Christopher Bell (fourth) had another strong run in the final race of the Round of 16. The Oklahoma-native led four times for 143 (of 500) laps, earned a Playoff point with a second stage win and was leading late when he suffered a flat tire, before battling back for a fourth-place finish. Bell was the only driver to finish each of the first three Playoff races in the top-five. Denny Hamlin (ninth) will join his teammate Bell in the second round of the Playoffs – the Round of 12. Kyle Busch (34th) had a strong run early in the event as he scored 14 stage points before he suffered an engine failure ultimately ending his race and his quest for a third championship. The Las Vegas-native failed to make the next round by two points.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Bristol Motor Speedway
Race 29 of 36 – 266.5 miles, 500 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Chris Buescher*
2nd, Chase Elliott*
3rd, William Bryon*
4th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
5th, Kyle Larson*
9th, DENNY HAMLIN
29th, BUBBA WALLACE
34th, KYLE BUSCH
35th, TY GIBBS
36th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Yahoo Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
How disappointing is fourth tonight?
“It’s terribly disappointing. That’s two weeks in a row we have had speed, and the car underneath me to win the race, and haven’t done it. Extremely proud of this 20 group. They keep bringing Camrys that are incredible to the race track. It makes me really excited about where we are going, especially Texas – which is one of my best race tracks. I proud of everyone on this group. Proud to carry the Yahoo colors. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum.”
How important is Texas when you have Talladega and the ROVAL in the Round of 12?
“Looking at the next seven races, I would say Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix. Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys. Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a Playoff car.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
How was tonight’s race overall and how difficult was it to pass?
“Had good track position from our qualifying effort but passing was just impossible. It was just a type of day where you needed to stay up front at all costs and we just couldn’t quite do it and ended up having a blown tire that set us back and we were trying to play catch up from that point.”
How challenging was this new Next Gen car here at Bristol?
“It was tough. I would like to see the racing improve overall. Some lap time variation a little bit. We’re just running around there and it’s like we’re running faster in the corners than we are on the straightaways. Just extremely hard to pass. We had some steering issues, and it looks like our Toyota teammates also had steering issues. We just battled through it and held on to a ninth place today.”
How much noise can you make in the Round of 12 starting next weekend in Texas?
“We can win anywhere we go to. We’ll go to Texas and try to win like we always do. Just need to get a good, solid round going. Just seems like mechanical stuff with this Next Gen and wrecks are the X-factor in moving on so you just have to be really consistent and with five races to go, that’s when you have to start winning.”
How concerning were the steering issues with the other Toyotas in the race?
“The steering, it looked like some issues. I had some steering issues in practice and then had some issues in the race, but I knew we couldn’t fix it so I just had to tough it out and hold the wheel as hard as I could.”
Why was the passing so challenging in this race?
“Just the corner speeds are so fast. That’s why we’re not passing, and lap times aren’t falling off. We’re just running way too fast for way too long. It just seems like a problem at these short tracks that we need to fix.”
In a race like this, are you just happy to get out of Bristol with a top-10 and moving to the next round?
“Not really, we came here to try to win. We didn’t care where we finished. We knew we were going to move on, so I just wanted to execute a mistake-free race so we’re still trying to work on that.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 34th
What are your thoughts? This doesn’t seem like a place where you have an engine issue.
“Definitely. It just goes with our year. I don’t even know what to say. I’m flabbergasted. I just feel so bad for my guys. They don’t deserve to be in this spot. They work too hard. We are too good of a group to be this low – down on the bottom, fighting for our lives just to make it through. Two engine failures in three weeks, that will do it to you. I really feel bad for all of Rowdy Nation, everybody at M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy, all of the partners that get us going every week. This is not our normal.”
Are you going to stick around and see if you are able to make to Round 2 here?
“If I get done with my media obligations, and NASCAR releases me, I’m going to the house. I’ve got kids at home.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 36th
You said when it locked up, it locked up big. Is it finally done?
“Yeah, it blew the seal out and pushed all the fluid out on the right front tire. Just unbelievable. What (Kevin) Harvick say? Crappy parts.”
How worried would you be if you were Kyle Busch?
“Well, he’s not going to worry. He’s going to drive it till it stops working. At the end of the day, that is all that you can do. There’s another one (Bubba Wallace). I don’t know.”
What happened that took you out of the race?
“Blew all the (power steering) fluid all over the right front tire and you literally can’t drive the car here without power steering. You lose it, you’re done.”
Are you concerned that there are three Toyotas behind the wall with the same issue?
“I’m concerned, I’m out of the race. Bass Pro Shops night race and we have the Bass Pro Shops Toyota here and we’re sitting in the garage. It’s been a horrible string of luck for us, and we had another strong car tonight. We were working our way forward, every run going forward. Ready for this year to be over and start over.”