Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. Chase Elliott: Elliott finished 29th at Daytona, and will start the playoffs in first with a 15-point lead over second-place Joey Logano.
“I’m also 21 points ahead of Kyle Larson,” Elliott said. “Twenty-one points may not sound like much, but in the NASCAR playoffs, it’s pretty substantial. Of course, I want to maintain that lead, so I suggest Kyle ‘keep his distance’ from me.”
2. Joey Logano: Logano won Stage 1 at Daytona and finished 12th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.
“I just signed a long-term extension with Penske Racing,” Logano said. “And I can’t wait to tell everyone, especially Kyle Busch.”
3. Ryan Blaney: Blaney ran into early trouble when he was collected in a crash triggered when Denny Hamlin sent Erik Jones spinning in front of the field. Blaney’s No. 12 suffered heavy damage but was able to stay in the race, finishing 15th, and claiming the final playoff spot.
“After that crash,” Blaney said, “I really didn’t know what to think. Luckily, my No. 12 Chevy was sponsored by a well-known auto parts franchise, and having the word ‘Advance’ on the side of my car told me exactly what I needed to do.”
4. Kyle Busch: Busch took Stage 2 in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and finished 10th, posting his 12th top 10 of the year.
“In regards to my contract situation,” Busch said, “Toyota executive David Wilson said, ‘I don’t want to race against a pissed-off Kyle Busch.’ My potential teammates probably have a somewhat similar view, ‘because they just don’t want to race with Kyle Busch, pissed off or otherwise.”
5. Kyle Larson: Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet overheated on lap 31, forcing him to the garage on lap 31. He finished last in 37th.
“Speaking of hot,” Larson said, “Chase Elliott is still irritated with me about the finish at Watkins Glen. But I say let bygones be bygones. Hopefully, Chase can put it behind him as much as he wants to put me behind him.”
6. Kevin Harvick: Harvick was knocked out of contention in the Coke Zero 400 when he was caught up in the “Big One” on lap 139. He continued and finished 20th.
“You can’t take chances with the weather at superspeedways,” Harvick said. “Take it from me, when you’re doing close to 200 miles per hour and you see liquid on the track, the Kevin Harvick ‘4-Cast’ calls for a 100% chance of liquid in your pants.”
7. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin was leading at Daytona when a sudden downpour caused most of the field to lose traction, causing the “Big One.” After a long rain delay, racing resumed and Hamlin finished 25th.
“NASCAR should have stopped the race sooner,” Hamlin said. “But I can’t fully blame NASCAR officials. They have about as much control of the weather as they do over Ross Chastain.”
8. Christopher Bell: Bell was one of many drivers involved in the “Big One” on lap 139. He finished 36th and will start the playoff with 2011 points, 29 back of Chase Elliott in first.
“That wreck took out a lot of the big names,” Bell said. “And that left a lot of names in the top 10 that were not household names. It was a veritable ‘Who’s Who?’ of ‘Who is that?'”
9. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex finished eighth at Daytona, but it wasn’t enough to put him in the playoffs as first-time season winner Austin Dillon took the surprising win.
“One minute,” Truex said, “I’m in the playoffs. The next minute, I’m not. But that’s just the uncertainty of the final regular season race at Daytona: you can go from ‘OK’ to ‘KO‘ in a heartbeat.”
10. Ross Chastain: Chastain finished 33rd at Daytona.
“I’m seeded third in the playoff standings,” Chastain said. “And I’m sure the playoffs are going to be wild, especially with me in them. Fans and drivers alike are eager to find who I can eliminate from the playoffs first: me, or another driver.”