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September 30, 2018

Aric Almirola

Clint Bowyer

Kyle Larson

Jamie McMurray

Concord, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We are officially going to roll into post‑race media availabilities here after the Bank of America Roval 400. We've now been joined by Clint Bowyer, driver of the No.14 Mobil 1 Advance Auto Parts Ford. Clint, maybe just to kick us off, give us a few kind of just reactionary thoughts to today.
CLINT BOWYER: God almighty. You knew it was going to be something. You know, and I think it was a little bit of everything. We had some long‑run action there, had some good racing, wild restarts. You know when those cautions start coming out at the end it's such a wild racetrack first and foremost at Turn 1. Just the whole track is sketchy. The whole time you're out there you're fighting for lateral grip, you're fighting for forward drive, you're fighting for turn. It's like, gosh, just one problem.
But it's a very challenging racetrack, challenging set of tires that we have for it. Those tires were pretty hard. And the track position is everything. Our day in particular, we knew we needed an opportunity. I knew this race was the opportunity. I just didn't know if we could capitalize on that opportunity. You knew some people were going to have trouble. You try to make sure that you're not one of those people.
We did a good job of bringing a fast race car, did a good job of qualifying well. That put us in a position to get those stage points and get ourselves at least on the dance floor that first stage. But then you get behind. Then you're behind a little bit, and by the time I got back up through them I had both fenders knocked in and hit a damn turtle once. You know that's going to slow you down a bit. It's all a product of being back in traffic and things like that. Then we kind of got track position back, then we lost it again, then the 88 pitted, so he was really at that point who we were racing for our position.
Key point, at that point he was the only car that we were racing. When he pitted, we pitted, 12 pitted, then it was kind of a race between us and the 88. I knew as long as I kept him at arm's reach I thought I could be all right, but then as we started catching those lappers, if he gets to them before I do, things like that, it could be tricky. But nonetheless, I don't know what all happened.
Then at the end, it's mass chaos. I don't know if that knocked Jimmie out or not, but I bet he's super bummed if it did.
THE MODERATOR: It did, in a three‑way tie.
CLINT BOWYER: A three‑way tie? He lost a tie? That's hard to believe. But you knew something was going to happen at this deal. Everybody knew, everybody dubbed this the wild card race, and I guess I'm lucky that I survived it, but I'm happy for our sport that it lived up to the expectation, up to the hype that you guys all sold.
You know, let's go back to business. I knew that this first round was going to be tough. When the 48 blew that tire and knocked us in the fence and crashed us at Vegas, I knew that put us in a hole that was going to be hard to overcome. Didn't have the Richmond that I thought we would, and then came here and going for it.
It wasn't much sleep the last couple nights. The little one woke up at 5:00 a.m., and once you're up, you start thinking about this gremlin that's ahead of you today, there wasn't any more sleeping. I stood there and watched the sun come up thinking about the chicane on the back straightaway, thought about the chicane on the front straightaway, thought about Turn 8, how I was going to get off that. I hit the wall in Turn 8. Just thought about restarts and things like that.
Now it's time to think about a cold beer because, my God, I want one.

Q. You mentioned the backstretch chicane. That was on a lot of people's minds. With that modification, how did that clean that up and make heartburn turn kind of the focal point?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it definitely took the catastrophic wreck out of there and at least one or two cautions. You saw those‑‑ I don't know why we're calling them turtles, but they were damned speed bumps. The blue curbs had a lot of tires, black marks on them and things like that halfway through the race that if those tires would have still been there would have been massive carnage back there. I hit those‑‑ the blue ones once, and if you touch those blue ones before, you were clipping the tires and probably ruining your day.
You know, I mean, you learn. Obviously Marcus, everybody in the sport, this is something new. It went down pretty well, I think. It was a lot of fun to be able to compete. Nerve‑racking as hell on our part, but nonetheless, it was a lot of fun, challenge. The challenge of competing that racetrack, that backstretch chicane, it's pretty fast. I think if there was an area to fix the race, we could look at that, doing something back there. But heartburn, that was a heartburn, ended up being a heartburn on a lot of people's parts.
I don't know about the 12, though. I'll speak my mind on that. I guess they just couldn't come up with where everybody was at when the caution come out because I'm pretty positive he was over in the pile‑up when I went by him, and look up and finally the caution come out, and then all of a sudden they put him in front of me, then he won the race, lucky little turd. That could have been me. Can you protest?
No, it was‑‑ hey, he come a long ways. He and I, we were racing for a position for most of the race. Alex Bowman did a good job. Those kids, Alex tore one up in the test. He was a kid that I thought that I could beat for this thing, beat out of it, and then Blaney, you know, he tore a lot of stuff up here in practice and things like that, got those problems behind him and ended up winning. It's neat to see those kids be able to rise to the occasion, and he did a damned good job, won the race.

Q. Clint, what was your view of the 78‑48 incident on the last chicane?
CLINT BOWYER: Smoke and cars everywhere. Did you see what‑‑ and then I'm thinking, you go from‑‑ I think I'm in, I think I'm in, to whoa, don't hit one of these guys. I was thinking whoever the‑‑ well, I said pretty much thinking‑‑ you were thinking the same thing, weren't you? I can't remember who it was backed up against the wall, but if he would have put that in gear, he would have smoked both of us. I'm like, please don't pull out.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by a few additional guests here, driver of the No.1 DC Solar Chevrolet, Jamie McMurray, who finished second today, and also Aric Almirola, driver of the No.10 Smithfield Ford, who was the final driver to advance into the Round of 12 for the playoffs.

Q. Aric, can you kind of go through the emotions for you the last couple laps you were‑‑
ARIC ALMIROLA: Clint really wants to leave.
CLINT BOWYER: I did make mention about that cold beer.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Clint, you're good to go.

Q. Aric, knowing that you had to gain spots on that last lap, what were your emotions like, and then when you see the 48 spun there, are you like, oh, my gosh, this could be chaos?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, so they told me‑‑ so we got caught up in that wreck getting into Turn 1. We were good right there. They told me I was good on points, and then Keselowski and Larson and all piled it in there, and the cars just came across the racetrack and blocked the track. I got stopped to keep from running into them, and the 43 car plowed into the back of me and drove me straight into the wreck. And I thought that was it. I thought that was the end of our day.
We were able to come down pit road and work on it and fix it, and our whole day was like that, man. The 24 blew a right front tire in the middle of oval 4, and I was behind him, and I was trying to go to the outside of him, and he kept coming up, up, up, up, up, and I smashed the wall and had to come and pit because we were going to blow a tire. We just battled adversity all day. Then that last restart they told me I was ‑6 points and that I needed to go.
I rifled it down into Turn 1 and wheel‑hopped and cleared a few of them out and got by, I think, three, and then we came back to the start‑finish line and they told me I needed three more spots, and those last couple laps I was able to get those three spots, and I had one more in my sights, and somebody spun off of the infield Turn 4, and it was just a cloud of smoke. I couldn't see where I was going, so I checked up because the last thing I needed to do was wreck.
I almost got passed by the 19, and there was the car that I was getting ready to pass, went through there wide open, I guess didn't have anything to lose, and I couldn't make up that ground. I couldn't get back to him, and so when we come back around, they told me I was tied, and it happened to be just good enough because of our finishes the last couple weeks at Vegas and Richmond, that was the tiebreak.
I told Johnny Klausmeier going into this weekend all I really cared about was leaving here +1, and it turns out +0 is good enough.

Q. Jamie and Kyle, both of you have run the Rolex 24 before, both of you have won the Rolex 24 before; what, if anything, could you take from that road course oval to this one today?
KYLE LARSON: Nothing. Nothing really. I don't think anything. These are totally different race cars. Those are totally different cars than anything I've ever driven. They have a lot better brakes, a lot better grip, traction, traction control, everything. Even if we were to take a Cup car on to the Daytona Roval, it wouldn't even compare I don't think.
I don't know, yeah, it's just a different deal.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, I mean, the only thing to me that this track reminded me of Daytona is especially with the splitters is that in the Rolex car you could go really quick through the back Bus Stop if you used more curb, but every time you did, it would just destroy the splitter, and that was kind of the same way here today. You could get fairly aggressive, but everything else is just so much different. You know who you're racing with. In the Rolex race, half the guys you're around, you don't even know who's in the car, and it could be somebody different every time you catch the same car, so it's pretty‑‑ it's so much different.

Q. Kyle, I just saw the replay of how you did that. How close did you come to not being able to finish that race the way your car was driving?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I had kind of‑‑ I knew I needed the 88 to not pass people, and it looked like he was creeping his way up the pilon there the last couple laps. I knew I was in bad shape, so I kind of, I guess you could say, giving up, but I couldn't even drive my car, it was so bad destroyed.
But then they said they were all crashed and they were coming to the checkered. I was over here getting on the oval, and they said they were starting to crash, so I ran hard. We had, I guess, so much camber and tow in our car they said if I ran fast I would blow a right front. But I was like, you've got to go.
So I ran hard through, whatever, 1 and 2 over there and through the Bus Stop, and then blew a right front center of 3 and 4 and plowed the wall, I was like, crap, I don't know if I'm going to be able to get down to make the chicane, but luckily it came down off the banking and I could turn right okay.
So I got through the 16th corner, and then 17 I hit the wall again on the front stretch, and the 96 was stalled the whole time. I think they told me the 96 was stalled when I was like at the backstretch over there, and he wasn't able to get his car refired‑‑
ARIC ALMIROLA: So you passing the 96 was the one point‑‑ at least they told me I was one to the good because you were the last car on the lead lap.
KYLE LARSON: He was like 100 feet from the start‑finish line. I could start to see him creep in when I was getting to 16. I was like, gosh, don't go, don't go, and we were able to make it. Hey, I was pretty lucky.

Q. Aric, this turned out to be a wild card track and a cutoff race. Did you feel like you had less control as it turned out?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, I felt like I had less control all weekend from the first lap of practice when I wrecked. I just felt completely out of control, just really anxious and nervous about what the track and what adversity was going to be thrown at us. I knew that a 23‑point gap was going to help, but I didn't think we were going to need all of it. My goodness. I was really anxious all week leading into it, and I'll be honest, I prayed a lot just for‑‑ just hoping that everything would work out. I was so hopeful to get out of here just plus one. That was really all I cared about, and I kept telling myself to quit making mistakes like I did in practice. I wrecked my race car twice, and both times my guys had to work to fix it.
It was just one of those weekends. It was just wild and crazy and out of control. I felt so helpless so many times throughout the weekend, and I just kept telling myself, survive, survive, force those guys to beat you, like don't beat yourself, don't finish 38th because you wrecked. Survive and see what happens, and if they beat me, they beat me, but don't beat myself.
And then it seemed like every opportunity for something to go wrong, it did. Like I was getting ready to pass the 24 because he was coming to pit, and he blew a right front, and I pounded the wall. So we had to come down pit road, fix the damage and clear the tires out.
And then the big wreck getting into Turn 1, I was going to miss that, everything was going to be fine and got piled in and drove into it, and we had to fix that. It just kept‑‑ it was like one thing after another after another, just kept compounding through the whole weekend. I'm just really grateful and really happy to be in the position that I'm in, and I told Johnny and all the guys on my team, I'm so proud of them.
This weekend was one of those weekends where you have to dig in deep and keep battling, and that's what we did. We battled all day and all weekend, and we were able to get just enough. It didn't even take +1. +0 was good enough; I can't believe it.

Q. Aric, what's it mean to have all of Stewart‑Haas Racing advance on to the Round of 12?
ARIC ALMIROLA: That's a really big deal. So going into the playoffs, we took a team photo at the shop with all four teams and everybody in front of the shop, because that was the first time in company history that they've had all four cars in the playoffs. That was a really cool moment and really cool for the team and the shop, something to be proud of for all those people back at the shop. There's close to 400 employees at Stewart‑Haas Racing, and every single one of them plays an integral part to get all four of us to where we're at, and to have all four cars make the playoffs and then now have all four cars make it to the Round of 12 is pretty special.
Obviously the goal is to have all four cars go to Homestead and battle for a championship. Whether that happens or not, we'll see. It would take a lot of things to happen right. But just really proud of everybody at the shop and everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing because that is a really big deal to have four out of the top 12 cars going to race for a championship.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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