Austin Dillon

Long: Past, present come together for thrilling Daytona 500 finish

Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The kids paid homage to history and became part of it after Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Against a purplish sky, as day transitioned to night at Daytona International Speedway, the scoring towers blazed with the No. 3 and No. 43 in the top two spots. Not since April 1987 at Bristol have those iconic numbers stood together atop the results of a NASCAR Cup race.

But instead of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty in those cars, it was Austin Dillon piloting the No. 3 to the victory and rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. driving the No. 43 to a runner-up finish.

And in a nod to the sport’s rough-and-tumble days, the car ahead of the No. 3 on the final lap spun out of the lead after contact. A trail of sparks and smoke produced the lasting image of Aric Almirola’s car instead of it covered in confetti in Victory Lane.

Almirola, though, held no grudge against Dillon.

After all, that’s just racin’.

That’s what the public wants. The sport has faced a tug-of-war with fans ton how to make the racing more exciting. Older fans long for past days, recalling the rivalries but overlooking that the competition wasn’t always so balanced. New fans need more to keep engaged.

Stages were added last year to enhance the racing. It created chaos Sunday. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and youngsters Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon were eliminated through no fault of their own in a crash just before the first stage ended.

That was one of four multi-car crashes. Each time wayward cars avoided the path Dillon and Wallace took.

Then again, both Dillon and Wallace have taken their own paths through the years.

Dillon, the grandson of car owner Richard Childress, drove the No. 3 when he raced as a child. To NASCAR fans that number represented Earnhardt and became sacred after his death on the last lap of this race in 2001.

Childress admits he was “ready to get out of the sport” after the death of his best friend. What was left? His friend was gone.

“The relationship that him and Dale Earnhardt had was a friendship that you don’t find every day,’’ Dillon said. “I mean, it’s one of those friendships, a best friend that you trust and you love. I could tell how much as I grew older their friendship meant and still wears on him because he misses him.’’

Childress recalled a conversation he and Earnhardt had on a mountain in New Mexico during a hunting trip. The two men reflected upon their mortality. They agreed to go on if something happened to the other.

With that, Childress kept racing through the sadness and emptiness.

Then something came along to lift Childress’ spirits. His grandsons Austin and Ty. Both played sports but followed their father into racing. Childress backed them in the early days and groomed them, hoping they could carry Richard Childress Racing further.

As Austin Dillon progressed, he and Childress had a conversation about the No. 3. Dillon still used it but the closer he moved to NASCAR’s national series, the touchier the subject was for some.

“That was Dale’s number,’’ Childress reminded Austin.

“No it isn’t,’’ Austin told pop-pop. “It’s your number. You drove it, and that’s why I want to do it.’’

Childress was convinced that Dillon should continue to drive it in the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series. The number had not run a Cup race since the Feb. 18, 2001, at Daytona. Until Austin did in 2014.

For Wallace, who has raced since a child, it is race that sets him apart.

He became the first African-American to compete in the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott in 1969. Wallace’s achievement earned a tweet from Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton wishing him well.

“I got weak at the knees,’’ Wallace said.

Before he climbed into his car, Wallace was given the phone. Former Major League Baseball home run record holder Hank Aaron wanted to wish him good luck.

“Just knowing that people are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR and they get behind it and support it. Just exciting,’’ Wallace said.

Still, both drivers — essentially teammates with Richard Childress Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports in an alliance — were not the main story entering the 60th running of this race.

Dillon didn’t have time to ponder such things before Sunday’s race.

He was trying to console his wife about 90 minutes before the race. Dillon couldn’t understand why his wife cried as they prayed with family members in their motorhome.

‘’Are you okay?’’ Dillon asked Whitney. “What’s wrong?’’

Dillon’s words were not soothing.

“She kind of got mad at me for like, why are you crying,’’ he said. “She stormed off. So I walked back to the bathroom, like, ‘Babe, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?’’

“I get emotional when it comes to you,’’ Whitney told him.

“That’s good, but it’s okay, I’m going to be okay, it’s all good,’’ Dillon reassured. “We had it out there for a second, and I was like, ‘Look, before I get in this race car, my mind has got to be right, so tell me you love me.’ And she’s like, ‘I love you. That’s why I’m crying.’ ’’

Then she told him something else.

“This one is not going to be easy,’’ she said of the race.

“You’re not going to lead every lap and be up front much, but you’re going to do it when it’s clutch, you’re going to win when it matters, on the last lap,’’ she said.

It wasn’t just Whitney’s words with him. He had a lucky penny in his car — just as Earnhardt had in the No. 3 car when he won the 1998 Daytona 500.

Dillon got the penny earlier this week while doing an autograph session outside the garage. A child in a white Ford hat came through the line. Dillon, a Chevrolet driver, took off his hat, signed it and gave it to the child.

“I’ve got to be your favorite driver, right?’’ Dillon told the child he estimated to be 8 years old.

The next day, Dillon saw the child wearing his hat outside the garage fence. Dillon approached him. The child gave Dillon a penny that he put in his car.

Between Whitney’s words and the penny, Dillon only led only the final lap. Actually, he led less than half a lap, taking the lead after the contact with Almirola.

“I guess I could have lifted and gave it to him,’’ Dillon said. “I guess that was my other option, give up a Daytona 500 ring that I’m wearing. I don’t know, I’m glad he’s not mad. If he needs to do it to me at Talladega for everybody to feel good, I’ve got a Daytona 500 championship trophy, ring, whatever. I don’t care. I’ve got the 3 back in Victory Lane.’’

Back where Dillon was in 1998 as a 7-year-old, celebrating Earnhardt’s win that day and collecting all the sponsor hats the team wore.

Sunday, they were in Victory Lane for him. Childress and the team laughed, sprayed champagne and celebrated a night they hadn’t enjoyed after the Daytona 500 since last winning it in 2007.

As the team members posed for pictures with their sponsor hats, they didn’t raise their index finger to signal they were No. 1 as they cheered.

They didn’t raise two fingers for the number of Cup wins Dillon now has.

They raised three fingers.

 and on Facebook

Social Roundup: NASCAR community congratulates Austin Dillon on Daytona 500 win

1 Comment

Austin Dillon led only one lap to win Sunday’s Daytona 500. He’s the ninth different driver to win the race in the last nine years.

Not long after the 27-year-old driver took the checkered flag, NASCAR’s corner of Twitter began congratulating him.

First up is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was the grand marshal for the race. He left the track when Alex Bowman was collected in a Lap 198 crash, but he still sent Dillon his warm wishes.

 

What drivers said after Sunday’s 2018 season-opening Daytona 500

Leave a comment

Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:

Austin Dillon — Race Winner: “Right now I just want to thank the good Lord above. I did what I had to do there at the end. I hate it for the No. 10 (Aric Almirola) guys. We had a run, and I stayed in the gas. It is what it is here at Daytona. This is so awesome to take the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane 20 years ago. This one is for Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and all those Sr. fans.  I love you guys.  We are going to keep kicking butt the rest of the year! … I met a fan and actually he had no favorite driver. I told him I would give him my hat if I was his favorite driver. Well I gave him the hat.  The next day he saw me in the infield and said here is a lucky penny I found heads-up and I said ‘Man, we have to put this in the car.’  We put it in the car and here we are in Victory Lane. … I said my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does.  My grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to preform because I have had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No 3.  There is a lot of pressure behind that. But I’m willing to take that and go with it.  I’m just thankful for all the people that support us along the way.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his family for letting us bring this number back. It comes full circle. I just can’t thank the Lord enough for this opportunity.”

Bubba Wallace – Finished second: “Just an incredible experience for me to be able to be here for my first Daytona 500. … My nerves are shot right now. The King (Richard Petty) comes in all mad at me and says, ‘After all I told you, what was the first rule I told you to do?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I lost my breath’ and he said ‘Don’t wreck the car.’ Thank you to the King for keeping me young, keeping him young as well. Thank you to the King as well for giving me this opportunity putting them second place, putting Click N’ Close in second place.  We know how much stress this team has been through in the last three or four months just trying to get this program together. … Hell of an ending for us tonight, but P2 for my first Daytona 500, I’ll take it.”

MORE: Bubba Wallace gets pre-race good luck call from baseball legend Hank Aaron

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “Definitely disappointed after leading on the last restart, but it’s just a 50-50 shot. It’s about what line can stay organized and work the best. I had the 37 (Chris Buescher) committed to my rear bumper which was great, but we couldn’t get the 21 (Paul Menard) to buy in. It’s really about the third car in line. Whoever that third car in line is closest to that line goes. We just didn’t have the line to win, but congrats to Austin (Dillon). I’m really happy for Austin and his whole team. Those guys work really hard. … If I didn’t win, the 3 (Austin Dillon) car is the next one I would’ve rooted for.”

Joey Logano — Finished fourth: “There were a lot of ups and downs all day for us. Getting the left rear fender rub, needing to pit, going down a lap, getting the Lucky Dog, scoring points in that stage was amazing. To get ourselves back in position where we needed to be behind Blaney, our teammate, to try to control the race and win. It was a mental mistake on pit road. My fault. Can’t pick a worse time to do that. Once you are back there, you are kind of back there in the garbage. It was getting crazy. All the holes close up at the end of the race and it is hard to make progress and the crashes happen more often. We were able to get a top-five out of it, which is nice for the Shell Pennzoil team. Maybe we would have gotten caught up in a crash if I stayed up front but overall I just feel like I let us down a little bit.”

Chris Buescher – Finished fifth: “That was awesome. For us to even be in contention to have a shot at winning the (Daytona) 500 with our Kroger Clicklist team, that was pretty awesome, with two cars really. That was pretty neat. There at the end we just had to be a little bit too defensive with our Kleenex Camaro ZL1 to really go up there and push for it. The bottom really wasn’t the place to be all night and that is where we lined back up.”

Paul Menard – Finished sixth: “We had a really fast Omnicraft Ford today. These guys are awesome. Great race car. I ran upfront the first-half of the race. I got shuffled out. Denny (Hamlin) bumped me in Turn 3 and got loose and lost all my track position. I just kept fighting from there to get my track position back. Great run for us. We had shot to win the Daytona 500 at the end of the race. We just came up short. … To score points in all three stages is awesome. That’s good for the overall picture. I had a shot at a stage win. It was a good points day for sure.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished seventh: “It was just hard racing. You saw it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 (Hamlin) blocked the 41 (Kurt Busch) and the 41 kind of went high last minute and I was on his left rear and I turned him. I feel bad about that. He kinda changed lanes last minute and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it was a good showing. Hopefully we go into Atlanta and have a decent run.

Ryan Newman – Finished eighth: “Congratulations first of all to Austin (Dillon) and his team. That is awesome for RCR and ECR and all of our partners. To get a Camaro in Victory Lane, that was special as well. For us, we just weren’t in the right place at the right time and got caught up in a little bit of a mess and that was it. We just finished with a bunch of damage, but we still finished eighth.”

Michael McDowell – Finished ninth: “We had our ups and downs, that’s for sure. I am thankful to get stage points. It takes a top ten finish and makes it like a top five. We had a fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Unfortunately we had a little mishap on pit road. The 6 (Trevor Bayne) was coming out of his box as we were coming in. There was no way I wasn’t going to hit him, so we had to come back through and lost a lap. Thankful to get out of Daytona with a top 10. We brought a fast Ford. Showed good stage. It was a really good run.”

A.J. Allmendinger – Finished 10th: “Today was a big positive for our racing organization. It’s a great day for both teams, to get a top five and a top 10 finish at Daytona. It was a fantastic job there by Chris (Buescher) and the 37 Kleenex team, especially at the end to have a chance to win it. Overall, any time you come out of Daytona with two cars in the top 10 that’s a big deal for us. I feel like so many times I tried to make the right move and either nobody went with me or I got hung out, but that’s the product of this racing. That’s the way it goes. It can be frustrating sometimes. Overall, just a great day for our 47 Kroger ClickList team and especially Chris and the 37 guys for doing such a great job.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 11th: “It was the last lap and we’re all trying to win the Daytona 500. It’s the biggest race of the year and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively. I put every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to hold on. He got to my back bumper and was pushing and just hooked me. My heart is broken, but the beauty is we’ll go to Atlanta and we’ve got an incredible race team here at Stewart-Haas Racing and we’ll have another shot next week. … (Dillon wasn’t) driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was. I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t gonna just let him have it. I wasn’t gonna just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still gonna be OK and somehow I got hooked. … I’m just devastated.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 13th: “That was a hard fought race and kind of heartbreaking. We had a few times we had to recover and we were able to do it. Gotta clean stuff up and not have mistakes. The guys on the team did a great job and I am happy with how we performed today. A lot of times you leave thinking you should have done 20 things differently, but today I felt like I did all I could do. That is a great feeling. We made a day out of it. I look forward to getting to Talladega and then back here to Daytona in the summer when handling is a big deal. Congrats to the 3 team. We will go to work for Atlanta.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “Our plan was working. A lot of cars we knew we had to beat were out of the race. We had hung back working on our handling and just waiting to the end of the race. I kept telling my guys to stay patient, there were going to be more wrecks. Sure enough that’s what happened, and we avoided any damage, but when I got on the brakes hard something happened, because we were now down a cylinder. We tried, but there was no way to fix it. We went back out there and were pretty decent, considering. Now we’ll focus on Atlanta.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 17th: “Yeah, just put ourselves in a good position all day and really shouldn’t have been in that spot. That last restart I didn’t do a good job and that is what put us there. My fault, learn from it, move on. Definitely do some things differently going forward, but everybody on this Nationwide 88 did such a great job. It’s cool to see Austin (Dillon) get the Camaro ZL1 its first win. Working with Kevin Hamlin (spotter) was great all day. Greg (Ives, crew chief) made good calls all day, but it’s just Daytona.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 18th: “Not the day we were looking for. … It was our day for a while and then it wasn’t. It’s just the way it goes. Superspeedway racing – a lot of it is out of your control. That last caution in hindsight, we probably should have gotten tires. Tried to come up from the back because we were sitting ducks upfront. We didn’t have enough speed to keep up with some of those guys up front. I’d get back there but didn’t have the speed to get by them. It was just one of those deals where we needed it to stay green to be in a good spot. It just didn’t work out in the end.”

D.J. Kennington — Finished 24th: “We had a decent car. We could’ve raced with them, I think. But we’ll take it and run with it. We almost went the distance.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 26th: “I was feeling the magic. I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500. We found the right drafting lanes and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle it seemed like when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard and that killed a lot of my momentum. Maybe I should have just flung the 11, but you have to treat guys with respect and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”

Matt DiBenedetto – Finished 27th: “(Ryan) Blaney was right in front of me, so I just tagged onto him and I was just gonna shove the heck out of him, being another Ford and a really strong race car. We were running anywhere between second and third and sixth-ish at the end, but you’ve got to expect anything at all that happens at the end. The Fords were really strong. My car was really strong, especially being a back-up car. It had plenty of speed, so I just tried to tag onto another Ford, but stuff happens. … It’s frustrating.  That’s the thing that I have a love-hate relationship with superspeedways. I dread coming to them because it’s so frustrating that everybody just tears up cars and it’s basically a demo derby, but, at the same time, we can also have really good runs and run really fast with our small, little team and group of guys. It’s a love-hate relationship.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 29th: “I have no clue (how he was wrecked). Unfortunately, we got some front-end damage. We were overheating there at the end of that second stage and had to pit and that really caught us laps down. We were trying to battle back and I think we were in the free pass spot there for a minute and everything broke loose and we just got caught up in it. Two laps from the end was a bummer, but we felt really good at the start of the race. I hate that we had to pit and lose our track position and the lead lap because I felt like our Fastenal Ford was really, really good all day and really strong. I could make just about any move I wanted to to stay towards the front, just had to pit there with like six or seven to go in that second stage. … All in all, it was a fun Speedweeks. I felt like our cars were good and I’m looking forward to getting to Atlanta.”

David Ragan – Finished 30th: “I think that wreck was just a product of speedway racing. You’ve got young guys with fast race cars. They were probably being a little too aggressive, blocking, moving around, pushing and sometimes you get what you ask for, and I think the two guys that wrecked got what they asked for and it’s just a shame we were caught in it.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 31st: “We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two guys, I couldn’t tell. It looked to me like there was one too many blocks and the blocking car wound up spinning out and the 2 car hit the 24 and wound up coming up the race track into me. It was like a can opener on the way by. … You really can’t block that aggressively. They got away with it, especially the 24 (William Byron) got away with it most of the weekend and didn’t get away with it that time. Unfortunately, we were one of the cars that got tore up. … (It’s frustrating) there’s really nothing you need to do early on, but those guys are very ambitious.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 32nd: “The 24 (Byron) got loose and spun out in front of us all and got caught up in it. It just really sucks. We had a great car and were in a great position. I guess that’s the way it goes. I went to pass the 24 on the bottom and he came down. I can’t tell if I made contact or not, but obviously he turned and there was nothing I could do. We were all wrecked. … You definitely didn’t see (patience) today.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 33rd: “Yes, I’m alright. I had such a fast Camaro ZL1 today, and I just wanted a shot there at the end. Tough circumstances. I was just trying to feel Blaney out and see what he was going to do; how aggressive he wanted to be. I had a big push and got light at the wrong time. Didn’t make the right move. … I just wanted to make it to the end and give ourselves a chance, so I hate that we didn’t have that opportunity.”

Kasey Kahne – Finished 34th: “I couldn’t see what happened. I was just on the outside entering the corner and then Chase (Elliott) came across, hit the wall, by the sounds of it in the infield care center, him and Brad (Keselowski) got together, but I didn’t see any of it. I’m disappointed.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 35th: “I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car and it being that green again. But it just wasn’t meant to be today. But I am proud – we raced the whole race — other than a little bit at the end of that first stage when I just looked silly with all the cars with no tires and tires. Other than that, we raced it. It was competitive. That’s all you can do. That’s the gamble about Daytona. It can go so well and it can go so awful. So, I’m grateful for everything. Thank you to all the fans. Still got one more (race left, the May 27th Indy 500). It’s not a stock car (race), but still got one more.”

Erik Jones – Finished 36th: “It looked like the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) just got freed up there by the 12 (Ryan Blaney), unfortunately. We tried to check up and everybody got stacked up, and caused a big wreck.  It’s unfortunate because the Dewalt Camry was definitely fast – we just didn’t get to the end to see what we could really do. We were in position I thought to have a good race. We were staying upfront and out of trouble, it just didn’t work out.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 37th: “I was just trying to stay out of trouble either in the front or in the back and at that point we were at one lap to go to the end of the stage and 60 laps into the race and everyone was blocking very, very close. Everyone was being aggressive and it was a little bit too early and somebody turned my teammate the 20 (Erik Jones) and then he hit the 42 (Kyle Larson) and the 42 hit me and after that it was pretty much nothing I could do.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 38th: “There was some great racing throughout. It looked like everybody thought that was the finish of the Daytona 500 and it was really only lap 59 coming to 60. Unfortunately, we lost our third car for the weekend. … Just racing that hard coming for a green and white checkered flag. I’m not sure everybody was thinking big picture and really using their head through that. … It’s been tough lately (for him at Daytona). I have had some great days and nights here through the July race and this race, but of late it’s been tough. That is just how it goes. If I want to think too hard about it I can look at (Dale) Earnhardt’s record here and know how long it took him to get his first.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 39th: “I was trying to get some stage points. It’s really important for us to kind of come out with a good start and I was wanting to be aggressive in the first stage, get some points so we could do whatever we wanted to later on in the race. I saw them crossing lanes up there in the front and I was kind of pinned to the top, so I didn’t really have anywhere to go and once they started crashing, I was just stuck in the oil and didn’t really have anywhere to go.”

Aric Almirola ‘devastated’ to lose Daytona 500, defends Austin Dillon’s last-lap racing

Leave a comment

When he took the white flag for the 60th Daytona 500, Aric Almirola was certain about his future.

“I thought I was going to win the Daytona 500,” he told Fox Sports after the race.

But he didn’t win.

Instead, Almirola’s day ended with him climbing from his damaged No. 10 Ford after wrecking at the end of the backstretch, less than a half-lap from the checkered flag.

The wreck happened when race-winner Austin Dillon locked bumpers with Almirola as they neared Turn 3. The move and Almirola’s defense of it turned Almirola into the outside wall.

Despite being “heart broken” and “devastated” he didn’t win, let alone finish the “Great American Race,” Almirola held no hard feelings for Dillon afterwards.

“He’s not driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was,” Almirola said. “I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500.  I wasn’t gonna just let him have it.  I wasn’t gonna just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still gonna be OK and somehow I got hooked. I still haven’t seen the replay, so I don’t know what happened, but I’m just devastated.”

If it had been any other lap in the race, Almirola would have raced Dillon differently.

“If that was Lap 5, I probably wouldn’t have pulled that block, but it was the last lap of the Daytona 500 and I was doing everything I could to try and win,” Almirola said. “I wanted to win the Daytona 500.”

Sunday’s race was Almirola’s first with Stewart-Haas racing after six years driving the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Almirola, who was credited with an 11th-place finish, was in a backup car after he wrecked in his qualifying race on Thursday.

“We were a half a lap away from winning the Daytona 500,” Almirola said. “I’m really proud of that. I’m still very excited.  I’m not gonna let that get me down. We’ve got an incredible race team and I’m gonna go to Atlanta and we’re gonna have good race cars there and we’ll have a shot to win next week. That’s something I’ve not had in my career, where I feel like every week I get on the plane to go to the race track I feel like we’re gonna have a shot to go win. This is just one race. It might be the biggest race and this one is gonna hurt for a while, but I think next week we’ll have another shot.”

An emotional Bubba Wallace breaks down in tears after runner-up finish

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
2 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The emotions of a career-best runner-up finish overcame Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, who wept openly after embracing family members Sunday in a poignant news conference at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m so proud of you,” said Wallace’s mother, Desiree. “We’ve waited so long. So long.”

“You’re acting like we just won the race!” Wallace protested after becoming the highest-finishing African-American in the 60-year history of the Great American Race.

“We did,” Desiree said. “We did. We did win that race.”

“Dang it, mom,” Wallace said.

There then was another embrace from his older sister, Brittany, whom Wallace joked about having all the good looks.

Then the Richard Petty Motorsports driver broke down crying while attempting to collect his thoughts about finishing second to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500.

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said. “But I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard, and so having them here to support me is …

“Pull it together, bud. Pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome. I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day.

“But yeah, I just love my family and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle, everybody here just means a lot.”

Wallace is the first full-time African-American driver on the circuit in 47 years since Wendell Scott. Before Sunday’s race, he received a call from baseball legend Hank Aaron.

Here’s what else Wallace said after the win:

Q: Walk through the final laps, please.  That was quite a finish.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I said, uh‑oh, for the green‑white‑checkered, I didn’t know if we’d end up ‑‑ well, we still ended up in the infield care center, but just wild.  I mean, it’s Daytona.  You’ve just got to be relaxed for it the whole time.  Just like the Duels, I just found myself looking back like a third perspective again, like, just like you’re so calm, you’re doing great, just kind of pumping myself up, but at the same time just trying to stay focused on the task at hand and just not mess up.  We battled through a lot of adversity there, and just being able to run every lap, and I wish I could say bring the car home in one piece, but what a great car, what a great Click ‘n Close Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.  Just fast all day, fast all week, and I think there was a lot of talk in the garage how good our car was at pushing, and I think that gave me a lot of respect out there to be able to do what I can do.

Having everybody from Click ‘n Close here, Richard Petty, that’s another story I’ll get to in a second.  But just a great night.

Q: I just wondered if you could talk about the King and Drew were very complimentary of you.  This wasn’t just an end of the race, he ended up top 5.  You were up front all day.  Could you talk about the effort of the entire race and really earning this position?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, thanks to the King and Brian Moffitt, Andrew Murstein for giving me this opportunity and believing in me those four races last year.  I just went out and tried not to be a hero, like the King told me right before climbing in.  I didn’t try to be a hero tonight, and we’re sitting here in second trying to talk to you guys about a great finish for my first Daytona 500.  The chemistry we have with the team, it’s incredible.  Drew and I just hit it off.  Like when I walked into the garage at Pocono it was like, boom, here it is, we have it.  Before we even said anything, we knew it was something there.  So we’re able to build off that, and he’s really good at managing races and calling races, and when I mess up like sliding through the box there, he just repeats it over and over, that we’re fine, just settle in, refocus, and just go out there and do what you do, and don’t do it again, obviously.  But just the team we have behind us right now is so much fun, and knowing that we’re a smaller budget team, we have a lot of poise and a lot of attitude and just a lot of stuff to fight for this year.  I’m really looking forward to Atlanta.  Don’t know what the hell we’ll have there because it’s all new for us.

I know this will carry over to Atlanta and be good.

Q: How taxing has this whole week been on you with all the cameras and all the Facebook deal and all that, and then also, can you talk about getting the call from Hank Aaron before the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, Griffin, him and I have almost come to blows over this Facebook deal.  Not really, but we both know how stressful it is and we’re both trying to do our jobs, and it’s been very taxing on that.  Griffin, I’m not doing another interview after this, so this is all you’re getting.  The race went great, we ran 500 miles at Daytona, my first Daytona 500, we finished second.  Put that in there.  We’re done.  His favorite question is what did we do today.

But just an incredible moment.  To be in that position, it takes me back to a week ago when Dale called me ‑‑ as soon as I landed here, he says, hey, the next three or four weeks are going to be busy for you, and I’m like, yeah, no kidding, just come off a stressful night.  And he just had the words to bring that positive light back up that I try to carry with me every day, and he says, I’ll have the opportunity to do things outside of this sport that not really anybody else can.  So take that, run with it, and set yourself up for 10 years from now, look back on it and see how you did.

Q: Darrell, what did the King tell you before the race, and what was your ‑‑ what was it like with him after the race?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Well, he did tell me last night ‑‑ I was his Uber back from dinner, so I brought him back to the bus.  We were just making small talk, no cameras there.  We were talking what it was like.  He’s been here since day one running on the beaches, and ever since this was built, and just hearing all that just was like, wow, first of all, I wasn’t even born yet, wasn’t even a thought yet.  My parents were just born.  Just kind of showing his age there, and just hearing what he had to talk about.

But right when we pulled in the bus lot, he was talking, just park at your bus, I’ll walk over.  I’m like, no, I’ll take you to your bus, we’re not far, and he said, all right, can you do a burnout?  I’m like, yeah, sure.  Then all of a sudden he follows up, if you do a burnout in the race car I’m going to beat the s‑‑‑ out of you, so I’m like, all right, so we got that out of the way.

But I think having him ‑‑ and then after the race, let me get to that, to where my heart is still pumping over that, sitting on the cot in the infield care center, and I’m pissed off about the finish, obviously, and he walks in lived, and I’m like, yes, he’s mad, let’s go do something.  And he walks in, and the first thing he said, what’s the first thing I told you, with a very stern attitude and look, and I’m like ummmm, and he says, “I told you not to wreck the car,” and I was like, I didn’t do it.  So we shared a good laugh, and he come in and gave me a big hug after that.  To see the smile on his face, I think you had to be there to experience that moment.  All the liaisons in there were pretty nervous for me, too, until he cracked the joke.  But just a great day, a great week, seeing him after the Duels, how pumped up he was and just the same amount of emotion, if not more right here after the race.

Q: You said that the King told you not to try and be a hero.  What did you expect for yourself sort of going into the race?  Could you have imagined this?  And when during the race did you realize that you really had a chance to make a push?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I don’t have the experience, nor does anybody out there.  I got the rookie stripes for a reason, so making some of those moves today I was a little bit delayed and a little bit late and luckily kept out of harm’s way.  But it just all comes with time.  Jumping into the Xfinity Series, I was ‑‑ I have the attitude and just the confidence to win every race that you enter.  We all know that’s not going to happen, so jumping in tonight we had the same attitude, but I knew the circumstances and how this plays out and the moves that you have to make and the defending and blocking that you do.  I’ve never done it at this level.  I was like, if we get put in that position, here we go, hang on.  Unfortunately we never did, but we come to a really close second, and I was able to push our RCR affiliate teammate there out to the win, so congrats to Austin.  That was cool.

Q: You saved your race there at the end with that save in Turns 1 and 2 where you threw sparks.  Could you describe going through that?  And the second thing is in the beginning of the race, you looked really antsy when you were second, like you wanted to lead the race.  What was going through your mind then?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, I think I was just trying to learn stuff there, make those bold moves, see what happens, and try to ‑‑ if we fell back, it wasn’t the end of the world, but just try to fend off the guys behind me.  I think it was myself and Denny that were out front, and wasn’t really trying to get by him, but I just wanted to lead the bottom line, go back to the top line, everything that you’ve watched from Brad doing, Joey doing, Ryan did it all night tonight.  I wanted to experience that for a little bit, and I got to, so my notebook was jotted down for sure.

But then after the pit stops, we were just so hard on the splitter, and it looked like I was just kind of driving around, but I was playing it smart, trying to save my race car.

Q: Talk about the save.

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Oh, the save.  There’s a reason I skipped that.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Ooh‑weee, Daytona.

Q: Darrell, you were asked about Hank earlier; you also got a tweet, I think, from Lewis Hamilton.  What do those types of things mean to you when you see those things?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  That was cool.  My manager Kyle, who’s also my big brother over there, he walks in the bus, guess who just followed you.  I’m like, who.  He said, Lewis Hamilton.  I’m like, what?  Freaking out, fan growing out.  I look up to him.  He does so many great things in the F1 world.  He’s just a genuine badass in what he does, so that was cool, and then he sent out a tweet, and I got weak at the knees.  Luckily I was sitting down when I was replying to him.  I think I was taking a golf cart ride out to an appearance and I replied back.  Really cool and really special for Hank Aaron also to call right there before was really special, and just knowing that people are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR and they get behind it and support it.  Just exciting.

Q: Bubba, Denny claims that he got a flat tire at the start‑finish line at the checkered flag.  Do you buy that?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I mean, it looked kind of like the same move he pulled on Ryan at Martinsville if I remember correctly last year with that mayhem.  But you know, if I did ‑‑ if that happened, okay, so be it, but it just seems like he got off of me a little bit and then turned back into me.  I know the cars drive crazy and whatnot and they’re a handful, but it just didn’t seem like that right away, but it was tough to see from that angle anyways.  Who knows.  We’re both pissed off at each other.  But we’re racers.  We’re competitive, and we’ll go into Atlanta and be fine.  I might be kicked out of the basketball league, but whatever.  And golf league, too.

Q: I’ve been talking to a lot of drivers, and rookies have a bit of a reputation in general, but the drivers that have been seasoned veterans are speaking with respect of you.  Clint Bowyer said you earned this ride, and you’re earning the respect of the veteran drivers.  How are you able to do that so quickly?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I don’t know.  Thanks, Clint.  I’ve always kind of tested his waters, and it’s like, hey, Clint.  All right.  Thanks, Clint.  I don’t know.  I just be myself and try not to be a jackass out on the track.  Just try to ‑‑ from running trucks and Xfinity, it was always hold the steady line.  That’s how you’re going to gain respect.  I think all throughout practice and the Duels just having the right guys behind me.  I worked with Newman a lot this weekend.  I think he was a big fan.  I don’t know if he’ll ever admit it, but yeah, it’s just trying to run my own race and not cause any havoc out there.  If you run a good clean race, run all the laps, I think you’ll get a lot of respect, and I think our cars, the way my guys built our car, we were a really good push car.  We got behind there a little bit, and I’m like, man, we’re not really going anywhere, but I can just run over these guys and we’re making some ground up a little bit.  That’s just hats off to the guys back in the shop and everybody on this 43 Chevrolet Click ‘n Close Camaro ZL1.  So yeah, that’s it.

Q: Were you at a point there right at the white flag where you thought you might be sniffing a win, or did Austin just have too much of a lead at that point?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  You know, I’ve watched a couple of these races, and it got down to 10 to go, and I said, all right, we’ve still got about two hours left here, I’m all good in here, so I’m not thinking about it, and even on the white flag, we’ve still got two and a half miles to go with Logano breathing down my neck, knowing that he likes to just dart out and everybody is going to go with him, so I’m just trying to keep him in my mirror, so I think I was full of thinking about that and not really thinking about winning the race, knowing that we still had to get through 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and almost got caught up there on the backstretch.  But still, anyways, it’s a good day just to come home second, just to come home with a finish here at Daytona.  A lot of cars wrecked out early, and we were able to capitalize on that.  It really means a lot to be able to just run all the laps, have a good, clean race and earn the respect of your peers.

Q: And how are you feeling?  I know you were kind of a little puny ‑‑

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Puny?

Q: Well, you weren’t feeling well earlier in the week.  Are you feeling better now?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, yeah, I’m feeling good.  I’m all right.  I’m a little emotional right now, but all good.  Thank you.

Q: We’ve seen your colorful personality, but tonight we’ve seen a lot of emotion.  Are you always this emotional, or did you expect to be this emotional after this good finish?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I usually just sprinkle water and sprinkle tears on my face to make it look like I’m that emotional.  But no, no matter what the circumstances are, when you have family here and you run good and it’s been a while since you’ve been somewhat competitive, it pulls on the heartstrings.  I’m competitive.  I love to win.  I hate to finish second.  Obviously that shows for everybody.

But I’m human.  No matter if I race cars for a living and enjoy doing it, at the end of the day we all get emotional about something, so I’m just the same as you guys.

Q: I wanted to ask you because over the course of your career, you had some times that were very uncertain, and you stayed with it and you were positive and you joked on Twitter about this could be the sponsor or that could be the sponsor.  Could you just talk a little bit about how you feel and where you are today versus even two years ago and the power that you felt in terms of sticking this out and staying with your dream?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, no, it’s just all about adversity, and looking at the stuff you’ve gone through, it’s motivation.  Here come the emotions again.  But on the sponsorship side, it’s tough.  We should all be firing a tweet to Domino’s because if we finished second, we should at least get free pizza for the media room, right, so they’re missing out on that ball, but that’s why we have great partners like Click ‘n Close.  They take the big step not knowing anything about NASCAR, right?  And they take the big step and believe in me and give me an opportunity that not a lot of people get, so I had to capitalize.  Never quit.

Q: You referenced a little bit earlier about not sure about what you would have at Atlanta.  From a competitive standpoint, did you feel a little bit more confident about what was possible at Daytona because of that uncertainty, or are you just not sure what you’re going to have next week?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the exciting thing about Daytona is unless you’re just coming there just to run at the back of the pack all day and accept a finish, everybody that shows up to Daytona has a shot.  That’s just the ‑‑ that’s what Daytona produces, and Talladega, as well.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  A very low budget team or a top dollar team, everybody has a shot to win.  That’s why we always say when we go to Atlanta, that’s when we really see who’s playing what cards.  Just from everything that’s been going on in the off‑season, switching over to Chevrolet, the alliance with RCR, they were rebuilding their stages there at the end of the year for their program.  We’re heading in there like we’re going to win that race.  But at the same time, we know we also have a lot of things to check off the list.

Q: Every driver thinks they should be in the Cup Series.  If they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be driving a race car.  But at this moment for you, was it when you signed your contract?  Was it when you rolled in here this week, or was it when you took the checkered today that you finally have that belief in yourself that, yes, you are officially a Cup Series driver full‑time?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  I think the Vegas test, really.  We get to test again.  That’s nice.  I think there, going there, it’s like, okay, we were able to do all these things, two‑day test here, get familiar with the cars and get to experience these cars and how fast they are.  We’re faster in Vegas than we are here.  It’s incredible.  And just getting to experience that, and just coming down here put the icing on the cake, being on this side of the garage, knowing my hauler is over here and getting to see how the fans react with the windows, which I think is great.  Not just walking through and, hey, what’s up, waving to everybody at the top because I’m going to cheer on ex‑teammates or whatever they are.  It’s my garage stall, my eyes.  It’s our team.  And I think that’s special.

I’m enjoying it all.  Just taking it day by day.

Q: Exactly what did Hank Aaron say to you, and how surprised were you to hear from him?

BUBBA WALLACE JR.:  Yeah, he just said, hey, good luck, and just have a good race today, and that was it.  He knew that we were pressed for time, and it was five seconds, and that’s all he said.  That was really cool.  So when Murstein came up to me and said, hey, Hank Aaron is on the line, I’m like, what?  That’s awesome.  So I was pretty excited about that.