July 24, 2024

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Zane Smith wins rain-shortened Daytona Truck Series opener

Zane Smith wins rain-shortened Daytona Truck Series opener

What NASCAR Cup Series drivers said after Sunday’s 65th running of the Daytona 500, which opened the 2023 season Sunday at Daytona International Speedway and was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished first: “They left me a note in the car that said they believe in me and to go get the job done tonight. I made a few mistakes. We were able to battle back. This team worked really, really hard in the offseason, great pit stops, Hendrick engines. Man, this is unbelievable. This was the site of my last win back in 2017. We’ve worked really hard. We had a couple shots last year to get a win and fell short. It was a tough season, but man, we got it done. Daytona 500.

“When (Kyle Busch) went to the bottom there, I was able to push (Joey Logano) and (Kyle Larson). We had a huge run. I was hoping we were going to get to the white there, and we didn’t, so I knew I was going to take the top. I was hoping (Logano) was going to follow, and he did. He was able to push us out. I went to the bottom,(Busch) and (Logano) got a huge run. (Larson) split me in the middle, but another fellow dirt racer with (Christopher) Bell gave me a good shot down the little short chute into 1, and we were out front when the caution came out. We were out of fuel so the fuel light was going crazy. I hope y’all had fun. That was a heck of a race.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished second: “Second is the worst, man. You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push and, yeah, you’re watching in the mirror and you’re three wide across there. I felt like the three wide was going a hurt a lane; looked like Kyle was getting pushed ahead, and then Ricky started getting pushed ahead.

“I knew if I went to the bottom, my car didn’t handle good enough. I already got pushed off the bottom once, and I thought, ‘If I go down there, I’m probably going to get wrecked, and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.’ Then you don’t expect them to wreck either. You think you’re racing to the checkered flag, and you put yourself in the best position to try to win at the start-finish line, and just caution came out. You wish you could race to the end. Obviously, you can’t when they wreck that much. Congratulations to Ricky. There’s nothing like winning the Daytona 500. That’s why it stings so much finishing second. Still proud of the team, still proud of the effort coming off the championship last year and bringing this Mustang back toward the front and getting a Ford close to the front. Wish it was in victory lane, though.”

Christopher Bell — Finished third: “If you would have told me prerace that I was going to run third, I would have jumped up and down and been smiling ear-to-ear. I’m very happy. I’m very, very thankful that I could get this Toyota Camry a good solid finish but just so close to a crown jewel. I feel like if it would have stayed green, I would have been on offense, but who knows. I’m very proud and thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing. I’m happy for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.). That’s really cool. I’m very happy for him. … I hate superspeedway racing. It has been my Achilles heel for a number of years now, so just running third at the Daytona 500 is a really big deal, and I’m sure tomorrow I will be really happy – but right now, I’m just bummed because I feel like we were in position there, but overall – I’m really happy for Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.). He’s won multiple speedway races and been very close at others. Happy for him and can’t wait to go to Auto Club.”

Chris Buescher — Finished fourth: “Yeah, at the end of the day, yeah. We were up front a lot of the day between both of our cars and there is a ton to be proud of. I can’t thank everyone back at RFK enough. The Mustang was quick, and I love that. Just got a little behind there in the first overtime and survived the next one. Somehow we made it through all of that and picked up all kinds of spots. Ultimately even getting back to fourth, it should feel good, but I feel like we had more in us today and just weren’t able to hoist that trophy up.”

Alex Bowman — Finished fifth: “It’s the Daytona 500, and we know how to crash some stuff.  It was just super aggressive and a lot of pushing. You know you have to do it and sometimes they go wrong and crashes happen.  Just proud of my team and glad we were able to make it out clean. Just starting the year off strong on the right foot. Not only here but at the Coliseum as well. I enjoy California. It’s been hit or miss for me, but looking forward to getting back there.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished seventh: “It was a little bit crazy, but I told the team they did a hell of a job. We lacked track position most of the day, and when it mattered the most, we had it. We just spun out there, and I was just struggling with loose balance when people would get to the rear bumper for some reason. That one, (Austin Cindric) came very close to me, very tight and the car behind me came very close as well and got me loose. We recovered and we are getting better at this kind of racing and we are going to get one of these one day.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished eighth: “You know, unfortunately getting tore up in the second stage and I thought we did a good job fixing it and staying in it and got a couple of laps back and were able to get it driving decent enough to where we lined up in the top-15 and were able to miss some wrecks and finish okay. I am really proud of the effort to fix it and make it driveable and get a finish. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t race for a win.”

Riley Herbst — Finished 10th: “It was long and a lot of riding, not really racing. I was kind of biding my time and trying to get experience. To finish top-10 was really cool. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here in the Cup Series and really happy with the finish in our first 500.”

TRAVIS PASTRANA — Finish 11th: “Just to be in the hunt at the end. We weren’t in the hunt for the win but to be in the top 10 on that last restart, this exceeded all my expectations. Obviously, it’s disappointing now because you want to do the best you can. I was really trying not to crash and unfortunately, when things got tight in there, I wasn’t able to control it on the top with the push. I led a lap, but it was by mistake. They said, ‘Come in, no stay out.’ I’m like, ‘I’m already out.’ I led a lap at the Daytona 500 and finished top 20. The car is not a complete write off, so the kid’s college fund is intact. It was a win, and it was awesome.

“This exceeded all of my expectations as far as results. These are the best drivers in the world. I’m not a great rear-wheel driver, I’m not a great pavement driver. Restrictor plate racing is a little different. We had a great team with this 23XI Toyota team, and it was an honor to be on the track with these guys. It was amazing that we were able to put it in the top 20. I’m proud of everyone involved and so thankful to be here.”

“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week. I am mentally and physically completely drained. … This was one of the greatest if not the greatest weeks or couple of weeks of my life.”

KYLE LARSON — Finished 18th: “I’m OK. It was definitely a huge hit. It was my first time wearing that mouthpiece (that helps record the forces during a crash impact), so I’m curious to see what that reads, but it was definitely one of the bigger ones I’ve ever had. But thankfully, the car held up, I guess, and all my safety equipment was fine, and I’m fine. Just a bummer.

“Everybody in the top four to six has an opportunity to win there. I had such a run from (Christopher Bell). I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt like where I was going to get to (Stenhouse), I wanted to stay committed to him at least through (turns) 1 and 2 and down the backstretch and then have things work out. I definitely didn’t want to try and go for the lead as early as I did. I just had such a run. I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought if I got to him where I was going to get to him, it was going to choke us up or cause a crash, and then we weren’t going to win. I wish I could play that over again, but (I’m) happy that Ricky won. That’s all I could think about it after I crashed was waiting to get out to hear that he won. Super happy for his team and Chevrolet but wish I could have at least finished it.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 19th: “I just tried to keep it straight as much as I can and wait for when its going to happen and eventually it does, and it did again today. So, I tried, and I don’t know what else to do.  Come up short. Led Lap 200 and wish it was still 1998 rules. Yeah, definitely excited for the start of the season and getting to the real racetracks.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 24th: “I thought we had a decent run until the end. We put ourselves in position in the top 10 and then made a couple of mistakes and got caught up in the big wreck at the end with the last caution. Thankful for the opportunity. We’re going to continue to work hard and grow as a team. Really proud of (crew chief) Luke Lambert and the boys for the adversity we had. Never quit. We’re not going to quit. Just very thankful.”

Harrison Burton — Finished 26th: “I am just disappointed. We were leading with 18 to go and I feel like we had a shot. It just didn’t go our way. The outside just didn’t really get rolling and we didn’t get organized very well and by the time we did it was just a little too late. I feel like when the 22 pulled up in front of me I tried to slow down to engage him and I got hit by the 8 really hard and send the 22 three-wide and we lost momentum again. I don’t know why I got out of shape off of four but I about wrecked off of four. Then you’re buried in the back trying to make moves to get back up and when they wreck you are just right in the way. It is frustrating. I felt like we executed our race well. Just sucks not to win for sure.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON — Finished 31st: “All in all, just a great day. I hate that we didn’t get to the finish line, but we got a lot closer than I thought. If I would have taken a bet before the race started, I would have thought some issues earlier than that, but we had a great day. The Carvana car was awesome. Very, very proud of this race team. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the finish line.”

Justin Haley — Finished 32nd: “We had a great run going there for a while. We were unfortunately just caught up in what was ultimately just one of those green-white-checkered deals that are inevitable at superspeedways. We struggled a little bit all weekend. This package is pretty tough to pass with, but it was fun to be up there battling in the top 10 there for a bit.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 33rd: “We had a strategy there, and it just didn’t play out. We weren’t as good as some of the Fords to be able to tandem and get hooked up. (Brad Keselowski) just drove through (William Byron), and that is just what he does. His car is just good enough to where he can just drive through who he needs to and push them out of the way, or wreck them. That is the desperation that they are in right now. I hate it because I was wanting to get Kyle Busch in victory lane here at Daytona. Looking back I should have been a little more selfish at that point. I wish we would have just tried to block both lanes, truthfully. It was one of those deals that is a hard position to be in. I also wish it had gone to the white flag in the position we were in.  Unfortunately not, and hopefully Kyle (Busch) can still make something happen from sixth. RCR as a whole, it was pretty cool to get to where we got there and be 1-2 at the Daytona 500 with two laps to go.  It sucks because you are so close to winning a second Daytona 500 and your teammate was really close to winning his first ever.  We will take it and move on and we did it with not the fastest cars truthfully. It was just execution and we didn’t finish off the last part.”

WILLIAM BYRON — Finished 34th: “I got into (Kyle Busch), and we just got off center somehow and I wrecked him. Once he got off center, I tried to back up but I had (Brad Keselowski) in the back of me trying to push as well. Yeah, unfortunate because we were trying to put ourselves in the right position and we were in a really good spot there with about two to go and running third before that caution.  It seemed like when they did the teammate restart it really checked up the bottom lane and I had made my bed of trying to take that lane to have momentum off of turn two. That was unfortunate.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished 35th: “We were coming off that pit sequence and everybody was such different speeds and you could definitely tell the intensity was ratcheting up. Everybody was just making really aggressive blocks trying to position themselves for the end. I don’t know. We just all checked up into one and it was a bad wreck for Stewart-Haas because all four of us were stuck in that. I just hate it. It felt like we were in position. We talked about what our plan was going into it and felt like we were executing that, but we just needed a little luck at the end to go with it. We’ll move on to California and see if we can improve. Obviously, we need to improve. We finished 34th again, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 36th: ““Everybody was on green0flag cycles. People trying to block the rows are trying to cycle in and I just want to focus on the fact that we had such a fast Ford Mustang. This opportunity is exactly what I wanted, so it’s unfortunate because I felt like we were gonna put ourselves in position to give ourselves an opportunity to be in contention to win this race, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, we keep unloading fast Ford Mustangs like we did this weekend and we’ll have some fun.”

Erik Jones — Finished 37th: “It looked like (Tyler Reddick) got turned around, but I couldn’t see how it happened. Regardless, we spun out there on the bottom when I was trying to get around it, and then I got hit on the left side hard enough to take out the left rear and end our day. It is what it is. We were up there; we were racing and we were doing all we could. We were just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I wish we could have been a little ahead of him. Everybody was racing hard, but everybody was doing a good job of just keeping in line and doing what they needed to do. There were a couple of moments.. a couple of aggressive and bad pushes, but nothing that was too crazy. I don’t know what sprung that one off, but I thought everybody was doing a good job at that point. It started to get pretty aggressive up until that wreck and I was getting antsy about being up there and getting into something. We were kind of in a bad spot in the pack to get caught up in something. Obviously, it’s a superspeedway, so there’s not a ton you can take from this weekend. I thought our No. 43 Guns N’ Roses Chevy was good, it just needed some more speed.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 38th: “It looked like some guys got tangled up, upfront. Those of us in the back were just scattering to kind of miss it. It looked like (Kyle Larson) and (Erik Jones) kind of went to the apron. By the time we got slowed up, they were coming back across the track and I was the lucky winner to get there first. It’s a bummer. Long ways to go. Hate to end the day, but it is what it is.”

TYLER REDDICK — Finished 39th: “I really felt like we could push really well and make progress through the pack. I just had been not really in the lead much at all today. That was the first time I was getting any pushes in the lead. The car seemed a little unstable down the back straightaway. Kevin was trying to push me, and I just lost it. If I’d have known that earlier in the day, I probably would have been more careful about that. But that was really the first experience I had with that all day long. I was kind of caught off guard by what happened in the corner there, unfortunately. That was the first time I’d been put in that situation, got loose, and unfortunately took out some other good cars.”