What drivers said at Daytona

·17 min read

A look at what drivers said at Daytona International Speedway following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale

Austin Dillon – WINNER (Clinched Cup playoff spot with win): “It’s crazy. You just never give up and have faith. We had some tough finishes this year, like Charlotte. I beat myself up over that. I made a good move and just didn’t finish it off. Today, we finished it off. I’m so proud of these guys and I’m glad to be going to Victory Lane.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 2nd: “Because we had to pit before pit road was open, before the rain came; I never got to line up behind all the lead lap cars when they started to pull up for the restart. I knew I was going to have to try really, really hard on that restart. Thankfully, (Kyle Busch) and some of those cars let us go and we were able to get in the mix. Just had to fight really, really hard when everyone singled out and there weren’t many cars left at the end there and tried to get to Austin (Dillon). I knew he was going to need some allies there at the end of the race to go make the move on (Austin Cindric). As it just kind of turned out, he didn’t really use his teammates for that move, but after everything kind of happened with the second pack catching us, I was really glad to be on his rear bumper to pretty much keep anyone from really creating that energy to pass the lead car. A lot of energy comes from that second car and when you have a teammate in that position to be that car absorbing those runs, you can really kind of control what is happening in front of you.”

Austin Cindric – Finished 3rd: “I got hit by another race car going 190, 200 miles an hour. Glad I saved it. Glad I tried to come back through the field, but (Austin Dillon’s) racing for a playoff spot. I totally expect to get drove through. It was just kind of a matter of time. Pretty bummed, you know? We had a shot to win today… We put ourselves in position – not a scratch on (the car). Just… (laughs) Dang it!”

Landon Cassill – Finished 4th: “It really is awesome. We were sitting in a good spot with the rain delay; and even if they would have called it, we would have been happy with that finish. But we wanted to race for it and earn the top-five finish at the end. We did have to survive. There were a lot of fast cars that weren’t in contention at the end, but it’s pretty cool to see the checkered flag that close.”

Noah Gragson – Finished 5th: “It was a strong run for this team, considering that we have one employee at Beard Motorsports. To come home with a top-five, that is big for us. We were in a good spot running third there when (Austin Cindric) was out front and (Austin Dillon) was running second. It seemed like (Cindric) got loose and started down the racetrack and it was a hell of a save by Cindric, but that killed all our momentum. We were in a four-car breakaway; I thought I was going to set myself up to be in a pretty good spot and it just didn’t transpire. We had to regroup and come back for a fifth-place finish and we will take it. Congrats to everybody at RCR and the ECR motor department. They help us out tremendously on this Beard Motorsports team and with one employee, this is a pretty big deal to go up against these organizations with 500-600 employees. So, for the goals that we have, the budget that we are on and the race team that we are; it’s pretty rewarding to be kicking yourself over a fifth-place finish in the Cup series. Very grateful for the opportunity and appreciate all the fan support and for NASCAR in letting us go to the end. I just want to say congratulations to Austin Dillon and his team. It was a lot of fun.”

Cody Ware – Finished 6th: “I think the big thing was just perseverance. There was a lot of attrition in this race and we made sure to be cautiously aggressive in the first part of this race, so to walk away from it and get the chance to race with the leaders and battle all the way up to third and try to fight for the win was really an awesome day. I think this will give us a lot of positive energy and momentum heading into Darlington next weekend, another track where we’ve had some success this year already, so being sixth is a good day. I wish we could have got more. I think it just shows how good of a day we had and I”m definitely gonna go to sleep tonight happy.”

B.J. McLeod – Finished 7th: “First off, it was a crazy day but it was fun executing our plan and getting it to work in our favor because we’ve been doing this a lot, but it’s still hard to pull off. We’ve had small wrecks in the back take us out. There’s really no safe spot, other than the front row or really conservative and today we were able to put it all together and not lose a lap under that first green flag stop and just made things work. There at the end, we had a couple cars behind us to help. (Joey) Logano helped us for a second and when they were helping me I had a shot, but coming to three and four on the last lap I tried to get the right of (Noah Gragson) and it stalled out a little bit and (Gragson) pulled up. When he pulled up, I had to wait until he went back down to even try to get another run and it was just too late. Still, an awesome day for a small team.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 8th (Missed final Cup playoff spot by three points): “We just had too much damage at the end. We had a good spot on the restart and we got a good restart. We got (Austin Cindric) up front, which is what we were trying to do, but just couldn’t keep up. Just too much damage. It’s s shame. We knew it was going to be tough with so many cars out of the race and the distance between me and (Ryan Blaney). It was going to be hard to hang on to fourth or better with a car that torn up.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: (Referring to Lap 138 crash before red flag): “Honestly, it was just the previous lap, there was nothing there and then that lap it was just – it just dropped. So what do you do? You can’t checkup that fast so you just have to try to drive through it. Thankfully, I was on the high side and I saw water and I saw everything and saw everybody wrecking in front of me and I got on the fence right there and started rolling right on the wall. Everybody was coming across the track in front of me. I was then just trying to figure out everybody to slide back down and get out of the way and for me to continue on my merry way. There’s really nothing you can do in that situation. It was way too late to call anything and overall, I felt good about our car all day. Our Interstate Batteries Camry was fast and we had good speed. Ran up front, led some laps and won a stage.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished 11th: “I didn’t have that feeling that I’ve had at previous speedway stuff. Our DoorDash Camry TRD was good, but it wasn’t great. Made the necessary moves to get us up to the front, but I didn’t do a good job of keeping it at the front. At the same time, you’re kind of focused on the big picture. Fell to the back a little bit and knew we could get back up there and we did. But then luck ran out. We did miss two wrecks and got caught up in the third and the fourth. We salvaged a good finish, but what we needed was a win. All in all, it’s Daytona and it’s a crapshoot.”

Joey Logano – Finished 12th: “I think we’re in great shape (for the playoffs). …We scored a lot of points the last few weeks, so we’re doing a lot of really good things here recently. We just have to keep pushing and trying to figure out where a little bit more speed is, but we just have to keep executing with what we’ve got. We’ve got great execution, a great pit crew, great calls on the box. We’ve got to keep that going.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 15th (Clinched final Cup playoff spot by three points): “It definitely didn’t start out very good. We had to battle through adversity all day, but props to the whole 12 group for continuing to work on it and fix it and just trying to keep it in the game. After that wreck everything was kind of out of our hands and we were just trying to do the best we could to try and complete all the laps. You never know what can happen, so props to them. Fortunately, we were able to gain some points there at the end and locked us in. It was definitely nerve racking, but a lot of props to the 12 team.”

Cole Custer – Finished 16th: “That was a long day but I appreciate the guys sticking it out and giving me a chance to make it to the end. Our Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang doesn’t look as nice as it did to start this morning but we gained 10 or 11 spots just by putting in the work to make it drivable after the wreck. I’m ready to get to Darlington and see what we’ve got next weekend.”

Erik Jones – Finished 17th: “We had a really fast FOCUSfactor Chevy today and were able to run up front, lead laps and thought we had a really good shot at winning. Unfortunately, we had damage from the caution that brought out the red flag and couldn’t make the repairs to meet minimum speed and finish the race. I hate we aren’t in the Playoffs this year, but proud of everyone on the 43 team and the hard work they’ve put in this year. We’ll keep building and use these next 10 weeks to continue to learn this car and try to get the FOCUSfactor Chevy in victory lane.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: (NBC Sports red flag interview – On Lap 138 crash before red flag) “We made it through the first part of the wreck there and obviously, there was a lot of carnage. I saw the bottom two cars starting to come back up the racetrack so I gassed it up and, so close, but the car maintained plenty of speed. You can see it come out of there, so I guess that’s all subjective. You have to be subjective to what is minimum speed because when the caution comes out we are the leader – when the light comes on. I don’t know.” (NBC – Is this something you want to discuss with NASCAR on how they make that decision?) “Well, I think they’re making it up as they go. It’s just one of those deals.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 21st: “A few things didn’t work out. I was in position and there was maybe a move I could have made differently to try and get to the lead, but my help that was pushing me – (Chris Buescher) – wasn’t clear, so I didn’t take the run. Looking back on it, maybe I wish I would have, but I would have just been in the lead and I would have been the first one to the rain, so I feel like I would have wrecked either way. I just hate it. I obviously wanted to win so we could get our team into the playoffs, but we’ve still got a lot of racing left to do this year and proud of everybody on our race team. I’m just thankful to Smithfield and Ford and everybody that supports this program. We’ll go race hard for 10 more weeks and get ready for next year then.”

Todd Gilliland – Finished 23rd: “Track conditions seemed fine, I guess, up until they weren’t right there. I was obviously at the back of that pack. I’ve never seen everyone spin out that quick, so I guess the track was probably pretty wet. That sucks, for sure. I felt like we had a good First Phase Ford Mustang today. We got sixth place in the second stage. We were racing up there with the guys that were supposed to be. Overall, I felt like our car was OK. That kind of sucks to end it like that, but it was typical Daytona.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 24th: “We knew the rain was coming… It was raining next door. It was just a matter of time. Why would we wait for that?… I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front, but there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes, you are running 200 mph and you’re able to turn left. And then you see a few drops hard and you’re just spinning.” (Do you think they should have called cars to pit road earlier?) “I feel like they have a lot of technology to know that the rain is very, very close. I don’t think it’s hard to not put us in that position.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 25th: “We ran into rain in the middle of turn one and just lost it.” (Is there anything that could’ve been done?) “Just throw the caution before the rain came. We had rain down the front. So about 10 seconds before we got into turn one, it was raining. I’m sure the fans felt it and then they watched us all pile in there.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 27th: “We saw rain. Our Fifth Third Bank Mustang was really fast. Everybody did their jobs and I felt like I was doing mine fairly well up there and had a run. We were definitely in a good spot and it was raining when we got to turn one and we all wiped out. We wiped out all the lead cars, so whoever wins this race wasn’t even in contention. It’s just ridiculous from my point of view.”

Justin Haley – Finished 28th: “Yeah, it was raining for a good lap before we got into turn one, my spotter said. Coming out of (turn) two the previous lap, it was raining and we just lost traction. It’s pretty unacceptable. I thought we did a good job all day with our Celsius Chevrolet and we put ourselves in position. Brett Griffin (spotter) and Trent Owens (crew chief) called that; we stayed out hoping for rain earlier. It’s just tough. I fight for my ride, fight for my life, every day. We take these small opportunities and try to make something of it.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 31st: “Down on the back straightaway off of (Turn 2), Joey (Logano) decided to go to the bottom, so I felt like following him was probably my best decision there. We got such a big run that I kind of shoved him out that I felt like if I could get up, I could maybe take the lead. Looking back on it, I should have just stayed behind and shoved him. He’s just really good around this place and is always there at the end. When I got up in front of (Alex Bowman), he started shoving me pretty hard through three and four and was getting me loose. He got to my left-rear and that was a little bit on me just being lazy covering it and not knowing and whenever we lost the banking out of four it just spun me around. It’s unfortunate for my Mahindra Tractor guys. We kind of just rode around early in the race just trying to get to the end and then once we got our track position was just gonna try to maintain it. I don’t have a lot of experience leading races here and that’s what happens whenever you aren’t aggressive enough making moves, so I just have to put it in the notebook and go onto Darlington next week to start the playoffs and hopefully start a good run.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 32nd: “I’m not really sure what happened. Obviously, we were all racing pretty hard there knowing that there’s weather coming and we’re past halfway. I just have to go back and look at it. I don’t want to say anything silly, but felt like I had a good push from (Tyler Reddick) and had a run on (Joey Logano) and pulled out. I’m not sure if (Reddick) got me a little bit or if (Logano) just blocked a little bit too hard. It’s superspeedway racing trying to get ourselves locked into the playoffs in our Horizon Hobby Ford Mustang. We were going for it. You can see the weather is right there, so it’s unfortunate. We fought so hard to put ourselves in position to have a shot at making the playoffs. I felt like that was our shot. We had to go for it and it didn’t work out, but if I’d have lifted and the rain would have came and finished second, I would have been pretty upset with myself.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 33rd: “I’m proud of the effort by our No. 1 Jockey Chevrolet team and Trackhouse Racing. It’s been an incredible 26 weeks. Now we can reset and be ready for 10 weeks of experiencing something I’ve never experienced with the Playoffs; my crew chief, my spotter and my team haven’t experienced.”

William Byron – Finished 34th: “It just looked like they checked up in front of us. I don’t know exactly what happened in the front of the line. I hadn’t checked up and was just going to keep rolling straight through, but they came across me from the top. It’s just unfortunate. We had just gotten our No. 24 Axalta Camaro ZL1 a little bit better. I felt like we were in a good spot. I was happy with how the car was handling and it felt good to be in the mix.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 35th: “It’s frustrating, but whenever your season is down to one race, you’ve got a lot more going on than just that one race. Our team put a lot of effort into getting this car ready. They brought a great car, so I hurt for them that we didn’t get a chance to show it.”

Christopher Bell – Finished 36th: “It looked like (Erik Jones) just got a little bit loose and then the rest of it was, you know, ‘along for the ride.’ … Looking at it – just a stack-up. Normal speedway race. Disappointed for our group. This Rheem car was obviously competitive. Started up front and was able to stay up there. We’ll go on to start the playoffs next week.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 37th: “I guess it was the timing belt maybe, or something like that. I didn’t really have much of an indication. I’m sure they’ll dig through the data and see if it was happening earlier than when it really let go there. Bummer. I’m sure we’ll drop a few spots in the points, so that will hurt for the playoffs. But I guess there’s one positive – I didn’t get caught up in a crash. We’re safe, good to go race next weekend and get our playoffs started.”

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What drivers said at Daytona originally appeared on NBCSports.com