What drivers said after Southern 500


A look at what drivers said following Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, which kicked off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs…

Denny Hamlin (Playoffs) – WINNER: “We had so many opportunities earlier this year to win races, and we only really had the fastest car twice and we understood that. But the 5 (Kyle Larson) just went on a tear there, and for us, it certainly is significant. I’m not going to downplay the significance of it. It’s not just another win. This one is big for us and our team and the momentum. We didn’t have the playoff points that certainly we wish we had going into these playoffs. There was no room for error. And now to punch our ticket to the next round, we get to go out there and focus on getting through that second round, which I think is probably the most dangerous.”

Kyle Larson (Playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “It’s good to get a good start. I think everybody’s, you know, nervous getting ready for the final 10 (races) and just the anticipation of how it’s going to go. So good to get a good first week in and build some momentum and some confidence within the team, so hopefully go to Richmond, be a little bit better than we were earlier in the year.”

Ross Chastain – Finished 3rd: “I feel like I’ve put in work, but I always feel behind, so I never feel fully prepared. So I’m not going to say that. I’m going to say it’s probably a lot of hot Saturday nights in South Florida, racing at 417 Speedway. We don’t run up against the fence there, but it’s as sideways as we are here at Darlington, and I didn’t run up against the fence at all tonight. A lot of Florida Saturday night short tracks and a lot of older, wiser guys and other racers down there that taught me a lot. To come back here now three years later for the people that supported me then and put me in that car, we’re still here and we’re still fighting, and it means the world.”

Martin Truex Jr. (Playoffs) – Finished 4th: “It’s kind of been typical for how we’ve been doing things the last three or four months. Just really strong race car again, the Bass Pro Toyota was really fast. Made good adjustments all day and as soon as it started cooling off, the car started coming to me and we were really good on long runs. We needed long runs and when we would get them, we would go forward. That was good. Then just the loose wheel mistake and fought through that and then I sped on pit road when we had the lead. I feel like we had a shot at the win for sure there, we were really fast that last run. We came from a long way back and passed a lot of cars to get to fourth. Never know how it might have worked out. All in all, just really proud of the effort and of the fight. The never give up attitude that we have as a team. I think this summer, we’ve been through a lot together and it’s toughened our edges up a little bit I think. We kind of went through that like it wasn’t anything. A little bit of frustration on the radio and then it was gone and time to go forward and dig hard. Proud of that and hopefully we can build off it.”

Kevin Harvick (Playoffs) – Finished 5th: “We finished on a flat tire. We had to pit for a loose wheel or a tire coming apart or something and got a lap down, and then got the lucky dog and just a lot going on. That’s pretty typical of this race, though. I just want to thank everybody on our Busch Light Ford Mustang. Our guys have done a great job. We led a bunch of laps early and had a fast racecar and were able to capitalize on a good day. This is just always one of those races that has a lot of stuff happen and you have to keep yourself rolling and keep your car clean, and that’s what we did tonight. We had a few little issues, but we worked through them and were able to have a fast enough car that we could run top-five and the rest of it, for us to run first or second we would need to be first or second like we were earlier in clean air. When we had the clean air we drove away, so it’s just kind of the way it is everywhere.”

Kurt Busch (Playoffs) – Finished 6th: “That’s what was most impressive was the speed. It was fun to lead laps and be up front. It just seemed like we were juggling a ball of yarn and it was somewhat unraveling the whole race; whether it was the lane choice or a pit stop. And then handling, we were a little bit loose there and a little bit tight there. That last run, everything was back where we needed it; but I threw away all the track position with a couple of fender rubs. We gave away a few points. I would have loved to have had a shot at trying to win it. We might have ended up wrecked, but we gave away three or four points tonight. Not all that bad. It’s a great way to start the playoffs with this kind of speed in the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy. That’s what I’m really proud about with my guys.”

Brad Keselowski (Playoffs) – Finished 7th: “There was a lot of chaos. Every time there was chaos, I was thinking we just need to not dig ourselves a hole and take advantage of it.”

Joey Logano (Playoffs) – Finished 8th: “I felt like we were probably about a fourth-place car. That’s about right where we were running before the caution came out and we outsmarted ourselves a little bit with the adjustment at the end. I was just too tight the last run and plowing actually. I was nervous the right-front was gonna come apart as tight as we were, so I lost three or four spots there at the end unfortunately to that, and then those guys that pitted and put tires on was worth a little bit as well, but we only had one set left so you really couldn’t risk putting that set on then and run 15 laps and not have another set in the pits. Overall, we did what we had to do at the start of the playoffs. A lot of guys self-destructed and we were able to maximize our day and get every point, so we got what we got and we’ll move on.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 10th: “I’m proud of everyone on the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevy team tonight. To get a top-10 after all of the challenges we faced is a really good night and shows how hard this team works. We started off the race a little too free in the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet, so we pitted during the first caution for adjustments, which really helped our handling issues. Even though we started from the rear, we were able to race our way into the top-10 before finishing the stage 13th. We lost a little something in Stage 2 after the 18 came down on us. We got some fender damage that affected our handling the rest of the night. We also had a bad vibration in the second half of the stage and it took all we had to stay on the lead lap to finish out the stage. It was great get a top-10 after a rough few weeks. I just wish we could have seen what we could have done without that body damage because the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevy was fast tonight.”

Cole Custer – Finished 11th: “Today was an up and down day. Our Ford Mustang started to come to us there at the end. Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) made a great call to keep us out in that second-to-last caution and put us back in the race. That strategy worked out in our favor, and we scored another top-15 for this HaasTooling.com Demo Day team.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 13th: “I feel like we were probably a top 20 car most of the day. We struggled. We made some adjustments to get it back and I thought we did a pretty good job keeping up with the race track and everything. But we just have to keep working. It was a good education day, but we didn’t have a lot of speed. So, we have to keep working to make more speed.”

Aric Almirola (Playoffs) – Finished 16th: “We had a good car today, and we had good speed. We had a great day and our pit crew was on fire until the caution came out late in the race and put us a lap down. The strategy just didn’t play out for us there, but that’s how it goes. We controlled as much as we could control and showed we’re serious contenders.”

Tyler Reddick (Playoffs) – Finished 18th: “It’s a head-scratcher because we were running there towards the end of the day. I mean, we haven’t been running back there all year. It’s definitely frustrating. I know everyone really pushes when the playoffs get here to be performing at our best level. We did the same but just weren’t even close.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 19th: “The HighPoint.com/Founders Federal Credit Union Ford Mustang was pretty good on the long run once we made some adjustments and the sun went down, but the handling just wasn’t where we needed it to be overall. We’ve still got time to get a win before the season’s over. This was just an off day that we’ll move on from and try to keep improving over the next nine races.”

Christopher Bell (Playoffs) – Finished 20th: “The positives were, once again like the last five or six weeks, we’ve been really competitive. Probably longer than that. I felt like our SportClips Camry was capable of running inside the top-two or three. We ran 20th. It seems like that’s happened a lot and obviously we can’t really have that in the playoffs. It’s a bummer because today was a great opportunity to try to capitalize on other people’s misfortune and we didn’t. Looking at the Playoff grid, we’re still ahead, but we could be way ahead.”

Ryan Blaney (Playoffs) – Finished 22nd: “At least our car is in one piece, so that’s good. After that problem you usually bring it back on a wrecker just like in Nashville, so luckily we got a car in one piece. A lot of other teams had their issues, so, overall, not a bad night. I wish we could have finished it off where we should have and been in the top 10 easily and got 10 or 15 more points, but we can’t complain too much.”

Alex Bowman (Playoffs) – Finished 26th: “I got into the wall into turn one. I was just really loose. The 8 (Tyler Reddick) got to us. I don’t know if he carried me off into the corner or if I just got loose. Either way, it’s just part of it. I just got loose and ended up in the wall right rear first and had damage. And then, that’s what eventually cut the tire to end up in the wall in turn three.”

Chase Elliott (Playoffs) – Finished 31st: “Yeah, just as soon as I was turning the corner (I knew the tire was going down). Just really appreciate NAPA for letting us run this special scheme and making it a special weekend for some of these kids from Children’s (Healthcare of Atlanta). On my end, just made way too many mistakes. That’s what you deserve when you make that many mistakes. Onward.”

Erik Jones – Finished 32nd: “Just a tough day for our Richard Petty Motorsports team. Our No. 43 Petty’s Garage Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE never had the balance all night. Then unfortunately we had a motor issue that ended our day just as we started to make some gains on the handling.”

William Byron (Playoffs) – Finished 34th: “Yeah, I’m fine. That was a big hit. It looked like on that pit stop, it looked like we dropped the jack and the left front was still finishing up. I took off and everything felt okay. I went to pass the No. 00 (Quin Houff) or somebody down the front stretch; and was just about to turn into (Turn) 1 and the left front went down. There was nothing we could do. The guys did an awesome job to fix it. We were running like Top-12, I think, even with all the (earlier) right rear damage and it’s just terrible. I don’t know, man. That sucks.”

Kyle Busch (Playoffs) – Finished 35th: “We’ll just take our lumps. We were running like (expletive). We got wrecked. It’s what you get when you run like (expletive). We shouldn’t be there. I don’t know what our problem is, but every time I go to sim and use sim and think we had a good sim session, we go to the race track and we suck. So, I’m done with that. We’ll have to use some other tools on figuring out how to be good. The M&M’s Camry was not very good and we were running terrible and we got wrecked. It wasn’t the No. 3’s (Austin Dillon) fault.”

Michael McDowell (Playoffs) – Finished 37th: “I’m not really sure (what happened). The 43 (Erik Jones) kind of got everybody jammed up. I think he started on the front there without tires, which is a tough spot to be in and I just went three-wide underneath him and just got into the patch with my left sides just a little bit low. I got loose enough into the wall and that was about it. I’ll have to see the replay, but just heartbreaking for everybody on this Front Row team. We had high hopes coming into the playoffs and this is not how we wanted to start it.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 10th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 22nd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 16th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron returns to No. 1


After last Sunday’s crashfest at Circuit of the Americas, the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings experienced another jumble, and William Byron returns to the top spot.

Byron took fifth place in the chaos of the triple-overtime finish. He and winner Tyler Reddick were the top dogs in the Cup Series’ first road race of the year, Byron leading 28 laps and Reddick 41. No one else led more than two laps.

MORE: COTA finish — Entertaining and messy

Christopher Bell, last week’s No. 1, fell to fifth place after a 31st-place finish at COTA.

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. William Byron (second last week) — Byron, the season’s only multiple winner with two, finished fifth Sunday, marking his career first top five on a road course. He won the pole and the first stage.

2. Kyle Busch (third last week) — Busch continues to make his new partnership at Richard Childress Racing look good. His second-place run Sunday is his fourth top-10 finish in the season’s first six races.

3. Ross Chastain (sixth last week) — Despite being pushed around in the late going Sunday, Chastain persisted, re-emerging at the front to challenge the leaders and finish fourth. He has finished in the top four in all three COTA races and leads the points standings.

4. Alex Bowman (fifth last week) — Bowman continued his seasonal consistency, finishing third at COTA. He has finished in the top 10 in five of six races.

5. Christopher Bell (first last week) — Bell falls from the top spot in the rankings after being booted from Sunday’s race in a late-race accident. He dropped three spots in the Cup points standings to fifth.

6. Joey Logano (fourth last week) — Logano was mostly absent from Sunday’s front-of-the-pack jousting. He limped home in 28th and drops two spots in the rankings.

7. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick bursts into the rankings in a big way, easily outclassing the rest of the field on the way to victory at COTA. Challenged repeatedly by cautions that extended the race into three overtimes, he refused to give up the shot at his first win of the year.

8. Denny Hamlin (seventh last week) — Winless this year, Hamlin nevertheless keeps popping up around the front. Sunday’s late-race mess dropped him to 16th at the checkered flag.

9. Kyle Larson (eighth last week) — Larson seemed to be the race’s pingpong ball Sunday as he was bounced around during some of the tightest racing. He rallied to reach 14th.

10. Kevin Harvick (ninth last week) — Harvick’s final season has been a mix of the good and the bad, with two top-five runs, challenges for wins and a 33rd-place finish at Atlanta. He was 13th Sunday.

Dropped out: Brad Keselowski (10th last week).


Ross Chastain after COTA race: ‘Are you not entertained?’


One driver evoked the movie “Gladiator” after Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas. Another could be penalized for his actions after the checkered flag. Others expressed dismay at what the end of the event became.

A race that had been a thrilling duel devolved into a demolition derby over the final laps, leaving feelings as bruised as some of the cars.

While Tyler Reddick celebrated his first win of the season, other drivers stewed at what the racing became. Three overtimes were needed to finish the event due to incidents in the Turn 1 hairpin. Then again, it should not have been surprising, coming a week after Kyle Busch said: “We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers”.

“Are you not entertained?” Ross Chastain exclaimed, evoking Russell Crowe’s famous movie line. “This is what we love. I don’t love doing it, but … as a sport we’re not boring.”

Chastain is correct, the sport is not boring. But it’s fair to ask if the sport has crossed a line. Is it OK for races to end this way? If not, how to change it is a more difficult notion.

The action has been getting more aggressive this season. It was evident in the Clash at the Coliseum when drivers charged into the corners and slammed into the back of cars as a way to slow down to make the tight turns.

Sunday marked the third time in the last four road course races that the event went to overtime. In the previous 28 road course races — dating back to 2012 — only three went to overtime.

It makes one wonder what could happen this weekend when the Cup series races at Richmond Raceway, beginning a three-week stretch at short tracks that includes the Bristol dirt race and Martinsville.

“These cars are so tough,” Chastain said. “We can run into each other. There are just lines of cars all pushing each other (on the restarts) on the brakes. Nobody is going in there saying, ‘I’m going to hit somebody,’ but it’s just the leader has to check up and it just magnifies itself.”

Chastain’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, was not happy after the race. He ran into the back of Chastain’s car, knocking him out of the way as they entered pit road and then hit the back of Bowman’s car on pit road.

Section 4.4.B of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be penalized for “Intentionally damaging another vehicle on pit road.” Such a penalty could result in the loss of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine. Violations may also result in a suspension.

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“The problem is if you don’t peek out and bomb the guy in front of you, the guy behind you does it to you,” Bowman said. “So what do you do there? It’s not right. The way we race is embarrassing, and if 12-year-olds were doing it, we’d be yelling at them, but here we are saying it’s the best thing in the world on TV.”

Chris Buescher simply called Sunday’s race “our first bumper car race of the year.”

Austin Dillon said: “The end of the race became a typical NASCAR road course race. It was just a mess. We drove up into the hill on a restart and everyone just pile drove into each other.”

Jordan Taylor, making his first Cup start as he filled in for an injured Chase Elliott, was struck by what the restarts were like.

“Every restart, you just get smashed in the front, rear, side,” he said. “So yeah, it was pretty much just survival.”


Sunday’s race was scheduled to go 68 laps but was extended to 75 laps by the late cautions.

Here is a look at the drivers who gained the most and lost the most positions from where they were running on Lap 68 to where they were running on Lap 75:

Most positions gained

18 – Kyle Larson (finished 14th)

17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (finished 7th)

16 – Kevin Harvick (finished 13th)

12 – Todd Gilliland (finished 10th)

9 – Ryan Blaney (finished 21st)

8 – Noah Gragson (finished 20th)

7 – Austin Cindric (finished 6th)

6 – Corey LaJoie (finished 11th)

Most positions lost

23 – Daniel Suarez (finished 27th)

20 – Joey Logano (finished 28th)

15 – Kimi Raikkonen (finished 29th)

12 – Christopher Bell (finished 31st)

12 – Martin Truex Jr. (finished 17th)

10 – Aric Almirola (finished 30th)

9 – Jordan Taylor (finished 24th)

6 – Michael McDowell (finished 12th)


Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch, who switched rides before this season, have both won in the first six races.

This marks the third year in a row that two drivers with new Cup rides have won so early in the year.

Last year, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain each won in the first six races of the year. Cindric had driven a few Cup races previously for Team Penske but last year was his first year in the No. 2 car. Chastain did have the same crew chief and other crew members at Trackhouse Racing after it purchased Chip Ganassi Racing.

In 2021, Kyle Larson, in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, and Christopher Bell, in his rookie Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing, each won within the first four races of that year.