Comments from the four eliminated drivers
By Dominic Aragon
October 1, 2017
DOVER, Del.—The Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway marked the conclusion of the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, eliminating four drivers from championship contention.
Out of contention for the MENCS title, the highest the eliminated drivers can finish in driver’s standings is fifth.
RYAN NEWMAN (-2 POINTS BACK)
Newman started eighth and finished 13th, one lap down.
Newman did not score any stage points at Dover, or any of the other two races in the first round, ultimately failing to advance to the second round of the playoffs in his first post-season appearance since 2015.
“Well, we just weren’t good enough, as simple as that,” Newman said.
“We didn’t have a fast-enough race car, we didn’t have the right strategy. We qualified better, that was a plus, but these first three races were a challenge for us. It seemed like everybody else stepped up their game and we didn’t.”
AUSTIN DILLON (-4 POINTS BACK)
Dillon started 23rd and finished 16th, one lap down.
The Richard Childress Racing driver did not score any stage points in the three races of the opening round of the playoffs.
“It was just a struggle,” Dillon said. “That first caution really just put us in a hole. We got out of the whole, passed the 17—the car we needed to beat—and what changed the game was him getting those stage points. He has nothing to lose.”
2017 is Dillon’s second consecutive season he qualified for the post-season.
KASEY KAHNE (-23 POINTS BACK)
Kahne started 21st and finished 14th, one lap down.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to score stage points at Dover and in the prior two races in the first round.
“Just track position was one of the biggest challenges for us,” Kahne said. “It was just tough… we didn’t pass really well, but had a pretty decent car, but it was a bit of a struggle to pass guys that were running the same speed, so we just kind of ran in that spot and tried to use some strategy to get up.
“It seemed to really work, but then on the long end of it, it didn’t work out. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) did a good job. The guys worked hard and that was the best we could do.”
This year marked Kahne’s first playoff appearance since 2014.
KURT BUSCH (-25 POINTS BACK)
Busch started 13th and finished 20th, two laps down.
Busch was the only eliminated driver to stage points in any of the three races of the opening round of the playoffs.
A commitment cone violation on lap 331 during green flag pit stops may have sealed the fate for Busch.
“Yeah, disappointed in the way that I drove all through these playoff run,” Busch said. “I was driving at 101 percent trying to get every ounce of speed out of it. It just never had a flow for three races.
“We might have finished 10th here today. The wreck last week really put us in a hole. We needed perfect day today and playoff stage points. We just really never did well in Stage 1 and I thought that it might be our Achilles heel.
“If we add up the numbers (that’s) probably where it was. I can’t fault anybody. We ran hard. We gave it everything we had.”
This is the second time in four seasons Busch has exited the playoffs in the first round.
John Haverlin contributed to this report.
Austin McFadden/The Racing Experts Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts