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Here’s what drivers had to say about their performance in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
Joey Logano – winner: “Boy, we fought hard for this one today. Man, what a battle between Blaney and I and Chase Elliott and (Martin Truex Jr.) earlier in the race, and then to see this finish with Matt finishing second is great day for Wood Brothers and for Team Penske. Man, nothing like winning the Pennzoil 400 in front of this amazing crowd with this awesome yellow car right here in the front. Man, this is a huge win, and nice to kick off the season with a W.
“[Was the push from Stenhouse on the final restart the difference?] Yeah, it really was. You get a good start like that, and I watched him, he pushed me and then he shoved me ahead, which was great, and then the block on the 24, that was the winning move, I was able to get down in front of him and then be able to separate myself a little bit from the field. Clean air was going to be key with old tires. If I got swallowed up by a couple cars, I was just going to fall backwards really quick. Being able to get that clean air, secure that. Man, this is great getting back in Victory Lane.
“[It’s your first win with Paul Wolfe as your crew chief, one to remember] Yeah, it really is. He’s done such a great job, and it’s been fun getting to know each other, and with the whole team. The pit crew was amazing today. I think we gained a spot every time at least. Proud of the effort that everyone has put in over the offseason, to come out here the start of the West Coast Swing and get one of those cool stickers right next to my name on top of this car.”
Matt DiBenedetto – finished 2nd: “This is all just too surreal. Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing. It took so many people, Motorcraft, Quick Lane. To be driving this iconic car is so cool, Menards and Paul, I know you’re watching at home and proud and I can’t thank everyone in that whole family for this opportunity for it.
“Power under the hood is always good. I’m proud to have that Roush Yates power under the hood. This whole team, Greg Irwin, all of them, we were covered. It wasn’t pretty at the start, but, man, they did an excellent job. So happy to be working with this team, the fans. Thank you all so much. The journey has been pretty cool.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 3rd: “Brian (crew chief Brian Pattie) is just really good at calling races, and he apologized for that one (bad pit call). That one backfired on us that second run. We got good track position, and then we stayed out a little too long and gave up that track position. So then we were fighting kind of all race to get it back up, and he went long again, and it paid off with the caution. Our Kroger Camaro was good. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we know what we need to work on now, and it was cool to get a good solid run in this Camaro for everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing. Got to thank Hungry Jack, NOS Energy Drink and everybody that works on this car. So far so good. Two weeks, we’ve been fast this week, we weren’t bad this week, and we know what we need to work on, and I know Brian and the boys will tune it up.”
Austin Dillon – finished 4th: “We just needed some track position. Everybody is just really close. You can tell by how many cars are on the lead lap at the end of these races; it’s nuts. NASCAR did a great job to get these cars where they are. It is crazy racing out there. We saw those guys hit pit road. We were running the same lap times at the beginning of the tires to the end, so that was our best move. Luckily, we got the outside. Our teammate was doomed on the bottom. The bottom just seemed to lose spots all day unless you were the leader. I just want to thank all of our sponsors; American Ethanol, Bass Pro Shop, Dow, everyone that helps this team. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Jimmie Johnson – finished 5th: “It was a strong day. With about 15 to go or so, I got into the outside wall and lost some spots. But we didn’t have a strong enough tire rub to cause any problems. We put rights on before that final restart. Chaos was happening in front of me and I was able to sneak through to get a top-five finish.
“We’re trying to just understand this new Camaro body and the setup that needs to go with it. We’re close, but there’s still a little bit more work for us to do on our car to get the balance between the clean air and the traffic closer. But for the first try on a downforce track, the guys did a really nice job.
“[How important is the strong finish by the Chevrolets – six in the top 10?] It’s really rewarding to see. Last year when we left here, we had quite the opposite feeling and were pretty worried about what the year was going to hold for us. So, it’s really nice to have that change of perspective now. There’s a lot of Chevy’s up front, one of our Hendrick cars led for a while. So, we’re going the right way.”
Bubba Wallace – finished 6th: “We had a shot at a good finish and we capitalized on that. All-in-all, it was a good day and a win for us. It was just a good gamble call. We were terrible on restarts. It would take us ten or fifteen laps just to get going and get the car underneath us. Then, we could start fighting our way up there. There were frustrating moments over the radio, just trying to make this Coke Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE better. I know how I lose my cool a little bit, but one of the main reasons I brought [crew chief] Jerry Baxter in was to calm me down and show that light at the end of the tunnel. Every time I fired back, he said ‘I get it, you’re fine, we’re going to be fine’ and he was right. It was a good call by the team and everyone involved. Coke Energy, I appreciate them coming on board for this race. It was a great outing and it shows like we were running on some Coke Energy out there.”
Brad Keselowski – finished 7th: “We had a decent run today. There were times where I felt like we were the best car and then there were times where I felt like we struggled. We just didn’t quite have the long run speed all race long and we got to where we were really good in the middle of the runs and just learned a lot. This is a little different car than I’ve ever raced before, so I’m learning how to adapt to that. There are a lot of takeaways and I’m confident we were really close to being a winning car today. I just wish I could re-run the weekend a little bit and work through a few things, but certainly learned a lot and very confident we can win races. … It came down to that green-white-checkered at the end and it was exactly what you would expect in a green-white-checkered, a crashfest, but it would have been interesting to see if it would have stayed green and the cars with tires could have had a shot at it, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Kevin Harvick – finished 8th: “The caution really decided that. I think there would have been some of us that got back close to the lead by the time we got off of turn four. I don’t even know where we restarted, but we were seventh or so going into turn one on the last lap with a big head of steam and the caution came out. Our Busch Light Ford was really good on the short runs. We just kind of lost the handling as we would get deep in those runs and that kind of hurt us, but it came down to what we wanted there at the end, but we just got too far back.”
Kyle Larson – finished 9th: “I fought the balance a lot early in the race. It got better, but then we had some cautions there at the end, I would be on cycled tires and the balance would get really tight. All-in-all, it was a top-ten here and I feel good about that.”
Ty Dillon – finished 10th: “I’m just really happy with our GEICO Camaro. We got pretty tight through the middle of the race, so we started freeing it up and freeing it up. We just needed an opportunity to get some track position back there. Things went our way on that restart. I was able to find some holes and finally got aggressive there at the end. We got our first top-10 of the year, so that feels good. We ran really, really strong at Daytona, but didn’t get the result that we deserved. For our team to run the way we did today is a really exciting thing for our team.
“[What were the restarts like?] It was nuts. It was three or four-wide every single restart and you just had to find the lane that had a little bit of momentum. It was crazy, it was never the same. I think I restarted 19th and went through the middle, and we ended up 10th. I don’t really know what happened, but we just started passing cars. You just had to find the lane and you’re to process things at such a high rate of speed. You just had to be committed to where you were going.”
Ryan Blaney – finished 11th: “It was just a crappy situation. We fight our butts off to get the lead there from third and get it. I had a good shot of holding the 88 off. I thought we could have once we got in clean air I thought our car was pretty decent. The caution came out and we pitted, some guys didn’t, some guys took two and we just end up getting absolutely destroyed with people not knowing how many cars were to the outside of them. It’s easy to look back on it and say we should have stayed out. That’s a tough call for Todd Gordon in his position, but I’ve got to thank him for giving me a really good car. We were great on long runs. We were so good on long runs and that’s something to hold our heads up high about, it just stinks about the finish.”
Clint Bowyer – finished 12th: “That was a long day for us. We just couldn’t get our front end to work like we wanted it to work. Our car did not want to roll the middle today. We’ll be better in Fontana next week.”
Alex Bowman – finished 13th: “We had such a good car there at the end. Obviously, running down the 12 (Ryan Blaney) pretty quickly. At least looking at a second-place finish, if not, battling for a win there. Our car was so good. The caution came out and we read it just a little bit wrong. Bummer that we didn’t get the finish that we probably deserved. But at the same time, I’m so proud of my guys. We had such a good race car today. We made it better all day. Obviously, we had it rolling there at the end.
“It’s unfortunate to not end up with a top-10, but I’m really proud of my guys. Having a shot at winning these things is really all you can ask for and this one just didn’t work out for us.”
Tyler Reddick – finished 18th: “I was loose for the majority of the day when I tried to run the bottom, but the adjustments my team made through the race helped a lot. I was able to get the top to work fairly well, especially on the long runs. I just needed a little more to fire off with, but we’ll work on that. It was great to be able to run inside the top 10 today. That’s momentum we can build on. When that final yellow came out, we decided to gamble in Las Vegas and stay out to go for the win. Unfortunately, we lined up fifth, which meant we were on the bottom for the restart. The bottom hadn’t restarted well all day, so that wasn’t in our favor and we fell backwards but ultimately had a shot at it.”
Cole Custer – finished 19th: “It’s not the result we wanted today with the Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Mustang, but the guys worked hard on the car all day. I’m still learning a lot with the Cup car and wanted a better result. We came back from two laps down, and (crew chief) Mike Shiplett did a good job continuing to adjust on the car. I know I need to be better at restarts and some things like that, but I’m looking forward to next week and excited about working with the No. 41 team this year.”
Martin Truex Jr. – finished 20th: “(What happened when you hit the wall? ) He (Kurt Busch) kept blocking until I hit the fence. Then it was tire rub, blew the tire and hit the fence. That was it. … “(How are things with your new crew chief?) Everything is fine. We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.
“(How trying of a race was this?) Just unfortunate this early in the season. It’s nice to have a fast race car. Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota was really good. We were top two or three early in the first half and then the pit stop issue. We got back in traffic. I had a role on the 1 (Kurt Busch) car and he just moving up until I hit the fence on the front stretch. I thought we were going to be okay after that. Then just cut our right front tire down and pretty much ended our day. It is what it is, but luckily we got some good stage points the first two stages. We have a fast race car we can move forward with. The guys did a good job, just have to clean up pit road.”
Ross Chastain – finished 27th: “I was just overdriving there at the end for sure. It just got away from me there and got loose. There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton. … [You looked comfortable in the car?] Yeah, the car deserved a lot better finish. Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. These guys kind of ate me alive on the restarts and I’d lose three or four spots every time, and picked the wrong lines through one and two, and then three and four again I just kept making silly mistakes that I should learn from after I make the mistake once. I just have to be better.”
Daniel Suarez – finished 30th: “(What happened at the start of the race? ) Obviously, this is just a learning process. We had an issue with the ECU box in the beginning. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but it put us into a hole and it was difficult to get out of the hole. I feel like we could have finished somewhere in the top-25, maybe even better than that. We had to fight hard. We learned a lot of different things that we can improve for next week. It feels to get that first race in. We now know what we have to work on. We just have to go out there and keep digging.”
We will add more driver comments as they become available. Please check back.