Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all of our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what they all were thinking following the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:
“During the course of my career, I felt like I missed out on a lot of wins the first probably two to three years of my career. Probably 10 of them I should not have lost had I had the mindset that I have right now, what it takes to win. I think the only difference before when we weren’t winning as much to what we’re doing right now is just my mindset and knowing what I need to do to win the race at the end. So this is the kind of winning pace that I felt like we should have been on right from the get-go of my career, now we’re just hitting that stride. It’s just taken me awhile to understand how these races play out, what it takes to win. Now I feel like I have a better understanding of that. I think it’s gonna continue to go on a roll the way it is.” Denny Hamlin, race winner, on winning three of the last six Sprint Cup events
“I looked at this trophy in Victory Lane. The faces on it are unbelievable. Mine is going to stick out like a sore thumb, I can tell you. Hopefully one day, it’s a face that fits in with those guys. It’s amazing. I mean, I can remember Bill Elliott winning the million dollar bonus here. I was watching that race. I was a huge fan of his. 1985. I was five years old, but he was my driver, he was my guy. Just I never forget that, him winning that here at Darlington. For us to have a similar situation, it was as big for me now as what it probably was for him back then.” Denny Hamlin on being the guy to beat at Darlington
“She said, ‘How about that sweep?’” Denny Hamlin on what his mom, Mary Lou Hamlin, said to him after the race
“I’m surprised how strong we are right now. Not to spill the beans, but we’re working on Chase stuff right now. We’re racing things that we were racing at the end of last year so we can concentrate on the later months of this year. I’m personally surprised that we’re running as strong as we are.” Mike Ford, winning crew chief
“Six years ago we took Denny down here, his first Nationwide race was at Darlington. I figured, we’ll give him a shot. The odds are long he’s going to do well, get a shot at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). His first race here, when he came and tested the week before, he tore up everything. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to go well.’ He finished eighth his first race. That is when we gave him the shot the next year to run the full program. For [Denny], it really began [here], so [this win is] kind of special tying it in for me, at least.”J.D. Gibbs, winning car owner
“I just was praying there weren’t any green-white-checkered, once we got to the white flag I was like ‘Alright, you just have to get around here.’ … Juan (Pablo Montoya) finished in the top 5 also, so the guys in the shop are just building incredible cars, and it is certainly an honor to get to drive them.” Jamie McMurray, finished 2nd
“Our season has actually been really good, winning the 500, almost winning at Talladega, running second again tonight. We’ve been able to put ourselves in position to win three races this year. I don’t know that in my career I’ve been able to do that, much less in the first eight or ten races.” Jamie McMurray on his season so far
“When we first started off tonight, I thought we were in for a long battle. Our car was very loose to start off, and we were very loose at Richmond last week to start off. But when we got back to the race shop last week, we figured out what we had wrong. I just thought we had the same thing happening to us again. I tried to protect the race car, I tried to keep it off the fence and kind of nurse it through each of the pit stops early on. The guys were solid. Our adjustments started coming, too. We were the best at the end. Our car really came on strong with three runs to go. That’s when you have to be in position. We were in a great pit strategy position to just take two tires on the last stop. So, it really worked out in our favor.” Kurt Busch, finished 3rd
“This team is doing the job that we need to do to get in to Victory Lane. Right now, we are knocking on that door. We are leading laps, we are running up front. We are having a lot of fun, that is for sure. It has been awhile since this No. 24 car has run like this. I can’t wait to get to Dover.” Jeff Gordon, finished 4th
“The one time we needed it, and we didn’t get it.” Jeff Gordon, on the lack of a green-white-checkered finish
“This Target Chevy has been pretty damn good. We worked really hard all day. In the beginning, it was really fast, and then it went away. Got it, [then it] went away. It was really hard. It was hard work. I hit the wall a couple of times, but nothing major. I was pretty happy. I’m just relieved we got to the end, to tell you the truth (laughs).” Juan Pablo Montoya, finished 5th
“Everybody took two [tires] at the end, they all knew how important it was. I sucked on restarts tonight, and fell back to third before I even got to turn one. It didn’t much matter. I wasn’t going to hold anybody off.”Kyle Busch, finished 7th
“I feel like we’re back on track and headed in the right direction. For the first time in awhile, I felt like we had a really competitive car to drive to the lead and take it.” Brian Vickers, finished 10th
“It’s a solid finish. I wanted a top 10 so bad. We should have finished 11th, but was going for 10th and made a little mistake that dropped me a spot. … I just like coming here. It’s a unique challenge, just a fun race track that rewards drivers that drive hard and that’s my style.” Brad Keselowski, finished 12th
“It was just a struggle. I’m actually super-happy to come home 13th. That was probably way better than we should have finished because I drove it in the fence a couple of times just overdriving and that didn’t help our cause, either, so it was just a struggle all night. I’m glad we got a respectable result.” Matt Kenseth, finished 13th
“It wasn’t pretty, but Donnie Wingo did an awesome job calling the pits. To be down two laps at the beginning, I knew we had a better car than that, but he played it just right. I guess the good Lord was looking after us. We caught a couple of lucky breaks and you have to be lucky in this deal. We had a top 15-20 car, but you just have to be in position. It was kind of a freak deal at the beginning. I thought I had a tire going down and I pitted under green and lost two laps. We just fought and fought from that point on and I’m glad it was a 500-mile race, instead of 400. It was a crazy night, but I was glad to get a top-15.” David Ragan, finished 14th
“I have to see where he (A.J. Allmendinger) even came from. All I know is last minute I saw a green bumper, and it was a hard hit.” Jimmie Johnson, finished 36th
“The brake rotor exploded. The last 40 or 50 laps, we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes. We took all the brake cooling off and thought maybe we were gonna fix it, and when that yellow came out I went to hit the brakes to slow down and the brake rotors exploded. I’m not sure which one, but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.” A.J. Allmendinger, finished 37th
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