Christopher Bell completed his goal – as he finished his first Daytona 500 and scored a strong run finishing third after battling for the win in multiple overtime restarts. Extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana rallied to an impressive 11th in his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Great American Race.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Daytona International Speedway
Race 1 of 36 – 500 miles, 200 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.*
2nd, Joey Logano*
3rd, CHRISTOPHER BELL
4th, Chris Buescher*
5th, Alex Bowman*
11th, TRAVIS PASTRANA
16th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
17th, DENNY HAMLIN
20th, BUBBA WALLACE
25th, TY GIBBS
39th, TYLER REDDICK
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 DeWalt - Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
Can you tell us about your race?
“If you would have told me pre-race 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 Rheem and DeWalt 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.”
What was your perspective on those last couple of laps?
“I don’t know. I’m very thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing driving this Rheem, DeWalt Camry. 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.”
TRAVIS PASTRANA, No. 67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Finishing Position: 11th
Will you wake up tomorrow morning and feel good about how this race went for you?
“Honestly, 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.”
What was it like to lead a lap at the Daytona 500?
“I led a lap (shouting), 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.”
Would this make you want to come back and race something else or come back and race the Daytona 500 again next year?
“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.”
So was this a ‘one and done’ situation for you?
“One and done. Now if Cody (Efaw) from Niece Motorsports calls me up and says, ‘Hey, what are you doing this weekend?’ I’ll jump in, but I’m not good enough to be the best at this sport with my skill set. The amount of time that this would take right now and I’m trying to slow down. The reason I’m here right now is because I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been as a driver. We’ve been winning championships on the dirt, and I just wanted to experience the whole Daytona Speedweeks.”
What happened in the wreck at the end of the race?
“It’s tough just because you can’t really see what’s going on in front of you so when the two cars in front of you connect, they really take off quick, but when you’re pushing them, you’re worried about having happen what happened to me where you kind of spin the guy in front of you. My car had been pretty tight even off of (turn) four so I was super surprised that it got as loose as it did and we’d been a little loose on the top and we were all the way up on the top. Just disappointing.”
What was going through your mind on the final restart when you lined up in the top-10?
“It’s funny, I know how to drive a car so just drive. No expectations. Let’s see how far we can get up. I really wanted to give my teammate more help, but once he locked on the bumper of whoever was in front of him and I wasn’t on his bumper, I kind of left him so that was disappointing, but still made a pretty good run coming across the white flag. When that top started going, I thought, we might be top-five here.”
Was this an emotional day for you?
“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week. I am mentally and physically completely drained. Even the Truck race, my heart rate was 170 in a three-wide pack. 182 was my high. That’s just on adrenaline. So, anyone that says NASCAR is boring, they’re full of crap. They’ve definitely never been in a car because this was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”
What is one moment you’ll remember and look back on in this entire process?
“This was one of the greatest if not the greatest weeks or couple of weeks of my life. Just coming here and even to go down to Volusia and camping with (Matt) Crafton and all the fans that came down there. Then realizing there were three guys that did the Clash and flew the red eye. These guys just love to drive. The Blocks came here just to watch me qualify and I’ve got all my friends and family here.”
TYLER REDDICK, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Finishing Position: 39th
Are you okay? What happened?
“Yeah, actually it wasn’t too bad at all. Just hate it for the Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD. I really felt like we could push really well, and we could really make progress through the pack. I just haven’t really been in the lead much at all today – that was the first time I was getting any pushes in the lead and the car seemed a little unstable down the back straightaway into three. Kevin (Harvick) was trying to push me, and I just lost it. If I would have known that earlier in the day, I would have been more careful about that, but that was the first time I’ve had that experience all day long with that.”
Kevin Harvick said he felt like he may have hit you wrong, but you didn’t feel much of a hit?
“I don’t know. Down the back when he got to my rear bumper it just didn’t really seem – when I had clean air there – that my car was really stable. I thought it moves around a little bit down the back, I’ve had this before, but yeah, I was kind of caught off guard by what happened in the corner. Unfortunately, it was the first time I’ve been put in that situation, I got loose and unfortunately took out some other good cars.”
It looked like the accident started with you or around you. What could you see?
“It definitely started with me unfortunately. I really thought our Monster Energy Camry TRD could push really well. I just didn’t have a lot of clean air all day long and I was never a lead car until Kevin (Harvick) was really pushing on me there. The car just unfortunately didn’t have the stability that it needed to have. It was dancing around a little bit down the back straightaway and a little bump into turn three I would be okay. The car just came around right away and now our car is out of the race and took out a lot of other good cars too.”
Were the Fords the strongest cars on track from your vantage point?
“When I was pushing the 17 (Chris Buescher), I could stay on his back bumper pretty good. (Kevin) Harvick could push me pretty good. Things were working out okay, but I was kind of sandwiched in the middle with my Toyota. I would say there was a point in time there where all the Toyotas were lined up and I thought we had a pretty good head of steam and momentum going, but the bigger pack ran us down and we used pit strategy a little bit. Once all of our Toyotas got together, we were working well together. The Fords are pretty good too. I thought the Toyotas drove really good on the speedways so far.”
How was it working with the other Toyotas this season versus the Chevrolets last year?
“I really had a blast with it. I feel like strategy-wise in the past it was a total disaster for me on the speedways and it just never seemed to work out. Every single cycle here it seemed to work out and we gained track position. I don’t really know what other Toyotas I tore up, hopefully none. But I thought it was going really, really well. I just hate that the day ended where it did as I thought we were working good together.”