Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
1. William Byron: Byron finished fourth in the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington.
“‘Liberty University’ branding is back on my No. 24 Chevrolet,” Byron said. “And if you don’t think I’m good enough to be the Cup champion, do like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and ‘just watch.'”
2. Kyle Larson: Larson took advantage of Denny Hamlin’s loose wheel misfortune and powered late to win at Darlington and lock in his advance to the next playoff round.
“The race was red flagged on Lap 189 to repair the lighting in Turns 3 and 4,” Larson said. “That was unprecedented. Why? Show me another NASCAR night race where everything and everyone there weren’t ‘well lit.'”
3. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won Stages 1 and 2 at Darlington, but a loose wheel late in the final stage cost him any chance of the victory.
“Sure I’m disappointed,” Hamlin said. “But I received a pep talk from my 23XI Racing partner Michael Jordan. He said it’s up to me to decide if I’m going to be the Michael Jordan of the Playoffs or the Karl Malone of the Playoffs. Wait a minute. I think I already am the Karl Malone of the Playoffs.”
4. Chris Buescher: Buescher finished a strong third at Darlington, getting his Playoffs off to a great start.
“My car featured the ‘BuildSubmarines.com’ paint scheme,” Buescher said. “Ironically, a third place will keep my championship hopes above water. And, if you were betting on how many laps I’d lead at Darlington, you should have taken the ‘under.'”
5. Joey Logano: Logano and Bubba Wallace made contact in Stage 1, sending Wallace spinning and leaving Logano’s No. 22 Penske Ford with a bent toe link. Logano still managed to limp home to a solid 12th-place finish.
“Anytime the car sponsored by McDonald’s is responsible for knocking me down in the standings,” Logano said, “there’s only one way to feel about that: ‘I’m not loving it.'”
6. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex’s hopes at Darlington were derailed by a loose wheel in Stage 2 that cost the No. 19 severely. Truex salvaged an 18th-place finish
“Darlington is already a grueling race,” Truex said. “Add to that temperatures near 100 degrees and high humidity, and you literally find yourself having to drive like ‘hell’ just to survive.'”
7. Ross Chastain: Chastain finished a solid fifth at Darlington.
“I’ve been in somewhat of a slump lately,” Chastain said. “I only have one top-10 finish in the last nine races before Darlington. If I’m going to make some noise in the Playoffs, I need to ride a wave of momentum like I rode the outside wall at Martinsville last year.”
8. Ryan Blaney: Blaney posted a solid start to his Playoffs with a ninth at Darlington.
“That crash I had at Daytona was really violent,” Blaney said. “That being said, I really hope I can make an impact in the Playoffs, and hope my championship hopes don’t hit a wall.”
9. Christopher Bell: Bell started on the pole at Darlington but was hindered by several mistakes, including a jack problem during an early pit stop, and later clash with the wall on his way to a 23rd-place finish in the Cook Out Southern 500.
“That just ruined the handling on my No. 20 Toyota,” Bell said. “And I’m not happy where we finished. But I’m not worried. I know I have the desire. I’m young and I’m hungry. And that calls for a shout-out to the guy that once drove the No. 20 car, Tony Stewart, because he’s old and hungry.”
10. Kevin Harvick: Harvick was headed to the pits on lap 310 when a caution just before he entered, meaning a closed pit road, resulting in a penalty that cost Harvick a likely top 5 finish. He finished 19th and is two points below the 12-driver cutoff for round 2 of the Playoffs.
“This is all Tyler Reddick’s fault,” Harvick said. “He braked suddenly when I pitted in an effort to duplicate what I was doing. That caused Ryan Newman to spin trying to avoid him. I shouldn’t have to say this to Tyler, but come on, man. This is the Playoffs, which is no time to take your foot off the gas.”