What Drivers Said after the GEICO 500 at Talladega

What Drivers Said after the GEICO 500 at Talladega

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

Chase Elliott – winner: “What a day. … Just a huge thanks to all of our partners, my team, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet; there was obviously a lot of teamwork done today. We just had a plan and executed really well. Obviously it could have gone both ways but fortunately everybody stayed together and stayed the course and had some help on that last lap with the caution. I just appreciate all the support. This is unbelievable. This is special. This is close to home for me. It feels a little bit like a home race.”

Alex Bowman – finished second: “There was no plan coming off Turn 4, but unfortunately we didn’t get there before the caution came out. Big props to Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They brought great race cars here. We had a great Nationwide Chevy from the time we unloaded. We showed a lot of speed. We all stuck to our plans and executed really well. Props to everybody back at home at Hendrick Motorsports and the fab shop and the engine shop and everybody that makes this deal possible. (If the caution didn’t come out, would you have made a move on Elliott?) Well, I’m not just going to let him win, right? I’ve got to try. I knew I could get to his quarter panel. I was pretty confident I could get to his quarter panel in the tri-oval and who knows who’s going to get to the line first at that point. I thought I could do it, but it depends on the car behind you and where he goes. It would have been fun to try, but I’m happy for Chase. … I’m glad to kind of turn things around. It’s been a rough start to the year and these guys deserve way better than the finishes they’ve had. So, to come home second is not a win, but it’s headed in the right direction.”

Ryan Preece – finished third: “It was awesome. I was only here one other time and that was in Talladega in 2016 in an Xfinity car and I was running third with three to go, went for the sucker hole and got flushed. I wasn’t going to do that today. … Great day for Kroger and JTG (Daugherty Racing) and hopefully we can keep this momentum moving forward.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: “At the end (Kurt Busch) had a big run and I felt like I had to block that. When I blocked that I can’t block both and (Chase Elliott) got underneath me. If I chose the bottom and block (Elliott) I had (Alex Bowman) there and they were going to go by me as soon as they formed a run. I was not in a very good spot. Once I got on the outside I thought that would be a better spot to be than the bottom but the teammates there didn’t race each other to the end, which is good on their part because it made sure one of their cars won. If they had gotten side by side I think I could have made something happen but they were selfless toward each other. I really think even if it was green all the way to the end it would have looked exactly the same. There were no runs built and no momentum going. It is a tough spot to be in. You think you are in a good spot and anytime you can take the front row on a final restart you will take it, especially here at Talladega but it is tough when the numbers are stacked against you a little bit. The team did a good job though and our Mustang was really fast and that is what we have to be proud of.”

Daniel Hemric — finished fifth: “Chevrolet and all the drivers and teams put in the effort to communicate here in the last few weeks to try and stay dedicated and committed to each other. We’ve talked about it in the past, but we’ve never had such unity on the racetrack like we had today. That’s what led to us ultimately having our best finish as a group. I’m proud of that and of all the Chevrolet drivers sticking together. The first objective was to make sure a Bowtie ended up in Victory Lane today, and that’s what happened today. I’m proud of all these guys. (On the number of meetings with Chevy) Oh yeah, (there were) many of them to make sure we were all on the same page. It was cool to see people put the effort in and then us do our jobs on the track and stay committed to each other. That’s special. It’s hard to take a lot of drivers’ egos and put them to the side and try to look for the bigger cause, which was to get Chevrolet to Victory Lane. That’s what happened and I’m happy for that.”

Kurt Busch – finished sixth:I feel like we had a great day with our Monster Energy Chevy. I just didn’t deliver the win. I felt like I had it in my hands and let it drop. I didn’t make the right moves at the end to bring our Monster Energy Chevy a victory. It’s tough. I just didn’t execute what I needed to do to win the race. But all in all, it was a great day for Chevrolet and the teamwork from everybody. … Chase Elliott deserves the win. He did everything you would need a teammate from a brand to do. He put himself in position at the end. I just didn’t know what lane I needed to pick going into Turn 3 and I got swallowed up in the draft. (Thoughts on the new aero package) I think it was pretty good all the way around with each of the manufacturers doing their thing. No lane seemed more effective than years past. I’d give the package a thumbs up. … I just feel like I gave this one away today. Our Monster Energy Chevy was fast, and now we’ll go to a fast, one-mile track with all the horsepower. To have all this downforce and all this horsepower, I’ve been looking forward to Dover all year.”

Ryan Newman – finished seventh: “That was crazy. I took the inside line and started there and stayed there. Never had many places to go but either way it was a good run and a good team effort. Proud of the entire team to be able to keep it together. I think we kept most of the race cars on the race track which was probably a lot of luck. We will go on to Dover. (Was he surprised at Chevrolet’s domination?) No, I think it was mostly luck, honestly. They did a good job of orchestrating the pit but I don’t think that won them the race. … We put two tires on it there at the end and went. We just ran out of time. I think we finished sixth, I feel like I was ahead of one of those guys. It was a good run for the Acorns Ford. We got some good stage points and race points. We need to get a win. We need to get a top five. We have top 10s rolling and that is good. We need to keep going in the right direction. (Was it a different Talladega, using tapered spacers rather than restrictor plates?) I don’t know that it was much different. You got bigger runs but the end result was basically the same. We are still at the mercy of other people’s mistakes which will always be a part of racing here. In the end I am glad all the race cars stayed on the race track.”

Brendan Gaughan – finished eighth: “I was telling the guys, ‘I don’t know what y’all think is so tough about this. I show up once every three months and drive into the top-10.’ I miss this sport. It is a lot of fun. I don’t miss it enough to want to be here every week. I know now I can hold my breath for a minute and 45 seconds! It was pretty impressive. Thank you to the Beard Family, Richard Childress and ECR. I’m here four times a year and we end up with a chance to win every time we show up. I love driving for this team. It was unbelievable out there at the end of that race. I tucked up and stayed up under Ryan Newman. I sat on the bottom and tried to go forward. I’ll take eighth today.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “We had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang. I thought we had a car capable of winning but just a few mistakes on my part and then a few thing didn’t go my way. I worked my way back up to the first two or three spots and got shuffled out, one time late in the race there and fell to the back. Had to fight really hard just to get back up into the top 10. I am really proud of all of our guys. I thought we had a car capable of winning and circumstances and some things didn’t go our way. The Fords were really fast. The only thing I am happy about is that we finally stopped the bleeding. We had a really crappy couple of weeks with Bristol and Richmond. We fell from fifth to 11th in points. We stopped the bleeding there, got another top 10 and are back on track going to a great race track for us in Dover.”

Kyle Busch – finished 10th: We restarted outside the front row and I thought the 1 (Kurt Busch) behind me would want to race for the win and not just fall in line behind Fords and in front of Chevrolets and he would go with us a little bit there. Team order prevailed I guess. That kind of sucked. We weren’t able to have the run. As soon as he bailed off from behind me and then two others behind me got double-wide and then it just sucked me six rows back. I had to try to recover after that and all I could get was whatever I got. When you got older on tires and cars started to ill-handle a little bit, it was interesting. We got more downforce and yet the cars are driving worse, I don’t know how that’s possible. It was just interesting how you could be all over the place and not just be stuck. Guys were moving a little bit, you could make some moves a little bit. There was a section of race where the bottom lane didn’t move anywhere and the top lane didn’t move anywhere – we were stuck where we were at for like eight laps. That was about all I really saw.”

Austin Dillon – finished 14th: “I thought Chevrolet did a really good job today. The racing was pretty good. We didn’t tear up too much stuff, and with all of the downforce this new package has, we could really move around. If you did get hit, you could try to save it, so I thought there was some really good racing going on out there today. I chose the outside lane on the last run. Kyle Larson and I were committed to each other, but I don’t think the outside works with the spoilers we have on our cars now. There’s just not enough grip until the end of a run. At the end of a run, it becomes stronger. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 3 Dow Chevrolet team for their efforts today. We’re headed to Dover to try and earn a win for RCR and ECR.”

Ty Dillon – finished 17th: “I’m really proud of our effort today. We want to win the Geico 500 but we did win something today (Stage One) so that’s always good. (How was the racing today?) Crazy! It’s crazy. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it, and that’s all that matters. (What does a second stage win mean?) It’s massive. I don’t think anyone expected us to win two stages this year, so we’re proud of that. We’re going to keep clicking along. We were really happy with the way we did it at Bristol and we surprised ourselves to do it here at Talladega. Who knows how many more we can do it, but I’m just really proud.”

David Ragan – finished 23rd: “I was in the middle there after we took the white flag and I just got loose and wrecked the 24 (William Byron). I spun him out across my nose and he collected a few other cars. That last wreck was my fault. I was pretty stupid to wreck like that when you are running 10th or 15th on the last lap. We didn’t have a shot to win. When you get three-wide there is just nowhere to go and everybody was pushing and shoving and my car just jumped sideways and when I corrected it I caught the 24’s left rear and spun him across my nose. That was unfortunate for our team. Our Mustang was fast all day and had a lot of fun out there but just made a stupid mistake there at the end. (What he thought about the new package) I thought it was pretty intense. I felt there were times guys raced really hard up front and sometimes when guys got single file and rode. You are gonna have that in a 500-mile race. You can’t race that hard for 500 miles without carnage. That first wreck set the tone and guys chilled out a little bit. The cars are going 200 mph and it is exciting and they are hard to race and ultimately you will make some mistakes out there.”

Kyle Larson – finished 24th: “Initially I thought I was going to hit the inside wall and right before I got there, it started to lift. That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I just didn’t know if it would ever stop. I knew I was flipping and was just hoping I wouldn’t get any closer to the catchfence. It was a little bit scary, but I’m all right. Thanks to the fab shop at Chip Ganassi Racing for building safe race cars. Like I said, it was scary, but I’m just thankful I’m okay.”

Chris Buescher – finished 30th: “We just got turned (talking about his late-race crash). We had a good driving car and put ourselves in a good position there with a handful of laps to go. We just turned right, got hit and turned right into the fence, destroyed our race and and several race cars. It’s typical of these race tracks. It gets frustrating every time you come to these places and something like this throughout the race. It’s just not very much fun.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 31st: I’m about tired of superspeedway racing for the year. Daytona – good car, good run, crashed. Here – I was actually fighting really tight there at the end. Just was struggling to maintain, but once we got up to second (place) cars kept getting underneath me off the corner. But I don’t know what happened. I saw (Chris) Buescher got turned and we absolutely clobbered him. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do – just speedway racing. I’m sure I’d love it if it was going the opposite direction, but it seems like we crash in every one of these things.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 36th: We had to start in the back, got up to the top five there. Then Bubba (Wallace) and Ryan (Blaney) were kind of bouncing off of each other. Bubba got sideways in front of me and I ran into him. That caused a little damage then we blew a tire – Jimmie (Johnson) blew a tire, no caution. Clint (Bowyer) blew a caution, wrecked, no caution. Then we blew a tire and no caution. We didn’t really get an opportunity to fix it all the way we needed to and ended up ending our day. We’ve been pretty fortunate to miss a lot of wrecks on the superspeedway races for the last four or five years, but today was just the day that bad luck dropped on us.

“It’s just one of those things where I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do, but sometimes in NASCAR racing when somebody else makes a mistake you get caught up in it. That was the case today. I guess maybe I could have been a little more aware of the guys I was racing around. The runs are big. It’s very hard to defend the lead once you do get up there. You have to be on your toes more so than ever with this package simply because the runs are so big. We’ve got some information, we’ll move on and go to Daytona.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 38th: “I went to the back to start and thought that was going to happen several times throughout the day. I got myself back there and it looked pretty tame so I decided to go back to the front and drove back up there fairly easy. I don’t know what happened. They all wrecked and I slowed down and somebody hit me in the door and I hit the wall.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 39th: “All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance. I didn’t want to wad up the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney). That’s the last car I want to wad up out there. Had such a big run on him. And the No. 22 (Joey Logano) pulled up and he checked up a little bit. I went to go to the bottom, where I was safe. I don’t know if I crossed his bumper or whatever. But it got him wiggled down and shoved me even farther down than I wanted to go. So, I went back up just to stay off the apron and it just unloaded. It’s just unfortunate, but I tried not to wreck my buddy, Ryan, and it cost our day and some others. I apologize. But, we should have been wrecked a couple of laps before that. The No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had a big run on us and let me in throughout the middle, so I appreciate that. We were fast. I was just trying to ride and not wreck somebody and I wrecked myself.”

Michael McDowell – finished 40th: “Looked like the 43 was being real aggressive and making stupid moves at the beginning of the race. … That is pretty early in the race to be making dumb moves like that … to be that aggressive. Unfortunately for the Love’s Travel Stops Ford we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw the 43 (Wallace) coming up the race track and that was about it. It is disappointing. We have had such good speed and such a great superspeedway program and we were really hopeful for today. To be out so early on is very disappointing. It is out of our control though. It is part of superspeedway racing.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski



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