What drivers said after Charlotte

Jerry Bonkowski

Chase Elliott – winner: “It feels awesome. Man, it was a tough week, for sure. We’ve had some tough losses, but that deal on Sunday night was a heartbreaker. It’s not the Coca-Cola 600, but any win in the Cup Series is really hard to get, and I really appreciate everybody at Hendrick Motorsports across the street, Chevrolet, and everybody at the shop have been working really hard. … I appreciate my team. Alan (Gustafson) made a great call there at the end to get it tuned up and, luckily, the run went long and I think that fell in our favor.

“(What were the last five laps like?) I was just waiting for the caution to come out, to be honest with you. I thought either the caution was going to come out, I was going to break something or I was going to crash. Just after the last couple of weeks, I just thought surely it wasn’t going to go green until the end. Just glad it did and glad we’re hopefully back on the right path.”

Denny Hamlin – finished second: “(How were you able to rebound for the runner-up finish?) Eventually the air pressure built up enough to where it got off the race track. The pit crew just did a phenomenal job picking up a bunch of spots. Our whole FedEx team prepared a good car. Every time we come back to a race track for the second time, our results are really, really good. We’re making good adjustments, I had a really good Camry, just needed to be a little better in the short run there.

“(Did you have a chance for the win following the final restart?) We started up front there when the pit crew got us out second there and ideally we would have stayed in front. I knew the 4 (Kevin Harvick), his car typically drops like a rock in the long run. We made a good run at it, but it was just too late.”

Ryan Blaney – finished third: “We got to second and the 4 (Harvick) was really fast getting going and the 9 (Elliott) got by me. I kind of messed up three and four and allowed him to get by me. I kind of thought I was equal with him when we were both running the 4 down and I just got tight. I was a little bit free all night and we tightened it up just a touch for that last run, and it was the longest run we had, and we just kind of burned the right-front off of it and couldn’t stay with the 9 there late in the run, and then the 11 (Hamlin) got by me. Overall, not a bad day for our BODYARMOR Ford Mustang. We had two solid races here at Charlotte. We just need to find a little bit more speed, but we’re right there. I’m really proud of this team.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished fourth: “That was a really solid night for our Kroger Camaro ZL1 1LE. I knew we had good speed in our car from the Coca-Cola 600 the other night, we just weren’t able to put the whole race together. We worked really well together and I was happy with the handling the majority of the night. (Crew chief) Brian (Pattie) made some really good adjustments that allowed us to make passes and make aggressive moves to gain track position and hold it during the final green flag run. This is exactly the type of momentum we need heading into one of my favorite tracks – Bristol Motor Speedway – this Sunday.”

Kurt Busch – finished fifth: “Not a bad run! A top five at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) on a Thursday night. Thanks to (crew chief) Matt McCall and all the guys on this Monster Energy team. We changed a few things our car to learn as much as we could, without practice and without testing. We tried some different things and it raced differently. The car handled loose all night, but we were able to bring home a top five. We just need to fine-tune a little bit here and there. Thanks to Monster Energy, Chevrolet, GEARWERENCH and everyone else on this effort. That puts us solidly up in the points; moving forward there will be a random draw for the starting line-up, if you’re in the top 12 you have a shot at starting on the pole. We’re making steady progress and had good stage points tonight.”

Joey Logano – finished sixth: “We had a solid to okay day. Solid to start and okay to finish. We started off with some good track position on the initial start and then had the opportunity to stay out, which we were able to grab a stage win and get another playoff point for the second week in a row, which is nice. We had a decent second stage and finished third, and then had two mediocre restarts that kind of put me back in the sixth or seventh place range. It was just impossible to pass. It’s so hard to pass. I rode behind the 1 (Kurt Busch), which I was better than, but could not get to him. I was waiting for him to make a mistake, but he’s too good to make a mistake, so I rode around and waited and waited and waited. I needed a caution to have the opportunity to have a restart and a pit stop, but in this racing you just run hard, you try to get everything you can on restarts. Details mean so much. We’re detail racing for sure and after that you hope that maybe there’s a car like the 4 that is fast and falls off, and there might be one or two cars that you might get on the long haul, possibly, but it’s tough at a track that’s just not wide enough.”

Brad Keselowski – finished seventh: “It wasn’t our prettiest day, but, all in all, we were decent. We had a lot of speed in our car, not as much as maybe the 9 (Elliott) car. He was lights-out fast today, but we had enough to, I think, run in the top three or four. We had a little bit of contact early on and got a flat tire that did a lot of damage to the car, and we recovered and I got contact again and had a lot of damage to the car, but came back in to fix it. There at the end we started to recover. I think we drove up to seventh to finish the race, but it’s kind of not my strongest day. I was pushing a little bit too hard starting in the back and got us behind with damage a little bit early and had to kind of fight through it in a short race. We did the best we could to recover, but didn’t have enough laps and I put us in too big of a hole.

“(How was tonight different physically compared to the much longer Coca-Cola 600?) It feels like I just played one half of a game, rather than a full game. It’s a lot easier, for sure, but I also kind of like this format a lot. I think it makes sense. I think it makes sense to have long races on weekends and kind of shorter races, disregarding the weather, during the week. I really like the format NASCAR has here. It’s a good give-and-take. It doesn’t just completely destroy your body, so I think NASCAR has really hit something here. I couldn’t see the front, but it seemed like it was pretty racy there at the end for the win, and I think that’s always a good thing as well.

“(You’ve talked about midweek races for some time. Do you think NASCAR will schedule more?) Oh yeah, I think absolutely. NASCAR, in my opinion, has hit gold with this format. The limited practice, show up and race, and the time window that benefits both the east and west coast. No qualifying. Inversion from the week before is really good because it mixes the field up and creates some good storylines there. I think it’s fair. It’s compelling and it’s at a time where, quite frankly, the sports world, even if it wasn’t for COVID, midweek races in the summer, when you’re generally not having a lot of competition, is in a time period where everybody is hungry for content. I think they’ve got gold here. COVID or not, I hope we keep this for years to come. I think this is a great little format that’s good for the sport and good for the fans and good for everybody all around, so kudos to them.”

Austin Dillon – finished eighth: “A top-10 finish is what we deserved in both this race, and in the Coca-Cola 600 this past Sunday. It’s crazy. We’ve run 900 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the past few days and we were an eighth-place car for all of it. We had spurts where we were really fast – top five at times. (crew chief) Justin Alexander, the pit crew, my spotter Brandon, everybody did a great job. It was fun. I had fun on the restarts, and we were able to pick up some stage points. We were just a little too free tonight. It was good on the long runs because it was free, but during the first 10 laps if you didn’t get going you would lose a couple of spots. We needed a little better take off speed. We’ll keep working. Bristol Motor Speedway is next. I’m loving it. A lot of miles in a short period of time.”

Martin Truex Jr. – finished ninth: “It was quite a battle. We started the race and made a few little changes to try to be better. We tried to figure out what we needed to be a little better than the other night and we started the race and we were just crazy loose. Honestly, that’s really the whole story. It was undrivable sideways for the first two stages and we just kept taking big swings at it. Finally, I fired off for that long run in the third stage and the Bass Pro Shops Camry was pretty good. We started passing cars and making up some ground. We just continued to chug our way forward the whole time. We never gave up on it, we worked hard and salvaged something. I think we’re all a little baffled on how we could have been that far off after how good we were Sunday. We definitely need to go back to the shop and figure some things out.

“(Are you looking forward to Bristol?) Hopefully no rain. I’m about sick of getting in and out of that car and watching the radar. Sitting there thinking, ‘well we were going to go and now we’re not going.’ Then drive home, come back. We just haven’t been able to catch a break. Hopefully, all the bad luck is out of the way as far as that’s concerned and we can go have us a good race at Bristol.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 10th: “It just falls off after lap 30. We knew that’s what we had with our Busch Light Ford and it went straight 60-some laps. They did a really good job turning the car around. It was the total opposite of what we raced last Sunday, so it was a good test session for us. We just didn’t need a long run.”

William Byron – finished 12th: “It was a rough night after we got that damage. We really never were the same after that. Obviously, we never had track position or the speed. We could get the handling to be okay but it would really fall off hard on the long run. It was just never the same, but the guys did a good job fixing it, trying to get us back up to the front. The pit crew was phenomenal. We restarted eighth on that last run and ran 10th for a while. To finish 12th is not bad after getting that damage. I feel like we got a couple more spots than maybe we should have, which is great. We’ll go on to the next race, execute and have a smooth race hopefully.”

John Hunter Nemechek – finished 13th: “Overall, it was a solid night for our No. 38 Scag Power Equipment Ford Mustang. I’m worn out… It was a hard-fought night. We had to overcome a couple of mistakes and we weren’t great in traffic, but we never gave up. (Crew chief) Seth [Barbour] and the crew did a really good job of tuning her up and making improvements so we could find some speed. We were able to bring home another top-15 finish for our Front Row Motorsports team.”

Tyler Reddick – finished 14th: “Man, what an up and down night for our No. 8 Okuma Chevrolet team. We worked hard and we were able to grab a top-15 finish. The biggest challenge was managing the balance tonight. For the first two stages of the race, we were too tight on entry and exit of the turns and way too loose in the middle. It made it really hard to trust the car as we went into the corners of the track. The adjustment my Richard Childress Racing team made during the final stop of the race was the best one of the night and allowed me to race up through the field and into the top 15. We just lacked some long run speed tonight to stay up there and battle within the top 10. That’s something we’ll go back and look at to improve on for future intermediate tracks. It’s been fun racing in our backyard of Charlotte over the past week, but I’m looking forward to moving on to Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 16th: “We need to figure something out for this place. We just had too many penalties tonight. We can’t make those kinds of mistakes.”

Cole Custer – finished 18th: “It didn’t start the way we wanted to tonight, but we kept chipping away at it. I think we have some stuff we can take to other tracks. We definitely learned a lot.”

Aric Almirola – finished 20th: “That was just an overall tough day for our Smithfield Ford team today. After starting in the rear we were able to get back to 16th by taking two tires and holding on, but our day went downhill from there. The car was just not where we wanted it to be and contact with the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) put us back where we started. The pit crew did a great job today and gained us some spots, but unfortunately I just couldn’t pass in traffic with the way the car handled. I’m looking forward to Bristol in a few days to get back to a short track.”

Matt Kenseth – finished 23rd: “Another tough night for the Credit One Bank Camaro. We had a flat tire early in the race, but managed to get the lap we lost back, then had a loose wheel later in the race which forced a pit stop under green. The penalty for the commitment violation when we pitted for the loose wheel certainly added to the rough night, but we kept doing all we could to gain back as many spots as possible before the end of the race. The handling on the car improved some throughout the night, but we just got too far back with the bad breaks to be able to do much more. A tough race, but better days ahead for our team.”

Michael McDowell – finished 25th: “It was an up and down night at Charlotte Motor Speedway for our No. 34 CarParts.com Ford Mustang. We fired off extremely well and ran competitively inside of the top 10 for the majority of Stage 1. However as daylight faded and the track temperature began to change, our race car started to tighten up on entry into the corners, making it tough to carry speed through the turns; something we battled all night long. (Crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer) and my guys fought hard on pit road to make multiple adjustments on our No. 34 CarParts.com Ford Mustang, but we just ran out of time at the end.”

Ty Dillon – finished 27th: “Our GEICO Hump Day Chevrolet was actually pretty good handling wise tonight. It drove well over the bumps, which was an area we struggled with on Sunday, so (crew chief) Matt (Borland) and the guys definitely improved our setup. Unfortunately, from the moment I pulled off of pit road before the green flag, I didn’t have any power steering. We tried to fix it under caution, but when we couldn’t diagnose the problem on pit road, I had to tough it out. The pit crew had solid stops all night long and we would’ve had a strong run tonight if it wasn’t for the power steering issue. When we get back to the shop, we’ll figure out what the problem was and move forward to Bristol.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 28th: “You know, another 28th – I’m getting a little tired of those 28ths. But we have to keep working. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed about this one because I thought we were going to bring a better car than last Sunday. We made adjustments hoping for that, but obviously it didn’t work out for us. I know what I signed up for and I trust in this team and I trust everyone involved – Toyota, Coca-Cola and CommScope, everyone who is making this happen. We have to keep pushing and the results will come. I really want to thank everyone for the amazing support. Let’s see what we can do Sunday in Bristol.”


Kyle Busch — finished 29th: 


Gray Gaulding — finished 30th:


Alex Bowman – finished 31st: “That didn’t end the way we imagined. We had a great car and led some laps and got our fourth stage win of the season. I just got in the wall there at the end and it really hurt the right side. At that point, there isn’t really much we can do. We will finish one of these things here soon. It is a quick turnaround to Bristol on Sunday, but I’m ready for it.”

Quin Houff — finished 32nd:


Timmy Hill — finished 33rd:


Josh Bilicki — finished 36th:


Bubba Wallace — finished 37th: “I know there are a lot of questions to be answered. Obviously, our Richard Petty Motorsports team is frustrated. First thing, hats-off to the guys for bringing an outstanding Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. The Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had a lot of speed – a big improvement from Sunday. We’ll hold everyone accountable, including myself, as a team would do for the problems that we are having right now. It takes a team effort to figure out our struggles.

“If it’s bad luck, it’s bad luck. We’ve got to shake it and the best way to do that is to show-up to the next race with our heads held high and keep that chip on our shoulder. We’ll get to the root of our problem and continue to bring a fast race car to the track. We’re showing big improvements and that’s really all we can ask for. But we’ve got to clean-up some stuff. Like I said, if it’s internally, we’ll fix it. If it’s dumb luck, then you’ll have that. On to the Bristol Motor Speedway.”


Joey Gase – finished 39th:


Garrett Smithley — finished 40th:


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What drivers said after Charlotte originally appeared on NBCSports.com