Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas:
Ross Chastain – No. 1 iFly/ONX Homes Chevrolet – WINNER:
Q) You’ve been so close this year to getting that first career win. Ross, today you couldn’t be denied. You had to fend them off at the end, going from first to third and back to first. There was beating, there was banging. What was that last lap like, and what is this first win like?
A) “I don’t know. It’s insane. To go up against some of the best with AJ (Allmendinger) – I mean, I know he is going to be upset with me; but we raced hard, both of us, and he owes me one. But when it comes to a Cup win, man, I can’t let that go down without a fight. So, Justin Marks, Trackhouse, Advent Health, the Moose. A million Moose members, they better be celebrating tonight all across the country and the world. Phil Surgen (Crew Chief), man. He is so good. People don’t know how good this group is. I can’t believe Justin Marks hired me to drive this car.”
Q) You lost control of that final restart. You get a good restart on the outside, which nobody had done. What did you have to do to make that happen, and how is that watermelon tasting right now?
“It’s never tasted sweeter, I got to tell you. I don’t know. I don’t know how we got back by. I was so worried about AJ (Allmendinger) on the second-to-last restart that I let Tyler (Reddick) drive right by both of us. And AJ is so good. I’ve learned so much from him. And it was like how do you go beat the guy? He taught me so much. I’ve learned so much from so many people from 417 Speedway back home with my dad. I was thinking about on those late restarts, my dad used to make me race on old tires, and back then I was not going to win. It was in my head before I even started. It crossed my mind, like, We’re not going to win, we’re on old tires, but I couldn’t think that way. I thought neutral. Chevrolet, everything they do for me gave me the tools to try to go execute and we did it.”
Alex Bowman – No. 48 Ally Chevrolet – finished second: “We had a really fast Ally Chevrolet Camaro and I have been trying to do a better job as a race car driver at these road courses and I felt like from where I started the weekend, we accomplished that. So, thanks to Greg (Crew Chief Ives) and all the guys and really happy for Ross (Chastain) in getting his first win. Its been a crap weekend, so I am ready to get home and see the dogs and move on to next weekend. But glad to come home with a second place finish.”
Christopher Bell – No. 20 DEWALT Toyota – finished third: “It was a hard-fought day, that’s for sure. Losing power steering wasn’t ideal. I picked up an issue early on in the race and I knew something wasn’t right and eventually lost power steering a couple laps later. That wasn’t good, but this 20 group did amazing getting us back out there. The DeWalt Camry was really strong on restarts. I was always able to pick off a couple spots and that’s ultimately how we got our finish.”
Q) Did you think you had a shot watching the craziness unfold in front of you on the last lap?
A) “I knew if I was like third or second, maybe, but being fourth, I didn’t think there was any chance.”
Chase Elliott – No. 9 Llumar Chevrolet – finished fourth:
Q) What was your point of view and what did you have to do to have a finish this solid?
A) “Yeah, I didn’t really have to do anything. They just kind of wrecked and they were out of the way so I just kind of ran it on the road and I got a free couple of positions, so I will take it.”
Tyler Reddick – No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet – finished fifth:
Q) Walk us through those last few lapses.
A) “Yeah, just didn’t get a good launch off Turn 1. And just almost had the 1 because cleared but didn’t quite. We were really on the loose side all day long and that make us pretty susceptible to getting aggressive at the end. So, was just easy to get moved around there and that was kind of a problem I had all day. Just a little bit of pressure I had from anybody, and the back of this car was out of the track. It could get through the esses pretty good and could do a lot of things really well, but we just missed it in a little way where if we had to battle with other cars in traffic, it was really hard to get the good launch off the corner and complete a pass or really battle hard. So, it was tough, but we will learn from it and go back to the simulator and go back to work.”
Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford – finished sixth: “It was a hot day for sure. We got done with the first stage and it was hot. We were close to winning the first stage but I just couldn’t get to Suarez. We ended up fourth in that second stage and that kind of put us back behind the eight ball and made our way through the field. We stayed out on old tires and were able to maintain track position pretty good there at the start of the third stage. Then we lost a bunch of spots on pit road when we had to wait on gas. We drove back up through there and just kind of survived. I thought our car was pretty decent. It is so hard surviving restarts and trying not to get turned. Overall it wasn’t a bad day. We got some stage points, so that is good.”
Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota – finished seventh:
Q) Great pit call and great driving led to a top-10 run. How was the race from your seat?
A) “It was just a battle. We never could get the car where we needed it. I was definitely worried after practice – I was not feeling too good. Your hands are so tied to these things with these short practices. We just battled all day and fought on and got a decent finish but no stage points, so just a so-so day for this Bass Pro Shops Toyota team.”
Austin Cindric – No. 2 Discount Tire Ford – finished eighth: “On paper, it is pretty simple, right? Qualify 10th, first stage 10th. Second stage ninth, finish eighth. Easy right? It is definitely not that. A lot of adversity to overcome. I put some of it on me and some of it is just circumstantial I guess. They are tricky cars to drive and tricky to try to out-brake somebody. There were a lot of people out-braking themselves. Either way, a really strong effort by the Discount Tire Ford Mustang. We had the pace to run inside the top-three today and lead lapse. I am just happy we got stage points and a top-10. That is what I wanted to come away with today and that is what we got.”
Q) How was the heat in the car?
A) “This was the hottest event for sure. I will definitely plan accordingly from here.”
Austin Dillon – No. 3 Bennett Chevrolet – finished 10th: “Finished top-10 and we were really good on those restarts at the end. Came from a long way back. You know we had a little pit trouble that sent us back, but we were able to just keep going and get all the way up there to finish where we needed to. Luckily these races are really long, so you can’t let an early penalty get you down. Just stay focused and we were able to progress and make the car better. To come back after two bad races getting taken out kind of out of our own hands, we kept this one in our hands all day and it was wild there at the end. It feels great to get a top-10. Probably not our best track that we would look forward to coming to and it’s becoming better and better for us. Really proud of our guys and the effort that we put in our Bennett Chevrolet.”
William Byron – No. 24 raptortough.com Chevrolet – finished 12th: “Tough day. Definitely put us behind with the speeding penalty. We were going to cycle out there in between AJ (Allmendinger) and Reddick (Tyler) and messed it up on my part. I thought our car was decent all day. Definitely some things to work on, but good to come home 12th, get a solid finish and we’ll be good at Richmond and Martinsville. Looking forward to it.”
Brad Keselowski – No. 14 Wyndam Rewards Ford – finished 14th:
Cole Custer – No. 41 One Cure Ford – finished 23rd: “We had speed, so that was good. I wish we had ended up better with One Cure on the car and all the donations and everything. It is just frustrating, everything about it in the second half of the race. We got spun and we should have ended up way better.”
Q) Did this car feel good on the road course?
A) “It was definitely good for us to have speed coming here and that will bode well for the other road course races.”
Chase Briscoe – No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford – finished 30th: “We were able to keep making the car better through the race and at the end there it felt like we had a chance. The 1 kind of ran me off and I was trying to get back to him and made a mistake and let the 16 by. Then I locked the left front up on a restart and from there every restart after we were just trying to hold on and we blew the right front on the last restart. We had another really fast Mustang, which is encouraging. We had the speed and we were able to run up front again. We just need to put it all together. That has been the story all year long. If we can put the whole thing together we are really tough. That is what we did in Phoenix and we just need to continue doing that.”
Joey Logano – No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford – finished 31st: “It was up, down, down and more down kind of day. We got stage points, which thank goodness we got something. We got dumped by the 17. Then we started recovering and had a loose wheel and started to recover again and got back up to 10th and then got dumped again. Then the toe got broken and everything else was bad. I limped it around and finished, I don’t even know where I finished but it was just kind of one of those days.”
Q) Did the aggressive nature of the corners surprise you?
A) “No, not surprised. If you look at this track, look at Turn 1 and how it bends in, it is like it is saying, ‘Hey, go five-wide”. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened on that last restart there. I heard someone had a flat tire. All I know is I had a flat tire after it.”
AJ Allmendinger – No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet – finished 33rd: “This Action Industries Chevy was so fast, and our pit stops were great all day. If we had a long run, nobody was going to touch us. I’m so proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. All these men and women have had a lot of sleepless nights trying to just get these cars to the next race. I was doing everything I could do to try to sweep the weekend for them. We were that close. We know we had a shot to win the race. It’s tough to win a Cup race, so when you put yourself in a position to legitimately run up front all day and have a shot to win it, it’s a pretty great day. Unfortunately, just we needed about two more corners.”
Joey Hand – No. 15 Ford Pass Rewards Ford – finished 35th: “We were trying to find our way a little bit and trying to make sure that the car didn’t have any issues from that tire, so I was a little timid with it and just working on it in the first stage. We had a struggle on power-down but we were really good on brakes. I could catch up to guys but I just couldn’t get in the mix. Guys were bringing good changes. We kept changing the air pressure and wedge and got it going pretty good actually. Before these last couple of cautions, we had moved through guys fast. We moved through half the field. Then I just got pogo’d. I got wrecked early on. They come down inside and hit us pretty hard over in 11 and then this last one was just chaos with guys going down inside. I was on the inside and guys were pulling down four-wide and it was just everybody hitting everybody. I ended up getting a piece of the 11, I know that. I guess me and the 5 got a piece of the 11 but it was just soft in there. That corner, Turn 1, it just gets four-wide and you get pushed in there. It is down in tight and you are locked up. We took some hard hits to the front and that last one was enough to bend something in the right front. We thought it was a flat tire but we actually bent something. It was a good day at times but ended up as a bad day, really. I need to finish these races. These guys are definitely hard and coming after me it seems. As a road course guy, I don’t think everybody loves having a road course guy out there in the mix. It is fine. It is racing. They are racing everybody hard. But you have to know – when you don’t race with them every week you have to know what you can do with some and not with others. I probably made a couple new friends out there. You have to race hard out there. Like Charlotte, it’s kind of getting thrown in the lion’s den. These guys race together every week and we can run up through them. We have a fast car and can get it done but it is just tough to stay out of trouble.”