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What drivers had to say after Can-Am Duel No. 2, won by Denny Hamlin

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Denny Hamlin rebounded from a pit penalty to win the Cam-Am Duel No. 2 at Daytona International Speedway. It’s Hamlin’s third win in the qualifying race for the Daytona 500.

Here’s what drivers had to say after the 60-lap event.

Denny Hamlin, winner – “We definitely had a strong car but so much of that race was single file and so it was really tough to show what we could do in the pack once we got two and three wide, but it looked like our car could make some really good moves and got a great push from the 3 (Austin Dillon) there at the end. It looked like our cars worked really, really well together there so we’ll keep that in mind when I need somebody to draft with in the 500. Great job by the team. The car was great. Had a little penalty there but definitely felt confident we could come back from it and we did.”

Clint Bowyer, finished second – “Damn, this is fun again. Man, what a rocket ship. Hats off to all these guys that put all this hard work into these cars for Ford. This is going to be a great year. This is fun. (Crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and all the guys on the 14 car, it is just – it has been a long time coming. It is fun to get out here on one of my favorite race tracks and run up front. I want to thank everybody.”

Kurt Busch, finished third – “I’m satisfied with it. We had a good run and it’s not on the wrecker. I just didn’t execute like I needed to. Me and and (Clint) Bowyer were like two brothers walking down the hallway looking at each and going in different directions. We just didn’t have a clean exchange. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, we just didn’t have a good exchange. I wasn’t able to execute to get to him back bumper and get to Denny (Hamlin) at the end.”

AJ Allmendinger, finished fourth –  “I lost the draft early on. When we go to the bottom we kind of struggle on the bottom there and need a little bit of help. We keep it wound up on the top. The car is pretty good. The last 10 laps I just hung to the top and kept hoping the line was going to move. The seas parted going into (Turn) 3. I thought ‘heck maybe I can get to the top two here’. And then about off of Turn 4 I thought ‘oh crap we are crashing this race car now.’ Overall I think it was the first time in awhile that we get to take the Kroger Click List Chevy primary car to the Daytona 500. We have had to take the back-up the last couple of years, so good night.”

Austin Dillon, finished fifth – “I felt like I put myself in a good position. I just… down the backstretch didn’t move quick enough, obviously, and put us to fifth. Good race anyways, I just feel like I needed to move faster to the right. I know the momentum is in the top lane and I didn’t get there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished sixth  – “They just had a good run at the end. I was doing what I could to keep the lead, but once they got clear of that inside lane they built so much momentum real fast right there at the end of that back straightaway, and had such a big run. If it was the Daytona 500, same thing. There ain’t much you can do about that. It’s not really defendable. So, it’s a good job by Denny and those guys putting it all together at the end.”

Danica Patrick, finished seventh – “It was nice to tell Edsel Ford that the Ford was really good. I told him I’ve had my best finishes in stock car racing in Fords. It’s been a good start. The car is in one piece. I feel like the car is more stable in traffic than it has been in years. I feel like the power is good. I feel like we have a really good shot on Sunday. The cars is in good shape and running well.”

Ryan Newman, finished eighth – “Well we kept the Caterpillar Chevrolet in one piece, which was a challenge a couple of times there.  Just realized more so what we need to work on without any practice and know that we have a little better car than what we finished, but we don’t have a good enough car to win right now.  So, we’ve got some time to go to work.”

Kyle Larson, finished ninth – “I felt like my car works better in the bottom lane. I thought there, both Jamie, especially Jamie and myself, I thought we had more speed than we normally have at superspeedways. I was happy about that and looking forward to Sunday.”

Ty Dillon, finished 10th – “I’m still learning. As a rookie, this is only my third time doing it, but I’m getting more and more comfortable every time. I felt like this time I was actually able to relax and focus on learning and getting better drafting. It was a decent finish. Still made some mistakes, too many mistakes, but I’m getting better at it.”

David Ragan, finished 11th – “I was trying not to push the 21 too aggressive because Jimmie was side-drafting him pretty hard. When you’re pushing someone in front of you, it’s hard to push straight and when someone is side-drafting that hard, I was trying to lay off the 21 as much as I could and I think Jimmie just was tight and I just barely caught him in the right-rear quarter-panel and right-rear bumper cover and got him a little loose. It’s just part of racing hard. He was being a little risky side-drafting that hard and I was being a little risky pushing the 21, but you’ve got to race like that. If you don’t race aggressive in the top five or six, they shuffle you out pretty quick. It was fun to race up there with those guys.

Kasey Kahne, finished 14th – “I had a really strong car. I was really happy with it and everything out there. Kevin Hamlin (spotter) did a great job spotting. It was good. Denny (Hamlin) had so much speed he was just pushing on my bumper and he could just choose left or right. So, I kind of covered left and he went right and that put me behind and I was trying to work back up there and lost again towards the end.”

DJ Kennington, finished 15th – “I’m an old man now. Years and years of racing and trying and doing all these things is nothing but good things for my career. There are so many people that have helped me get here. That’s who I want to thank the most is anybody that’s ever pitched in and helped. Thank you. This is huge. This is huge for Canada. It’s huge for all my team and all my friends and my family. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

Ryan Blaney, finished 20th – “I thought it was going really good. I thought we were real fast. Our car was really, really fast. It showed a lot of speed and I was really happy with that. We were able to get good pushes and shove us towards the front. We kind of got back in the pack and were able to recover, which was really encouraging that we could be aggressive. We handled really good, so it’s not often you’ve got speed and handle well, so we’ll see how that goes on Sunday when it’s hot. Hopefully, we’ll be able to fix this.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends Kyle Busch’s surly mood after the Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. – A second-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 left Kyle Busch in an irate mood, which is perfectly fine, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A seemingly agitated Busch, cupping his face in his hands after sitting down, entered the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway Center shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday. It was roughly 10 minutes after Austin Dillon scored the first victory of his career in NASCAR’s premier series by stretching his final tank of fuel for 70 laps.

Was Busch surprised that Dillon made the checkered flag? What did it mean for a driver to get his first win?

“I’m not surprised about anything,” Busch snapped. “Congratulations.”

He dropped the mic on the dais. There were no further questions.

Shortly afterward on Twitter, Earnhardt took up for his peer (whom he replaced at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008).

Busch, who hasn’t won since last July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a span of 28 races) gave more elaborate answers shortly after exiting his No. 18 Toyota, which finished 0.835 seconds behind Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet.

He apparently didn’t realize until late in the race that his pass of Martin Truex Jr. (who led a race-high 233 laps) with a lap remaining was for second instead of the victory.

“This M&M’s Camry was awesome tonight,” Busch said. “It was just super fast. I mean we had one of the fastest cars all night long and then (Truex) was probably the fastest. There at the end, somehow we ran him down. You know he got a straightaway out on us, but there that last 100 laps we were able to get back to him and pass him so you know that was promising for us there at the end in order to get a second-place finish, but man just so, so disappointed.

“I don’t know. We ran our own race. We did what we needed to do and it wasn’t – it wasn’t the right game. We come up short and finish second.

“It’s a frustrating night, man. There’s nothing we could’ve done different.”

Another Cup driver took a different view of Busch’s tirade.

Martin Truex Jr. takes Cup points lead after Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. took over the Cup points lead with a third-place finish in Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600.

The Furniture Row Racing driver, who led a race-high 233 laps, also extended his lead in the playoff standings by winning the second stage and bringing his total to 16 points.

Kyle Larson, who had led the standings for eight consecutive races since Phoenix International Raceway, fell to second in the rankings after crashing and finishing a season-worst 33rd. Larson trails Truex by five points in the race for the regular-season championship (and 15 playoff points).

Click here for the points standings after Charlotte.

Results, stats for the 58th annual Coca-Cola 600

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With a fuel gamble, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 for his first NASCAR Cup win.

It comes in his 133rd start and is the second win for Richard Childress Racing this year.

Following him was Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the full results.

Austin Dillon returns No. 3 to victory lane for first time since Dale Earnhardt’s last win

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CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Dillon scored his first Cup victory in his first start with a new crew chief, bringing an iconic number back to victory lane in NASCAR’s premier series.

Stretching his last tank of fuel 70 laps, the Richard Childress Racing driver won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I can’t believe it,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “I was just really focused on those last laps.”

It was the first victory on the circuit for the No. 3 Chevrolet since the late Dale Earnhardt’s win at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2000. Richard Childress Racing mothballed the number after Earnhardt’s death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 but brought it back with Dillon in 2014.

Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, was making his debut with crew chief Justin Alexander, who replaced Slugger Labbe last week.

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Jimmie Johnson was leading before running out of fuel with three laps remaining, handing the lead to Dillon.

“I was just trying to be patient with (Johnson),” Dillon said. “I could see him saving (fuel). I thought I’d saved enough early where I could attack at the end, but I tried to wait as long as possible. And when he ran out, I figured I’d go back in and save where I was lifting, and it worked out.

“I ran out at the line and it gurgled all around just to do one little spin and push it back to victory lane.”

With the victory, Dillon qualified for the playoffs, joining RCR teammate Ryan Newman (who clinched a berth by winning at Phoenix International Raceway).

Dillon becomes the 10th driver to score his first Cup win at Charlotte, joining David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears and David Reutimann.

Who had a good race: Kyle Busch charged to second in the closing laps, following up a win last week at the All-Star Race. … Truex dominated Charlotte for the third straight year, leading a race-high 233 laps. … Joe Gibbs Racing placed three drivers in the top five, and rookie Daniel Suarez was 11th. … Rookie Erik Jones finished seventh, giving Furniture Row Racing two top 10s in a race for the first time.

Who had a bad race: It was over for Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski on Lap 20 when they were collected in a bizarre wreck as a result of a chain reaction from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s engine failure. …  Points leader Kyle Larson finished a season-worst 32nd after a crash. … Danica Patrick hit the wall twice (at least once because of a tire problem) and placed 25th.

Quote of the race: “My fiancée wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.’ And, I never imagined to be here.” – Dillon after scoring his first Cup victory.

What’s next: 1 p.m., June 4 at Dover International Speedway on FS1.