What Drivers Said after Watkins Glen

Jerry Bonkowski

Chase Elliott – winner: “That was awesome. I’ve never been so far from home and felt like I was at my house, so thank you. You all are awesome. What a day! We had such a fast NAPA Camaro and these guys called a great race. We just stayed mistake free and Martin (Truex Jr.) was a little quicker I felt like those last few runs, but the track position was key and I didn’t mess up into Turn 1 this time, so that was good. Just a huge thank you to everyone that makes this happen. Mr. Hendrick is here today and just a lot of people that have gotten me to this point. I wish my mom and my grandmother were here today, but I can’t wait to see you guys when I get back home. Love you. … (Ran out of gas on burnout) I’m sorry I ran out of gas again. I would have done more, but it happens. Just thank you! Like I said, you guys are awesome and I would have never thought that a New York race would feel like home, but you guys did that so thank you.”

MORE: Chase Elliott holds off Martin Truex Jr. for second-straight Watkins Glen win

Martin Truex Jr. – finished second: “I tried to do all I could. Chase (Elliott), he did an excellent job just not making mistakes. All I could do was get to within two car lengths or one-and-a-half at the closest in braking. Just trying to force a mistake, but he hit his marks and his car was really fast in the key areas there where it needed to be and leaving a few of the key corners. Just couldn’t get a run on him and was just kind of stuck there. Unfortunate, but our Bass Pro Camry was really, really fast today. We passed quite a few cars and finished up front, just couldn’t pass that last one. … (What does this say about your team and its performance on road courses?) We enjoy the road courses. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and all the guys really understand what I need here. Honestly, we weren’t as good as we needed to be yesterday and made some changes after practice. Definitely in the right direction, just wish we could have been just a tiny bit better. Really was all about restarts and track position. If I could have just got by him on that last one, we could have set sail I believe. We didn’t and he won and he did a good job. Overall, it was a good weekend for us.”

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Denny Hamlin – finished third: “We were just a couple tenths off each lap. They were just a little better. I fought the bus-stop all day, I was just a third-place car all weekend and it showed up by finishing third. We optimized the most we were going to get out of our Camry right there. Good day for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) as a whole – two, three, four — 18 (Kyle Busch) we know was fast, but had issues. This keeps momentum for us, but just wish we were a little better. Overall, not bad. … (What has the team hit on the last several weeks?) Just been better as a whole. Just communication getting better, everything is getting better. I’ve got a first-year crew chief (Chris Gabehart) that’s finding his feet right now and our communication is good. He’s showing up to the race track and bringing me a fast car. I’m driving them as hard as I can. It’s all working right now.”

Erik Jones – finished fourth: “It’s good to keep it all going. Watkins Glen is kind of the wild card in there. Being a road course and everything, we’ve been on some tracks that have been really good to us and Watkins Glen has been good to us, but you still never know what can happen on strategy. It worked out the best it really could. I made a mistake yesterday, we started too far back and just took us all day to get the DeWalt Camry up front. I felt like we had a fifth-place car all through practice and we were able to get a little better finish than that. It’s nice to keep that streak going and now going to two places – Michigan next week and then Bristol where I think we can win. We have some really good momentum behind us these months. You can’t keep running up in the top-five every week and not win a race. That’s what I keep telling myself and hopefully we can do it here soon. …

(Do you feel like you can race for wins now without worrying about points?) “Real close. We’re right on the edge of that. We’re over a race up so we can definitely have a race where things don’t necessarily go our way, but we don’t want to get in a spot here with two races to go where we’re back in position where we have to really salvage points. We’ve done a great job this last month-and-a-half of carving our way back into it and really getting towards the top of the non-winners in the Playoff picture, which is a good feeling. Where we should be and where we belong – it’s nice to be up there. Points are off the mind a little bit more than they have been the last few weeks. …

(Was this a better finish than you expected?) “I felt like we were capable with a clean day and that’s exactly what we did. The DeWalt Camry had good speed and we just kept it clean all day. Never got in trouble, never made a mistake on pit road or on the track and came home close to where I figured we could. I don’t think we were capable of racing with the 9 (Chase Elliott) and the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.), they were really fast and pretty far out there. Good for us. We’ve been good at Watkins Glen the past few years and it’s nice to get a good day after yesterday’s mishap. We definitely could have gotten some more stage points if we started up front. Still, a good, solid day for us.”

Ryan Blaneyfinished fifth: (Talk about the incident with Jimmie Johnson) It was just racing. He had old tires. They just did gas only and he was pretty slow and I passed 10 guys off the bus stop all day. He hit the third curb pretty bad and got in that position and he was up and I had a good run. I was there. He left probably a lane-and-a-quarter or so, and I took it. At first he didn’t turn down like I thought he knew I was there, and then he kept coming. I tried to check up and it was just too late. I mean, obviously, I didn’t mean to spin him out. I don’t want to do that. It’s obviously an accident, but he was upset and I can’t blame him for being upset about it. We’re just racing hard and I thought there was a lane there and it just closed.

(How did you leave it with Johnson?) “He’s angry. I can’t blame him for being angry. He’s trying to get in the Playoffs right now and have good runs. Trust me, the last guy I want to spin out is Jimmie. We always race great together. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and still do, and he’s the last guy I want to spin out. It didn’t end well. He wasn’t happy and I can’t blame him. He’ll probably race me pretty hard here for the next few weeks, but I can’t blame him for that. It was definitely not my intention there. … (Were you happy overall with how you ran in the race?) “Yeah, our car was fast. We started dead last and took a lot of time to get up through there. We did some pit strategy stuff and got a little bit better throughout the day and got to fifth there. I might have been able to get to fourth, but it would have been tough. It was a good job by everybody for having a fast car and ended up pretty decent.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished sixth: “Track position was big and we got messed up in our qualifying run by a couple guys, but it wasn’t their fault. So that set us back and we just had to diligently all race long, inch our way forward little by little. It was cool and it’s always so satisfying on these road courses for us to inch our way forward and pass some guys. I wish we could have started a little further forward. I know we could have run a little bit better, but that’s fine. It’s fun to get so much support from all our team, Toyota, JGR and Procore. I just hope I can be a part of this for a long time to come. … (Elliott and Truex) had good track position all day and their cars were fast. Martin’s obviously an excellent road racer, I’ve gotten some good advice from him on the road course at Sonoma and some other places. He’s good, he’s a champion and he’s one of the best. Chase and that 9 team, they are fast at this place and their cars have a lot of speed so it makes sense that they were up front. I think we could have gotten a few more positions if we had track position. Our speed was there, but it was hard to pass with the dirty air.”

Kevin Harvick – finished seventh: “We probably overachieved. We knew we were off and we thought we could, at best, finish fifth and we finished seventh, so we were fine. We didn’t have any drama and we just haven’t been very good here.”

Brad Keselowski – finished ninth: “We were a fifth to tenth-place kind of car all weekend and ended up ninth. I thought we could have been a little bit better at the end if I would have done a few things different, but nowhere near the speed we needed to run with the Gibbs cars or the 9 car, so we made the most of the weekend with what we had. … (How far off from the JGR cars do you think you are?) Here they were probably about a good half-second faster. That’s a lot of speed.”

Kurt Buschfinished 10th: “At road courses, I expected to do a little better at Ganassi. It kind of shows (Kyle) Larson’s done well to improve and (Jamie) McMurray was a solid road racer is what it proves. But we got beat by the same exact cars we got beat by at Sonoma. So, we’ve got to keep plugging away. But I’m not satisfied at all with that. We pushed and pushed and pushed and that’s all it had. A little tight here. A little loose there. But, thanks to everybody at Ganassi for working hard; and to Monster Energy and Chevrolet. A top 10, hey, we’ll take it. But that doesn’t do anything for us right now.”

KYLE BUSCH – finished 11th: Busch refused to speak to reporters other than to say this about his incident with Bubba Wallace: You saw it.”

Aric Almirola — finished 12th: “Overall, it was a good day for me at a road course. The guys brought me a good Go Bowling Ford and I learned some things. It’s always good to see improvement at places like Watkins Glen.”

RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. – finished 15th: All in all it was a decent weekend. We usually struggle in qualifying so to advance to the second round was a huge accomplishment for our No. 17 team. I think this downforce package helps me a little bit here because you can be harder on the throttle through the esses. Overall, it was a mistake-free weekend for our No. 17 team which is what we needed.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON – finished 19th: “(What happened with Ryan Blaney?) He just drove through me in the carousel. I tried to hear what he was trying to say…but his lips were quivering so bad when he came to speak. I don’t know if he was nervous or scared or both…I don’t know what the problem is. He just drove through me…and spun me out. And clearly that has big implications with what we are trying to do for the Playoffs tight now, so clearly not happy with his actions. … We scored points in both stages which was nice. We were setting up for top-eight to top-10 and got drove through. He claims it was just racing. So I can hardly wait to go racing. Everybody stay tuned.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 20th: “That was frustrating, because I think we were on the right strategy. We were able to stay up front even on older tires and we got some stage points, but that flat tire kind of killed our day. We just didn’t have enough time to get back up to where we should have been.”

BUBBA WALLACE – finished 28th: (Talk about what led up to you spinning Kyle Busch?) “I’m going to get my respect on the track, and I don’t care who it is. That’s for when guys fail to think about the young guys, I guess, or with me. I won’t put up with no shit. So I flat out wrecked his ass back. I guess we’re even. We’ll see. … “That’s what happens when you get run over. You just pay him back. So I won’t be like, ‘Oh, it’s Kyle Busch, he didn’t mean to.’ … (Expletive) him.”

Ty Dillon – finished 30th: “I have always enjoyed road-course racing and wish our GEICO Military team had some better luck at these tracks. We worked on the handling throughout the first two stages and got it to where we needed it to be. It was the best it had been all day at the start of the final stage, and I feel like we were gaining some positive momentum. Unfortunately, the contact from the 8 car really set us back. We never could get that track position back, and it’s so valuable at a place like Watkins Glen. My guys worked hard all weekend though, and we’ll have another chance at a road course when we take on The Roval in September.”

Austin Dillon – finished 31st: “Road course racing has never been our forte, but we headed into Watkins Glen International with high hopes of using all of the tools at our disposal to earn a solid finish in the Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It was a struggle to gain track position after starting further back in the field than we had hoped, but I’m so proud of this Richard Childress Racing team because they never gave up. Throughout the race, I listened to my team as they gave feedback to help me hit my marks throughout the seven-turn road course. They also made great adjustments throughout the race to help with a tight-handling condition. In the end, we couldn’t overcome the lack of forward drive and ended up finishing just outside the top-30. We have work to do on the road courses, and this team deserves better. We’re resetting and heading to Michigan International Speedway next week with a goal of earning a win and punching our ticket into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 35th: “This was not how we saw today going with this Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The car took off well when the green flag flew and we were making progress after the first few stops of the day. I had some issues with the brakes after we got some grass on the ducts, and with about 50 laps to go they gave up on me going into the Bus Stop and I got into Ty Dillon. That sent his car through the grass and my car slid into the tire barrier with the left side. These guys on pit road did all they could to make repairs and get the car competitive again, but the time we spent on pit road put us multiple laps down. We’ll move on from this and focus forward as we head to Michigan next week.”

 

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