Comments from the four eliminated drivers
Photos by NASCAR via Getty Images
Ryan Neman, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth were all eliminated from championship contention Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 marked the conclusion of the Contender Round, eliminating four drivers from championship contention.
No. 31 Ryan Newman (-3 points back)
Newman started Sunday’s race 18th, his lowest
starting position in the last seven races.
Newman ran as high as first, leading one lap under the race’s first caution. He eventually finished 12th.
“I’ll be honest, I am extremely disappointed in the situation and what all transpired,” he said. “I’m not happy coming up one position short under these circumstances. At this point all I can say is we’ll go to Martinsville Speedway like everybody else.”
No. 11 Denny Hamlin(-8 points back)
Hamlin started eighth Sunday, leading five of the
opening 16 laps.
While running in the first pack, Hamlin hit pit road on lap 86 for a loose roof hatch, a problem that led to miscommunication between he and his team.
Hamlin eventually finished 37th, four laps down. He expressed his frustrations post-race.
“I don’t know what broke or whatever, it just peeled up,” he said. “I guess what’s frustrating is [NASCAR] didn’t tell us we had to, but we came in and fixed it, we didn’t get it fixed, we tried to come in again and get it fixed, didn’t fix it and went a bunch of laps down. It’s tough, we’ll just move on to next year.”
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-15 points back)
Starting fifth, Junior entered Talladega 31 points behind the Chase cutoff.
The eighth-year Hendrick Motorsports driver led a race-high 61 laps, leading on a total of six occasions.
Despite finishing second and failing to advance to the next round of the Chase, Junior remained positive.
“I’m fine with the new rule,” he said post-race. “Everybody is going to debate that we were thinking before the race that they made a good change on the green-white-checkered to go to one and I still feel that way. Per the rules we run second. I can live with that.
No. 20 Matt Kenseth (-44 points back)
Kenseth started Sunday’s race fourth, his second top-five qualifying effort in 32 Sprint Cup races at Talladega.
Kenseth led three laps, but involvement in the race’s final caution relegated the No. 20 Camry to 26th.
“It’s disappointing, but, like I said, it was a little bit of a circus there at the end,” he said. “At Talladega, you don’t have a lot of control. Our car just wasn’t very fast today. To be honest with you, we just couldn’t do the things with it that I’m used to being able to do with these cars.
“We were just kind of stuck where we were— usually go backwards, could never really go forward, so we didn’t have a car today that could be a threat any way.”