What drivers said after Phoenix

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Chase Elliott — Winner:  “I just, man, I’m at a loss for words. This is unbelievable. Oh, my gosh. We did it. I mean, we did it. That’s all I’ve got to tell you. Unreal. Championship crew chief, Alan Gustafson, is now a NASCAR Cup Series champion, and very deserving. I just can’t say enough about our group. I felt like we took some really big strides this year, and last week was a huge one. To come out of that with a win and a shot to come here and have a chance to race is unbelievable. Heck, I don’t know. I don’t even know. This is unreal. I saw Joey was pretty loose there and felt like I needed to get to him while I could. I knew I’d been kind of tight on a longer run and he was probably going to get a little better. Just unbelievable. I mean, I just never would have thought that this year would have gone like it has.  I mean, NASCAR Cup Series champion; are you kidding me?  Unreal. I look at the guys who have achieved this honor as guys who perform in the toughest of situations. I felt like that’s been an area that we haven’t done a great job of over my first five years, really up until last week. We had a tough situation, a perform‑or‑go‑home type night there at Martinsville and was able to step up and really get the job done. I thought that was the piece of the puzzle that we haven’t had. I really felt like we had everything else that we needed, and I really believed that. Last week was a big week. I think it was a great practice session and a situation that really helped guide us through today in preparation and execution. I feel like we just put a lot of emphasis on the things that matter and really just didn’t care about anything else. There’s just so much distraction in the world.  Everybody is tied to their phones and you can get ahold of anybody at any time.  There’s just so many things from the outside that can reach someone. That’s one thing that I felt like our whole team just did a better job of was just boiling it down to the things that matter.  Ultimately it’s how good of a job did we do building that car, how prepared am I coming into a race weekend and how do we execute it. I feel like those three things we put more emphasis on than we ever have.  I feel like I was mentally locked in better than I’ve ever been.  And yeah, I think the results showed.

Brad Keselowski — Finished 2nd: “I would have loved to have a late-race yellow for sure. I thought we were pretty fast there at the end. It’s tough. We got behind there with some track position and I fought really hard to get it back. We didn’t get it all, but got most of it. We were right there with the Discount Tire Ford and just came up one spot short. I would have liked to have one of those late-race yellows like we saw in the truck race and the Xfinity race. I thought we were pretty good there and just didn’t have the track position to make it show. I knew we had a good shot at the end of the second stage and just couldn’t keep it up in a spot to where we could have the lead. I’m really proud of the speed we had. It was a solid day. I just wish we had one more spot.  We got up to second there at the end, and I feel like we were pretty equal. The 9 car and I would have loved to have had a chance to race it out, but that’s not the way it played out.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd:  “I just didn’t have the speed at the right time. Early in the race our Shell Pennzoil Mustang was really fast and nothing anyone did wrong. Our pit crew was on it.  Our strategy got us out front there at the end, but the 9 seemed like he lit off there pretty good there and that last run was able to go really fast, and then got another vibration there towards the end of the run and lost the turn and was still a little free off. We were close. Everyone executed and did their job and that’s what we should be most proud of and also is how far we’ve come from the beginning of the season to now as a team. There’s a lot to be proud of. It stings not winning. I’m not gonna lie, it hurts, but at the same time we’re stronger because we went through it. When you don’t win it, it hurts. It definitely stings. Yeah, I told the guys before the race started, I said in these races when you get to the Championship 4, you can’t lose. You either win or you become stronger. Unfortunately we got stronger today. We learned a lot about ourselves and learned that we are capable.  We’re capable of executing when we needed to. We just need to go faster. That was one thing. But I think overall there’s a lot to be proud of throughout the season, where we’ve come from, how much we’ve grown as a team, especially with the crew chief swap in the beginning of the season this year and without practice. That was a pretty big hurdle we had to jump. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job through the Playoffs to really come into our own.  That makes me really excited about 2021 because we’re starting way further ahead than where we did this year with the schedule being somewhat similar with limited practice sessions. I feel a lot better going into next year than what we did this year. Yeah, a lot to be proud of.  You need to look at the silver linings, you need to look at your mistakes and where you can be better. It still doesn’t take the pain away, but that’s how you get by at least.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 4th: “We were a little off handling, but overall car speed, we just didn’t have enough. Our next best teammate was 10th, so as an organization we have got to get a little better, especially on the short tracks. It seems like we were a little bit off all year, and that was all it had, that’s for sure. I was pushing for everything I had. The FedEx Camry just didn’t quite have enough today, and we ended up fourth. We just needed a little bit of speed and handling. Just a little bit every lap. It was so, so small. At time we were pretty good and maybe I had the fastest car, but it was just a few laps here and there. We just needed a little bit more. Obviously, this package in particular we weren’t great this year and this was one of our better runs with it, but it just wasn’t enough really. You’ve got to make sure you put your expectations kind of in check in the sense of, you know, we didn’t ‑‑ our organization hasn’t really been very good on the short tracks this year. It’s kind of a learning period for us. But we put our best effort forward. We had no mistakes today, did everything I possibly could, just I had nothing there to go. I think with our best teammate running 10th and the other guys having two teammates ahead of our best one, just our car didn’t have enough speed to go out there and compete.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 5th: “It definitely feels good for my final race to run well.  A big tent full of friends here watching.  My family was clearly here. I didn’t have too much riding on today. Making sure that I had a good run just because I always plan to run well.  In my head I always feel like I should. But ultimately this year is just a little bit bittersweet for me. And to have the issues we’ve had and not be competitive down the stretch, not make the Playoffs, all that still stings. But to finish with a solid top 5 to close things out is nice.I have friends that have been NASCAR drivers, friends of mine that have played professional football, professional baseball. Very few have had the opportunity to call their shot and say when they’re done.  Some have had injury, some were forced out, some sponsorship or opportunity passed them by. And either way, watching them, there’s a big void that I’ve noticed. I’m just thankful that I won’t have that void. I was able to do it on my terms, was able to have the support from Ally and Mr. Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports to be able to step down when I wanted to and on my terms, so I’m very thankful for that.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 11th: “We had a decent M&M’S Camry. I got into the fence there early and we ended up having to pit off sequence, but we did a good job of recovering from that and get back towards the front. We just couldn’t quite get the car to turn like we wanted after that, and that’s all we had there at the end.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 13th: “What a year. What a season. This Smithfield Ford team battled hard all year and we had a phenomenal year with a lot of room for improvement. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward in the future.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 14th: “I appreciate all the texts and well wishes, but I was ready for the green flag this morning. That was kind of emotional. Seriously, that was a fun day. I want to thank everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing as well as the partners who have made the last four years so special. I have had a lot of people help me in my career and certainly wouldn’t be here without them. I don’t know if this has sunk in yet, but I think this will all hit me when we get to Daytona next season.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 18th: “We had a solid No. 3 Dow Chevrolet today at Phoenix Raceway. We started off tight in Stage 1, but the handling came to us the longer we ran. I just couldn’t get through the corners as well as I would have liked to all day long. Towards the end of the race, we knocked in both the left and right rears, which caused our Chevy’s handling to turn extremely loose. We hung on for all we had to finish 18th. Not the finish we wanted, but we’ll regroup and be ready next year. I’m so proud of the entire NASCAR industry for pulling together to complete the 2020 season despite the pandemic. Thank you everyone at RCR , ECR, all of our fans and partners for your support this year. Congratulations to Chase Elliott and Team Chevy on winning the Championship.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 19th: “Our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet had some good speed in it today at Phoenix Raceway. I just needed more to roll through the center of the turns, but it was tough to adjust on that since I was also fighting a loose feeling on entry and exit of the turns. We had a good top-15 run during part of the race today, but towards the end I started having some issues with my brakes and had to adjust a little bit to finish out the race. I want to thank everyone at RCR and ECR for building great cars this year and all the effort they put into this season, as well as all our great partners and fans for their support during an unprecedented season. I learned a lot during my rookie season and know our team will regroup over the off-season to study how to be better in 2021.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 21st: “All I can say is thank you to everyone at Germain Racing for a wonderful four years. It has been an honor to start my Cup career with this team and I can’t say thank you enough,” Dillon said after climbing from his GEICO Camaro for the final time. “To represent GEICO for four seasons was a privilege and I appreciate Bob Germain and GEICO for taking a chance on me as a rookie. I have so much love and appreciation for all those who have had a hand in this journey.” 

Michael McDowell — Finished 23rd: “Well that’s a wrap on the 2020 season. It’s been crazy and I’m so thankful for everybody at Front Row Motorsports. It’s been a great year for us; we accomplished a couple of our goals that we set out to grab; didn’t hit them all, but we finally got in the Top-25 in the owner points. It was a dogfight all the way to the end and I’m just so thankful for all of my guys, everybody at Front Row (Motorsports) and our partners: Love’s Travel Stops, Speedco, Delo, Luber-finer, Prime Inc, MTS, Fr8Auctions, The Pete Store, Digital Ally with their Shield Cleansers and CarParts.com. We’ve had so many cool cars this year and I’m just thankful for how much improvement that we’ve had this year and I’m really excited about 2021.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 26th: “Not quite how we would have liked to finish out the season today. We would have loved to get a top-15 or a top-10 finish for our partners at FAS, but we made what adjustments we could throughout the race. Thank you to Seth [Barbour] and my No. 38 crew for an awesome year. Thank you to Bob [Jenkins] and Jerry [Freeze], the entire Front Row Motorsports team and each of our partners for all the support in my rookie season in the Cup Series. It’s been an amazing opportunity to drive this No. 38 Ford Mustang this year.”

Cole Custer — Finished 28th: “I think it was definitely a rookie season with a lot of peaks and valleys. It was a really interesting season to be a rookie with no practice, no testing or qualifying, so it was a lot of just learning on the fly, but I think we all managed it very well. We had a really good rookie class of me, Tyler, Christopher, John Hunter, I think we all had really good runs throughout the year and it definitely means a lot to win that. I can’t thank everybody enough for putting me in this situation. Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, HaasTooling.com, Ford Performance, everybody that helps support this team.”