Editor’s Note: Welcome to Frontstretch‘s newest column! Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR and our own stuff to find the best quotes from Sunday’s race that best captures the story of how the weekend unfolded, straight from the drivers themselves. This week, Beth Lunkenheimer gives us a sneak peek at what drivers were thinking after the Auto Club 500.
“It’s a special win. It’s not without Robbie [Reiser], though. He spent the week at home while we were at Daytona building this car. Robbie built this team. Those guys didn’t let some bad luck stop them or slow them down. Everybody on this team knows what Robbie would expect them to do, whether he is here or not. I thought I was going to have a problem because I really thought the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) was going to run me down. Then, he had his problem and Jeff [Gordon] moved up to second and I thought he might run me down. But we got a real good restart and, after that, we were OK. It’s really nice to get some of our points back from the Daytona deal.” – race winner Matt Kenseth
“We had a fast racecar and there were times we were able to show it. We were racing up there with Matt [Kenseth] and Tony [Stewart] and that was fun. I really enjoyed that. It’s just great when you have a good racecar and the guys are making good adjustments and good pit stops. I don’t know what happened to the No. 31 (Jeff Burton) on the restart. He just didn’t go. We were able to get up there to second and hold Jimmie [Johnson] off. We never had anything for Matt [Kenseth].” – Jeff Gordon on his second-place finish
“We finished in the top 10, which is great, but the racer in me thinks we finished nine spots worse than we wanted to. Really, though, we just had a great race. Our goals were to come here and make the race, then finish every lap – we did all of those things and on top of that, we earned a really good finish. We’re a first-year team with a new engine manufacturer and we pulled off a top 10. I think that says a lot about the potential of this whole group – not just the No. 83 crew, not just Toyota, but all of Team Red Bull and Toyota working together. But, all of the pressure isn’t gone until the first five races are over and we’re still in the Top 35 in points.” – Brian Vickers after his first finish with Team Red Bull
“It’s a shame. I don’t know if we could have won it, but running with the leader and having a chance to win is what it’s all about.” – Kevin Harvick on the flat tire that cost him a top-five finish
“We’re cool with a finish like this – no mistakes all day and we didn’t get caught up in traffic and get bottled up. To come home seventh and race our way to that position felt good. We didn’t just hang out and get it. We got caught by an early yellow, and that put us on the tail end of the lead lap for the longest green run of the race almost. We raced our way back into the Lucky Dog spot and got our lap back and raced our way back through the pack. We feel like we made a lot of progress this off season.” – Kurt Busch
“I’m just proud to represent the United States Army and to work with this team – man, this is just awesome. We had a really fast car… I’m very encouraged. There were times when we were as fast as the leader… there were a couple of times when we were a little faster, and times when we were off. All in all, we have potential here to get up there and win a race. I think we’ve shown that the last two weeks. We’ll keep working to try to make all these Ginn Racing teams better. I want to thank all the fans… they are incredible, all the encouragement they have given me this week. I am loving this and I am rolling, man.” – Mark Martin
“We lost power and it started smoking. It was a good car. We had a shot to run in the top 10. We led some laps early, and we were working our way to the front. Everybody was off on pit sequence, but I think we could have worked our way back to the front and we would have been just fine… there was plenty of room, but the left-side tire would slide all over the place and it was hard to get grip, whether it was front grip or back grip, it’s hard to get any of that. I don’t know if it’s fuel or what. We’ll keep working on it and make our Dodge Charger better.” – Kasey Kahne
“I’m real proud of my guys. They worked really hard. We had a great pit stop there at the end. I don’t know. I dropped the ball. I just didn’t get it done. My guys have been working their butts off and it’s a good start to the year. We’ve got to keep working. We still have room to grow, for sure. But I’m real proud of where are and we’re going to keep digging. Sorry I messed up on that restart and spun the tires and gave up two spots, but we’ll do better next time.” – Jeff Burton on his fourth-place finish
“Man this was a great day for our Jack Daniel’s Chevy team. The old girl, Betsy, has been awesome since we unloaded. She is my favorite car. I had a blast out there running up there today with my teammates. We had to make a few adjustments during the race, but nothing too radical. The car drove great and I am really happy to come out of here with a top-10 finish. Looking forward to Las Vegas and seeing what we can do there.” – Clint Bowyer
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