. They went to work this week and made it better.”

Joey Logano – finished 2nd: “Well, I needed (Truex) to go slower (laughing), but that’s not his job. We had a rough start to this thing. The guys did a good job fixing it up to where we were competitive at the end and had a shot to win, so that’s all you can ask for. I don’t know how we got from where we thought we were gonna be good in practice and then started the race really bad. I’m glad we made some good adjustments to get somewhat close. The Coke 600 is such a big deal to win, especially as a Coke driver you want to make it happen and we were close, but we’ll just have to wait again to next year and go at it. Like I said, if you told me we were gonna finish second early in the race, I would have taken it, but when you actually finish second and you see the lead that close you don’t want to take it. … I thought we had a good shot when that caution came back out. That was another chance and just didn’t quite get it, but overall, like I said, very proud of it. As far as Memorial Day Weekend and getting to race is a privilege, so for me to complain about second sounds pretty dumb. I’m proud to live in this country and I’m happy that I just get to race. … (When it came down to you and Truex, were you like, ‘Here we go again’?) Yeah, of course. Haven’t we every time?”

MORE: Results, standings after Coca-Cola 600

Kyle Busch — finished 3rd: “I don’t really know what all went down (in the final 5 laps). Just trying to find holes and trying to make room and trying to make ground on guys that we were around. I thought we had a second-place car tonight. If we would have gotten in behind the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.), I never would have passed him. I thought I could get the 22 (Joey Logano), but the 22 was fast at the end. I don’t know. Frustrating for how challenging it is. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about that, but overall our M&M’s Camry was fast. It had good speed, just not the 19-car speed. I don’t know what the 19 had different than us, but they were way faster. … (What did you feel like you were missing tonight?) I don’t know. I thought that through much of the race we had a fast car. We were there. We led some laps. We ran around – the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was fast, 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) was fast. The 19 was the fastest car. I’m not sure what they had different than us. Obviously we were just off a little bit. Otherwise, I felt like we had a race-winning car capable of at least running second. Overall, the red white and blue M&M’s Camry was fast. We brought it home where we should have – close anyways I think. If you want to support the USO go get some red, white and blue M&M’s bags made through August. We’re going to be donating money and the proceeds go to the USO.”

Chase Elliott – finished 4th: We had a really solid car. It was a solid race all around. We just needed a little bit more there at the end and needed to not give up control to get to Martin (Truex Jr.) in those last 40 to 50 laps. We just needed to finish a little stronger. I think I have some work to do on my end to make sure I’m keeping up with the track, giving the right information and not getting behind. I feel like I’ve made some mistakes the last couple of weeks and have just gotten a little off. … The track just gains a lot of grip when the sun goes down. Yesterday in practice it was kind of weird that it didn’t really lose any grip during the day, but when the race started today, I felt like it was the normal Charlotte. I had to adjust to that a little bit and luckily we were able to hit it pretty close. We just needed a little bit more there at the end.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 5th: “I wasn’t real happy about that final caution. I was hoping it was just gonna run out. We were running down the 18 and that was good for us. It’s been a while since we’ve been up there contending like that with caliber of a car. We did it at Kansas and came back here and struggled at the All-Star Race, but we made really good changes to our Fastenal Mustang to get ready for the 600 and felt really, really good with it. That’s something to build on. We still have to get more consistent throughout the race. Having a car like that at the end, we need to be able to have stage points throughout the whole race. All in all, a great night for us, a good points night, and we just have to keep this momentum going that we started at Kansas. … (When did the car come to life?) Once the sun went down. I’ve always told people I don’t really ever feel the track change a whole lot. I feel like we always stay the same, but we were making a lot of adjustments, but once the sun went down I felt like the track stayed more consistent and we were able to catch up with where our car needed to be. I felt like we had a really strong car the last 200 laps and proud to finally get a top five with it.”

Chris Buescher – finished 6th: “What a great night for us. Our Kroger Thrill of the Grill Camaro ZL1 had great speed from the drop of the green. The second stage we just tried to get it up a little too high and I got up in the fence. I cut a tire down later and lost a lap. We knew we had speed still, but this group did a terrific job of repairing it. We worked really hard after practice making a lot of changes. It was just a great effort all around; the pit crew did a terrific job. We were able to come out there at the end and get an awesome finish. We have to keep improving a little bit, but it was a pretty awesome night.”

Alex Bowman – finished 7th: “I fired off pretty poorly; it was just really tight to start. The guys did a really good job of getting our car better. We got up towards the front and then late there I decided to get up in the fence and tear the right side off of it. I’m really glad we were able to fix it, overcome a flat right rear, and still end up 7th. I just need to not make that mistake and we definitely had a top five car. It was my fault that I drove it into the fence, so that makes me frustrated with myself. People make mistakes and that was just one that I made. I’ll just learn from it and move on. Stuff happens.”

Jimmie Johnson – finished 8th: “This has always suited my style well. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being competitive in this race (both) physically and mentally. We did that tonight and had a strong performance. I had some handling issues. We got ourselves through most of that and got into a good position and I hit the wall with about 10 (laps) to go and took us out of like a fourth or fifth place spot back to eighth. But, all in all, it was a solid performance. We had respectable speed and I was in the mix most of the night. … Clean air was a lot. So, I don’t know. I never really got a look at the lead. The No. 9 (Chase Elliott) led a lot and then was just right there in front of me in the end and I was trying to pass him when I hit the wall. So, I feel like we were probably fourth or fifth, if fifth, they way things kind of unfolded. And then I hit the wall and the car got super loose after that. … To have that trouble late and slip to eighth is good. We stayed in the mix for most of the night, so that was encouraging. We’re going the right way.”

William Byron – finished 9th: “It was okay. I expected the track to kind of come to us when night time came but it just didn’t really. We didn’t have the best restarts on the bottom. And, we had a couple of restarts on the top at the end and were able to finish 9th. So, that was good. We’ll just keep working and figure out what we need to do next time. We were pretty good during the day. I had pretty good speed. Top five. And I knew we were pretty tight-off but then it just kept escalating as the runs got longer. When night time fell we were just too tight. So, it is what it is. But ultimately it was a good solid two weeks in a row. And a ninth place finish is not bad. It seems like we’re getting better, for sure. With all four of us (Hendrick Motorsports teammates) in the top 10 is pretty good. And we’ll just work from there.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 10th: “It was different for sure. For us, we lost the handle on the car. We had some different shift codes in the tires that we had to run because that’s what we had. As soon as we put all those shift codes on, the car just went to absolute junk. … (What was it like with all the pushing and shoving to get around tonight?) I don’t even know.”

Aric Almirola – finished 11th: “It was a struggle most of the night. I don’t know. We can’t make it handle the way we need it to. It won’t go on restarts. I don’t know. We have to just keep working and get better.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 13th: “We had a pretty good DEX Imaging Ford tonight. I felt like we had a shot at Martin (Truex Jr.) and Joey (Logano) late. Unfortunately a late race issue with a loose wheel ruined our night.”

David Ragan – finished 15th: “Our Select Blinds Ford Mustang was a top 10 or 12 car a lot of the night. We had some trouble on pit road and felt like I had to pass a lot of cars often throughout the night, but our team did a great job preparing a good car. That was the best mile-and-a-half car we’ve had in a long time and we just ran out of tires. I had some damage from that Kyle Larson wreck with about 30 or 40 to go. We used an extra set of tires and we didn’t have any. We had some with about 20 laps on it, but I felt like if I could have got a good restart I would be able to hold them off. If it would have been two or three laps, we could have got a top five or top 10, but once all the dirty air got around we just didn’t have the grip to hang on there at the end. But that was fun. It was a fun 600-mile race and we learned a few things that will hopefully help us for down the road. … (And you weren’t going to pull over for the 19 on that restart with 5 to go?) No, absolutely not. We were doing all we could. You never know. I mean, those guys could get back there body slamming and I could have gotten a five or 10 car length lead. You just never, never know what may happen on a deal like that. I felt like I hit my marks on the restart good. I got through turns one and two and was leading down the back straightaway and that’s all you can ask for. It helped that Newman was on two tires underneath me and he kind of held them up a little bit, but five laps was just too much.”

Ryan Newman – finished 16th: “We didn’t have the best of cars, but we got ourselves in position and tried. Two tires was kind of my idea, but I just didn’t have enough to hold on. We were off a little bit in speed all day and that’s what we needed there at the end.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 18th: “Our Coca-Cola Ford Mustang was tight most of the night, but my guys kept working on it. We came back from being two laps down, and they just never gave up on adjusting the car. Unfortunately, on the last pit stop we had a penalty and that put us one lap down to end the night 18th.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 19th: “We had power steering issues and I got into the wall late in the race. A few laps later I cut the right-rear tire and spun. That pretty much ended our night.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 21st: “I really hate this night did not turn out better than it did for everyone on this Cessna Chevrolet Team. Luke Lambert and everyone on this team gave me a really fast No. 8 Cessna Chevy. We showed that in practice throughout the weekend and in qualifying on Thursday night. The car took off really well to start the race but we got so many cautions in Stage 1 that we made a strategy call to stay out and were able to grab the lead by doing that. Being able to lead in my first Coca-Cola 600 was a cool experience for sure, but the cars with fresher tires were much quicker on the restart. One of them made contact with the right rear and sent me into the outside wall off Turn 4. I’m really proud of everyone on this team, because they never gave up. We hit pit road as much as possible the rest of the night and they made repairs as best they could. We kept adjusting on it and just tried to do all we could to get to the end. When the caution came out with about 35 laps to go, we took the wave around to get one lap back and hoped for a quick caution, but we never got that when we needed and had to hit pit road under green with 20 laps to go. We will head to Pocono and try to change our luck there.”

Ty Dillon – finished 23rd: “We had a great night going in our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1. I was really happy with it while the sun was out. I could run any lane around the track, and my front end cut great through the corner. As it got darker, I started to lose my front end and kept building tight on each run. But, we were still having a good night. We were running in the top 20 and had stayed on the lead lap all night, really showing the strides that we have made with our intermediate track program. It’s unfortunate that a flat tire in Stage 3 ultimately ruined what was going to be a solid night for our team. Our strategy to make up those laps we lost almost worked out, but we got caught up in that final stage wreck while we were sitting in the free-pass spot to get back on the lead lap. We’re going to be proud of all the positive improvements from this night, though, and keep building on them for our next mile-and-a-half track because that’s what we do. We will keep grinding.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 24th: “That was a long night. We struggled with everything at some point. But you know, close at the end we were seventh, and it was looking like it was going to turn out OK. I think we were going to get a top-10. Two times tonight we were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got wrecked.”

Kyle Larson – finished 32nd: “I just got in there and lost grip and slid up into Clint (Bowyer). I got stuck in the middle and then just put myself in a bad spot and got sideways. So, it was an up and down day for us. I finally put myself in a good spot for about a lap and then screwed that up. So, that was all me. So, we’ll go wherever we race next week and try to do better.”

Austin Dillon – finished 34th: I saw the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) spinning. I don’t know if I should have just slowed down and try to get stopped but I thought I had a gap there and maybe squeeze and get by as best as I could and it didn’t work. We shouldn’t have been back there. We just really didn’t have the car I thought we were going to have. I’m disappointed because I felt like in practice we were pretty decent and it just looks like the No 18 (Kyle Busch) made it through and I was the one that got wrecked. It’s just part of it. But, we’ll try better next time and get our cars a little better and hope it’s better for us.”

Erik Jones – finished 40th: We just blew a right-front. There was no real warning. It’s unfortunate. We had a pretty good car. The Reser’s Camry was moving forward and driving really well. I was trying to get some track position and work my way to the front. It sucks. It’s a long race and we are obviously out of it early. We had a really good Reser’s Camry. I think we were in a really good position to work our way forward and just lost a tire. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time so it’s just unfortunate. I don’t know if we ran something over. It’s a bummer, you don’t want to be out of the 600 this early and we had a car that could have contended today. Just have to go back to work and go get them next week.”

We’ll continue to add driver quotes as they become available. Please check back.

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