What drivers said after Southern 500

Southern 500
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Southern 500:

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “We kept having a lot of trouble with the right-rear tire cording. The car was really loose all night long for whatever reason and would cord the right-rear tire, so I think that was probably about as far as they felt like we were comfortable of going and wound up being the right strategy in the end. Anytime you can win the Southern 500 is a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and this is one the most prestigious racetracks in our sport, so anytime you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal, but, man, Southern 500!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 2nd: “Man, it would have been nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the next round of the NASCAR playoffs, but it was a heck of a finish for our No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team. I’m proud of our second-place finish, especially after dropping to the rear of the field at the start of the race and having to recover from that setback. We battled really hard all night for every single spot we could get. We had a really good long run car and towards the end of the race I knew Kevin Harvick was getting tighter each lap. I caught him earlier in the closing run, but he took my low line in Turns 1 and 2, which was where I was running the best, and stopped the momentum that I had going. I gave it everything I had though.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “Man, hard fought. We kind of were decent, it’s just so hard to pass with these big spoilers on the car at this racetrack. That makes it challenging. We had a right-front go down the last lap of the second stage, hit the wall and we did a good job fixing the car and then strategy worked well, so Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) did great there, and then they had an amazing pit stop the last stop, had a good restart and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Shoot, we could win this thing.’ To see what the left-rear looks like after that I was pretty impressed to get whatever we got. It’s funny how the team always tells you, ‘How does the damage look?’ ‘It looks great. It looks great.’ You get out and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Overall, that’s what we needed to do. We need to come out of these playoffs running hard and having a solid top three finish to start the playoffs with a couple stage points is a good way to start.”

Erik Jones — Finished 4th: “It was good. It was really tough to pass. Once you got up inside the top seven or eight, those guys were all pretty equal, and it was hard to make ground from there. We started deep, 30th, today and drove up and finished fourth. We got a couple of extra spots at the end, but this Sport Clips Camry was quick. We just never got up front. We just needed to get up front and get some clean air. That’s what we did last year. I thought we had just as good of a car as what we did last year. We just never got to the lead. That’s what held us back, I think. It’s tough. The cars are finicky. They are on edge, and it’s really hard to make ground, but decent day.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 6th: “Sixth place isn’t terrible, but man we had a fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight in Darlington. We had some issues on pit road that hurt us and we had to recover from that. I really feel like we were a car capable of winning. We just got buried there, but thankfully recovered from it. Sixth place isn’t the end of the world, but you know you had a fast car when you are bummed about sixth. This car looked amazing tonight and hopefully we can go to Richmond next weekend and do the same thing. It is a good feeling to have a good start to the playoffs.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 7th: “Traffic was definitely our detriment, there was just nothing I could do to try to find clean air in order to make up any speed back in traffic so I just got mired wherever the heck I was and that was it. Being out front in clean air, I was able to run with Martin (Truex Jr.) and had a fast M&M’s Camry and could really show how fast our car was when we drove away from the field by a couple seconds there until that caution that NASCAR flew that was not a caution.”

Kurt Busch — Finished  8th: I’m happy with our run tonight with the Monster Energy Chevy. I know it’s not a win, but we got everything out of the race that we were hoping for; except maybe the alternate strategy that we were trying with one stop in the final stage. I was hopeful for the long run. I like dancing with the Lady!”

Aric Almirola — Finished 9th:  “We got in a little bit of a hole early in the race with some left-rear quarter panel damage that we had to fix on pit road and really put us in a spot to where we couldn’t capitalize on stage points, so that hurt us a little bit just not scoring any stage points, but we were able to battle back from that and get back to the top 10, which is where we felt like we were capable of running.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 10th: “I certainly was hoping for more.  Frustrated to be honest with you. I have to go back and look at the race to see what happened with the debris. By the time that they picked it up I’d say it was way off the racetrack, so that kind of set us up to not have a not very good day. That put us in a hole. We were gonna be in the single digits for sure there, looking pretty good, but just had a lot of trouble. Right-rear (tire)— threw the rubber off the right-rear and had to pit there. It could have been catastrophic. At the end, the left-rear (tire) was about to fall off of it, so we’ve got to clean some things up. I told you going into this we’ve got to put 10 races together. We’ve got to put whole races together. We can’t make these mistakes.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 11th: “(Crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and everyone on the Discount Tire team did a great job tonight. I made a mistake early in the race, but we worked together and made a good recovery.”

Cole Custer — Finished 12th: “We definitely fought hard the whole night just to try to keep ourselves in the game. We had to go to the back with a speeding penalty and just overall fought as hard as we could all night and ended up 12th. Overall, I mean, we wanted to run better, but that’s something that can keep us in the game and keep us in the game for the next two races. Hopefully, we can put together better, but Darlington definitely hasn’t been our team’s strong suit, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what I can do better and what we can get better with the car.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 16th: “Well, that was a really positive end to what started out as a pretty tough day for our No. 34 team. We didn’t unload exactly how we had hoped to start the race, but Drew (Blickensderfer) and the guys did what they do best and made our race car a lot better by the time we took the green flag for the final stage. Overall, it was a pretty decent points day and another top-20 to add to our season. I definitely wanted that top-15, coming up just one position short; but we’ll take what we can get.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 18th: “That was not the result we wanted, we had a fast Ally Chevy until that last stage and it just kept getting tighter, but my guys just keep fighting. We will just focus on Richmond.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 20th: “He (Martin Truex Jr.) had a run on me there off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in three and four to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave him the run and then he just slid up in to my left front, I felt like and on we went.”

MARTIN TRUEX Jr. – Finished 22nd: “It’s Darlington and typically you don’t want to go in side-by-side. I felt like I had enough of a run and enough space there that the last foot or so he (Chase Elliott) was going to understand that if I was committed, we both weren’t going to make it. Typically, here that’s kind of how you race. If a guy gets a run on you and he’s just about got you cleared, you have to give that last little bit. Now obviously, the end of the race, probably the pass for the win, he wanted to drive it on in there and I was committed to being clear and there was no way we were both going to make the corners. Basically, when I made up my mind and I was driving it in there and then he drove in on my right-rear quarter, there was no possible way that we both weren’t crashing. That’s what happened.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 23rd: “I’ve gotten to run a lot of cool races, but the Southern 500 has always been towards the top of the list for me, so it was really special to be able to make my first start in it tonight. I love NASCAR’s throwback weekend, and our No. 8 Cat Power Chevrolet honoring Jeff Burton’s No. 8 scheme that he accepted Rookie of the Year honors with looked great out there. We fired off really fast tonight, but our handling was just a touch loose. My team made some good adjustments early in the run to tighten me up, but then the rear security of our Camaro became really unstable, which made it tough to manage the handling through the turns on both sides of the track. During the start of Stage 3, the field got stacked up on the restart and I received some damage to the nose of our car, right above the grille. That affected the handling a lot for the rest of the night and kept the temps up high, too.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 24th: “Definitely wasn’t our night for our Menards/Maytag team. We had the inspection penalty and lost points before the race started and had some bad breaks. We’ll get ready for Richmond and Bristol and try to gain ground back in the playoffs.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 25th: “We made the most of what we had in our throwback CommScope Toyota tonight. We didn’t have the speed we were hoping for, but everybody did a good job turning us around into the right direction. We struggled to find grip in the beginning, when we were not too good on the short runs but better on the long runs. That changed when the track changed – we were pretty good on the short run but then too free over the longer run. I’m proud of Dave (Winston, crew chief) and the guys for their hard work making the car better at the end of the race.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “That definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to end our night driving Elliott Sadler’s CITGARD throwback scheme. Our No. 38 Ford Mustang fired off pretty tight but then I got looser as the run went on and the sun set. We had some really good pit stops tonight and Seth (Barbour) and the crew made some good adjustments so that we had a good balance by the end of Stage 2. Unfortunately, we had a miscommunication on track early in the final stage and that ended our day. I hate it for my guys because they’ve worked so hard all year and they never give up. We’ll reset this week at the shop and get ready for Richmond.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 38th: “We had some bad luck on our side. I don’t really know what the main issue was that ultimately led us to not finish the race. We started out decent. Our guys made some good adjustments on the car and then got it better, and I was really happy with it. After we had our mishap and went to the garage, we came back out and I thought our car was really good. We just had to survive until it went to night time and I thought we could have put a decent race together by that time, but it didn’t work out.”