Manufacturer Notes and Quotes from Charlotte Cup Race 1
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang -- POST-RACE INTERVIEW -- “It means a lot to me, but I can’t help but think about the Reep family and Donovan. I hope they’re watching. I know the race ran really late, but Memorial Day is about a lot more than racing, but we’re glad to be able to do cool things like racing because of the freedom provided by those willing to make the sacrifices. I feel like I’ve thrown this race away a handful of times and I felt we were gonna lose it today. I know we’ve lost it the way Chase lost it and that really stinks, and today we finally won it that way and I’m so happy for my team. I wish my wife was here. I wish my daughters were here. It’s a major. It’s the Coke 600 and this leaves only one major left for me, the Daytona 500, so we’re checking them off. I’m really happy for Miller Lite. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with them, if they’re gonna come back on the car or what, but it’s been a great 10-year ride with them and this is their only race of 2020 and we’re in victory lane. I know they’re really happy because Miller Lite goes with Memorial Day, but I’m happy for Ford and everybody who just works their butt off at Team Penske. We might not have been the fastest car today, but, wow, did we grind this one out. The pit crew at the end, the yellow right before the last had a blazing stop to get us up front and put us in position. All these things just came together and I’m tickled to death. It’s a little overwhelming to be honest.”
YOU GET TO ADD THE COKE 600 TO YOUR RESUME. “I’m tickled to death. One left, the Daytona 500. It’s been a great 10-year career I’ve had so far and I hate it took me 10 years to get this one. I feel like I’ve had cars and a team good enough to do it many times over and it just slipped through our hands and today it didn’t. I’m just really proud of everyone and persistence pays off.”
YOU STAYED OUT ON THE LAST CAUTION. DID YOU QUESTION THAT? “No, we’ve lost too many races that way and I knew we had to take the chance. If it didn’t work out, I knew it was the right call.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1/#ThankATrucker Ford Mustang -- WE SPECULATED IT WAS A RIGHT-FRONT TIRE THAT WENT DOWN. IS THERE A MORE HELPLESS FEELING FOR A DRIVER TO HAVE? “No, it pretty well sucks. It knocked the wind out of me there. I mean, we’re 100 laps into a 400-lap race and to be out already, you talk about a helpless feeling. The guys worked really hard on the Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Delvac Ford, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll get ready for next Wednesday and we’ll be back at it. I’m gonna go somewhere and take this thing off and find somewhere where I can find a cold beer. I’m outta here.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang -- “We started towards the back and gained a lot of spots in the beginning, but we got boxed in on the first stop and lost all those spots we gained. I had to pass a bunch of cars tonight. I think we got that award. I thought we were in a good spot on the restart with 45 or 48 to go and somebody got loose on the bottom into three and we had to go all the way up to the wall to miss him in the middle of three and four. We lost a lot of spots right there and that really hurt us. That lost us all the track position we gained towards the end. I was feeling really good about it. We restarted sixth or maybe even eighth on the top and I thought we were gonna roll, but that dropped us back to maybe 12th and we had to fight back from there. I thought our car was pretty competitive, probably not the best car out there, but definitely a top-five car all night. It was a good call to stay out there at the end, I thought. We restarted fourth and gave us a chance. We would have come home with a decent day, but we passed a lot of cars and definitely had a long night working on it.”
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND ON THE LAST RESTART WHEN BRAD TOOK THE INSIDE LANE AND YOU WERE ON THE OUTSIDE OF ROW 2? “I wasn’t sure where he was gonna restart. Honestly, the bottom lane, for some reason at this place, the restart zone has a lot more grip than the top. With us being on 35-40 lap old tires, I thought he was gonna pick the bottom. You’re in a precarious spot. You want to win the race and everything, but you definitely don’t want to push the 48 by him. I wanted to at least be even and for us to have a shot at getting a good finish, so you’re kind of in a tricky spot, for sure, but it worked out for us. Brad’s restart choice paid off and I figured he was gonna take the bottom, but I was happy with the top and just trying to get through one and two with momentum. It worked out all right for us.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang -- “From the start of the day to the end of the day it was just a tough day. I was loose on the qualifying lap and spun, but was able to keep car from having much damage. We started in the rear and, on the pace laps, debris came out of the No. 11 car and damaged some of the splitter, so we had to make some repairs there later on. We battled both ends of the balance with the car all four stages and started to ease our way to the top-10 at the end before that final caution came out – then the restart didn’t go my way. The Coke 600 is such a long race and so much can happen. I’m proud we battled back up there, but didn’t get the finish we wanted. Luckily, we’ll be back here in a few days and see if we can get the Smithfield Ford Mustang up front the second time around like we did in Darlington.”
COLE CUSTER, No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang --”Man, definitely a persevering night for the HaasTooling.com Mustang. I could’ve done better at the start of the race. We definitely got the car better throughout the race. We fought hard all night. We fought hard to stay on the lead lap and got our lap back that one time. To finish 13th in my first 600 that I’ve run was definitely pretty cool. I got a good restart at the end. We have some things we know we can do better when we come Wednesday. I can do some things better. I’m looking forward to it. We’re moving in the right direction with this package. We just have to keep grinding through it.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang -- “Our No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford Mustang had a tough time getting over the bumps in Turns 3 and 4 to start today's Coca-Cola 600, but Drew and my guys on pit road did a good job of making adjustments all race long to get us more competitive. Thankfully, we caught a lucky caution with 2 laps to go and were able to get back on the lead lap. It was great to have Love's Travel Stops back on board with us and I'm proud to have been able to represent Sergeant First Class John Jarrell on my car. We'll regroup at the shop tomorrow and look ahead to coming back even stronger at Charlotte on Wednesday."
JOHN HUNTER NEMECHECK, No. 38 YANMAR America Ford Mustang --“It was kind of an up and down day, but overall, we had a good run in our No. 38 YANMAR Ford Mustang. We started off the night pretty free. Once we refired after the rain delay, we had a pretty tight race car for most of the night. Seth [Barbour] and the crew kept trying different adjustments to get our handling better and we managed to run in the top 20 for most of the last stage. We never gave up and got some good notes to come back on Wednesday. Thanks to our partners at YANMAR for coming on board with us this weekend and thank you especially to all the men and women who serve our country. It's an amazing privilege to have the freedom to race because of their sacrifices.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
How did the handling of your car change throughout the 600-mile race?
“During the middle stages of the race, I thought we were really fast. I feel like we had a great M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Camry and ran up front and got back up front from having to go to the back. But we put tires on it and it was never the same after that from about lap 280 or 290 when we put tires on it and it wasn’t the same as it was before that. We were lucky to steal a fifth place finish out of it today and we’ll have to go back to work and figure out some things to make our stuff better for when we come back on Wednesday and get back after it. I certainly want to give a huge shout out and a huge thanks to all the men and women who have served for our country her on Memorial Day weekend, we appreciate you. Everyone be safe tomorrow and have fun.”
Was there a consideration to stay out and not come to pit road during the final caution?
“No, no there was never a discussion to stay out. It was always going to be two or four and if we did two, which two to do. We had already made our mind up to pit.”
What do you attribute the drastic changes to grip and handling of the car throughout the race?
“The only thing I can really attribute it to is tires, that’s the only thing that makes sense. When you go and you have two runs that are really, really good and you have tires on and you don’t make any changes and then you make one slight air pressure adjustment with the next set of tires and it goes haywire. You have to think it’s the tires. You didn’t put a wedge wrench in the thing, you didn’t change anything too crazy. Also, track position sometimes too is a factor. When you’re further up towards the front, the cars drive way, way better. When you get back in the seventh to ninth to 11th range, you are just out of control and have no grip.”
With track position being so important, how will you approach Wednesday night with the inversion?
“It’s definitely going to be more of a sprint race. Thankfully, my guys are really, really, really good on pit road and they probably passed the most cars today – more than I did. It’s definitely beneficial when you can come down pit road 15th, 10th, eighth, seventh, whatever it is and those guys are going to get you five or six spots. I’m not too upset about where we have to start.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats & ATVs/USO Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
Can you talk through the ups and downs of your 600 miles?
“It was a long and typical 600. You battle the car all night long and you just keep making adjustments and trying to stay up with the race track. The Bass Pro Toyota was really strong when we started off and I was able to pick off a few spots and work our way towards the front. I really rode there behind the 88 (Alex Bowman) for the first two stages. I felt like at times we were stronger than he was and just couldn’t make the move. Track position was crazy important tonight with the cooler temperatures and everybody having a year under their belts now with this car. Everybody is getting so close and they changed the tire and it was way different. It just felt really hard and had really low grip and it was really bouncy. We tried to keep up with the track, and at times, I felt like we were the best car. When we could get the lead, we could pull away. We had the lead late there in the last stage – early in the last part of the last stage and just had some trouble in the pits. It seems like every week we’re having a little bit of hiccups here and there and it set us back. The guys are working hard trying to get better. We win and lose as a team. That was a little bit frustrating, but good job by everyone. We had a strong car and a solid day.”
Was there a consideration to stay out on the track for the final caution rather than come to pit road?
“Yeah, for sure. We basically felt like if we couldn’t start on the front row, we were going to pit. If one more guy had pitted, we were going to stay out. I feel like that was a good decision on James (Small, crew chief) part because the guy that started third finished 20th. Third is just a tough spot to be. You’re just kind of a sitting duck. We felt like if we couldn’t be on the front row, we were going to pit and that’s what we did. We got back to seventh. I would have liked a few more laps because we were blowing by people left and right, but that’s the way it goes. We came home in one piece with a lot of points – a lot of stage points – and obviously we want to win, but we have to fix some little mistakes if we’re going to do that.”
How do you approach Wednesday’s night’s much shorter race with the invert?
“It’s going to be tough with the invert. I think that’s going to be a big deal after everybody gets a chance to work on their cars and the track just seemed like it was really one groove and really, really difficult to pass. You give everybody two or three days to work on their cars and everybody is going to be closer yet. The invert is going to be a challenge in the shorter race for sure. We’ll see what we can do with it and do our best.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 95 Rheem Toyota Camry, Leavine Family Racing
Finishing Position: 10th
How good does it feel to see improvement over these couple of races?
“I think we are headed in the right direction. We have to obviously keep making gains – getting a little bit faster, me doing a better job. We’re gaining on it. We are creeping up on it. I think we snuck a little bit of a better finish out than what we probably deserved, but we will take it after the first couple weeks.”
What was it like running the Coke 600 for the first time and what did you learn?
“That was a long one. Whenever we had that rain break, obviously, we did not want to see that, because we were just getting into a rhythm. The first 50 went by pretty quick, but the last 50 seemed to drag on a bit. I’m glad I got to experience the full Coke 600, because now all of the rest of them are going to be shorter than that.”
Early in the race, what went into the save after the contact with Ryan Blaney?
“The 12 car (Ryan Blaney) was probably a little faster than me at that point. I guess he just ran in the back of me, and thankfully I was able to get it back under control and we didn’t go a lap down. That could have really been a day ruiner, but luckily it worked out to where we were able to stay on the lead lap.”
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.