What drivers said at Homestead playoff race
What drivers said during and after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 playoff race at Homestead-MIami Speedway, where Kyle Larson won for the first time:
Kyle Larson -- winner: “Yeah, definitely the best run we’ve had all year long. We’ve been capable of it I feel like many weekends, we just haven’t quite put it all together. (Crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) gave a great speech this morning and got us all ready to go and focused and did my best to keep it out of the wall. I got in the wall a few times but I could still make speed doing that. Amazing race car. I knew that that last run was going to be short enough where I was going to be in some sort of trouble there, but thankfully AJ and Ross were racing hard behind me.
“But yeah, happy for our team, and we get to go race for an owner’s title in Phoenix in a couple weeks. We’re still technically not out of it. I can’t win the championship, but it means more to me to win it as a team. We’re going to go to Phoenix and try to get another championship.
(On the contact with Martin Truex Jr. in the pits) “Yeah, so I was just going behind him, and he had a hard left and was hard on the brakes at the same time, and I ran right in the back of him. My team said he was late turning into his stall, but I don’t know. If it was my fault, I’m sorry. I don’t think it was. But it’s hard to see down this pit road. I don’t know if fans and people realize, when you’ve got debris all over your windshield, the sun is shining straight in your face, it’s hard to see your stall. So hate that that happened. He was definitely the one I was going to have to beat. He was really good that last long run, too.
“What a fun day. I’ve always wanted to race here during the day at Homestead where we could rip the wall. Finally have a car tough enough for me to be able to run the wall and finish the race. A lot of fun today. Hope you fans enjoyed the ass-kicking there, and hope we can do it again in a couple of weeks.”
Ross Chastain -- Finished second: “Not the way you would have scripted it. I feel like we had a top-three or four car all day, all weekend, and a little too tight in qualifying, and come behind that with a driver that chose the complete wrong lane in 3 and 4, against everything I’ve ever trained for and prepared for. Qualified 20th, and it took us all day long. We need to get the car turning better from qualifying into the race. We were too tight. Phil Surgen and his whole team got it turning better, and pit stops were incredible again. Our guys were just -- they’re just rock stars on pit road, and I’m so glad to go to battle with them.
“At the end of the day, I know we didn’t score a ton of stage points. We put ourselves in position at the end, and just keep executing. I almost spun off Turn 2 in front of Daniel, and I had my arms all crossed up and I just took a deep breath down the back, and thought, what can I control here? I can control not spinning out, so let’s go a little slower next time, and had a shot at it.”
(On feeling comfort heading to Martinsville) “I don’t know What’s it supposed to feel like? I’ve never been here. For Trackhouse, we’re learning all this together; we’re experiencing this together.
“We’ve got a lot of knowledge in our shop and I’ll lean on a lot of teammates, both in the GM camp and inside our shop of how to approach it, but I’m a racer. We’re just going to race. Go practice as well as we can; we’ll go qualify as best we can. And I’m late all the time, so a grandfather clock might do me a little good for the rest of my life. (To race for a championship is) just a life goal, a career accomplishment. Just to make it to the Cup Series, be here competing with my heroes. I train with Kyle, and he was better than us today. But he ran into the 19, knocked his diffuser flap down and he didn’t have quite as much grip, and we had a shot at it.
“I feel like that no matter what, this season is going to be a success, but in the moments where I hit the wall at the Roval and I realized this could all be gone and we could not transfer, it hurts, and I don’t want that. I’m a racer, and I want the next thing. I feel confident in our group and what we’ll take to Martinsville. We ran fifth there in the spring. We just continue to arrive on the scene of the Cup Series, and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anybody else.”
AJ Allmendinger -- Finished third: “The short runs (felt really good). It was really hooked up. We still have to work on our long-run package in general. That’s something that’s kind of been weak for us at Kaulig Racing. We got that caution with 18 to go, I was like we’ve got a shot at this, and we lost a couple of spots on pit road but restarted eighth. Ross and I had a fun battle. I think I needed about an 11-lap run to catch Kyle. But overall just proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing to get the Chevy in the top five and just have another solid day.
“We know how it goes in the offseason. A lot of stuff changes. Everybody works on the cars. It’s all about trying to build a notebook and get ready for next year. This is just giving us confidence. This is part of the reason why I made the decision to go full time Cup because I felt like the group that we have on the Cup side can be really good. We have a lot of work to do, but it can be really good, and I want to be a part of that.”
Austin Dillon -- Finished fourth: “It’s one of our best race cars of the year for sure. We started 32nd. I knew we had a good long run car, and it showed. We were able to drive up through there. I had a blast today. Homestead is so much fun. These cars were fun to race here today. So close there. Really felt like we could catch those next three cars. Just weren’t as good as we needed to be at the end, but we’re in the fight, and that was a lot of fun. The pit crew rebounded and had a good final stop.”
Brad Keselowski -- Finished fifth: “We were solid all day. Great stops and the car was really solid. We weren’t in a spot to dominate the race but we were in a spot to run up front all day and that is what we did. We are starting to gel and click as a team. It is exciting for RFK, and I am really happy for Violet Defense and everybody on the team. We are pushing and getting better. It was a solid day all day. I am really looking forward to Martinsville. We had a great test there just like we did here at Homestead. I really want to get a win before this year is over. If we keep building momentum like this I think we can do that. (Are you improving?) 100 percent. It just can’t come fast enough. We want it bad.”
Martin Truex Jr. -- Finished sixth: “Yeah, it was definitely a little bit of both of that. It’s really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it. I did see my box late for sure, so I slowed down before I turned out of the way of the 5 there. Obviously partly on me. I didn’t expect to get turned around. I’m glad nobody got hurt there. But overall it’s just disappointing. To have a good day going like that and have a shot at winning and couldn’t close the deal. I hate it for my team. It’s been one of those years.”
Denny Hamlin -- Finished seventh: “We had some good stops. The pit crew did a great job the second half of the race. I was able to get a good restart to get the track position by taking the lead, but I just can’t get my car to go. I can’t get it to turn. We’re just too slow on the short runs. Something we’ve really got to work on for sure. Vegas, it hurt us as well. We’ll just continue to work on it, and I’ll try to work on my technique and try to do anything I can to try to get some more speed out of it. We weren’t fast enough to really compete with those guys even when we got the lead. We were just a sitting duck because I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s really tough to keep it up there all day, especially with the shadow into Turn 1. I had my fair share of times in the wall today. Luckily, the car stayed in one piece. I nearly crashed into (Turn) 1. That was exciting and just kept going.” (On Martinsville) “We’ve got to go get stage points. We can’t be outside the top 10 for the first two stages for sure. That’s the only thing that has really kind of hurt us. Not having a lot of playoff points, we always have to dig ourselves out of a hole every time a round starts. We just have to go there and get it done and perform well. I think we can. We have to qualify well and execute.”
Christopher Bell -- Finished 11th: “I’m fine. I’m disappointed with our performance today, but at least that is in our hands. Last week, I was emotional about it because it was out of our hands, and we were performing well. Today, it was in our hands, and we just didn’t step up to the bat and do what we needed to do. That was disappointing, but we will move to Martinsville. We ran well in the spring. I definitely feel better about winning there than I did at the Charlotte road course.”
William Byron -- Finished 12th: “We just had one bad run. We restarted second and kind of maintained in second for maybe a couple of laps, and then the car fell off and disappeared. That one run was just really weird, so we lost a lot of track position. And then we had the deal on pit road, but everybody kept focused and tried to get as many spots as we could. Twelfth is how we netted out after all of that, but I’m proud of the effort of the No. 24 Camaro ZL1 team. We have some things to work on for short runs to just get the balance right. Later in these races, it seems like that’s what it kind of comes down to more and we just struggled a little bit. Just have to work on that; but overall, really happy with the rebound and we’re in a decent spot, for sure.”
Chase Elliott -- Finished 14th: “We were playing defense all day, but we were doing a pretty good job of it and staying inside the top-five there, so that was great. But that’s what happens when you’re playing defense, and you have something like that happen to you. You just get stuck. The other guys that got buried; they drove right back to the front. That’s just the difference. I think if we execute next weekend, we’ll be fine.”
Ryan Blaney -- Finished 17th: (What happened on the spin exiting the pits?) “Downshifted like a complete moron. It’s just disappointing, mainly to myself the last two weeks, I’ve not done a good job executing at all from wrecking last week and a bonehead move like that this week. The 12 group doesn’t deserve that. I’m disappointed in myself and can’t have that. It’s pretty unacceptable. Just go try to win Martinsville. That’s all we can do. Go try to run up front and have a good day, and that’s all we can ask for, just try to stay in the game and hopefully the driver doesn’t cost us anything.”
Joey Logano -- Finished 18th: “We had a good car. It was a bit of a wasted car, unfortunately. We had a really fast Mustang. Probably not good enough to beat (Kyle Larson) but good enough for second or third. We just lost too much track position anytime the caution came out or we went to pit road. We just kept losing spot after spot after spot and couldn’t settle into the top five like we needed to. It was a fast car and that is important. We just need to get a little faster on pit road. We have momentum. We had a really fast race car. We need a good day on pit road next week. That will be really important for us and hopefully, we can do that.”
Ty Dillon -- Finished 26th: “We didn’t really have the speed we needed all day with our Sunseeker Resorts Camaro. In the first 15 or 20 laps, we just got so far behind and wasn’t really able to recover. It was definitely a struggle all day, and we lost some positions with the spin on the last lap too. Hopefully, we will get better for the last two races.”
Erik Jones -- Finished 30th: “Today just wasn’t our day. I thought we found some things at the test that would help us, but we struggled all race with the handling. We’ve got some work to do for sure before we come back here next year. You’ll have weeks like this, especially as we continue to learn this car. Glad to have this one behind us and move on to next week at Martinsville.”
Tyler Reddick -- Finished 35th: “We started off our day running well. Stage 1 was really strong for our team. We ran up front, but our Chevy was just a little too free. From there, it was pretty tough. The balance of our Chevrolet was really tight, and we couldn’t free it up enough and that was frustrating. We crashed with just a few laps left and that ended our day a little early. Tough end, but this team will rebound and hopefully have a better result at Martinsville Speedway.”
Chase Briscoe -- Finished 36th: “The driver just made a mistake. I was really, really loose that run. We were really tight every other run. That green-flag run we tried to get really free on the other side of it and just started taking really hard. I was hanging on with everything I had. It felt like I was on ice. Honestly, I wasn’t even running hard. I was trying to just get to the caution. We kept getting freer. I got sideways and had the wheel all the way to the right and ended up head-on into the wall. It is really frustrating to have it be something of my own doing. I am better than to be crashing by myself. It is really unfortunate. It makes our job easier next week I guess. We don’t have to worry about points. We gotta go to Martinsville and win.”