Here’s what drivers had to say about their performances in the season-opening Daytona 500:
Denny Hamlin – winner: “I think we take for granted sometimes how safe these cars are. We’re praying for Ryan (Newman). Worked really well with Ryan through this whole race. Obviously, he got turned right there. Proud of our whole FedEx team. I don’t even know what to say, so unexpected. I knew they were going to come with a big run there. My job was to just make sure I didn’t put a block up where they would wreck me so I could make it to another corner. We got to the 12 (Ryan Blaney’s) bumper and got the push from there. I knew I was going to give him a big run. The race wasn’t over and obviously it worked out well for us there at the end. Proud of this whole FedEx team, Toyota, Coke, the Jordan brand. It’s great to have my girls here and the team celebrating back-to-back. I can’t even tell you what it means to me. … We’ve definitely defied odds the last eight years or so to win the Daytona 500. I just trust my instincts and so far they’ve been good for me. I can’t do it without the car and making it capable for me to make those winning moves.
“(Take us through the final two laps) I knew that I got out there a little too far on the backstretch. I didn’t want to check up and it was just going to increase the run that those guys had. I knew that I wanted to give them the bottom and leave myself the top so I had some options. Great call by my spotter there, (Chris) Lambert to tuck in behind the 12 (Ryan Blaney). He told me to get behind the 12 and entering Turn 3 I was able to link up on his bumper, similar to what I did with the 6 (Ryan Newman) and I knew I was going to give him a shot or a run was going to be massive and he was going to do something with it. I knew it wasn’t over from my perspective. When they got together, I just wanted to get as far away as I could and then once I saw the 12 coming up, I wanted to get to his right-rear like I did with (Martin Truex Jr. in 2016) a few years ago and side draft to the line. Things really worked out perfectly there for me at the end. I’m very fortunate to be in this place, but we all have to bow our heads and pray for Ryan Newman. That’s the number one thing we should all be thinking about right now.
“(How concerned were you that you were the sole Toyota in the closing laps?) We’re defying odds. We’re obviously low on numbers there. There were just so many Fords, I knew that at the end of these races, people want to win for themselves. Alliances and all sound really, really good at the beginning, but in the end, it’s the Daytona 500 and we want to do everything we can to win. Everyone was battling for it there. We just ended up on the right side of it.”
Ryan Blaney – finished 2nd: “We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from (Hamlin). I kind of went low and he blocked that and so I was committed to pushing him to the win and have a Ford win it. I don’t know. We just got the bumpers hooked up wrong and I turned him. I hope he is alright. It looked pretty bad. I was trying to push him to the win. I don’t like saying that things just happen because I feel really bad about it. It was a close one. I just hope Ryan is alright.”
David Ragan – finished 4th: “That was the ugliest fourth-place finish I have ever had. I wasn’t disciplined enough in my strategy there with about 15 to go. I felt like things were getting a little hairy and we were 16th or 18th and that is no man’s land here at Daytona. I keyed the radio up going down the back straightaway and said I was going to back off a little. That is when they wrecked. I was pretty mad at myself for not seeing that earlier and getting that damage. Our Front Row Motorsports team with Rick Ware did a good job getting it fixed up. Those last few laps were exciting.”
Kevin Harvick – finished 5th: “We did exactly what we wanted to do. We just got a little bit of bumper damage and abandoned stage points to be around at the end to have a chance. We did at the end; we just ran out of pushers. I knew we needed to be fourth on that restart. The bottom wasn’t where we needed to be. We didn’t get a good shove and then everything jumbled up and we were able to get back close to the front. It was a solid night for the Busch Light Ford.”
Clint Bowyer – finished 6th: “That was my opportunity to win, being on the outside in fourth. I don’t know. It is just disappointing. I am frustrated because I felt like I should have been on the outside and not on the inside. That was a game winning decision there, or losing decision on our behalf, and unfortunately it didn’t transpire.”
Brendan Gaughan – finished 7th: “My last Daytona 500, my career-best finish, what an amazing finish. The Beard Oil Team, what a great job. I’m so proud of all the guys; we don’t quit. Right now, my thoughts are with Newman. Twenty-three or 24 years of this and finally a top 10 in the Daytona 500 and a chance to win. The guys didn’t quit, the pit crew didn’t quit. I love the Beard family and thank you for the opportunity. For us, this is a big deal. We’re a small team with one employee, a car chief that’s a plumber, and we come home with a top 10 in the Daytona 500. I had a shot there at the end to win. That’s Daytona, man! This stuff is wild. I do love this racing. We take this risk, love this risk and we do what we love. I still love what I do.”
Corey LaJoie – finished 8th: “The narrative kind of changed a little bit. I heard he (Newman) went straight to the hospital. That’s obviously scary. I got a big push there that last coming to the white. I don’t know who was pushing me and I kind of stalled out and I don’t know who hooked Newman. I was hoping he would kind of bounce off the fence to the left, but he didn’t and I hit him. I don’t know exactly where I hit him. I haven’t seen a replay. It was some scary stuff. Don’t get me wrong. My car was on fire. My seat belts grabbed all sorts of areas, but it was a good day for us. I hope Ryan is OK.”
Kyle Larson – finished 10th: “I had a decent shot on some of those restarts. I couldn’t push Joey (Logano) as fast as I needed to. I felt like I was locked to him pretty well, we just weren’t making any speed. I fell way back and were able to miss some crashes there. I got shuffled out there on that last lap and just had to ride to the finish because I was so far behind the draft. A top 10 with no damage on the car is good. I just hope Newman is alright. It’s the first Daytona 500 that I haven’t gotten any damage, so that’s a good. We still got a top 10, so it’s not a bad points weekend. We finished third in the Clash and 10th here. We’ll take it and move onto Vegas. I’m excited to get on a 1.5-mile track with the new bodies.”
Austin Dillon — finished 12th: “We want to be in Victory Lane where Denny Hamlin is, but all in all, we’ve had a pretty good start to the season for this No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road/E-Z-Go Chevrolet Team. The Daytona 500 is one of those races where you want to finish towards the front because it takes a while to recover from a bad first race. To start the season in the top-13 in points is huge. We were riding around biding our time to make a run for it at the end when I saw a car swing across the field and I knew we were going to be in trouble. I got hit pretty good. I tried to keep it in the middle but ended up with some right-front damage. After that, our car was on the splitter and didn’t want to turn. Still, we survived several more wrecks to finish 12th. I was able to maintain at the end but I think we could have finished a few spots higher if we would have lined up on the outside for the final restart. I really needed other cars pushing me to help me along. We’re through Daytona and it’s a solid start to the year.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – finished 20th: “I was alright there; I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with the 12 (Ryan Blaney). I went low to not crash him and I got called for going below the yellow line. So, I don’t know. That’s the second one I’ve been called for when I felt like it was either crash the field or go below the line. I felt like I was blocked to go down there. When you’re going 200 mph, your momentum just carries you after they throw a block on you. I’m frustrated with that and coming to pit road, we got hit, which ultimately ruined our night. (What happened with the incident with William Byron?) I was going to go block (Aric Almirola) and then when I looked, (Byron) was going to follow me down and I didn’t think he was. So, I just got into his left rear. I hated that because I felt like the Hendrick and Chevy’s were working really well together.”
Alex Bowman – finished 24th: “Obviously not the night we wanted. This Valvoline team put together a great Chevy for Daytona. I hate it for the guys because they have worked so hard. We definitely didn’t give up and did everything we could to get more laps on the track. We learned a lot this week and definitely have a notebook for the next race.”
Tyler Reddick – finished 28th: “Honestly, I really don’t know what happened. I just saw he got loose. I really thought he had it saved and I was going to roll to the outside of him. Then, it’s like when the rear tires came back underneath him, it snapped and went back the other way, and I was there to catch him. Looking back, I really wish I would have dived to the inside with as fast as we were going there. Catching those cars in front of us, I probably would have got loose and wrecked myself. It’s just tough; it’s part of this racing. I’m glad we made it a little bit further this time around; I made it to Lap 199. We could have hung out in the back and probably got a little better finish. But I came here to win and that’s what this Caterpillar Chevy team is about.”
Ryan Preece – finished 29th: “We were in position to win the race right there. You really got no help, which is sad, but the only one that was helping me was Chris Buescher. It’s hard to commit to so many people when you know at the end of the race the only person you can trust is Chris. It’s frustrating. Obviously, I can trust the 47 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) when I need his help, but as far as anyone else goes, you’re going to get left out to dry. It’s frustrating. That was the best shot to win that race. We were in a phenomenal spot.”
Kurt Busch – Finished 33rd: “(What happened in the big wreck you were involved in?) There was just guys wrecking and the 21(Matt DiBenedetto) came back across, and we ended up knocking the oil cooler out of our No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy. The car was handling good; the guys put a lot of work into it. The random roulette wheel took our number today and we didn’t get to the end. Lady Luck was not on our side. There were a lot of cars on the lead-lap and there was a really big instability with side-drafting. With 15 laps to go, do you ride still or do you go for it? I went for it.
Kyle Busch – finished 34th: “No, right there coming out of (Turn) 4 – when we were leading and guys were kind of switching from the bottom to the top. That’s when I got warning that it was starting to go away and then through the tri-oval it let go more and that is when (Joey) Logano was all over me. I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. Overall, it’s just a shame. I really hate it for all my guys. I really hate it for Joe Gibbs Racing. You come off pit road after the final pit stop and you are leading the thing – it’s kind of your shot to win. All you have to do is make sure that you can keep everyone else behind you. We’ve been in that spot I don’t know how many times, and I guess we will just keep going down in history of finding new ways to lose it. I know there is another guy who has done that before and he was pretty popular. I don’t know. It sucks to be in that conversation, but we will go on another year.”
Jimmie Johnson – finished 35th: “It’s been really a cool race to be a part of. You only dream of racing in races like this as a kid. That No. 22 car (Joey Logano) had been pretty aggressive all day long. I just felt like it was a matter of time before his pushes were a little much and it looks like that was the case there. But, our Ally Chevy was really strong. I hate that we were tore up in it. I’m really excited about the races ahead of us. Cliff Daniels (crew chief) did a great job leading this team, full support from Hendrick Motorsports, my family, my friends, my fans; I’m just very thankful for all of that. We didn’t get to Victory Lane today but I’m ready to get to Vegas and get to work out there.”
Brad Keselowski – finished 36th: “I just spun out. I had (Newman) in front of me, I was about to push him, just a lot of kinetic energy there. I felt we had a really good car. (Christopher Bell) was doing such a great job pushing (Newman). I didn’t think they’d have as strong of a run as they did. They just got by me on the bottom. I should have covered that better and I didn’t. It’s my fault, I kind of put myself in position for that. We led a lot laps, were certainly in position at the end and just not quite strong enough. … You definitely have to push each other and bump the heck out of each other. That is how this racing is.”
Cole Custer – finished 37th: “It looks like we had a problem with a gear. Those things are usually pretty bulletproof. I don’t know. It’s tough because we just rode around all day to position ourselves for the end and it just didn’t work out. We had a good car. I think we probably were gonna be in contention for a top 10 there, but it just doesn’t always work out sometimes.”
William Byron – finished 40th: “(Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) had given me a couple of bumps earlier before that and the car handled it fine. I think the fact that he was pushing me and sliding left across the bumper is what really got me slightly left. He moved to go out of line and misjudged that move it seemed like. Ultimately, he hit me in the left-rear quarter panel and turned me straight into the inside wall. I understand making moves and stuff. I think we were all in line to that point. It wasn’t like I was trying to block him or anything; I just don’t really know where that came from. It’s the ups and downs of racing. It goes up and down, and luckily, we got something points-wise out of this race or less we’d have one point. I guess we have 10 or 11 points going into Las Vegas. We’re going to have to rebound and rally there. I don’t know, I’m not really sure what I could have done differently.”