With one race down, 25 to go to the Chase for the Sprint Cup and 35 to go to determine the 2016 champion, NASCAR is off to a strong start.
Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Daytona 500 and is all but assured a spot in the Chase.
Sure, there were a few minor wrecks, but the overall race did not have the multi-car “Big One” wreck that is synonymous with both Daytona and Talladega.
Here are comments from several drivers on how the Great American Race played out for them:
Kyle Busch (3rd): “I thought (Matt) Kenseth was in the catbird seat. Leading, being up there like that, but then the top lane got going and he tried to go up there and throw a block, but Denny (Hamlin) just had to much momentum and then rolled back through the middle, so I’m sure it was an exciting finish and I’d love to go back and see it again. I certainly wish it was the yellow car over there, but Joe’s (Gibbs) happy, so that’s all that matters.”
Kevin Harvick (4th): “I was hoping that they would start pushing and shoving like they did to get that outside lane going. You just want to be the first one to be in that outside line. Denny pulled up in front of us and he got the honor of being the first car in that line with all that momentum, but congrats to them.”
Joey Logano (6th): “You have to try. This is the Daytona 500 and you try to win this thing no matter what. I was the only Ford up there though. I was the lone ranger. It was tough. Overall, it is a great start for our Shell Pennzoil team and we kicked off the season with a bunch of great finishes down here in Daytona and we are looking forward to getting to Atlanta.”
Kyle Larson (7th): “The whole time, all the hairy moments we were in, it was just like ‘Oh, I have to get out of here so I can get to the checkered flag.’ The last lap there it got really hectic. I was pushing the guy in front of me. I was getting pushed from behind. I was just trying to hold a steady wheel. Happy to get a finish. I would like to have a top-five here at the 500 or possibly a win, but I will have plenty of opportunities, hopefully in my career. Just happy to finally start hopefully a trend of finishing every race this year.”
Regan Smith (8th): “It was a good, smooth day for us. The car, other than the spin at the beginning, I don’t know what happened there. But I got on the brakes and it just spun out. It handled great all day long. All the guys at Tommy Baldwin Racing, gave me probably one of the better handling cars I’ve ever had here. … I’m proud of this team. It’s a small team. We work hard. Tommy pours everything he’s got into this race team. And we’ve got some great partners and great investors, and we’re going to work hard all year.”
Austin Dillon (9th): “It was a lot about handling. My guys did a good job. The first two runs we were pretty far off. We were tight through the exit of the corner. We kept freeing it up and we had a free race car there at the end. But it was fun. They did good pit strategy. I’m proud of my guys. I wish we could have got in. That bottom lane was really fast.”
Kurt Busch (10th): “I thought it was a good first half of the race. We seemed to have things where we wanted them and the second half of the race things didn’t seem to go as smooth. I made a couple of drafting errors and then one of the pit stops we had to wait on fuel. When you are at the tail end of the lead draft we just had to come in, put four tires on it, fill it up and then go after it. I was able to work my way back up. I fell to the back again. The bottom line was surprisingly where people would make up their time. I did what I could to gather the draft. I’m real proud of everybody not giving up and the spotter helping me. We worked our way back up to 10th.”
Matt Kenseth (14th): “Well, I didn’t get a photo finish, so I was back in Turn 3 somewhere. No, if I can’t win, I want my teammate to win. That’s what being teammates is all about is to get everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing running good and we did that today. Those guys got the finish. I didn’t unfortunately.”
Brian Vickers (26th): “We ran as hard as we could the whole time. We almost had a shot at it once when the No. 3 was pushing us. We just couldn’t quite get there. The low lane was just so strong. No one could make any ground in the high lane. We did all we could. Just wasn’t enough today. … It was great to be back in the Daytona 500. I really enjoyed the race.”
Greg Biffle (34th): “It was a pretty rough day for us. We got a flat trying to make the outside groove push to the front and couldn’t get our lap back and then later the 10 came across our nose there. It was unfortunate but it happens. I don’t know if she was trying to block me or didn’t know I was there but it happens. Tough day for sure. I am proud of my guys for all their work this week. We had a pretty good week minus these issues today.”
Danica Patrick (35th): “That pit road penalty really put us in a bad spot at the end of the race. I didn’t realize Greg (Biffle) was below me and I tried going low and we made contact. It’s a disappointing way to end the day, but overall, I’m happy with the way my Nature’s Bakery team performed throughout Speedweeks.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (36th): “I got loose and just busted my tail. It was time to go. We were making some moves on the outside and moving forward and passing some guys. Just got loose trying to do too much at once. We were up there around fifth or sixth there when we spun out. We were moving forward. We had passed about four or five cars there in the last three or four laps. We were making up some ground.”
Chase Elliott (37th): “I hate it for everybody at less than 20 laps in and have something dumb (his spin) like that happen. I apologize to my guys. (Racing at Daytona is) definitely different. That wasn’t what happened, but yes, that is definitely different. … We had a real fast car all week. I just hate it ended so soon.”