What Drivers Said after the GEICO 500 at Talladega

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:

Chase Elliott – winner: “What a day. … Just a huge thanks to all of our partners, my team, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet; there was obviously a lot of teamwork done today. We just had a plan and executed really well. Obviously it could have gone both ways but fortunately everybody stayed together and stayed the course and had some help on that last lap with the caution. I just appreciate all the support. This is unbelievable. This is special. This is close to home for me. It feels a little bit like a home race.”

Alex Bowman – finished second: “There was no plan coming off Turn 4, but unfortunately we didn’t get there before the caution came out. Big props to Chevrolet and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. They brought great race cars here. We had a great Nationwide Chevy from the time we unloaded. We showed a lot of speed. We all stuck to our plans and executed really well. Props to everybody back at home at Hendrick Motorsports and the fab shop and the engine shop and everybody that makes this deal possible. (If the caution didn’t come out, would you have made a move on Elliott?) Well, I’m not just going to let him win, right? I’ve got to try. I knew I could get to his quarter panel. I was pretty confident I could get to his quarter panel in the tri-oval and who knows who’s going to get to the line first at that point. I thought I could do it, but it depends on the car behind you and where he goes. It would have been fun to try, but I’m happy for Chase. … I’m glad to kind of turn things around. It’s been a rough start to the year and these guys deserve way better than the finishes they’ve had. So, to come home second is not a win, but it’s headed in the right direction.”

Ryan Preece – finished third: “It was awesome. I was only here one other time and that was in Talladega in 2016 in an Xfinity car and I was running third with three to go, went for the sucker hole and got flushed. I wasn’t going to do that today. … Great day for Kroger and JTG (Daugherty Racing) and hopefully we can keep this momentum moving forward.”

Joey Logano – finished fourth: “At the end (Kurt Busch) had a big run and I felt like I had to block that. When I blocked that I can’t block both and (Chase Elliott) got underneath me. If I chose the bottom and block (Elliott) I had (Alex Bowman) there and they were going to go by me as soon as they formed a run. I was not in a very good spot. Once I got on the outside I thought that would be a better spot to be than the bottom but the teammates there didn’t race each other to the end, which is good on their part because it made sure one of their cars won. If they had gotten side by side I think I could have made something happen but they were selfless toward each other. I really think even if it was green all the way to the end it would have looked exactly the same. There were no runs built and no momentum going. It is a tough spot to be in. You think you are in a good spot and anytime you can take the front row on a final restart you will take it, especially here at Talladega but it is tough when the numbers are stacked against you a little bit. The team did a good job though and our Mustang was really fast and that is what we have to be proud of.”

Daniel Hemric — finished fifth: “Chevrolet and all the drivers and teams put in the effort to communicate here in the last few weeks to try and stay dedicated and committed to each other. We’ve talked about it in the past, but we’ve never had such unity on the racetrack like we had today. That’s what led to us ultimately having our best finish as a group. I’m proud of that and of all the Chevrolet drivers sticking together. The first objective was to make sure a Bowtie ended up in Victory Lane today, and that’s what happened today. I’m proud of all these guys. (On the number of meetings with Chevy) Oh yeah, (there were) many of them to make sure we were all on the same page. It was cool to see people put the effort in and then us do our jobs on the track and stay committed to each other. That’s special. It’s hard to take a lot of drivers’ egos and put them to the side and try to look for the bigger cause, which was to get Chevrolet to Victory Lane. That’s what happened and I’m happy for that.”

Kurt Busch – finished sixth:I feel like we had a great day with our Monster Energy Chevy. I just didn’t deliver the win. I felt like I had it in my hands and let it drop. I didn’t make the right moves at the end to bring our Monster Energy Chevy a victory. It’s tough. I just didn’t execute what I needed to do to win the race. But all in all, it was a great day for Chevrolet and the teamwork from everybody. … Chase Elliott deserves the win. He did everything you would need a teammate from a brand to do. He put himself in position at the end. I just didn’t know what lane I needed to pick going into Turn 3 and I got swallowed up in the draft. (Thoughts on the new aero package) I think it was pretty good all the way around with each of the manufacturers doing their thing. No lane seemed more effective than years past. I’d give the package a thumbs up. … I just feel like I gave this one away today. Our Monster Energy Chevy was fast, and now we’ll go to a fast, one-mile track with all the horsepower. To have all this downforce and all this horsepower, I’ve been looking forward to Dover all year.”

Ryan Newman – finished seventh: “That was crazy. I took the inside line and started there and stayed there. Never had many places to go but either way it was a good run and a good team effort. Proud of the entire team to be able to keep it together. I think we kept most of the race cars on the race track which was probably a lot of luck. We will go on to Dover. (Was he surprised at Chevrolet’s domination?) No, I think it was mostly luck, honestly. They did a good job of orchestrating the pit but I don’t think that won them the race. … We put two tires on it there at the end and went. We just ran out of time. I think we finished sixth, I feel like I was ahead of one of those guys. It was a good run for the Acorns Ford. We got some good stage points and race points. We need to get a win. We need to get a top five. We have top 10s rolling and that is good. We need to keep going in the right direction. (Was it a different Talladega, using tapered spacers rather than restrictor plates?) I don’t know that it was much different. You got bigger runs but the end result was basically the same. We are still at the mercy of other people’s mistakes which will always be a part of racing here. In the end I am glad all the race cars stayed on the race track.”

Brendan Gaughan – finished eighth: “I was telling the guys, ‘I don’t know what y’all think is so tough about this. I show up once every three months and drive into the top-10.’ I miss this sport. It is a lot of fun. I don’t miss it enough to want to be here every week. I know now I can hold my breath for a minute and 45 seconds! It was pretty impressive. Thank you to the Beard Family, Richard Childress and ECR. I’m here four times a year and we end up with a chance to win every time we show up. I love driving for this team. It was unbelievable out there at the end of that race. I tucked up and stayed up under Ryan Newman. I sat on the bottom and tried to go forward. I’ll take eighth today.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “We had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang. I thought we had a car capable of winning but just a few mistakes on my part and then a few thing didn’t go my way. I worked my way back up to the first two or three spots and got shuffled out, one time late in the race there and fell to the back. Had to fight really hard just to get back up into the top 10. I am really proud of all of our guys. I thought we had a car capable of winning and circumstances and some things didn’t go our way. The Fords were really fast. The only thing I am happy about is that we finally stopped the bleeding. We had a really crappy couple of weeks with Bristol and Richmond. We fell from fifth to 11th in points. We stopped the bleeding there, got another top 10 and are back on track going to a great race track for us in Dover.”

Kyle Busch – finished 10th: We restarted outside the front row and I thought the 1 (Kurt Busch) behind me would want to race for the win and not just fall in line behind Fords and in front of Chevrolets and he would go with us a little bit there. Team order prevailed I guess. That kind of sucked. We weren’t able to have the run. As soon as he bailed off from behind me and then two others behind me got double-wide and then it just sucked me six rows back. I had to try to recover after that and all I could get was whatever I got. When you got older on tires and cars started to ill-handle a little bit, it was interesting. We got more downforce and yet the cars are driving worse, I don’t know how that’s possible. It was just interesting how you could be all over the place and not just be stuck. Guys were moving a little bit, you could make some moves a little bit. There was a section of race where the bottom lane didn’t move anywhere and the top lane didn’t move anywhere – we were stuck where we were at for like eight laps. That was about all I really saw.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 12th: “We had a very fast Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola Mustang today, but at the end we just didn’t have enough time to get in the lane that was moving the best. I was trying the top groove with a few laps to go, but it wasn’t going anywhere. With the new package we’re still trying to figure out how the car reacts in different lanes and those types of things. Overall, we escaped all of the accidents and the guys on the No. 41 Mustang are doing a good job and we keep improving.”

Brad Keselowski — finished 13th:Erik Jones and I had an awesome run going on the top with three laps to go but it didn’t work out. Major props to the 2 crew for adapting and overcoming when I slid into our pit stall.”

Austin Dillon – finished 14th: “I thought Chevrolet did a really good job today. The racing was pretty good. We didn’t tear up too much stuff, and with all of the downforce this new package has, we could really move around. If you did get hit, you could try to save it, so I thought there was some really good racing going on out there today. I chose the outside lane on the last run. Kyle Larson and I were committed to each other, but I don’t think the outside works with the spoilers we have on our cars now. There’s just not enough grip until the end of a run. At the end of a run, it becomes stronger. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 3 Dow Chevrolet team for their efforts today. We’re headed to Dover to try and earn a win for RCR and ECR.”

Ryan Blaney — finished 15th: “It was a tough race today for the Menards / Knauf team. The new package allowed us to make moves, but unfortunately we got shuffled out late and didn’t have time to get back to the front.”

Ty Dillon – finished 17th: “I’m really proud of our effort today. We want to win the Geico 500 but we did win something today (Stage One) so that’s always good. (How was the racing today?) Crazy! It’s crazy. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it, and that’s all that matters. (What does a second stage win mean?) It’s massive. I don’t think anyone expected us to win two stages this year, so we’re proud of that. We’re going to keep clicking along. We were really happy with the way we did it at Bristol and we surprised ourselves to do it here at Talladega. Who knows how many more we can do it, but I’m just really proud.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt — finished 22nd: “Today was a tough day for the Xtreme Concepts team. I was tight all day, and we’d start to make progress on it with the adjustments, but by the end of the race it was worse than it had been all day. I really thought in the last laps we were going to come out of here with a top-10 finish. There was just nothing I could do to save it there. I took a hit from the side and then I saw the 42 barrel-rolling. I’m just glad it wasn’t worse. That’s Talladega, though, you never know what you’re going to get. We had two great cars this weekend and ran well in both. We’ll look back on what we learned today and be ready to give it another shot when we come back for the Cup race in the fall.”

David Ragan – finished 23rd: “I was in the middle there after we took the white flag and I just got loose and wrecked the 24 (William Byron). I spun him out across my nose and he collected a few other cars. That last wreck was my fault. I was pretty stupid to wreck like that when you are running 10th or 15th on the last lap. We didn’t have a shot to win. When you get three-wide there is just nowhere to go and everybody was pushing and shoving and my car just jumped sideways and when I corrected it I caught the 24’s left rear and spun him across my nose. That was unfortunate for our team. Our Mustang was fast all day and had a lot of fun out there but just made a stupid mistake there at the end. (What he thought about the new package) I thought it was pretty intense. I felt there were times guys raced really hard up front and sometimes when guys got single file and rode. You are gonna have that in a 500-mile race. You can’t race that hard for 500 miles without carnage. That first wreck set the tone and guys chilled out a little bit. The cars are going 200 mph and it is exciting and they are hard to race and ultimately you will make some mistakes out there.”

Kyle Larson – finished 24th: “Initially I thought I was going to hit the inside wall and right before I got there, it started to lift. That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I just didn’t know if it would ever stop. I knew I was flipping and was just hoping I wouldn’t get any closer to the catchfence. It was a little bit scary, but I’m all right. Thanks to the fab shop at Chip Ganassi Racing for building safe race cars. Like I said, it was scary, but I’m just thankful I’m okay.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — finished 25th: “Our Fifth Third Ford was sporty all day,” Stenhouse said. “The No. 1 got me loose on the last restart which he was doing what he needed to do to get on the inside so that shuffled us back. It was just a bummer since we had such a great car to end up blowing a tire there at the end and not getting the finish we deserved.”

Daniel Hemric — finished 26th: “It was a successful day for us, that’s for sure. Thanks to everyone on this No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team for sticking with me all year; this was the run we needed. We earned some stage points, brought home a clean Camaro, and scored our first top-five finish as a group. We weren’t able to be too aggressive all day but a great job by Chevrolet and all of our guys to stay committed. We did everything we could through the restarts and green flag stops to stay together and fortunately we were able to keep our Chevrolet on the bottom and had a couple of us lined up there together in the closing laps. The racing was wild. I tried to stay dedicated and patient throughout the race, and that was the most difficult thing for us. I’m proud of all the effort put forth by all of the Chevrolet teams and drivers to get Chevy back in Victory lane, that helps us all on the manufacturer side of things. Hopefully these fans enjoyed the show; I know I did.”

Chris Buescher – finished 30th: “We just got turned (talking about his late-race crash). We had a good driving car and put ourselves in a good position there with a handful of laps to go. We just turned right, got hit and turned right into the fence, destroyed our race and and several race cars. It’s typical of these race tracks. It gets frustrating every time you come to these places and something like this throughout the race. It’s just not very much fun.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished 31st: I’m about tired of superspeedway racing for the year. Daytona – good car, good run, crashed. Here – I was actually fighting really tight there at the end. Just was struggling to maintain, but once we got up to second (place) cars kept getting underneath me off the corner. But I don’t know what happened. I saw (Chris) Buescher got turned and we absolutely clobbered him. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do – just speedway racing. I’m sure I’d love it if it was going the opposite direction, but it seems like we crash in every one of these things.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 36th: We had to start in the back, got up to the top five there. Then Bubba (Wallace) and Ryan (Blaney) were kind of bouncing off of each other. Bubba got sideways in front of me and I ran into him. That caused a little damage then we blew a tire – Jimmie (Johnson) blew a tire, no caution. Clint (Bowyer) blew a caution, wrecked, no caution. Then we blew a tire and no caution. We didn’t really get an opportunity to fix it all the way we needed to and ended up ending our day. We’ve been pretty fortunate to miss a lot of wrecks on the superspeedway races for the last four or five years, but today was just the day that bad luck dropped on us.

“It’s just one of those things where I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do, but sometimes in NASCAR racing when somebody else makes a mistake you get caught up in it. That was the case today. I guess maybe I could have been a little more aware of the guys I was racing around. The runs are big. It’s very hard to defend the lead once you do get up there. You have to be on your toes more so than ever with this package simply because the runs are so big. We’ve got some information, we’ll move on and go to Daytona.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 38th: “I went to the back to start and thought that was going to happen several times throughout the day. I got myself back there and it looked pretty tame so I decided to go back to the front and drove back up there fairly easy. I don’t know what happened. They all wrecked and I slowed down and somebody hit me in the door and I hit the wall.”

Bubba Wallace – finished 39th: “All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance. I didn’t want to wad up the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney). That’s the last car I want to wad up out there. Had such a big run on him. And the No. 22 (Joey Logano) pulled up and he checked up a little bit. I went to go to the bottom, where I was safe. I don’t know if I crossed his bumper or whatever. But it got him wiggled down and shoved me even farther down than I wanted to go. So, I went back up just to stay off the apron and it just unloaded. It’s just unfortunate, but I tried not to wreck my buddy, Ryan, and it cost our day and some others. I apologize. But, we should have been wrecked a couple of laps before that. The No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had a big run on us and let me in throughout the middle, so I appreciate that. We were fast. I was just trying to ride and not wreck somebody and I wrecked myself.”

Michael McDowell – finished 40th: “Looked like the 43 was being real aggressive and making stupid moves at the beginning of the race. … That is pretty early in the race to be making dumb moves like that … to be that aggressive. Unfortunately for the Love’s Travel Stops Ford we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw the 43 (Wallace) coming up the race track and that was about it. It is disappointing. We have had such good speed and such a great superspeedway program and we were really hopeful for today. To be out so early on is very disappointing. It is out of our control though. It is part of superspeedway racing.”

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Friday 5: Could Jimmie Johnson score Most Popular Driver award in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It would be easy for some to expect that Chase Elliott’s second consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver award marks the early stages of a streak that could rival, if not top, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s record run of 15 consecutive titles.

But that would be overlooking some challenges Elliott will face.

One could come from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who said 2020 will be his last full-time Cup season.

That gives him a final chance to win one of the few honors he’s never captured in his NASCAR career.

Johnson is the only seven-time champion not to win the Most Popular Driver award. Dale Earnhardt was awarded the honor posthumously in 2001. Richard Petty won it eight times, the last time in 1978.

If he couldn’t win an eighth championship, would there be a better sendoff for Johnson than to win the sport’s most popular driver award?

“There’s no award that Jimmie could or will ever win that he doesn’t deserve,” Elliott said Thursday night after the NASCAR Awards show at the Music City Center. “Whatever next year brings, I’m looking forward to spending it with him. It’s been an honor to be his teammate. If he gets the (most popular driver) honor next year, that’s great and I’ll be happy for him. There’s no doubt that he deserves it. You do what he’s done in this sport, my opinion, you can do whatever you want. Pulling for him. I’d love to see him get eight (championships). I’d also love to get one.

“Don’t write him off yet because I think he’s pretty fired up, and I could see him having a big year next year.”

Johnson had his fans early in his career but his success turned many off, who tired of the Californian winning so often.

Things changed before the 2016 championship race in Miami as Johnson prepared to go for his record-tying seventh title. He saw it as he went around the track in a pickup during driver intros.

“I usually get flipped off a lot,” Johnson said that day after winning his seventh title. “They shoot me the bird everywhere we are, every state, everywhere we go. I kept looking up and seeing hands in the air thinking they’re shooting me the bird again. It was actually seven. All the way around the race track everyone was holding up seven, and it just gave me goosebumps, like wow, what an interesting shift in things.”

Another key challenger for Elliott for Most Popular Driver is two-time champion Kyle Busch.

Yes, that is correct.

Busch finished second to Elliott in the voting for Most Popular Driver award this year.

It once seemed impossible that Busch would finish in the top five in any type of most popular driver voting, but his Rowdy Nation fan base continues to grow.

If not next year for Busch, there’s the chance his fan base could carry him to a Most Popular Driver award sometime in the future.

Wouldn’t that be something?

 

2. Gut-wrenching pain

The most emotional moment of Thursday’s awards show came when Kyle Busch turned to wife Samantha to thank her for her support and also console her for the multiple failures this year in trying for a second child.

The couple went through in-vitro fertilization to have son Brexton in 2015. They used that experience to create the Bundle of Joy fund to provide money to infertile couples.

Samantha Busch announced in Nov. 2018 that she was pregnant with their second child only to suffer a miscarriage eight days later.

Busch’s voice quivered as he revealed on stage the pain he and his wife went through this year.

“I read quote recently that hit home for me,” Busch said to Samantha. “It said: “The strongest people are not those that show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others don’t know anything about. I’m right here with you knowing how hard it has been to go through multiple … yes multiple failed attempts of (in-vitro fertilization) this year.

“To walk around and try to face people week after week is difficult for me always knowing in the back of my mind how helpless I feel in life knowing how much I wanted to answer your prayers and be able to give you a gift of our baby girl.”

Busch said he had talked briefly to his wife ahead of time about revealing their loss publicly.

“I think there was a lot of naysay and negative discussions about what my emotions where and who I was in the playoffs and things like that,” Busch said after Thursday’s ceremony. “Not everybody knows exactly what is going on behind the scenes. Focus on your own.”

Busch said he never felt the devastation from the miscarriages impacted his performance.

“There were certain times, maybe, in meetings and things like that that I wouldn’t say it affected but it obviously came across my mind,” he said. “As far as it comes to the race track, when I put my helmet on, I feel like I can zero that out and do a really good job of focusing what the task at hand is.”

 

3. Nashville momentum?

The fan reception in Nashville has those in the sport encouraged that this week can build momentum to have a race at Fairgrounds Speedway.

Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, continues to lead the efforts for Speedway Motorsports to return NASCAR racing to the historic track.

But to do so, Caldwell and SMI officials will have to navigate through the city’s politics from the mayor’s office to the metro council and the fair board.

“We understand that it’s a new administration,” Caldwell told NBC Sports about Mayor John Cooper, who was sworn into office in late September. “We’re encouraged with the conversations that we’ve had with them and look forward to continuing those. I think we all see a bright future there.

“We all see that there’s a ton of potential at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to create something that the city can be proud of, race fans can embrace and love, we can protect the heritage and celebrate that but also turn it into a venue that can be used 365 days a year.”

With NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of April 1 to announce the 2021 Cup schedule, it would seem highly unlikely that negotiations can be completed in time for the track to be added to the schedule by then. Caldwell declined to speculate on timing “because we’re still in some conversations with the city to figure that out because there are a lot of moving pieces.”

Chase Elliott hopes this week shows city leaders the value of what a NASCAR race at Fairgrounds Speedway could be.

“Hopefully this sparks something in the city that allows the right people to make the right moves to come and race up here,” Elliott said, “because this place is too perfect not to.”

 

4. New cars for Bubba Wallace

Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer for Richard Petty Motorsports, says the team plans to have some sponsorship news in January. With the additional funding, the team will add new cars to its fleet for Bubba Wallace.

Even with the upcoming news, Moffitt said the team will still have some races available for sponsorships for the upcoming season.

Moffitt has high hopes entering the 2020 season.

“We’re going to be better right out of the gate this year in 2020,” Moffitt told NBC Sports. “We’re going to be right there with our partner (Richard Childress Racing) working with them a lot closer.”

Moffitt said the team anticipates having about half a dozen new cars by the first quarter of the season.

“We are going to have a lot newer equipment than we started (2019) with,” Moffitt said.

The challenge with that is that all the equipment will be outdated by the end of the season with the Next Gen car debuting in 2021.

“It’s still important in 2020,” Moffitt said. “We still have to perform for our partners. We want to be up there. It will help you prepare for 2021 coming out of the gate.”

Moffitt said the team also plans to add engineers and mechanics this season.

“We’re going to have some track engineers we haven’t had,” Moffitt said.

Wallace finished 28th in points last year, matching his finish in the points in 2018 as a rookie.

 

5. Pit road woes

Kurt Busch said a key area of improvement for his Chip Ganassi Racing team will be its performance on pit road. Busch said the team lost 120 spots on pit road.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “You’ve got to try to break even. You’re supposed to have a plus on pit road as far as spots gained. That’s where you’re going to see Gibbs … all those guys at Gibbs gained spots on pit road. We can’t lose that many spots at Ganassi on pit road.”

Losing spots on pit road can be related to when a crew chief calls in the driver to pit road, how quickly the driver goes down pit road without speeding and how well the pit crew performs.

“It just seemed like one pit road penalty led to a bad restart, a bad restart led to now the pit crew has to pick it up and get those spots back,” Busch said.

He noted how his season mirrored another Chevrolet driver.

“Our season was real similar to Alex Bowman,” said Busch, whose one win last season came in July at Kentucky. “Alex Bowman won at Chicago (in June) and then they faded and they were right with us in points all the way through the playoffs.

“Some of it was team. Some of it was me overdriving. Some of it was pit crew mistakes. The Camaro was a bit behind that we saw now at the end of the year with all those Toyotas in the championship 4.”

JGR teammates prank Kyle Busch with 30,000 pennies

Photo: Denny Hamlin
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. pranked Cup champion Kyle Busch by dumping 30,000 pennies on his bed as part of Truex’s payoff for losing a bet to Busch last month in New York City.

Hamlin, Truex, Busch and Kevin Harvick were all together in New York City promoting their appearance in the championship race in Miami. They were riding in traffic when Busch bet he could get to the hotel quicker by jogging. The other three took him up on it.

Busch arrived ahead of them and won.

Truex owed Busch $300 for losing the bet. Hamlin helped him come up with a creative way to pay it back.

Truex said on an Hamlin’s Instagram story: “It’s going to be fun to see his reaction. He’s going to be happy that he’s getting his money, I’m just not sure he’s going to be able to carry it home with him. We’ll see how this plays out.”

Busch didn’t know about the prank until Hamlin asked if he had seen Hamlin’s Instagram story.

“Took a look … and damn it,” Busch said after the banquet.

“I guess it’s in the pillow cases and everywhere. We’ll have to figure that out (how to remove them).

Asked if Truex was still good for paying off the bet that way, Busch joked: “He might get wrecked.”

 

 

What they wore on the red carpet …

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Before the show, drivers and their significant others walked the red carpet. Here’s a look at their outfits for the evening.

Kyle Busch, wife Samantha and son Brexton. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Kyle and Katelyn Larson. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Kevin and DeLana Harvick (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Clint and Lorra Bowyer. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Joey and Brittany Logano.(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

 

Kurt and Ashley Busch. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott and Kaylie Green. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

 

Aric and Janice Almirola. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Daniel and Kenzie Hemric. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said on stage. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

Completing the top five in balloting: Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award. Bill Elliott won the award 16 times.

“To have 18 awards going back to Dawsonville is, I think, pretty cool,” Elliott said of the Most Popular Driver awards he and his father have won. “Obviously, I think a lot of that is due to him and his career and what he and his family built. It’s certainly isn’t all me and what I’ve done. I haven’t done anything … compared to what they did.”

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.